“What do you bring to the table?”

2020 has been a strange year. It’s been unique. It’s been unprecedented. I think we’ve heard that word an unprecedented amount of times too, which only confirms what a strange year it’s been.

I’ve found 2020 to be beneficial in its own unique way as well. I’ve found it thought provoking. I’ve found it one where perspective has been more useful than normal. I’ve found we’ve been asked to think outside the usual parameters we’re accustomed to.

Individually the same can be said. Like one Sunday morning as i sat there on zoom tuning in to the latest “church on the couch”, as has been for months now this year. We were asked a question. A short one. But it was thought provoking, and in a good way.

What do i bring to the table?

The question is very much also a saying. What is it we can contribute? What is it that we offer? What is it that we know we possess that is of use to others? In this context it is all about what we bring to God, the Father’s table?

For me it starts with a simplicity. I’m simple. I know what I want and I’m going focus on that and only that. I’m not asking for much. I’m simply asking for what I need.

There’s authenticity too. I carry something genuine and real and it is me. It is mine. Friends and acquaintances have often spoken of it. Of how I carry something like the fingerprints of Christ. He’s put that in me, I know so.

But as he’s mentored me he has shown me how to go further. To love, encourage and to show compassion. He’s helped me realise that life isn’t all about me. The need to respect and consider others is of equal importance to that of my own.

He’s given me a desire now to speak that in to others through writing and no doubt through words that I also speak. Being brave enough to be open and honest is a damn hard task. Not least because you essentially expose yourself to others. “ Expose” probably isn’t the greatest word to use because by now i feel it’s less exposed and more offering up what I’ve found to be good for me. In the earlier days it did feel more like exposure.

But in doing this he has shown me the value of doing just so. We humans are meant to co-exist. We’re meant to do life together and the value in community is so high. Perhaps it’s the emotive reaction that connection brings? Or maybe it’s simply that our circumstances feel familiar and empathy is felt? We’ve all been in these places at one point or another

When I think back to that desire the father has given me I don’t just see the desire he’s put in to me but equally the desire he has for me, and wow! When you see that it blows you away. His desire is borne totally out of love. Unconditional love. When I think about this I feel it’s hard for us to fully comprehend how much he loves us. We have an idea, but that idea is based on our own idea. I have a feeling he loves us even deeper than that.

His love for us is a lot like taking a ride somewhere. It’s been a journey. We’ve had to learn and discover the deepness of his love. The journey has taken us places, it’s given us emotions that have changed us and when you look back 10 years, 5 years, 2 years and then today and you see all these parts he has built up within you. They have made you stronger and wiser. They have taught you so much that you are not the same person you were earlier. It’s not possible to be the same person anymore.

If the Father has made us so perfectly in his image then it is our duty to best believe that his design is intentional and the things that make us who we are were truly meant to be. Our identity is something we need to embrace.

That brings me back to the question I’ve been asked a few times lately.

What do I bring to the table?

The saying has been around forever but in the context of our relationship with the Father i wonder if we’re truly aware of what we bring to the table? I’m aware of the things I bring. I mentioned them at the beginning.

Things like authenticity and genuineness were words given to me recently. I’ve seen it and know it to be true. Another word given to me which also sits in line with the others was presence. Presence is not something you practice. Presence is something you carry and if anything it is more of a reflection. It’s what people see.

I think those are three amazing things to bring to the table.

Authenticity

Genuineness

Presence

Each one of those I see mirror the way the Father also was. The beauty in this is that this is what he intended for me. I didn’t really ever work towards this, it just became a part of me as i matured. This is how the Father builds us up. This is how he built me up.

I want to finish with this. The other day I was reading out of Acts chapter 2. Here King David spoke of a Lord who he walks with so intimately. He knows that he is forever side by side with him. He speaks of his praises, his joy and the hope that is so strong.

I see that the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave. You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.’”

Acts of the Apostles 2:25-28 NLT

It’s my hope that we all find a place where we can each be thankful for his presence, praise him for the joy he has given us and continue to live in such strong hope that he is forever with us on this journey. We will not be shaken. He will not be moved.

Whatever it is that you bring to the table you should have a confidence in it. A confidence within yourself. Your value is found in the things that Christ has given you. And all you bring is all you need to bring. It is all he intended for you. It is all you need…..and it is yours to keep!

Owning your identity

So I’ve been thinking an awful lot lately about our identities and the way that our Father works within them.

Let’s start with the obvious. Our identity, which God has given us – is seen through the ways we use our gifts, which he has also given us. Our gifts become like our authority. God wants us to use that authority so that people may know and literally see our God given identity. He wants us to use it in a way that brings joy to his heart and glory to his name.

I feel such encouragement when I think about the way that my identity is found. I’m so profoundly lifted when I realise that the gifts he has given me are where my identity in Christ is revealed. The gifts are intended for me. They are for me to use in ways in which I can bless those i come across.

God has given us all gifts. Some are unique, others are intended for the right people. But all of us have an immense value that our Father wants us to not just discover, but use.

We find these gifts in so many ways. We find them in the way we serve tirelessly without seeking reward. We find them in the selfless faith we carry each and every day. We find them in the way our hearts desire for things. We find them in the things that make us come alive.

Some of us love like all of us only wish we could. It’s a love that looks easy, it looks like peace as well. It’s amazing! Love and peace feel like the dynamic duo we all seek and when we find it it is THE most brilliant feeling. To have someone shower you with their love and peace is a blessing you invaluably accept.

No matter what our identity entails it is all special and brilliant. After all, it’s God’s craftiness that has been at work, and his workmanship is unlike no other.

It’s so clearly part of his design for us and when i see this it draws me in closer and stronger with each day. He has a path he has set us on, he has us on his fingertips guiding and encouraging us. He walks beside us – forever in control. That right there is a powerful hope to hold on to. He is with us at ALL times so be on the lookout, listen for him.

Our Father has given us so much already. But perhaps the most exciting thing about what he has given us is that we literally have no comprehension of just what he can actually do and the depths that he would go in order to do so.

I was drawn to Ephesians 3:20 earlier and was simply struck in awe. It says

“ God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his spirit gently within us.” (MSG version)

This is amazing! It’s Marvellous! It leaves me sat in awe of just what he could do. What I know is this. You and I, we all have gifts intended for use. And when you see the way he is already using you then you begin to sense a little a tick of the magnitude of his plans for us.

He does this by using us, by living within us. So when we use our gifts it is like God showing us the things we are capable of. But not only that. He’s showing us who we really are intended to be.

It is such an encouragement when we realise that. It’s also an incredible blessing to be entrusted with. He gives us this when we are ready to use it. He equips us with what we can handle. We are a vessel created and crafted for that specific purpose. It’s up to us to discover that purpose and gifting.

As I’ve thought long and hard over the past weeks he’s shown how this all comes together for the good of his kingdom. I’ve seen this in the words spoken over me. I’ve seen this in the way the same things have been confirmed by others. Almost like twins who think the same things. Our Father has confirmed much in recent weeks like that. It’s exciting and empowering when that happens.

But as I finish this “lesson”, if we can call it that. I want to finish by empowering you to step out and use your own gifts. Listen to God. Listen for the finer details which will become the start of something with such great purpose. No gift is too small, insignificant or over used. There’s always a need for more of it.

I’m lucky right now that the sense of my gifting is so strong right now. But rather than make it about me I just want to listen to the things my Father in heaven reveals to me. That friends is what is worth sharing.

Riding the wave

A while ago I found my mind drawn back to a text message sent to me some 14 months ago. At first I wasn’t sure what to make of this memory. But i felt that God had placed it there for a reason.

For the first few days I would think back to it but not really take the time to investigate it. Kind of like procrastinating. We know we want to or would like to do something but just never get around to doing it. The thought stays there but it remains a thought, and that’s exactly what happened.

About a week later things had not really progressed but if I knew one thing it was that God has a habit of doing things in his time. So I asked myself why would God bring up the text message in my mind out of the blue? There simply had to be a reason for it and I knew it!

The text was from my pastor Matt. He had been spending time praying for me and during that time had seen a vision that represented God calling me in to a deeper place of intimacy with him. In this vision I had been in the water wanting to catch waves but not having the courage to do so.

I knew full well what that meant, but to be honest, what did that look like? I had no idea.What was i to do? How was I meant to go about it?

The waves represented the Holy Spirit. Essentially I needed to be bolder and catch those waves. Because in the vision the moment I did catch one I was overjoyed. I was ecstatic!

I wanted that SO much! I wanted to know I could do it. I wanted to experience what that reaction was.

So I prayed.

I prayed and meditated on those questions. On what it meant? And how I would go about it? I started looking intentionally for the answers and the truth was I found them right away. They weren’t ground breaking answers. They didn’t change many things at all but what I see now is they got my mind searching deeper and got me in to a routine of doing this.

Almost like my mind was being retrained – to look at things from a slightly different perspective. If I felt curious or unsure on something I began to see that this was my mind expanding.

A lot of what I was writing on in this period was from that initial perspective. A perspective that focused on encouraging and loving. A perspective that knew that in that place of honesty and vulnerability there were people out there who felt the same things or needed those words for themselves.

But as i started searching deeper for God’s intimacy I realised that I had stopped writing. That even though I had a lot on my heart, I wasn’t feeling moved to write things down. Instead I was being called to stop. To listen. To rest. To seek and find these reasons for the pause.

Even as I write this now my latest piece sits unfinished and here now is another piece put together so easily, almost as if God has placed it all on my heart right now, for this moment, this purpose.

The purpose is not just for me. It’s never about me. It may involve me but it’s never about me. It’s about God. It’s for God and it’s done with our Father, God.

What I realised when looking back at this text message was that what was spoken in to me that day is what has indeed happened since then. It’s been gradual and it’s been consistent and it has blessed me time after time again.

I still think about a time when I found it challenging even to write things that provided just a small window in to my thoughts and feelings. As introverted as i can be at times, this was a wild and yet bold step to make.

That feeling quadrupled in intensity when writing about thoughts became writing about deeper, more intimate matters such as what God has been doing in and around me.

But by this point it felt almost a necessity that I stepped in to that place and in some ways was actually an easier step to make because the words almost always come easier than when I write about other matters. Almost like God just laid it all out for me and I just needed to put it together.

The revelation in this experience for me was found in the way God had used that text message to show me what he had been doing since that day. At times we lose sight of some of the things he does for us, so to pull it back in and focus on things in hindsight was amazing! Because I could see HOW much he has done during this time.

I look at the way a COVID world has impacted this too. The routine of a Sunday spent in church, as good as it was, was changed. My focus – shifted, again.

Church has still been a big part of my Sunday just via Zoom and to be honest. I love it! Why? Well funnily enough it feels more intimate, it takes us deeper via the conversations we have. There is openness, vulnerability, honesty, love, kindness and inspiration. But perhaps the one thing that stands out most is that despite a world where isolation is a common theme now, it is community and family that are growing in this space.

Zoom has also challenged me to continue down this road I am on. I get to be Inspired and at the same time hopefully inspire and encourage others.

It’s also a proposition for the future. It’s a bold invitation to continue down this road. That as I step deeper in to him that there is a purpose that I will understand far better on another day.

The challenge today is definitely found in the connection we establish with others. Life has been altered. The opportunities are still there but they look different. They occur differently, none the least they are still there.

However I am so encouraged that I was drawn back to the original message so that I could see what God has done, and I’m eagerly awaiting what he wants to show me next.

The beauty of God is that he crafts us so intricately, so uniquely that we can have no idea what he is about to do next. But we can be safe in the knowledge that he’s always working within us.

I feel like the only thing left to say now is to encourage. We all have our own story. It is unique, it is something worth sharing and you can. But it is our story and what God has planned for each of us is going to be different for each of us. That’s what makes it unique.

But find encouragement even in the little things he does. A thousand small steps is a lot of steps In the right direction. So even if when it feels like he’s doing little, be encouraged that he’s doing something and piece by piece it will all make sense and you too will look back and see HOW much he actually has done.

As for me the shift is obvious. The fork in the road, long past. Those thousand small steps have left me in a place where I am ready for that next thousand steps as the journey continues