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.

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 Dream Come True

On 15th June 2020 I witnessed a dream become reality; I held my first published book, Adventure Awaits, in my hands and awed at the journey that had led me to that moment. Yes, my life journey – all the experiences, lessons, hurts, and breakthroughs – had paved the way for the content of the book, but the publication journey – all three years of it – had also reminded me of God’s faithfulness and His ability to do the impossible with a surrendered heart.

For years I had quietly held the dream of writing a book. It was a dream that was rarely voiced, rather simply penciled silently in my journal, weaved amongst my thoughts and reflections. Though I never believed it to be an impossible dream, I always assumed it might be realised much later in life; once I had lived a few more decades and my fiery red hair had long-since faded. In 2014, when I spent time in New York City working with under-privileged children in the projects of The Bronx, I began sharing my experiences via my blog. I used it as an easy and efficient way to communicate with friends back home, but as the weeks went on, the reach and response to my writing grew. And my dream swelled in my heart.

Then in spring 2017, just weeks after moving to Germany, God used two friends to confirm what He had already been saying to me: now was the time to write a book. He was right (I mean, He always is, but even I could see it now); in this season, as I spent my mornings in language school learning German, and with few other established commitments in my new home country, I had the gift of time.

But how does one go about writing a book? I had no idea. I knew no-one in the publishing industry, yet my conviction was clear. So I asked God to be my teacher. I asked Him how to write a book; what initial steps I should take, what I needed to consider, what themes I should write about. And just like He does in every other area of our lives, God led me every step of the way. He even drew my attention to a specific Christian publisher whom, at that time, had just published the first book of someone I greatly admire.

Now, if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you probably already know what happened next: I ran out of money. Yep, having moved my life to Germany, my funds dried up and I began to look for a job to supplement my living expenses while I was learning the German language. But the thing was, God told me not to. “Em, what?” I hear you ask. Believe me, I know. I asked that too. But God repeatedly said no. Except… I had no money. So, I did it anyway…

I’m gonna skip the gnarly details of that particularly challenging few weeks as I wrestled with God over financial provision in my life, but you can read about them here, if you wish: Um, Where’s my Miracle?, Um, Where’s my Miracle? (Part 2): The Overflow, and Facing the Flame.

And so I had finally found a German-competency-appropriate job for myself, to then be told six weeks later that there was a problem with my insurance documents and I wasn’t permitted to work until that issue was resolved. For about a month I stressed over it and tried everything I could to get myself back to work, until I eventually stopped and asked myself, “what was the last thing God told me to do?” Write. Right?

So, after weeks of working and/ or frantically pushing papers around, I returned to what God had asked me to do (long before He had told me not to look for a job). And you know what happened? That week, that first week back to writing – back doing what God had asked me to do – having stepped back into obedience, God provided me with more than the equivalent of two months wages, in just one week!

Well, let me tell you, that was one of the biggest lessons of my adult life right there: be obedient. No matter what He asks you to do (or not do), no matter whether it makes sense to you or not (I mean, how was I supposed to earn money by writing on my laptop from home?), no matter how challenging or seemingly impossible the circumstances look around you, be obedient to what God asks you to do.

From that moment on, I knew God really was behind this book, so I pressed forwards. I finished the first draft in December 2017 and proceeded to submit it to six or seven publishers, including the one that God had drawn my attention to months earlier. But one by one, they all said no. Then a couple months later, I began working full-time at an international school and my manuscript was pushed aside.

After a while, I began to think that maybe the drafting of my first manuscript had just been a practice-run for future books. I knew I had been obedient to God, but perhaps the end result wouldn’t look the way I had expected it to. Quite honestly, I was glad that it had not been made public because I held much fear of being so vulnerable. Yet God kept prodding at my heart and challenging my fear. Then, in spring 2019, God spoke to me as I drove home from work one day, and He said very clearly that my fear – that is, my fear to publish – was stealing the breakthrough that He wanted to bring about in others through my writing. The problem was, I could not overcome my fear myself.

God’s words danced around my mind in the days that followed, but it was easier to ignore them than to begin to deal with the fear that was holding me back. About six weeks later, I found myself in my car with two friends. During a lapse in conversation, one asked, “Jane, are you writing a book?” Stunned silence followed. How did he know? I hadn’t told him. He questioned why I had not published yet and repeated word-for-word that which God had spoken to me less than two months earlier: your fear is stealing the breakthrough from others. I knew, then, that it was time to resurrect my draft and pursue publishing once again.

I spent that summer re-reading, editing, updating and re-writing my manuscript. Meanwhile, God worked on my heart. Only then, with an updated manuscript and a healed heart, was I ready to publish. And at the end of that busy summer period, I submitted my book to just one publisher – that which God had drawn my attention to at the beginning of this journey. That submission took an entire Saturday to prepare – about 6 hours – so I prayed and told God that preparing and submitting numerous book proposals was not realistic while working full-time as a teacher and continuing to serve in leadership in church. I asked Him to make my efforts fruitful. And did He? Well, of course He did!

Though that one publisher rejected my manuscript a second time, their reply directed me towards a smaller publishing house, about whom they had heard positive reviews. That small publishing house was Sacristy Press, and they said yes to publishing my manuscript. Three years, several detours, and multiple lessons later, I held the reality of my dream in my hand, and I watched God demonstrate His faithfulness every step of the way.

My book, Adventure Awaits, is ultimately a self-fulfilling prophesy, in that it seeks to encourage and inspire the reader to recall those once-longed-for, long-since-dismissed dreams and to believe for them again. It describes a faith adventure that is readily available to all those who surrender their lives to God’s will and act in obedience to His word, being sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This life of ours is not just about enjoying ourselves or ‘finding’ ourselves. This life of ours is a gift, and is to be treated so; it is an opportunity to become intimately acquainted with our Creator, and permit Him to be known and glorified through our lives (2 Thessalonians 1). God gifts us life, with all its ups and downs, to teach us, to purify us, to mould us into a better likeness of Christ (Romans 8). The extent to which God can do that is up to us and how much permission we give Him to do that in our lives. But if we are willing – if we truly allow Him to weed out the ugly parts of us and shape us into earthly reflections of heaven – He promises to take us on a wild ride, beyond anything we could fathom ourselves (Ephesians 3:20). Are you ready? Because adventure awaits.


Ready to order your copy of Adventure Awaits? Find out more here.

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.

Holding on to Hope

For months now, I’ve held a strong sense of anticipation that God is up to something big. Between the far-reaching promises He declared over me in January, the ever-growing wisdom and influence He has gifted me with, and the significant open-heart surgery He has been conducting in the secret place, my anticipation of a new season and new opportunities has gently but exponentially grown since April.

However, anticipation, or hope, often comes with it a fear that what we want or expect to happen, will not happen. There is a constant tension between the anticipation of what we believe God has spoken and the fear of hearing Him or understanding Him incorrectly.

In this battle, we must be diligent in the focus of our hope. Are we placing our hope in a particular outcome, or are we hoping in the One who holds all outcomes in His hands, and promises to be faithful?

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:1-5

In this holding-pattern of hope, I’ve been pondering the testimony of Naaman (2 Kings 5). He was a commander in the king’s army; well-respected and powerful. However, Naaman had leprosy.

His young Israelite servant girl suggested that he travel to her homeland, believing that the God of Israel would heal her master. Naaman dared to hope; he began his journey, believing that it would end in his healing.

The commander first visited the king of Israel, laden with great riches and a letter from his own king demanding healing from his leprosy, but the king of Israel was angry and distraught, concluding that the Syrian king was simply picking a fight with him by making such a ridiculous request.

No doubt, as Naaman left the presence of the king – the most powerful man in the land – his hope dwindled.

But the prophet Elisha heard of what was going on in the king’s palace and invited Naaman to visit him at his home. Once again, the army commander arrived with his great caravan of pomp and riches in tow, with his own expectations of how his meeting with the prophet might go down. But Elisha was absent, sending a messenger instead.

Now faced with a servant, instead of a prophet or king, Naaman’s anticipation ebbed further.

“Wash in the river Jordan seven times and you will be healed,” the messenger told Naaman.

Eh, what?

The little expectation that remained in Naaman’s heart vanished. This was not at all what he had imagined when he had left his home, holding on to hope and expecting a miracle.

Naaman had expected healing. He was willing to hope for it. But when faced with the circumstances that would eventually lead him to it, he wasn’t so sure…

“Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage.”

2 Kings 5:11-12

He had expected a king to help him. He had hoped that the prophet would make a great spectacle as he called upon God for healing. And, as none of these expectations were met, Naaman reasoned that, at the very least, he could choose a cleaner river than the Jordan to bathe in.

But that was not where healing was to be found. Naaman had allowed his own expectations to distract him, even blind him, to the work that God was seeking to do; to the journey that God was leading him on. For this journey was not just about physical healing, but included lessons in humility and obedience too. There was far more in play than just Naaman’s own desired end product.

We, as Christians, are called to hope (Ephesians 1). It is good to anticipate and believe for all that we believe God has spoken over us. But that does not guarantee us the easy or most straight-forward route there. Are we willing to trust Him anyway? Are we willing to be patient? Are we willing to lay aside our pride? Are we ready to be obedient, even when it feels foolish? Are we going to dare to keep hoping, keep believing, keep anticipating, even when the journey looks nothing like we expect it to?

Eventually, Naaman discarded his pride and obeyed the messenger’s instructions to dip in the Jordan river seven times, receiving the longed-for healing and complete restoration of his skin. He saw the manifestation of his anticipation, but not before God had drawn Naaman’s eyes to see the true Provider, and prepared his heart to receive it.

I expected to see the manifestation of my anticipation in July, however two months later I am still waiting, still journeying, still trusting that I will see it one day soon. Though the timing, the pace, the route are not what I expected, still my anticipation remains. I see the lessons I have continued to learn in the time since. I see the careful placement and positioning of people and circumstances that God lovingly orchestrates for my good. I endeavour to repeatedly re-focus my eyes on the Provider, trusting His timing and His process. I see progress, even when it has been a struggle, at times, to keep hoping.

But Naaman’s journey, the pilgrimage of the Israelites to the Promised Land, Joseph’s story from dreamer to diplomat, and so many other Biblical examples all illustrate the same message: a detour or a delay does not mean denial.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

Hebrews 10:23

Dare to keep trusting, keep hoping, keep anticipating. Breakthrough is coming.

Look What You Have Done!

“Look what you have done!”

Perhaps you heard this often as a child, having made a mistake or acted clumsily or not thought through the consequences of your actions. Or maybe you are a parent who has used this statement all too frequently.

Well, I’ve been saying this a lot recently. Admittedly, I am a school teacher, and I do work with young children. But in this instance, my exclamations have not been directed at them.

As the days have grown longer and the temperature has creeped upwards, my mind has been regularly transported back to summer last year when I had newly acquired my job in an International School. I was still squatting in the living room of an acquaintance in Darmstadt, months longer than I had expected to live there. My finances were low. My friends were few. My language skills were frustratingly inadequate. My church-involvement was minimal. My next steps were unclear.

Now, here I am, 12 months later, having acquired a comfortable apartment and a new car. Frankfurt is now home. My financial situation is the best it has been since the day I moved to Germany. I have a vast network of friends and a solid core whom I consider family. Though still a way to go, my German is at an adequate level that I now have the ability to build friendships and minister in my second language. The home I have found in New Life Church Germany and the opportunities I have now to serve there is beyond anything I could have dreamed of last year. And as for my next steps… God is busy preparing me and guiding me into the most exciting and overwhelming future that He has planned for me.

“Look what You have done!” is my daily heavenward declaration. Just look what God has done.

When I packed up seven boxes, two suitcases and a backpack, and boarded my one-way flight to Germany on 3rd April 2017, I had no idea what to expect. But to see God’s faithfulness outworked in my life one day at a time; to see His careful care for me and His generous provision; to experience His gentle shaping and stretching; to hear His quiet whisper to hold on just a little longer… I could never have imagined this. Just look what He has done.

Those first 15 months in Germany were tough. Every day was a fight of the faith, but one that I was willing to enter into, for I knew victory was already mine. I’ve said often in the last two years that “my worst day in Germany was still better than my best day in Scotland”; not because of my circumstances – they were pretty dire at times – but because of the joy and peace in my heart. This joy and peace was far beyond anything I had ever experienced before; it was a peace that surpassed all understanding (Philippians 4:7). I knew I had been obedient in following God to Germany. I knew I was exactly where He wanted me to be. I knew He would finish what He had started.

Since August 2018, my circumstances have begun to catch up with my heart and life has looked pretty rosy at times, there’s no denying that. But just because my circumstances have changed, I dare not lose that raw and vulnerable dependence on God. I do not, for one minute, want to lose sight of Who brought me this far; of Who met every need; of Who led me into a life that I could only dream of living.

Look what God has done.

It is not just my external that has changed, either. A far greater work has been done in my heart. My faith is stronger, my insecurities are diminished. My vision has grown, my dependence has shifted. My anticipation is fuelled, my expectation is magnified. My fear is bridled, my hope is lifted. That insecure, timid girl that once sought control as a safety mechanism around her heart has been stripped away to reveal the fierce, determined, courageous woman that God always intended me to be.

Friends, family, acquaintances, readers: look at my life, hear my testimonies, read my words, and recognise that the Lord God has done all of this, not me.

It was like a dream come true
when you freed us from our bondage and brought us back to Zion!
We laughed and laughed and overflowed with gladness.
We were left shouting for joy and singing your praise.
All the nations saw it and joined in, saying,
“The Lord has done great miracles for them!”
Yes, he did mighty miracles and we are overjoyed!
Now, Lord, do it again! Restore us to our former glory!
May streams of your refreshing flow over us
until our dry hearts are drenched again.
Those who sow their tears as seeds
will reap a harvest with joyful shouts of glee.
They may weep as they go out carrying their seed to sow,
but they will return with joyful laughter and shouting with gladness
as they bring back armloads of blessing and a harvest overflowing!
(Psalm 126 TPT)

The Worst Kept Secret

A few months ago I celebrated my 32nd birthday.  My parents made their first trip to visit me in Germany and we enjoyed traditional German food and plenty of sight-seeing around the province of Hessen.

As messages of congratulations flew in from friends all over the world, I noted the occasional hint of awkwardness or pity surrounding my ever-increasing years on earth. “The thirties aren’t so bad,” some would say.  “Twenty-eight again, then?” mused a colleague.  And I wondered, why do we do that? Why do we insist on marking another birthday with commiseration instead of celebration?

All too often age becomes a defining factor in our culture, and it even infiltrates our churches: the events we are allowed to attend, the ministries we have the opportunity to lead, the friendship group we are expected to be a part of. But that is not God’s design.

At aged 16 years, Timothy believed under the teaching of the Apostle Paul and went on to spend his twenties accompanying Paul on his second missionary journey.

Moses was 80 years old when God spoke to him through the Burning Bush, calling him to confront Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.

As a teenager, Esther was summoned before King Xerxes and became his new Queen. Through her courage and obedience, the Jewish nation was saved from a plot to destroy them.

Abraham and Sarah birthed a nation at a combined age of nearly 200 years, despite Sarah having already journeyed through menopause. Her body was incapable of conceiving, yet God’s plans and purposes could not be thwarted by her physical state.

The prophet, Samuel, was just a boy when he entered the service of God in the temple.  He would later anoint David to be king of Israel in his latter years on earth.

The Bible assures us that there is no ‘prime’ age in God’s Kingdom. Each season acts as preparation for the next, and God decides when we are ready and to where He will lead us.

God does not consider our age when He calls us, we do that. We use it as an excuse or a barrier or a (dis)qualifying factor, not Him. Our age never hinders us from what God has prepared for us. His timing is perfect; He is never in a hurry, but He is never late.

Our worth & relevance is based on so much more than just the number of candles on our birthday cake. Each generation has something to learn, each generation has something to teach (Psalm 78). Our age should be a celebration of sustained life, in all it’s fullness; every stage, every season.

I would not be where I am now if it were not for the many years, the many mistakes, the many lessons, the many experiences, the many opportunities that have come before. As I reflect, I am confident that I could not have faced this season any sooner, I simply wasn’t ready. I have lived through seasons that others my age only dream about, but, equally, there are experiences and opportunities that my peers have faced or enjoyed that I have not yet had the chance to sample.

However, life is not a competition, or a race; it is not to be compared or envied, it is to be enjoyed. You only get one chance at it, so don’t waste it. Savour it. Be present. And celebrate the journey that God has led you on.

We can do nothing to change our date of birth, but we can be intentional about pursuing God’s heart; about studying God’s Word and exercising our faith; about making ourselves available to serve and lead as God directs us. Our age is rarely an accurate reflection of our maturity, our faith, or our capacity. Resist allowing yourself to be defined by such – by yourself or by others.

I’m not too young to outwork what God has poured into me. I’m not too old to receive God’s best, either. He had purpose in choosing the day he called me out of my mother’s womb, and he continues to prepare me, position me, and propel me forward, for such a time as this.

For, maybe, the first time ever, I proudly announced my 32 years on all my social media accounts.  I wanted to celebrate my ageing, not cringe at it.  I chose to share my gratitude for the wisdom, growth, experience and life that each birthday represents.  I do not long for former days, because each one taught me something new and brought me a step closer to where I am now. I love where I am now.  But I also hold great anticipation for all that is still to come. God’s only just getting started…

The Hidden Door

In J.R.R. Tolkein’s tale, The Hobbit, a company of dwarves led by Thorin, the heir to the throne, embark on a quest to reclaim their home in the vast caves of the Lonely Mountain. Now housing a greedy dragon, the dwarves have little hope of re-entering the mountain and defeating the dragon unless they enter by a secret door. The problem is, however, the door can only be found by the last light of Durin’s Day.

It is a race against time, and against a pursuing horde of enemy orcs, to reach the mountain and find the door, ready to open it as the last light of Durin’s Day falls.

But as the sun sets, and the golden beams illuminate the hidden doorway, panic and frustration arise as the dwarves search franticly for the keyhole amongst the rough stone mountain-face. The impatient dwarves resort to kicking, tapping, and shouting orders to one another in an effort to force the entrance open as the light fades behind the surrounding hills.

“Break it down!” Thorin commands, in a last-hope attempt to unseal the mysterious gateway, as his comrades begin hacking at the rock with their plethora of weapons.

As the sky grows dark, and hope fades, Thorin re-reads the words inscribed upon the map that led them this far, but failed to lead them to success. “What did we miss?” he asks, rhetorically. “What did we miss?”

Discouraged and dismayed, the dwarves begin their slow descent back down the rock face, but Bilbo Baggins, the unlikely hero in the Hobbit tale, remains behind and ponders the instructions on the map for a moment longer. Meanwhile, the moon appears from behind a cloud, reflecting the lost sunlight, and shines upon the rock-face, revealing the much-sought-after door.

Once illuminated, the keyhole is quickly found, the entrance unlocked, and the door swings open with ease.

I’ve watched the Hobbit movie trilogy a number of times, and have also read the acclaimed novel, but this scene really struck me as I watched it again, recently.

We are all on a quest for a hidden door, are we not? Not a magical door on the side of a mountain, perhaps, but what about a door of opportunity, or a door of provision? Maybe one of breakthrough, or revelation, or freedom? But these doors often seem hidden to us.

Our journey towards these doors can sometimes feel long, treacherous, even endless. And when we finally reach what we perceive to be the end, we grow weary and anxious at yet another hurdle. We, too, may echo the words of Thorin; “What did we miss?”

Sometimes we wait for doors into promises that we have waited for for a long time. On occasion they are doors that God has spoken about clearly and with conviction. We know they will open, but frustrations and impatience arise when the light begins to fade and we feel like we are running out of time.

Have you attempted to break down a door or two? Have you spent far too much time wondering what you must have missed for the door to remain closed? I have.

But know this: God does not lead us to despair.

When the last light fades and the shadows grow long, this is when our faith is tested the most. Hope dissipates, and we may succumb to desperation or resignation. But, let me say it again: God does not lead us to despair.

Are we to be found amongst the dwarves; we perceive failure, having engaged our own limited efforts, and walk away distraught and discouraged, accepting defeat?

Or do we count ourselves within the minority; those who hold on to belief even when our own understanding assumes defeat? Do we hang on just a little longer, believing that our journey of faith counted for something? Are we humble enough to recognise that God’s mind far exceeds anything we could even begin to imagine or understand? These are the few who witness God opening doors that no man could ever prise ajar.

God’s timing is perfect (Ecclesiastes 3:11). His words do not fail (Isaiah 55:11). The instructions He sets out before us are not false (Numbers 23:19). He does not seek to fool us or cause us to stumble (Romans 10:11). He simply asks us to trust Him (Proverbs 3:5-6).

The Bible reminds us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

The doors that God opens for us are surrounded in mystery, and intrigue, and surprise. They cannot be forced open, or ‘figured out’, or opened prematurely. But be assured of this: at the right time, under the right circumstances, the door will swing open, and all we have to do is walk through it.

Humility: Redefined.

In church, we are currently journeying through the book of Philippians together, considering, last week, Christ’s example of humility (Philippians 2:1-11).

As part of his introduction, the Pastor quoted C.S. Lewis:

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

It was not the first time I had heard or read that quote. It did not bring with it great revelation or conviction. However, as I continued to ponder all that this passage teaches, with this quote reverberating in my mind this week, I made a breakthrough.

It is no secret that God has whispered big vision, big promises into my heart; some of which I share openly, others I keep hidden until the appointed time. But they all share one thing in common: they will become a reality. God speaks to accomplish; no word of His will fail (Isaiah 55:11).

And yet:

For the past several weeks (since – unsurprisingly – a big revelation from God about my future) I have faced a barrage of fear.

Lies. Comparison. Doubt. Insecurities. It has been relentless.

But the enemy is cunning. He knew he couldn’t take me down easily, so he began to twist my understanding of the Word of God for his own purposes. In my pursuit of humility, I was tricked into thinking less of myself. Satan shone spotlights on my own insecurities to back-up his offensive strategies, and fear weighed heavy on my shoulders; fear of what other people thought of me; fear of shame and rejection; fear of not living up to expectations; fear of missing out on what God had for me because of my own weaknesses.

I sought to hide pieces of myself – ideas or suggestions or enthusiasm – hoping not to be an inconvenience to those I was working with. I found myself trying to be who I thought others perhaps wanted me to be, and hiding (or even, at times, resenting) the unique qualities and gifts that make me me. I adopted the heavy responsibility of making God’s promises a reality; an impossibility in my own strength. All this in an attempt to be humble.

But let me be clear: this is not humility. This is sabotage.

In the midst of this spiritual warfare, my heart and spirit remained at peace, but my mind has been full, chaotic, busy, cloudy. The enemy loves to do that to us. If he can’t make us bad, he monopolises our minds to fill them with nonsense so that we cannot find quiet to hear and be reminded of God’s truth.

Our minds will not clear by processing, or thinking it through, or problem-solving; we receive clarity and peace when we fight the lies with truth. Truth we find in God’s Word, in words He speaks over us, in worship, and in recalling promises and affirmations we have received in the past.

It is in truth that we develop humility. Humbling ourselves before God means hearing, receiving, and believing all that He says about us. It is trusting Him to act, even when our circumstances seem out of control. Humility is most evident in us when we submit ourselves to Him and live each day in obedience to Him, no matter how nonsensical or foolish it may look to the world.

So by definition, a humble spirit does not attempt to stifle the talents, blessings, gifts, wisdom, opportunities that God has bestowed. Instead, humility invests these things well and correctly attributes honour and glory to the Giver, not the steward.

In my fight against fear, I realised that I was so focused on how God’s call could/ might/ will affect me, that I had forgotten about the many individuals who will benefit from my acts of obedience. The longer I allow fear to thwart my advances in faith, the more I allow the enemy to steal the work of God in the lives of others.

Well not anymore.

I refer, often, to John 10:10 – my favourite Bible verse – for it promises a full, abundant life; one that I seek to encourage and inspire us all to take hold of; one that only God can imagine, design, orchestrate and gift us with. But the verse begins with these simple, yet deadly, words:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…”

As we reach out to receive the full and abundant life that Jesus promises us, there is a spiritual enemy who is focused on stealing our peace, killing our dreams, and destroying our hope. He will do everything he can to disrupt our lives and tear our eyes away from the One who sustains us through all things.

Do not let him take you down.

He may be tactful, but God is greater. He may be cunning, but God is wiser. He may be determined, but God is already victorious. Do not allow the enemy’s lies to take hold; stand firm on the truth of God’s Word.

Do not be afraid of him; do not be distracted by his advances, or allow him to draw your eyes inwards. Instead, choose to focus on God. Choose to focus on the circle of influence that God has given you. Choose to focus on the hope and life that God offers through Jesus.

I cannot and will not let the enemy steal away all that God has poured into me and blessed me with. God has positioned me and prepared me to be used by Him to share His love for humanity. That is not something to be hidden, but something to be used to bring glory to God.

Today, I choose not to be tricked into thinking less of myself, but to simply think of myself less.