Week 3; getting to the heart of humility..

Hello! Well what a week it has been…
Ironically, even though this week has been about developing humility, I’ve spent most of it stood in front of people telling them how amazing I am, and why they should vote for me to be Head Girl. Fortunately, that one worked out in my favour… however, as always, it came at a perfect time because having to actually highlight my good features to people has reminded me about the importance of humility and remembering where our identity comes from.

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less- C.S. Lewis.

This quote got me thinking straight away about what I think it means to live more of a humble life… Okay so I’m not Gandalf… I don’t have a long white beard and by no means am I pretending that I know everything, but here’s how I see it.

I don’t think being humble is  about thinking we’re useless and good for nothing, I  think  its about accepting that we are created by God, and  therefore all of the ‘great’ things about us come from God. I guess this is why humility is so important, because as human beings, we are so hungry for praise, we constantly want to be told how great we are and we want acknowledgement for everything we do. Okay.. here’s my own personal example. When I went on mission to Mexico with my youth group in, I came home and immediately put my memory card into the  telly, and straight away I was like.. ‘MUM, DAD look what I did!!!‘ For about ten minutes, the team I worked with, the people behind the scene who helped me get there, and the family themselves were out of my mind whilst I tried to impress my dad with my new extensive knowledge of house building.

The problem with this is that everything became about me, when actually, I was a small part of the crazy things that God got up to out there. I can’t sit here and pretend that I find humility easy, I don’t. It’s a hard one, because we live in a world and a culture where affirmation from people defines how good we feel about ourselves, and even when we get it we either reject it or lap it up and become too fixated on our own achievements. To live a completely humble life would be to turn my life upside down; we’ve been spoon fed compliments for so long that we feed off them, and when we don’t get them… we’re left wondering what’s wrong with us. We can sit back and think something along the lines of ‘Well maybe my grade in that test wasn’t as good as the last’ or ‘perhaps they just don’t care about me today’.  This has been a hard week for me, thinking about humility in the  light of competing for something that I care so much  about has not been easy because I’ve felt such a confliction of thoughts!! This is the conclusion I came to, our identity as human beings does not come from the compliments or the praise that we get, but from God alone. After all, we are made in the image of God, which means we’re exactly how we should be… in  that case, how can we really compain?!?!  It’s when we start to reassess our priorities and put God first that the revolutionary stuff  happens,  because our living is defined by a loving God who truly wants what is best for us. It even says so in one of my favourite pieces of scripture;

Jeremiah 29:11, ‘For I know the plans I have for you’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not  to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future’. 

 Yes, as humans we are desperate to be loved, to be cherished and to be praised…and yes that comes from people that we know and love on earth, but first and foremost, it comes from God, as it says in 1 John 4:19 ‘We love because he first loved us’. 

But WHY does putting God first mean living a humble life? Well, in my eyes its because we won’t be searching for praise from people anymore, because we only have to look  at the cross to know how much we  are loved. Imagine how  revolutionary it would be if we truly stopped living by our agenda, and  started to live by the agenda of God. Imagine if, for every human being on the earth, the desire to be praised and told great things about ourselves was replaced with a desire to know God more… if at all, and to spend time in his presence, and to want to do his will before our own… We would literally be living selfless lives, doing everything in his name and for his glory… Imagine that.

With all that in mind, I come to the challenge for week 3 of God 52 which was to ‘perform an anonymous act of kindness’.  Now obviously, I’m not just going to announce what it was, as  that wouldn’t make it ‘anonymous’ anymore…. but  I can honestly say that even now, I can  see the fruitfulness of it.  For me, this has been the greatest part about this week.. no  one who sees what happens as a result of this is going to say ‘oh  wow, that’s amazing, Maddie did that’… they’re going to give the glory to God, the true craftsman behind it all… AND, I’m going  to be doing that too because I’ve learnt that when it comes to God, we can only say something along the lines of what Matt Redman sings… ‘you alone are holy, only you are worthy God let your fire fall  down’ 

When we see amazing things happening, or even little things (as I said in my first blog, ‘every little helps’) happening  that are good, we should give glory to God. It’s like  that saying people use ‘credit where credit is due’… well guess what?! God, the creator of the universe deserves credit for all of the goodness in our lives. Everything that I have  done, am doing now and ever will do is down  to God… because he  created me. I’m doing things because of him, so how about I do the final bit and truly in my heart do them FOR  him? Not for  my own satisfaction, not for the  sake of looking like a nice person to the people around me, but for the glory of God, to see him lifted high and  exalted… because that is where he belongs, on a  throne in our hearts.

This week, I’m  praying that I can continue to live with that in mind, and hey… if that means God coming in and turning everything upside down.. then so be it!
God  bless!
Madailein x

Week 2… Parrots, prayer and praise.

Hello again! What a 5 days it has been. Firstly, the reference to parrots in my blog title is due to my brother who decided it would be funny to paste many photos of parrots on my Facebook in order to kill the last five minutes of a long work day. To those of you reading this thinking ‘is that the best she has?’ Yes.. I’m afraid it is. That’s the life of a 6th former for you…all work and no play for me! 

This week, the focus has been all about prayer, and whilst ‘surfing the web’ I came across a pretty good quote which starts things off quite nicely. 

‘Prayer is not getting man’s will done in heaven, but getting God’s will done on earth,

It is not overcoming God’s reluctance, but laying  hold of God’s     willingness‘ – Richard C Trench

Prayer is a beautiful thing, and on reflection this week, I’ve realised exactly how much I take it for granted. The challenge  set this week was to spend 3 hours persistently in prayer for one thing, and whilst this was amazing, I wanted to also spend time this week assessing exactly what prayer is in my life. Ever since one of my friends quoted ‘prayer should be a conversation and not a monologue’, I’ve taken a whole new perspective on what prayer is.

At primary school, I remember being taught something similar, that in prayer we are simply talking to God. Now, at the grand age of sixteen (nearly seventeen!!!!) the same simplicity applies. There’s a worship song with the lyrics ‘I am a friend of God’ and it made me think of prayer in comparison to a conversation with a friend. Whilst prayer should not be a monologue, it also shouldn’t be an awkward 2 second conversation either; like the kind you have when you see someone you know somewhere and make awkward conversation with them until one of you goes off in a different direction. What kind of friendship would we have with someone if we never spoke to them? A pretty crap one probably. Sure, I could use the excuse that I’m a busy bee studying A levels and getting way more stressed than necessary, but (as I discovered whilst browsing other God 52 blogs this week) Jesus took time away from the crowds following him to be alone in prayer. It’s precious and its important in developing a sound relationship with God.

So, 3 hours of persistent prayer for one thing? Okay, I have to put my hands up now and admit that it hasn’t gone my way this week. It took me so long to decide on one thing that by the time I’d actually got my mind fixed on it, time was running away from me. For now, let’s just say its a working progress.  Although I haven’t necessarily completed the challenge this week I have drawn closer to God in the process. One night this week, I picked up a little book from my shelf which I’ve written prayers in over the past 2 years. Okay… WOW. Reading that book summed it all up.. There are so many answers  to prayer, so many pleas from me to God where I could remember writing the prayer with hopelessness on my heart, not really believing anything could happen… and yet there I was, a few years down the line being able to  pick out answers to prayer that I never thought would come. That alone summed up the week for me. Sometimes, the little things remind of the massive things. Like how this small note book reminded me of God’s GRACE which is kind of a biggie. 

I’ve always told myself that its important for prayer  to not become a burden in my life. The day that I roll my eyes at the thought of sitting down and spending time with God is not a good one, I need to get excited about prayer!!! The prayer diary I found reminded me of a time when I was way more dependent on God than I am now, and times when I was  still discovering who I was as  a christian. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt this week its that I need to get  back to that point…  the point of depending completely on God. If I’m having a bad day I usually go home and make myself a peanut butter sandwich (yes, I do enjoy the finer  things in life) before curling up in my bed and feeling sorry for myself… but why not change that? Why not give it all to God? On Sunday night at church, I had one of the most intense times of worship for a while… and suddenly, everything that was on my mind was summed up in a few worship lyrics:

‘I’m giving you my heart, and all that is within,

I lay it all down, for the sake of you my king,

I’m giving you my dreams, laying down my rights,

I’m giving up my pride, for the promise of new life’  

AAAAAH isn’t that amazing?! A true expression of the heart that says ‘God, I’m giving it all to you’… and why do we give it to him?! Because its safe there. There are countless places in the bible where we hear about God taking our burdens and giving us rest, and prayer is a way to achieve this… Not only  to give him what’s on our hearts, but also to praise him, thank him for what he has done and ask for more of it in our life. This whole thing reminds me of the little surprises God gives us in life. In April last year, I got on a plane with my youth group to travel to Mexico and its fair to say I was pooping myself. I waddled through the plane with a lump in my throat, knowing that really… it was all going to be okay. A few minutes after I sat down, the in flight television turned on, and what do I see? An advertisement  Not really that exciting. Except, it reminded me of a bible verse which  reminded me that it was all going to be alright.

Matthew 7:7 ‘Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you’.

Not only did this apply to the challenges facing me in Mexico.. but also to prayer. God responds to prayer, in the most loving way possible. It’s kind of like a roller coaster (which is kind of a bad example because I’m scared of them) .. You can’t experience the thrill of going down without the climb of going up.. and this week, I’ve realised it’s the same with  prayer. We’ve got to trust God and jump in at the  deep end,  give him our hearts, tell him what’s on our mind… GO ON. What’s  the worst that could happen?! 

I don’t know what the next challenge is.. so I guess next week will be a surprise. 

Be blessed! 

Madailein x 

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God 52… Here we go!!

So, here we are.. 2013!! 2012 was one of the busiest, most stressful and beautiful years of my life, and I cannot thank God enough for how he has blessed me and per sued me over this year… If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in faith, it’s that he well and truly never gives up, and his love is completely and ultimately unfailing. WOO!! Image

January is my favourite time of year… its the time of year when  the woolly socks can come out and my house feels a lot cosier than normal.. It’s also the month of my birthday WOOOHOOO! This year, I’m turning 17 and will thus be having  driving lessons… stay off the roads.. Watch this space for my progress and  pray for my driving instructor.. The poor bloke!!

I’ve never  really believed in New Year resolutions, I always think to  myself, ‘why make a change only in a New Year? Why wait? Why not just do it when its necessary?’… So, as 2013 drew ever closer and people started talking about their new year resolutions I naturally just switched off. That was, until at Youth Church on Sunday morning, my youth pastor mentioned something about ‘God 52’, which is basically a resolution set up by a man who believed that when it came to his faith, he walked the walk, but he didn’t talk the talk. As soon as I heard that explanation, my ears pricked up. Oh how guilty I am of being a hypocrite  or having such a desire to share my faith with people without really thinking about the foundations of it… how to behave and ultimately.. how to love. In his own blog, this guy used the term ‘An irresistible resolution’. This again struck a chord with me. Of course  its irresistible… This man is challenging us to live our lives more in the way that Jesus did, and to deepen our relationships with  God in the process.. how does it get better than that?!

So far, we’re on week 2. Ultimately, this is a  challenge to think more about living out christian values in my every day life… but I don’t want this to become some kind of religious ritual. In the midst of exams, coursework, daily stresses and the need to have a sleep every once in a while, I will probably forget to do some, or not write a blog for a bit, or perhaps even forget that I’m doing it. That isn’t the aim obviously.. I don’t start with the intention to fail… however everything is determined by God, and  when its right, he will set the appropriate things on my heart! AHHHHHH so exciting. I started this whole thing late… however so far I have at least tried week one… (not too bad eh?!). For week one,  the challenge was to ‘be radically generous’. Unfortunately, I didn’t do a great job of this, however I did give some money  to a friend of mine who is  going on mission in the summer. In the  words of TESCO.. ‘every little helps’. This friend of mine is a wonderful individual who has been through a lot in the past year, and… as selfish as it sounds, to see the joy and surprise on her face  was amazing and captured my heart, reminding me that these moments are individually  crafted by  the creator of the world. Kind of a big deal huh?

Week 2 brings a second challenge which I am hoping to get absolutely stuck in with.

‘Pray persistently about one thing for three  hours this week’. 

How hard can it be?! In the past year, I’ve really developed a stronger prayer life, however as always, there is room for improvement.The guy behind God 52 wrote about how when he prays, so many things can rush into his head and he’ll start spurring off about a load of things and lose concentration and get carried away, and this is definitely something I suffer from too. How can we condense it all?! I don’t know what one thing I’ll be focusing on yet, but hopefully God will set something on my heart in due time. It could be anything I guess… Part of me is saying… why not pray for a miracle?! They’re happening  every day.

I will of course try to keep you posted. Let’s hope it goes well. And, as the genius behind this idea also wrote in his own blog, if  the consistent prayer  fails, then at least I’ve  set aside time to be in his presence and just to know him more. In the  words of Jesus Culture ‘In the glory of your presence, I find rest for my soul’…. It’s been a busy couple of  weeks, perhaps I could do with some ‘soulful rest’… We’ll see!

God bless,

Maddie x