But even if He does not…

Today in church we lifted our voices to join prayers declared across the country as part of Open Doors’ worldwide Day of Prayer for persecuted Christians. We learned more about the challenges faced by believers in Afghanistan, the world’s #1 country for persecution against Christians, and we interceded on behalf of our brothers and sisters in the faith. It was a powerful moment to remember how easy many of us have it in the western world, choosing to follow Jesus without facing fear of disownment, imprisonment, torture or death.

But shortly afterwards I headed back to my comfortable apartment where I cooked dinner while listening to worship music and watched a sermon online while I ate in the peace and privacy of my own home. I had already forgotten – nay, taken for granted – what a privilege it is to have the freedom to worship God as I please.

This evening, however, I opened my Bible to Daniel chapter 3 and was struck again at the radical faith – not only expressed, but demonstrated – by three believers faced with persecution.

These men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, lived as captives in Babylon during the time of the Israelite Exile. The king at that time, King Nebuchadnezzar, had a golden statue built and he commanded every individual who lived within his kingdom to bow down and worship the idol. As followers of the one true God, however, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to worship any god but the God in heaven. Because of their refusal to adhere to the law of the king, the men were captured and sentenced to immediate death by being thrown into a furnace of fire.

I have heard this story multiple times since childhood, so I already know there’s a happy ending. Knowing what is yet to come, however, sometimes causes us to miss the middle; that deciding-moment where the real heart of the story is. In the intervening moments, between action and consequence, there is a powerful exchange that took place between the king and these three faith-filled men.

Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, ‘Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? …if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?’

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’

Daniel 3:15-18 (NIV)

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were confident that God could save them. They didn’t, however, assume He would. They – like so many Christian believers around the world today – were faced with the choice of renouncing their faith or facing death, and they chose to be faithful to their faithful God. They didn’t know for sure that God would step in and save them in a miraculous way, but their obedience and devotion to God was more important to them than life itself.

I’m challenged today to ask myself, could I face death and say the same thing? Gosh, I hope so. But even if I never have to make that choice, I am still confronted with this question every single day: will I stand firm in my faith and devotion to God, no matter what trials I face?

Many of us face far lesser hardships, and yet the challenge remains the same. Can we truthfully declare:

But even if he does not…

… heal my friend’s cancer

… save my favourite aunt

… gift me my heart’s desire

… stop the peer pressure I am experiencing at work

… <fill in the blank>

I will choose to worship Him because He is God, and worthy to be praised.

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.

Acts 17:24-25 (NIV)

I would encourage you to read Daniel 3 for yourself and see what God wants to draw your attention to. Is there an area of your life where you allow outside pressures to compromise your devotion to God? Or is there breakthrough that God wants to gift you so that you can be a light for Him amongst a particular group of people?

If you read to the end of the chapter, you will discover that the three men were thrown into the furnace of fire, just as the king had warned them. But God saved them from the furnace without a singe or scratch, and, as a result of their devotion and the consequent miracle, the king himself declared, “there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” (Daniel 3:29) I pray that eyes all over the world would be opened to see the one true God as a result of our obedience and devotion to Him.

PRAY: Father, we thank you that we can worship you freely without fear of imprisonment or death. We pray for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted for their faith in other lands around the world; we ask that You would be near to them, that You would give them courage and strength in their afflictions, and may You continue to protect and save Your children just as You did for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. God, I ask that You would help every one of us to be courageous in the face of challenges and to be representatives for You in whatever situations we find ourselves in. What the enemy intends for evil, may You turn it around for good. In Jesus’ name, amen.


For useful resources on learning more about persecuted Christians around the world and how to pray for them, visit Open Doors website.

Healed After 11 years!

There’s no need to sugar-coat or add glitter to this headline – it speaks for itself! Eleven years after my PCOS diagnosis in 2011, I am HEALED! But first, let me give you a little bit of background…

PCOS is a condition that affects approximately 1 in 10 women. You can read more about the condition here, if you wish, but the short version is that it is a condition that causes an imbalance of hormones in women and has cascading effects to varying degrees within their bodies. Challenges include insulin resistance leading to diabetes, obesity, infertility and more.

Despite the sheer number of women with the condition, however, there is a significant lack of support to manage the symptoms. Today, there are multiple blogs, social media accounts and dietary programs that seek to support sufferers but back when I was first diagnosed I was simply put on birth-control pills to manage some of the more dangerous symptoms. This, of course, only added to the chaos of hormones in my body at the time and resulted in a 20lb-gain in under a year.

Over the years, I have done significant research into the condition and sought to support my body as best I could, including reducing my exposure to toxins, cutting out all milk products, gluten, caffeine, and soya, and significantly reducing carbs and sugar from my diet. I switched up my workouts and had to carefully manage my stress levels to reduce the risk of my cortisol levels spiking. The hormone imbalances affected my mood, my sleep, and my appetite. All in all, every day was a tedious and exhausting balancing act. And despite all my efforts, I experienced very little relief in my symptoms.

Anyway, you get the picture. Now let me share the HOPE amidst the hopelessness.

Earlier in the month I visited the UK for a couple of weeks, to spend time with family and friends. I spent 10 days in Scotland followed by a weekend in London, enjoying the wider range of everything-free food products available in the UK compared to Germany. On my train ride south, however, I was (painfully) reminded once again how important it was to be stringent in my analysis of what I put in my body, having selected a wheat-free (but evidently not gluten-free) sandwich for lunch, only to endure severe bloating and cramps during the remainder of the four hour journey. Just another frustration of living with PCOS.

While I was in London I stayed with one of my dearest friends and her family, and had an interesting – albeit stretching – conversation with her husband about healing. You have to understand, I come from a conservative church background and, though I’ve grown considerably in my faith over the years and even experienced firsthand testimonies of healing, I still wrestle with a lot of doubt and questions (or, perhaps, just my own misunderstandings).

Though I did not necessarily agree with everything we talked about in our conversation, I took what he had said and prayed it through with God shortly afterwards. I journaled my reflections and made a decision to begin to pursue healing for my PCOS. Despite my remaining uncertainty, I chose to engage a little more faith, a little less doubt. It is not that I have never prayed for healing before, but somehow, in my mind, I always felt like PCOS was too small an issue to ask for God’s intervention. He was, after all, preoccupied with more significant, life-threatening illnesses like cancer, was He not?

The following day I visited HTB church‘s 17:00 service with a heart full of expectation. I sensed a miracle in the offing, though admittedly the miracle I was hoping for had nothing to do with my physical health. Nonetheless, I engaged in worship with anticipation in my spirit; raising my hands in worship, whispered prayers on my lips.

As the sermon drew to a close, I mouthed, “God, I believe You have a miracle for me, tonight,” and moments later an invitation for prayer was made to all present who needed healing.

“Oh, that’s me!”

Remember, I have sat through countless alter calls for healing in my lifetime of attending church services, but I had always believed the lie that my ailment was not important enough to bother God with. On this occasion, however, I was ready. God had already laid the foundation; He’d been preparing my heart all weekend! I was not going to miss my opportunity.

I walked to the front of the church and permitted an unknown woman to pray for me. I don’t remember what she prayed and, to be honest, I felt no warmth, no tingly sensation within me as she prayed. There was no clear confirmation that God had heard my prayer. I wondered if it was just a vain attempt; a hopeful gesture that would change nothing.

“I receive it. I receive it, Lord. I receive Your healing.”

Over and over, I muttered these words. Hoping. Praying. Mustering up as much belief as I could. “By His wounds we are healed,” I recalled (Isaiah 53:5). By His wounds I am healed. Jesus has already won the victory on my behalf. Death, sin, sickness is defeated. It is done. It is finished.

“I receive it. I receive it, Lord. I receive Your healing.”

Later that evening, I shared with my friend what I had been considering and praying about and choosing to believe for since I had had that conversation with her husband not 24 hours earlier. She encouraged me and believed with me, and showed me a video testimony of healing that only increased my faith more. There and then, I chose to believe I had been healed; I chose to walk in healing.

As our conversation ended and I prepared for bed, I caught the first glimpse of healing; after 3 months of nothing, my period came.

Returning to Frankfurt the next day, I went grocery shopping and chose to continue to walk in healing. I, therefore, bought real cheese and real milk – I hadn’t eaten cheese or drunk cows milk since 2015. That week I consumed various milk products on multiple occasions and experienced no side effects whatsoever. My faith continued to swell.

The real test, however, would be gluten. Gluten was what caused the quickest and greatest discomfort and pain to me when I ate it, with some effects lasting hours or even days (I had been reminded of that on my train ride to London just days earlier). However, I was choosing to walk in healing and to believe that by His wounds I am healed.

Therefore, on Monday (my day-off, therefore providing me with respite should the worse happen) I intentionally made pancakes with plain white flour (the only gluten product I had in my apartment) and tentatively ate a mouthful. Chewing slowly, I paid attention for any flutter or pang in my abdomen. Nothing. I took another mouthful. And another. Soon one pancake was gone. At any sign of the remotest discomfort in my belly, I rebuked it in Jesus’ name and kept eating. Before long, I had demolished three gluten-filled pancakes and relished them.

As the minutes ticked by, my gratitude only grew. And as minutes turned to hours without any discomfort or pain, I burst into praise and thanksgiving for my healing! I have since eaten a slice of bread, a homemade muffin, a pizza, and two wraps this week and I haven’t experienced any side effects at all. Praise God!

I am walking in healing. I am moving forward, faith increasing with every step, that all my PCOS symptoms are behind me, even if it will take some time for each to prove themselves. But I, who once felt so helpless and hopeless with a diagnosis that simply wore me down, day-in day-out, now experience a freedom I have not known since my teens (or at the very least, never fully appreciated). I marvel at the generous gift that God has given me – so easily, so graciously – and I seek, now, to steward my gift well.

Healing is a gift, and one that can only be given by God, the gift-giver. But gifts can only be received with open hands, and for over a decade I had never thought to unravel my tight fists. I watched others receive gifts but never felt like I needed or wanted the gift. How proud I was to think I should or could manage alone, when – all that time – it was never necessary for me to manage it at all.

Thank you, God, for Your grace and goodness to me.

“Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

Isaiah 53:1-5 (ESV)

Five Short Years – A Celebration of God’s Faithfulness

On Monday 3rd April 2017, I boarded a plane with two suitcases and a one-way ticket to Frankfurt am Main, Germany. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or what life would look like on the other side, I just knew in my spirit that that was the next step God had asked me to take. For years, God had been preparing to take me overseas, and for months He had been stirring my heart for church-planting in Germany. This conclusion came as much as a surprise to me as it did to others at the time, yet I was determined to be obedient.

That first year was lonely. It was full of fearful moments due to insufficient finances and a lack of direction (I recall sharing some of those moments in previous blogposts, Um, Where’s my Miracle? and Um, Where’s my Miracle? (Part 2): The Overflow). It was a year that deepened my relationship with and dependence on the Holy Spirit, trusting Him to guide me and comfort me; I learned to lean on Him in a way I had never even come close to before. As I focused on learning the language, that year also gave me the gift of time, one I used to write Adventure Awaits. And yet, amidst all the uncertainty and daily challenges, the peace and pure joy within me urged me forwards; it was truly a peace that surpassed all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

As the second year began, I entered a full-time job in a local international school, providing me with a little more stability and direction for the coming season. I knew from the beginning that it was to be a short-term appointment (that was, of course, not why God had taken me to Germany) but with the new job came a new apartment, and consequently led me to New Life Church; a church with a heart for planting and multiplication.

As I celebrated my third anniversary in Germany, I was settled in a job I enjoyed, progressing steadily in the language, and had found family within New Life Church. There, too, doors of opportunity began to open, with invitations to participate in church services, to be a fly-on-the-wall in Pastor meetings, and to join the small leadership team within the Frankfurt Campus. Finally, after three years, I began to see the first glimpses of what God had called me to Germany for.

By the time I celebrated four years in Germany, I was honoured to have been invited onto the Pastoral team in Frankfurt and reduced my hours at school to make further room for the calling on my life. Those lessons of dependence on the Holy Spirit that I had learnt in the first year buoyed me up and urged me forward as I took more steps of faith, but this time with a more confident stride. I had seen God do it before; wouldn’t He do it again?

In the months since then, I have stepped out of my school job altogether and live in faith, depending on God to meet my needs (and He does; every single time). I co-lead the Frankfurt Campus with the Campus Pastor and we plan – God-willing – to plant a Cafe Church in Frankfurt in the next 1-2 years. I am also embarking on theological study at the German Bible School I stayed at during my very first visit to Germany in July 2016. Little did I know that God was already laying the foundation in my heart for something unexpected much further down the road.

On Sunday 3rd April 2022 I will celebrate five years since I moved to Germany; five years of God’s faithfulness, fulfilling exactly what He said He would. For so many months, back in those first years, I felt utterly lost in Germany. Why was I here? How could I – a woman, a foreigner, a non-German speaker, someone with exceptionally little church-planting experience, and no formal theological training – possibly do what God had called me here to do? What would the path look like? How would I get there? I had no clue where to even begin!

I couldn’t see in that first year that God had a work to do in me before He was ready to do a work through me.

I didn’t understand in that second year that God wanted me to simply enjoy the friends, the job, the church He had provided for me as I grew in confidence in speaking and ministering in the German language.

I couldn’t have dreamed of the opportunities that began to open up for me in that third year, when I still felt so useless, inexperienced, and my language lacked fluency. But God called me forward once again, despite my inadequacies.

I marvelled at the acceleration of my language ability in that fourth year – one that could only have been gifted to me. But time after time, as I stepped out in courage and faith, I saw God multiply the loaves and fish I humbly offered Him.

I celebrate what God has done these last twelve months in me and through me. I celebrate the journey He has taken me on; His faithfulness in guiding me step by step, knowing exactly what He was doing. He never forgot about me, or missed a step, or messed up the plan, or unintentionally delayed me, or failed to equip me for what He had asked me to do. He was there. He was faithful. He saw the bigger picture.

I can’t quite believe I have called this place home for the past five years. I am astounded at what God has done in that time and how He has led me forward, one step at a time. At countless points along the journey, I couldn’t see the progress; I often failed to see (or believe!) the bigger picture. But I reflect back on these fives years and see threads of His guidance, His provision, His grace everywhere. These five years do not represent one big step; these fives years were countless small, consecutive steps of obedience, of courage, of faith.

What step of obedience can you take today? You never know where it might lead.

Thank you, Lord, for Your faithfulness! Thank you, that You see the bigger picture when we so often barely even see the step ahead of us. Help us to see with eyes of faith, not fear. Help us to trust You when nothing makes sense. Help us to be obedient when fear tells us to turn away. We believe that with You nothing is impossible; I pray that we would not only know that in our hearts, but believe it, too, in our hearts. Amen.

Read more here about how you can partner with the work I am involved with in Germany.

A Hero for Our Time

I love to watch movies. Depending on my mood, I will watch a range of genres, including comedy, romance, science fiction and action. However, some of my favourite movies, like ‘The Blind Side’, ‘Hidden Figures’ and ‘Apollo 13’, are those based on true stories. I sit, mesmerized, watching dramatizations of real-life heroes who have taken great risks, faced adversity and tremendous challenges, but, against all the odds, have overcome. The heart of humanity loves to hear tales of victory and survival; why else would these stories be considered enthralling enough for Hollywood to come a-knocking? Because they instil hope. Hope that if they can do it, so can we. Hope that, no matter what difficulties we face, we can overcome.

Yet, I think that in amongst the hope that arises within us following the retelling of survival tales, fear also flickers through. We ask ourselves, what would I do if I were in their situation? Could I really do what they did? Do I have what it takes? And doubt begins to cloud our vision. But is it not about time we stopped watching everyone else’s adventures and started living our own?

– Adventure Awaits

2020 has been quite the year already. We’re barely halfway through and already we’ve battled a global pandemic and appear to be on the brink of a new civil rights movement. Not to mention the horrors surrounding Moria refugee camp on Lesbos, the raging forest fires in Australia, and the passing of the controversial new security law between China and Hong Kong.

Yet, though these singular events have shone a media spotlight on the injustice, pain and challenges that many are currently facing, the underlying issues are not new. Disease, poverty, violence, discrimination, destruction and oppression have been present problems since humanity’s poor choice in the Garden of Eden.

But also at work since that fateful day is God; calling, positioning and empowering ordinary men and women to step into an extraordinary purpose and to face these common issues head-on. We read in Exodus of how Moses led the Israelite nation out of slavery in Egypt. The book of Acts depicts how the early church shared their belongings to help combat poverty. Dr David Livingstone fought physical and spiritual disease as a missionary to Africa in the late nineteenth century. Christian minister and activist Martin Luther King Jr faced arrest and assault, yet became the symbolic leader of American blacks in their fight for equality. Australian evangelist and author Christine Caine, along with her husband, founded The A21 Campaign a little over a decade ago to help tackle global human trafficking. I could go on.

And yet there’s still so much need. So what are we going to do about it? What difference can we really make? The truth is, not much. Not alone, anyway. But God doesn’t ask us to do it alone. If we allow him, he’ll do it through us. He asks us to simply be a vehicle through which he can work. The potential to reform these global crises resides within us. But our choices determine how much of that potential becomes reality. Will it be tough? Yes. Will you want to quit? No doubt. But will you live to see God’s power manifested in you and through you? Most definitely.

Whose name will appear in the history books still to be written? Whose face will feature in future based-on-a-true-story Hollywood blockbusters? Could it be yours? Then it begins today. It can start now. Step out of your comfort zone and take a stand. God has already given you a sphere of influence so ask him how he wants to use you within it. When you surrender to him, he’ll open up doors you never imagined walking through and equip you to do that which would be impossible without him.

God has a unique role for you to play in the salvation of mankind. He has a wild adventure of faith already scripted and he invites you to play the main character. He promises to fund you, train you, prompt you, and direct you, and those who bear witness to his work in your life will recognize that only the One who holds all things could possibly orchestrate such an incredible adventure.

Read more in my book, Adventure Awaits.

The Catalyst for Answered Prayer

I returned from New York City in December 2014, just days before Christmas, having completed a four-month internship programme with Metro World Child.  I arrived back in my home city with little idea of what would happen next; having felt that the season I was in was not yet over.

Having been asked to be bridesmaid for my friend in the following March, I decided that remaining in Scotland until then seemed sensible, so I turned down an opportunity to return immediately to New York and instead accepted a ministry job at home on one condition: that it was understood that I was only committing to stay for six months.  After all, I still felt I had unfinished business with the States and, therefore, expected to return later that year.

But months ticked by and I was no closer to returning Stateside.  I kept a keen eye out for different opportunities and made several inquiries into different ministries but every door shut before me.

Meanwhile, doors for ministry and work were opening effortlessly for me in Scotland.  In my fourth month, I felt a burden to begin a childrens’ ministry in the local community where I was working.  I did not want to begin something if I was only going to be present for a couple more months so I committed to a further year in employment; the duration of the next full academic year.

Throughout that year I lived with a short-term mentality.  Every commitment I made had the disclaimer, “if I’m still here, then I will….” or, “if I’m not gone by then, perhaps…”  I sought not to distance myself from everyone and everything so much as I did not want to commit to anything I would not see through until the end.  But by the following Spring, having faced challenges and frustrations both professionally and personally, I decided that living with this short-term mentality was unhelpful for both myself and my colleagues.  I stopped using disclaimers and decided to be fully present in the season that God had placed me in.

“Ok, God,” I reasoned, “if this is where You have me for now, I will be all here.  I will stop living in limbo; neither fully in the present, nor fully in the next season.  I will resist trying to make the next step happen, so it is up to You to act when that right time comes.  I’m committing to ‘here’ until You move me ‘there’.”

I began putting down roots again and, most significantly, decided to put my apartment up for sale.  If I was to remain in my home city for the foreseeable future, then I would invest in a larger place that I could be comfortable in.

But time passed and my apartment attracted very little interest.  A number of people viewed it, there were even some promising conversations about follow-up actions and further negotiation, but my apartment didn’t move.  However, God did…

It was only once my attitude had changed and I had surrendered my desires, my expectations, and my timing to God, that He began to act.  My recent actions had reflected my changed focus and I no longer sought to second-guess God’s timetable, but, instead, to fully embrace my present circumstances.  I realised that God had not forgotten me or overlooked me; He had placed me there for that time and with purpose, therefore I should make best use of the time with those people, in that job, living in that city.  My change in attitude changed my whole demeanour, and my remaining months there became far more pleasant and enjoyable.

Then, on the last day of that academic year, I flew to Germany to visit a friend for a much-needed weekend break.  It was my first time stepping foot on German soil (admittedly, a country well down my travel bucket-list) but it was a cheap weekend break and a greatly anticipated reunion with my friend.  There was nothing special about the particular weekend that I had chosen, other than that it being the most convenient for each of our schedules, but I also don’t believe that it is any coincidence that it coincided with the last day of the school year.  It was there that God began to nudge me forward once again.

My change in attitude had been the catalyst for God to move in me once again.  I changed my priorities and how I spent my time; I chose to invest in myself instead of wasting time daydreaming about what I wanted and sulking because I didn’t have it yet.  I became intentional about my own spiritual growth.  I fasted TV and movies that summer (a time-consuming hobby of mine) so that I could better invest that time.  I dived into God’s Word, I read faith-inspired books packed full of wisdom and personal testimonies.  I told God everything that I had been feeling: my hopes, my dreams, my doubts, my disappointments, my failures, and my regrets.  God reminded me of the purposes He had created me for but I knew that I was not yet ready to enter into them.  So becoming ready became my new goal.

Without rushing ahead or trying to second guess or take control, I simply began asking God, “what next?” And in the meantime, I continued to serve in my existing situation as best as I could.

In the months that followed, God actually used the non-sale of my apartment to direct me further and to finally confirm that a new season was imminent.  Though I had initially envisioned this ‘meantime’ season would only last 6 months, it did, in fact, last a little over two years.  Neither, of course, did it lead me back to America, but overseas to mainland Europe.  The growth and preparation I experienced in that time was absolutely essential in allowing me to step into all that God had prepared for me in Germany.  I am unspeakably grateful for that meantime.

In times of waiting, it can be easy to slip into a dreamlike state where your body is firmly in the present, but your mind and heart have gone ahead and are endeavouring to live prematurely in your Promised Land.  But we must guard our minds and not allow ourselves to drift too far into the future, that we miss out on the present.

God is less worried about our circumstances and more interested in the state of our heart.  Are we making demands of God for the things that we want, or do we trust Him to lead us into His best?  Do we throw a tantrum if our expectations aren’t met, or do we surrender our own ideals and ask Him to act as He chooses, when He chooses?  I believe that our attitude is very often the gateway to seeing our prayers become a reality.

Until we truly know God and trust His heart towards us, we will be fearful or resentful of His instructions.  But as we prioritise knowing Him, rather than simply seeking His ways, trusting Him will become easier, and following His path for our lives will become a delight.

Even while we wait for God’s promises, there is a life to be fully embraced and lived out every single day.  Be fully present wherever you are right now.  It may not be where you want to be, or what you would like to be doing, but when we walk in obedience to where God has placed us at this moment instead of always wishing each day away, we learn to see God in the mundane and life becomes an adventure!

Do It Anyway

A few weeks ago I was asked to share a testimony at church.  The opportunity thrilled me and I was grateful to have the chance to share a little of my heart with my new church family.  But then I hesitated, as I carefully typed my reply to my pastor… “Sure. In English or German?”

Hmm… My initial excitement faded a little at the thought of this forgotten obstacle.  I waited anxiously for his reply.

“Both is fine.  If you do it in English, I will translate.”

English it is, then!

It was the option that came most naturally, and posed the least challenge.  Sharing in English would require minimal preparation and would permit me to speak eloquently and passionately.  “Piece of cake!” I concluded.

But the following day my conscience stirred as I remembered the reason why God had called me to Germany in the first place… What if I was to testify in German?

My range of vocabulary would be significantly reduced.

Do it anyway.

It would require far greater preparation time.

Do it anyway.

My nerves will likely cloud my thinking and I will have to depend on written notes.

Do it anyway.

I would be greatly restricted in how I could adequately express my heart.

Do it anyway.

My perfectionism and pride threatened to dissuade me, but I knew that God was calling me to step out of the boat once again.  It is in our weakness that His power is most evident (2 Corinthians 12:9).  It is only when we step out of our comfort zone that we see our trust exercised and our faith grow.

2 Kings 5 tells the story of a man called Naaman.  Being an army commander, he was used to an audience with men in high places, including the king.  He was well thought of in the land, was a great warrior, and a man of significant wealth. However, he suffered with leprosy.

Concerned for her master’s health, Naaman’s young slave girl suggested that he present himself to the prophet Elisha to receive healing.  So the soldier embarked upon a journey to Israel to meet the prophet of God and seek His intervention.  Upon reaching the prophet’s home, however, Naaman is met by a lowly servant with a simple message for Naaman: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.” (2 Kings 5:10)

Appalled at the prophet’s lack of decorum, Naaman left in a huff.  He couldn’t believe that he had travelled all this way and the man of God had not even had the decency to meet him person!  And as for his instruction; dip in the River Jordan seven times and be healed of this skin disease? Pah! Who had ever heard of such a thing!

But Naaman’s officers cautiously approached their superior…

“If the prophet had asked you to do something brave and difficult, wouldn’t you have responded differently?” they asked. “Instead he asks of you but a simple request…”

Do it anyway.

Naaman’s issue was not his leprosy – not really – his issue was pride. His healing was not dependent on some great victory in battle (which came somewhat easily to him) or a feat of strength, but it relied solely on his ability to humble himself and be obedient to God’s instruction.

I had sought to share my testimony in a language that I was comfortable communicating in and therefore assumed to depend on my own abilities.  But as I humbled myself before God, before the people in my church, and attempted to express my heart in simple, broken German, God did a work that He could not have otherwise done.  He softened my heart, and He used not only the testimony that I communicated but also the added testimony that was being outworked in those moments by operating in a foreign tongue.

The courage I demonstrated that day, by letting go of my pride and allowing God to speak through me, brought breakthrough in my on-going effort to master the German language.  My courage and daring has grown, permitting me to take more risks when engaged in conversation.  My vocabulary has broadened and my ear has better attuned to the distinct accents.  My mind comprehends better the intricacies of the German grammar, causing sentences to flow more freely from my lips.

I am reminded again how pride can become an obstacle in our race of faith.  The life we lead, the call we answer, is not one that we can do alone.  The purpose for which we were created is impossible to achieve in our own abilities.  If we truly commit to walking our unrivaled road, then it is absolutely necessary that we lay aside our pride and allow God to operate through our weaknesses. When God prompts us to act; when He calls us to obey Him, even at the expense of our prestige, let’s do it anyway.

Building Momentum

I recently read a social media post from Paul Scanlon that resonated with me as I reflected back on my time in Germany so far.  It read:

“Q) How do you attract divine guidance? A) Movement.

The biggest thing I’ve learned about divine guidance in over 45 years of walking with God is that: GOD IS DRAWN TO MOVEMENT.

That movement doesn’t have to be well planned or even accurate it just needs to be intentional and from a good heart.

Point your life in the general non-specific direction of service to others and HE WILL DIRECT YOUR STEPS.” – Paul Scanlon

Once upon a time I wouldn’t have dreamt about moving to a new country without a carefully constructed plan of where I would live, how I would fund myself, where I would work, which church I would attend, how I might serve, and so on.  But when I responded in obedience to the first step, God graciously showed me the second, then the third, and the fourth…

God uses His Word to speak to us and guide us through this life, but in order to speak into the specifics of our world, He often needs us to present Him with possible options.  How will we be sure of the right door if we have not pushed at a few wrong doors first?  God gently steers us through life using the path of least (spiritual) resistance.  That’s not to say that we won’t face challenges along the way, but as we attempt to move in different directions, God can use firmly closed doors to keep us from wandering off our own unrivaled road.

These doors come in all sorts of shapes and sizes: opportunities, conversations, invitations, circumstances outwith our control. Our attitude and perspective then determines our response when faced with these different doors.

“Trust in the Lord completely, and do not rely on your own opinions. With all your heart rely on him to guide you, and he will lead you in every decision you make. Become intimate with him in whatever you do, and he will lead you wherever you go. Don’t think for a moment that you know it all, for wisdom comes when you adore him with undivided devotion and avoid everything that’s wrong.”

(Proverbs 3:5-7 (TPT))

At the beginning of the summer, when I was searching for a new apartment closer to my workplace, I enquired about over fifty different apartments online.  From those fifty, I received only a handful of responses and was consequently invited to viewings.

Apartment hunting in the Frankfurt area is no joke.  The apartments that I was fortunate enough to be invited to view often had at least one hundred other interested parties; the competition is fierce.  A friend recently shared with me that she was the successful one out of 600 applicants for her apartment in central Frankfurt!  While I was not too picky when sending out emails of interest, I prayed that God would use circumstances and opportunities to whittle out the wheat from the chaff and lead me to an affordable, safe, convenient apartment.

Consequently, after three months of searching, scores of emails exchanged, hours spent travelling back-and-forth on public transport, several viewings, and a few unsuccessful applications, God led me to the right apartment and allowed me to (literally) enter.  (Interestingly, the apartment did not, in the online advertisement, meet my defined search criteria, so how it landed on my results page I’ll never know.  God clearly knew what He was doing.)

In order to find the right apartment, I had to be active.  I had to search online, and enquire, and send emails, and view them, and have conversations in broken German, and run credit checks, and submit applications.  It was time consuming, and frustrating, and sometimes felt never-ending.  But with every ‘wrong’ apartment, I drew a little closer to the right one; I learnt to know what to look for, I discovered what was important to me in selecting an apartment suitable for my needs and desires, I explored different areas and got a feel for the my new surroundings.  At the time, it maybe felt like I was making no progress, but these closed doors were all steering me towards the right one.

Now I’m not suggesting that we need to over-spiritualise every little decision and movement that we make; as we draw close to God and speak to Him regularly in prayer we will receive the wisdom and discernment to make good decisions.  Our desire to follow Him and serve Him will grow, and He will gently steer us towards His best: physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

But do you think that God can steer us if we are sitting comfortably in our armchair at home, waiting for Him to drop a Billy-Graham-revival-sized idea into our hearts?  Well, He might.  But it is far more likely that the road to such an incredible privilege is paved with hundreds, nay thousands, of tiny steps forward, seeking simply to honour God with our life.

Consider this: if God were to call you to a Billy-Graham-revival-sized idea tomorrow, would you be ready?  Would you have the faith, the courage, the experience to see it through?  Not many of us would.  But the beauty of the journey – all those incremental steps that lead us there – is the preparation we experience along the way.

And as we become more confident and practiced in stepping forward in faith, the more familiar His voice becomes.

Could I have moved to Germany if I hadn’t previously gone in faith to NYC for four months? No.

Could I have worked in Tillydrone, at the Lighthouse Support Centre, if I had not gathered skills and experience from my time working with Metro World Child and King’s Community Church? No.

Could I have pioneered the role of Administration Manager at King’s Community Church if I had not previously volunteered with Souled Out? No.

Could I have been successful in the role as Event Manager at Souled Out events if I had not previously volunteered in the stewarding team? No.

Could I have co-led short-term mission trips to Montenegro if I had not previously participated in GLO Teams in Italy? No.

We take one shaky step forward, not knowing what to expect or what God might do, but He shows up, takes our hand, and our faith grows… So we take another step forward – a little easier this time, having seen His faithfulness in our first step – and God nudges us to the left a little cus He has something better for us than what we anticipated for ourselves…

Now we’re on a journey – we don’t want to go back to where we were – so we look around, considering our options, and walk in the direction that seems to align with the peace that the Spirit gives us, and God continues to use opportunities and circumstances and timing to bring us further down His path…

And we walk.  And momentum builds.  And we become more confident living in a way that contradicts society and culture, but a way that brings us joy, and peace, and life.

The ‘I Don’t Know’ Taboo

I recently returned from a 3-week trip back to Scotland to visit my family & friends.  It was a fantastic time to reconnect with people, make memories, and share with them all that God has worked in me and through me in my time in Germany so far.

But what struck me the most was my okay-ness with answering their questions with, “I don’t know.”

When I visited at Christmas, every enquiry into my new life in Germany was met with an uncomfortable internal struggle of seeking to somehow provide an ounce of know-how to an otherwise unknown faith-journey.  I sought to sometimes exaggerate a tenuous line of inquiry in an effort to sound like I knew what I was doing.  But the truth was – I didn’t know.

But why the torment? Why are we so afraid to state, “I don’t know”?

There seems to be this unspoken rule that we should have the answer to every question, to every life decision, to every new season in life.

These days, we have Google and Siri and Alexa and countless other humanoids to help answer those unanswerable questions.  Knowledge is now at our fingertips everywhere we go.  But is knowledge enough?

When King Solomon wrote the Proverbs, he wrote them with the intent;

“for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young— let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance— for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:2-7)

The fear of God and placing Him firmly as god and father of our lives should be our starting point; fear of Him is the beginning of knowledge.

It is only through Him we will receive the answers to all our unanswered questions – in His way and in His time.  Seeking Him in prayer and through His Word will provide the answers we need… eventually. And in the meantime? “I don’t know” is perfectly adequate.

When we’re uncomfortable with ‘I don’t know’, we often times face the temptation to guess or make-up an answer in an effort to appease ourselves and others (just like I did at Christmas). But who does that help? That just inflicts the weight of further pressure and expectation upon ourselves.  Instead, being comfortable with ‘I don’t know’ demonstrates a resilient trust in who God is and what He is capable of; it emanates a quiet confidence in His ways and in His timing.

So now that we’re OK with giving ‘I don’t know’ responses, how are we at receiving them? Do we (especially we Brits) frantically search around for some clever piece of advice to fill the awkward silence that immediately follows? Or do we pause and reflect for a moment, realising perhaps we can better assist our friend by praying and asking God to give them wisdom, or to make His next step clear to them. There are times we do have wisdom to share and wisdom to receive from others, but don’t make something up just to have a more comprehensive response to ‘I don’t know’.  That helps no-one.

As Christians, we need to learn to be OK with ‘I don’t know’, believing that God does know and that He’s capable of opening the right doors of opportunity at the right moment.

Of all the answers I sought to give at Christmas, I think at least 80% of them are now void and irrelevant in my life today.  I had a whole bunch of ideas and hopes of what might be to come, but God has led me on a very different path these last ten months.  Therefore, as I look ahead to the remainder of 2018 and beyond, I have even more reason to respond, “I don’t know”, but I have finally resolved to be entirely OK with that.

How Do I Know It’s God?

“But how do I know it’s God?”

I’ve been asked this question over and over again the last few months; friends, acquaintances in church, family members, even social media connections from the other side of the world, all want to know the same thing: how do we know we are being led by God?

So many voices fight for our attention on a daily basis; colleagues, social media, friends, politicians, family members, news reporters, music artists, our own voice of reason and common sense.  So how can we sift through the rabble in our minds to hear and be convinced of God’s voice?  How does He lead us? And what if we get it wrong?

Here’s a few key things to remember when seeking the voice of God.

God wants to be heard

Sometimes we maybe feel like God is hiding from us or intentionally making things difficult for us, just to test us, but that is not the case.  Yes, God does test our faith at times, and may appear to lead us on a grand detour to our own Promised Land (Exodus 13), but He is not doing it to wind us up or tease us.  His motive for all that He does is love (Romans 8:28).  And because of that, He desires a relationship with us; one full of heartfelt exchanges and vulnerable conversations.  Just as in our friendships or relationships with one another, the more we talk, the tighter the bond; the more honest and open we are, the more intimate the relationship.

So it is only natural that God, who created us in His image – to love, to live in community – values these same things in our relationship with Him.  More often than not, our assertion of a ‘silent’ God is less about God not speaking, and more about the fact that we are not listening.  God wants to be heard.  He speaks to accomplish (Genesis 1).  He speaks value, and worth, and purpose over us.  He doesn’t say these things for His own benefit, but for ours!

So don’t kid yourself that God is speaking to everyone else except you, that is not the case.  Even in my own ‘silent’ seasons, when I have waited for God to speak and reveal His next step, He has still spoken to encourage me in my waiting.  He maybe wasn’t (yet) saying what I wanted Him to say, but He was not quiet.  When I stopped to listen, He was always faithful to respond.

God will not let you miss His will

If you are seeking God’s heart and live in a way that endeavours to align your heart with His, He will not let you miss His direction (Jeremiah 29:13).  Sometimes, when faced with a number of possibilities or decisions, we allow fear to enter into our hearts, worrying that we will choose something that is not from God.  Be careful, because this is a cunning trick of the enemy who is doing all he can to throw us into confusion and hijack our Christian walk (John 10:10).

Rarely will God speak to us in a loud, booming voice.  Instead, He is the quiet, persistent whisper that pursues us and gently guides us (1 Kings 19:12).  He never misses deadlines or leaves us to walk blindly into foolish decisions.  When we are truly seeking to know His will for us, He loves that and honours that, and will be faithful to answer.

God’s timetable is not ours

I have just said that God never misses deadlines.  But hear me: He never misses His deadlines; He quite often misses ours!  But that is exactly my point: God’s timetable is not ours (Ecclesiastes 3:11).  Often times, when faced with a decision or trying to identify our next step, we allow ourselves to think that God has abandoned us because He fails to speak to us in what we believe to be a timely manner.  But the problem is with us, not Him.

If we believe that God will speak to us, and will not allow us to miss His best for us, then we have to trust His timing too.  Frequently, His persistent whisper begins to speak long before we see the fruition of those promises (Hebrews 11:8-12).  It is seldom a good idea to act on a promise, a direction, an instruction that we have only heard spoken once, for we cannot be sure that it is from God.  But God’s persistent whisper speaks time and time again, allowing His Holy Spirit to minister to our hearts, and confirm the word that has been spoken over us.

God is a God of peace, not confusion

And along with His repeated word, God will also gift us His peace to cement His will in our hearts.

God’s will cannot be worked out logically.  His ways do not align with common sense.  But His voice is always accompanied by peace, not worry, stress, or confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).

The peace that God gives is a peace that cannot be given or understood by the world (Philippians 4:7).  It is a peace that carries us through the storm of uncertainty; though everything around us may appear (to us) to be out of control, we can rest in our hearts knowing that God walks every step with us.  Where He is leading us, we will not want to or be able to go alone.  So resist trying to walk ahead of Him, instead allow Him to set the pace and just take one step at a time.

The bottom line is this: we must be listening in order to hear from God.  The Bible tells us, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).  If our Bibles are sitting on the bookshelf gathering dust, we can be sure we will hear very little of God’s voice.  The Word of God will always be the primary way in which God will speak to us.

By praying before we open the Bible, we can invite the Holy Spirit that lives within us to help us identify and discern the voice of God.  His Spirit works in partnership with the Word of God to bring the verses into words of encouragement, instruction, and correction that are relevant and applicable for our lives today.

Learning to hear the voice of God, recognise the voice of God, and then have the courage to obey the voice of God is a beautiful journey that He lovingly walks us through as we seek to grow closer and closer to Him.  God longs for a relationship with us, first and foremost, not just simply people to do His bidding.  So focus on getting to know your Heavenly Father, and soon His direction and instruction will become part of your daily dialogue.