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Just a quick confession at the start of this year:  I started a ‘read the Bible in one year’ plan.  I’m already behind.

BUT despite the fact that I’m finding it a challenge to get through all of the reading for each day (not really the point, is it?!) God’s been speaking to me wonderfully through the book of Genesis and has set me up with a thought that i’m trusting will shape this year.

I was reading the familiar creation story again and something exciting popped out at me.  As you read the account of God making the world, you see that God creates everything that fills the earth according to its kind – plants and trees ‘according to their kinds’ (1:11) and fish and birds ‘according to their kinds’ (1:21) and beasts and livestock and creepy crawlies ‘according to their kinds’ (1:25).  And then this recurring phrase suddenly changes when God makes man.  He doesn’t make humanity ‘according to its kind’ as you would expect from everything He’s created so far.  Rather, He creates humanity according to HIS kind – ‘in the image of God He created them’ (1:27).

You were created according to the God-kind.  You are not ‘only human’ as the enemy would love you to believe, putting a lid over you of what you can and can’t achieve.  There’s actually no such thing as being ‘only human’ in that sense, because humanity wasn’t created with the limitation of its kind – it was created with the impossibility of the God-kind.

At this time most years, I look ahead with both excitement and some sense of being overwhelmed as my diary is booked right until the end of the year already and there is so much that I’ve agreed to that feels far beyond me.  But since reading Genesis 1, I’ve had this recurring thought in my head – I’m not ‘only human’.  There is no such thing.  I’ve been made according to His kind and right from the beginning He designed me to think outside the box and to disagree with seeming impossibilities.  Yes, the fall broke that beautiful reality, but coming alive in Christ brings me right back to my original design and His original intention.

So, as you look ahead to this year, I want to encourage you to ignore the enemy’s condescending lies that you can’t possibly have what it takes because you are only human.  What a lot of nonsense!  You have been made according to the God-kind where His intention is for you to live outside the box of possibility and feasibility.  Everything in your make-up was designed to touch the impossible and shine with His glory on the earth.  Get ready 2018, you’re going to be the year of smashing impossibilities.

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I’ve been thinking about generosity and abundance a lot in the last few days.  I love the invitation in scripture to enter into cheerful giving – that means it is possible for generosity to be attached to a whole lot of fun and joy.  Many of us may not feel the words fun and generosity belong in the same sentence, but the more I enter heaven’s invitation to live generously, the more i’m convinced that it has the power to inject unreasonable levels of joy into our lives.

Here are my favourite two reasons why:

Firstly, as we give generously, stretching ourselves and our means, we get to let go of the reality of the seen realm and tap into the greater reality of the unseen realm where there are limitless resources and storehouses that never run dry.  The fact is that if we allow our bank balances to have the final word on how we live and give, then they will have just that, the final word.  We will have tied ourselves to them for our provision, for our adventure, for our blessing. But if we allow heavenly storehouses the final word on how we live, on how we give, then our bank balances will not have a defining hold on us and we’ll be allowing a far greater, richer reality to resource our lives.

Secondly, when we give generously it is one of the moments when the expression ‘Like Father, like daughter (or son)’ shines most brightly, for our heavenly Papa is the most lavishly generous being in existence – He is the prodigal Father – and we can never out-give Him, but we certainly can look like Him as we live open handedly. Everything He does is an overflow of abundant generosity. It makes me smile to think i can look a whole lot like Him as i enter into the adventure of giving.

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‘Stop trying to be profound and awesome – it will get in the way of love’ – Shawn Bolz

I’m going to be honest with you – sometimes i find writing a blog really difficult. The trouble I have, is that with each new week and hopefully new blog post (i’m trying to keep them coming regularly… this in itself is proving tricky) i feel pressure to come up with something amazing and profound. Something world changing. Something awesome. And as it turns out, coming up with something like that is not so easy. And so i end up spending quite a lot of time staring at the computer screen hoping for some heavenly inspiration to hit me, writing occasionally and all in all wasting a lot of time.

Thankfully though, somewhere in between staring at the screen and practicing my typing skills, i start remembering the advice i heard Shawn Bolz give at a gathering for young leaders and slowly the pressure comes off and i can get back to focussing on what is really important – listening to what Heavenly Papa is saying, being undone by His love again (because everything He communicates is an overflow of who He is: Love) and learning how to overflow with that myself, to other people.

The thing about trying to be awesome is that at its root, it’s a self-serving motivation. Love, on the other hand, is other-centred. Sometimes, what i have to bring may not seem like much – it may not be the most witty or clever. It may not be the most profound. But what matters is, is it the overflow of love? Of course, this is not just about writing a blog. This is about how we live our lives, how we approach other people, how we think about people’s perceptions of us. When we’re sharing the good news of Jesus with people – what is our motivation? To come up with something clever? To win the argument? To have a story to tell our friends later? Or to pour out all of Heaven’s love on that person? When we pray for the sick and command healing to their bodies, what is our motivation? Are our hearts moved by a desire for Heaven’s fireworks, or are our hearts moved by compassion for the broken? Sometimes i know my heart can be motivated by me being seen to be awesome, rather than by wanting to love the person in front of me really well.

The incredible thing is that when i read the Gospels, i encounter a God who is consistently motivated by love. Not a weak, romanticised version but the real deal – powerful, passionate and selfless. Jesus healed the sick as an overflow of compassion, not a show of power (see Matthew 14:14, Mark 1:41, Matthew 20:34). He multiplied food, not because it would make Him look good, but because He was too full of love to send the hungry away (Matthew 15:32). He gave Himself up on the cross as the ultimate expression of Father’s love – not at its root an expression of justice, or an expression of God’s hatred for sin – no, the root motivation of the cross is unstoppable, irrepressible love.

I want to be undone all over again by the raw love of God for me, and want to be a channel of that to those i meet today. Not trying to be awesome – too aware that often that comes at the cost of love – but really seeing the person in front of me and asking, what does it look like to unleash Heaven’s affection on this person right now? It may be something small, it may be something simple, it may be something inconvenient – but whatever it looks like, it will be love.

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One of my favourite authors is a man called G.K.Chesterton. I still remember where I was when I read his book ‘Orthodoxy’, vacillating between being unable to put it down and forcing myself to slow down because I didn’t want to finish it too quickly. I felt like i was eating a feast – simultaneously feeling full and satisfied and yet hungry for more delicious mouthfuls. It is a book filled with fantastic insights and provoking arguments. If you haven’t already read it, do. I promise it will do you so much good.

In Orthodoxy, Chesterton talks of ‘the eternal appetite of infancy’ – a state of fascination and wonder and delight, even in repetition. He writes, ‘Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.’

Jesus said that His Kingdom belongs to little children – the way in is child-likeness. Child-like faith that is quick to believe and sees no reason to doubt. Child-like questions that are motivated by curiosity and not skepticism. Child-like joy that is always ready to bubble over into laughter and delight. Child-like fascination and wonder where repetition does not breed boredom but causes almost unreasonable excitement as the words ‘again, again!’ are exclaimed again.

In my eagerness to seem ‘mature’ I wonder if I have lost some of the beautiful child-like fascination that my Heavenly Papa so delights in. I wonder if I have somehow mixed up maturity and religious behaviour in my head and so become a more solemn version of the woman I was created to be, missing the fun, sun-lit moments that my Heavenly Papa is joyfully setting up for me. Some years ago Jesus spoke to me and encouraged me to take my grown-up ‘leader hat’ off and put my ‘child hat’ on instead so that I wouldn’t pass by moments pregnant with His goodness and pleasure because I was too busy being grown up. Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote, ‘Earth’s crowned with heaven and every common bush afire with God, but only he who sees takes off his shoes; the rest sit around and pluck blackberries’. I want to live my life seeing heaven crammed in every moment, I want to see and take off my shoes, I want to persistently wear my child hat so I am ever increasingly caught up in wonder at my marvellous Heavenly Papa. He really is so worthy of wonder – if only I will open my eyes to see.

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A few years ago i had a picture during a time of worship that has been going through my mind in recent days. What i saw in that moment changed how i lived life subsequently and now as its memory has been floating around in my mind, i’m feeling afresh its provocation to step out just a little bit further than my predictable, safe normality and allow myself to be stretched again. In the vision i saw myself jumping into ocean waters and swimming as deep as i could go and then returning to the surface to catch my breath. I had this feeling of needing to go deeper still, so i would jump back into the water again and try to get to new depths, before inevitably having to come back up to catch my breath. The vision continued like this a number of times – repeated cycles of me plunging into the waters, trying to stretch to greater depths but always, disappointingly returning to the surface to catch my breath. As i tried to make sense of what i was seeing, i felt the Father gently but firmly pinpointing my problem – i was struggling to reach the depths i longed for because i was always saving enough breath to return to the surface. His invitation to me, though simple, was completely radical to the sensibilities of my ‘rational’ thinking – He was inviting me into adventure with Him where i would not save enough breath to return to where i’d started but i’d invest it all in exploring new depths of His heart. No more safety net. No more sensible reserves incase my God adventure didn’t come off. No going back. His invitation was full-blown, abandoned, head-long plunging into the unknown with no intention of ever coming back to the surface. Of choosing to make my home in the depths of His heart and His adventures for me. To take the hand i’ve been dealt with today and go ‘all in’ on it. I don’t know about you, but i don’t want to reach the end of today knowing that i still have breath in me for returning to the surface. I want to live today recklessly spending all my reserves, trusting that the One who calls me to Himself has more than enough to sustain me on this crazy wonderful journey of following Him.

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