Fancy M&S Paper 

As exam season rolls on up in its beat up 1980s beetle I feel my faith starting to dwindle. If I’m totally honest. Balancing exams & the rest of life can be such a pain. Most of the time I forget I was put on the earth for a higher purpose than to pass my exams. (all the Christian moma’s are going to be mad). 
Working hard and diligently is so important – but that’s a post for another day. I so easily entangle my worth with a letter on a piece of paper. I think of God as the examiner circling the times I get life right and putting a disgusting red line through most of my attempts. At the end of most days; if I’m honest – I’d be sitting on a U when it comes to living for Jesus. If we are honest all of us would. But God (my favourite two words) in His beauty and wonder chose and continually chooses not to treat us like that. 

As I write these words it’s 8 am – I’ve had 4 hours sleep and I’m sitting in the darkness. Sometimes we treat our lives like this. We sit in the darkness thinking that God wants to keep us there, knowing we are unworthy of His light. Believing that if we sit here a little longer it will make Him forgive us – that the darkness will hide our darkness. But in fact the darkness simply makes the light shine brighter. The light of Jesus that is within you can never be dwindled out unless you let it & even still His truth shines out of everything He touches. 

“The lights shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. 

– John 1 v 15

Period. This is the truth. 

 

Mercy comes from a whole bunch of Latin words. Google it. It’s actually quite interesting but at the heart of the English word mercy is derived from misericors which means merciful. The word is derived from who God is. Merciful. If that’s not the most beautiful thing I don’t know what is! God created the word, to be understood in our language – out of a word that describes exactly who He is. 

He has never been afraid of your mess. He never will be afraid of your mess. God’s love & mercy is not a prize to be won but a gift to be shared. It’s not packaged in M&S fancy paper or got a big pink ribbon on it. It’s exposed, open, given freely always. it’s yours for the taking. All you have to do is receive. You might not deserve mercy. That’s not the point. God’s gifts aren’t based on your behaviour but on His character. I for one am so glad. 
Be blessed today. Walk knowing He is merciful. Google the word if you don’t even know what it means & begin to unpack His truths. 

He is merciful & because of this you are seen, loved and forgiven for all of eternity. 
Bundles & Bundles of love,

Shannon X

Understanding Grace

Its nearly Easter. A time when the word “Grace” gets thrown around like confetti, the intention is there as people say “God’s grace is amazing” yet the word falls lightly, having little impact. The over use of the word has robbed it of its amazing meaning. Google defines it as ” the free and unmerited favour of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.” So practically it is the undeserved goodness God shows to us. Isn’t that amazing? But sometimes I think we’ve become desensitized to the power of this word, so this week I challenge you to truly meditate over the amazing gift of grace and what the really means for us. But how can we do this?

Read Hosea

I have to admit I’ve never read this book, but I have read an adaption by Francine Rivers called “Redeeming Love.” This story for me perfectly portrays grace through the character of Hosea, who is divinely called to marry a prostitute named Gomer. Gomer goes back to another man after their marriage yet because of his love and grace Hosea takes her back despite the hurt she caused Him. How many times have we run from God? Yet every time He calls us back with His arms open wide. If you don’t fancy tackling Hosea just yet, why not read “Redeeming Love” the most moving adaptation Ive read.

Jesus Loving Barabbas

Unusual title? I thought so too when I first came across this video, however by the end I totally understood it. These 8 minutes completely changed my perspective on this part of the Easter story and made me see God’s grace in a whole new light.   Give it a watch here, you wont regret it.

https://youtu.be/RwX_EpNR4CA

Grab a notebook

As I’ve already said grace is God’s  favour towards us, who are so undeserving, so why not reflect on how God’s grace has personally touched your life. Make a list (or a spider diagram-whatever floats your boat) and write down ways in which God’s grace has manifested in your life. This is a great way to adopt a grateful heart whilst fully understanding God’s grace.

Today as you read this I pray that the words of Ephesians 2:8-9 will truly rest on your heart, ” For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” Know that it is because of God’s grace that you woke up this morning, that no matter what you do (for good or bad) you are covered by His love and grace.

 

Knowing your Why: Healthy Eating

For some of you you may have just read that title and rolled your eyes, but dont worry this isnt going to be a post about the wonders of kale or the life-changing experience of eating Avocado (to be honest I dont like either of these things) Listen lets be real, I love chocolate as much as the next girl and thats ok, never restrict yourself, instead treat yourself. But I do believe eating well is so important.

As Christians we recognise that these bodies are gifts from God and therefore we should take care of them in order to honour Him. In 1 Corinthians 10:31 Paul writes “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”, he does not exclude eating and drinking from this verse, but instead says that it too can be used as a form of worship. Treating your body well by sufficiently nourishing it is a great way to express your gratitude to God for the body he has given you.

Furthermore, God has created things for us to have dominance over, not for them to have dominance over us. Therefore, although it’s hard we shouldn’t succumb to every food craving we have or eat whatever is in sight knowing it’s not good for us. Something that really challenged me recently when exploring this topic was that “self-control” is a fruit of the spirit, we are called to be disciplined, and what a way to exercise this but by choosing to eat well.

Although I am a big advocate in eating right I think it’s important to say that this is NOT the be all and end all and that I am far from perfect. Yes I may instagram my pretty acai bowl or a great salad or smoothie, but I also treat myself to the odd McDonalds-it’s all about balance. Our ultimate goal is to become more Christ-like not to always eat healthy. 1 Timothy 4:8 says “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” Paul acknowledges that being healthy is important but that our ultimate goal is a strong faith not a strong body.

YouTube

One of today’s biggest social media platforms (and one of my favourites) is YouTube. In fact a 2011 survey discovered

The average YouTube user visits the site 14 times per month, spending an average of 25 minutes on the site each time. This adds up to 5 hours and 50 minutes per month for the average YouTube user. Not as much as Facebook, but read on… Together, we spend 2.9 billion hours on YouTube in a month.

Its crazy to think that we waste that much time staring at a screen, but what if staring at that screen stopped being a meaningless act and instead helped you draw closer to God and learn more about Him. For me, YouTube has become a super helpful tool to find others who want to share their passion and heart to see Jesus’ kingdom come by sharing His message with the world through their videos. Therefore, today I wanted to share a few of these with you all.

Jefferson Bethke

This guy, is where watching YouTube in this way all began for me. If you do nothing else today watch his video “Why I hate religion but love Jesus.”  From spoken words to answering tough questions, to uploading super cute vlogs of his family. His perspective on issues is so christ-centred and he conveys this in such a gracious way.

Sadie Robertson

This 19 year old, is a fun loving girl who knows exactly what people need to hear and is a fantastic role model for teens. She lives fearlessly, never letting her youth be an issue. Her videos come straight from the heart and cover a range of topics. Some are interviews, others candid vlogs of her speaking about what God has placed on her heart. (Her instagram is also pretty cool)

Jon Jorgenson

Ever struggle to study the bible? Jon’s 10 minute “A day in the Word” videos are short bible studies which help to study the bible in an engaging way, leaving us with things we may have otherwise not noticed. He too also creates spoken words, delivering them with a contagious passion.

24-7 Prayer

This is a new discovery for me, but one which came at a perfect time. 24-7 prayer create short one minute video series for the seasons of lent and Advent, as well as some others. Currently they are doing a series called “Stories from the Wilderness” which gives those who have been delivered from tough times by the grace of God a voice. The videos only last a few minutes and are a great way to start the day in the right mindset.

Yumi

This girl chats about just about everything. She shares God’s perspective on many issues young people face today from a super honest place. On top of this she sings! I mean what more could you want.

Cambria Joy

Ive left my favourite til last. This channel not only inspired me and encouraged me in my faith, but showed me a new way to honour and worship God; through taking care of myself. Although many of her videos are based on health and fitness, they all have God’s will at the core. Also she is getting married soon- so look out for a super cute wedding video in the foreseeable future!!

I could go on all night but I’ll stop there. Maybe you find it hard to read, this is a great alternative, not only to learn more but to know that you aren’t alone in your struggles or in your joy; you are part of a family of believers who want to transform culture while seeking out his heart.

 

To whoever needs this today.

Anyone who knows me or even just follows my Instagram knows that I love sunsets (probably more obsessed but let’s not pretend I’m that weird). Anytime there’s a gorgeous sunset I usually get a snapchat of it from multiple different people. Or even sunrises, during the winter months when the sun is just rising, I’ll be walking into school and my friends will turn to me and say did you see the sky, and I’m like duhh yes as if they don’t know me.
When I think of these things; sunsets and sunrises I just think Wow. How intricate each of them are. How different and unique they are to the one the evening before or the morning before. It amazes me beyond measure (and you probably know that if you’re with me when a vibrant sunset catches my eye- I freak out a little bit- I apologise for that).
Let’s get real here right now. This universe was created by HIM. This galaxy was created by HIM. This world was created by HIM. Therefore, these sunsets and these sunrises are HIS art. HIS masterpiece. HIS handiwork and we all know they’re beautiful- beyond beautiful. God makes incredible things. Beautiful things. You know what else He created? What else He dreamed up in his heart? And what he knitted together so beautifully and with so much love? take a wild guess…

YOU.

The one who created jaw-dropping sunsets, the one who created Space. He also created you. Can we just think about that for a while. I find it so astounding. That we are one of His many, many, many masterpieces.
Each of us are uniquely formed, with our different gifts and talents, with our different laughs, with the different ways we talk, and the different ways we interpret things. You are just as unique as the sunsets every night.
He calls you a masterpiece. He created you. you are His masterpiece and His pride and joy. (Ephesians 2:10)

I recently read a book called “Love does” by Bob Goff and in the book he mentions that he had bought a painting that was so expensive he had to save up for ages. He loved it so much, he hung it up in his home, with young kids running around wild- risky or what. And by no surprise it got damaged. Bob said that this didn’t change the love he had for the art, that it actually made him love it more, even with the dents.
I think that God loves you like that. No matter what you do, He still loves you and still forgives you.  No matter what. He loves His masterpiece as if He paid thousands for you. God made you so extraordinary and just one of a kind. He holds onto you dearly, protecting you and keeping you from harm. He loves you that much. You are still His masterpiece even with a few bumps and scrapes (or a lot). You are a beautiful because He created you.

Jeremiah 31:3

Love always, SSL team. xo

Who You Are

The first question in many interviews is “Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?” At this everyone freezes up a little and finally tells them the monotonous details of “who they are”; “I am 18, I go to Foyle College and I study music, english and RS.” But does that really tell you something about who I am, no, our identity is so much more than this, because it is through God that we find our identity.

Therefore, when it comes to thinking about who we truly are we have to think about who God is. When we are secure in Him we will be secure in ourselves because He is our everything.

God is Our Father

Therefore we are His beloved children who He loves more than any parent could ever love their children. Thinking of God as a father also shows the intimacy of our relationship, we do not worship a distant deity but an always present father.

God is Our Saviour

He saw us and thought we were worth dying for even “while we were still sinners.” God has saved you, you are redeemed from whatever is in your past through His grace. He turned our inadequacy into adequacy through His death.

God is Our Creator

I know it seems like an obvious one, but think about it. If God created us He made us just the way He wanted, every freckle, every hair was intricately designed. The fact that someone so special made us shows the sanctity of our life. You were created for a purpose.

God is on Our Side

You are strong because God is within you and will strengthen you. We all have those times where we feel alone, like we are fighting an uphill battle, but we mustn’t forget Romans 8:31  which says “If God is for us, who can be against us?” God is victorious, hold onto that hope that your future is secure in heaven, it will be ok.

This world constantly tells us how we should be defined; be our gender, our job, our race, our weight, our interests, our fashion taste (or lack of), our past, our mistakes, but none of these things are truly who we are. Dont look to the world to find your worth, instead look to Him who created you (I mean who could know any better than Him!) My favourite verses when looking at our identity is Ephesians 2:8-10.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

So when you feel inadequate, unloved or just a little insecure remember who you belong to, who created you.

 

Lent

IT’S PANCAKE TUESDAY!! I’m not sure you can tell how excited I am, but I’m pretty ecstatic, I mean who doesn’t love a good pancake? But soon it will be over for another year and then comes those 40 days of lent.

I have to admit sometimes I think lent is misinterpreted, people use it as an excuse to take up that New Years Resolution that only lasted a few weeks or to justify and motivate going on a diet. But there is SO much more to lent than going off chocolate.

At the very start of Jesus’ ministry he went into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days and nights, reflecting, praying and preparing for the beginning of his ministry. Now Im not suggesting that we all have to fast for the duration of lent, however some do find this useful. The important thing is that we treat lent as a time of prayerful reliance on God. Therefore I really encourage you to pray and think over what you are going to give up or take on over lent. Ask yourselves what things are holding you back in your relationship with Jesus, what unnecessary distractions do you have.

When it comes to giving up something, sometimes it gets hard, in the times when its hard I encourage you not to complain but to turn to God for strength. This is such a great practice as we learn to depend more on God’s strength and not our own.

Also, over the last few years I have come across a new approach to lent, a generous lent-not a season of giving up but of giving. As I think of the amazing generosity of our father who gave us a saviour that we were so undeserving of, I am challenged to adopt God’s generous heart and obediently live it out. An amazing way to do this is through an initiative called 40 acts (signup link below). This initiative sends you daily challenges to do some acts of kindness for the 40 days of lent. Maybe this year instead of choosing an act of self-improvement try an act of unnecessary kindness-the impact you can make with one small act is amazing!

As you enjoy your pancakes think about how you want to spend your lent. I encourage us all to not think about what will benefit ourselves, but what will benefit our walk with God, and maybe also those around us.

https://40acts.org.uk/