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

Take Me Back

When I came to church for the first time – I hadn’t really grew up a church kid. One of my first experiences of a kid’s camp was leading one. Whoever was doing the memory verse used to say it in all different voices? Remember that? That’s where I’m going with this.

God is at work in your circumstances. (Normal)  GOD IS AT WORK IN YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES. (Shouting) God is at work in your circumstances. (In a whisper) God ooh eeh ahh – is – ooh – working – in – eeh ahh – your circumstances. (That’s a monkey – in case you didn’t catch that).

BUT SERIOUSLY. God is at work in your circumstances. Sometimes you just need to hear that. Timing cannot diminish His love or His power to work within your life. The next instalment of the story of Hosea and Gomer proves that. Our lives are living proof of it.

 

She ran away. I don’t really know if it was out of fear, shame, or pride that she did it. To be honest the reason for running from me is not the reason I pursued her. I didn’t chase after her because I wanted to know why she ran from me – why the life I had offered her wasn’t enough. I simply went after her because I loved her; I didn’t love her past and I didn’t know about her future. But I knew I loved her. I didn’t even go after her because of the kids or her responsibilities. I didn’t go after her because I wanted to control her like so often other church men paint a picture of. I wanted to go after her because I loved her with a love that felt like peeling of the layers of an onion and crying at the release of every layer. Because each layer revealed something even more beautiful about her. When onions do what onions are supposed to do they create an incredible flavour that nothing else can create. So could Gomer if she was only given the opportunity.

That’s the thing about Gomer. There is something inside of her that I am willing to fight for. What she believes she deserves is not what I have bought for her. The price I have paid for Gomer has led to sleep-less nights and empty pockets. It has led to me giving everything for her and the truth is I don’t hold it against her that she ran. All I want her to know is that in me she finds full safety, full protection, and the fullness of provision – because I know her better than anyone else.

Then God ordered me, “Start all over: Love your wife again, your wife who’s in bed with her latest boyfriend, your cheating wife. Love her the way I, God, love the people, even as they flirt and party with every god that takes their fancy.” I did it. I paid good money to get her back. Then I told her, “From now on you’re living with me. No more whoring, no more sleeping around, you’re living with me and I’m living with you.” – Hosea 3 v 1-5 MSG

Hosea.

You see Gomer was never created to whore herself. She was bought with a price, she was cherished. Hosea was willing to give everything up for his wife. Just like God gave everything up for us. He created a world with you in mind. He sent his son with you in mind. He thought you worthy of His love, He thought you worthy of His son. He sees the inside you. Not the one plastered with a smile but the true darkness that goes on behind closed doors. He sees that part of you and says I love that part. I love the darkest, dirtiest, most shame filled parts of you and I am going to send my son to die for you so that I can love you back to full life.

God seeks us out just like Hosea sought out his wife. He seeks you out because you were never intended to live in shame. You were never intended to believe lies that you are worthless and unworthy of love. You were never created to be dictated to by your surroundings. For Hosea and Gomer it didn’t look like God was working in those circumstances. It looked like the world had won and that Hosea should just give up. But just like God he didn’t. He pursued Gomer. God pursues you. He is NEVER distant. He is NEVER bringing you shame. He is full of grace – waiting to love you back to life.

SSL Team x

Let The Light In

“Rise up and shine, for your light has come. The shining-greatness of the Lord has risen upon you. 2 For see, darkness will cover the earth. Much darkness will cover the people. But the Lord will rise upon you, and His shining-greatness will be seen upon you. 3 Nations will come to your light. And kings will see the shining-greatness of the Lord on you. – Isaiah 60 v 1- 3

As I sat down to write this morning, my pen took a little bit of scribbling before it fluidly came out of the nib. So often that is us. We take a little bit of mess before we become flexible to what God has for us. The art of taking pen to paper proves to us that everything beautiful, can be transformed and changed under some pressure. What I like to call this in the kingdom of God is – heavy rain. God teaches us that just like the pressure on the nib of the pen, rain may be painful – but rain cleanses, refreshes, and creates a clearer perspective. For fog, sunshine and wind are fleeting but in Northern Ireland rain is steadfast – just like pain may be. Rain reveals strength, it reveals a deep, stomach twisting hunger within you. It reveals what you are willing to fight for. It reveals what you say you believe because you know it’s the Christian way and what you truly believe. God wants us to be honest, vulnerable, broken and empty all at the time. Not because he wants to leave us there but simple because he wants to adorn worth over you and fill you with himself.

For so long in the media we have witnessed Instagram posts, bios and Pinterest snaps saying ‘define yourself’ – well I put it to you today that defining yourself is actually the worst thing you could ever do. For being defined by God is so much greater. Without God it’s all worthless. Have you ever really thought about it? Why in the grand scheme of things does it matter that you have value? God called you to have value out of love for every bone, muscle and fibrous tissue inside your body. He called you to have value because he created you. Because he took you out of himself. Because he looked at the world and seen the very thing he created in his likeness lonely – so he dreamed you up. He knew the world needed one of you. He created you in his likeness. He created you with passion, creativity, full of love and a wonder at his hand. He created woman out of man in order to co-reign the earth. This means you have worth because God loves you, because he called you to reign and because you are created in his likeness.

My heart for you today is that you understand your worth because when you do – life for you ultimately changes. When you understand – down to your core, that God has created you, to live differently. You walk knowing you are crowned, you live knowing that what he has for you is greater than the world could offer. You live knowing that your body isn’t something to be speculated at, you realise that you aren’t a fast food restaurant where people come to get what they need and leave you feeling empty. You realise that because you have worth you deserve to be treated with dignity, respect and most of all love. When you understand this, then you treat others the way they were intended to be treated. This changes the world. The world needs more people who understand their value so they can understand the value of others. You are valuable because of who lives inside of you. You are valuable because he came to earth and died for you. You are valuable because he speaks and it is so. Never forget it, please – when you are found without, he is found within. Rise up, the world needs a generation who understand their value in a self-obsessed world. Your identity in him speaks louder than your identify in anything else.

SSL Team x

The Broken Become The Healers 

You’ve trusted the same leader for decades (for most of us, our whole lifetime), he was the one that led you to freedom – out of slavery and directly to God. He sat with you in the darkest times and lived through the joyous times. He was a great leader in whom you trusted. Our text is Joshua 10 (and I believe given by God) tere are three main points he wants to draw out today… let the points begin! 

1. The Israelites trusted Gods ability through their leaders, over who their leader actually was.

The Israelites knew that Moses had been anointed to lead them out of Egypt. They trusted his leadership, witnessed him do miracles and knew that he was the very leader God called him to be. Moses dies. Joshua rocks up. The Israelites had watched Joshua grow up. They knew every tiny detail about him. They knew from a young age if he showed leadership abilities or not – I’m sure often people doubted his ability. However the Israelites put there trust in God through Joshua. For us this means that in times of transition and change we need to vulnerably trust God over the changing waves. That Our eyes once fixed on him and hearts fully abandoned to him –  will lead us to green pastures even through uncertainty.  

2. The names of the 5 kings in the passage, give us an insight into the heart of God for the Israelites and indeed us. I love exploring names in the Bible – I love how this highlights God’s creativity and inate ability to care about every detail. The 5 kings: An orator will  enlighten the woe to them and the justice of the lord. Even in the destruction the justice of the lord is highlighted. The very names of the kings demonstrated to Joshua that God’s justice is greater than any earthly possession or position of power. 

“God in his divine grace and goodness has the capacity to orchestrate scars into beautiful works of art that he can use for his glory” 

3. Joshua 10 shows us how someone who realises being broken isn’t the vision can become a healer for a nation. The Israelites felt inadequate, forgotten (after all they still hadn’t made it to the promise land) and confused. However God taught them that even in these times of utter mess that they are conquerors through him. 

And the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands. Not a man of them shall stand before you.”

Joshua 10:8 ESV

So today know brokenness isn’t the vision. Know you are called to use your past brokenness and align it with God to help others. Understand the importance of names and finally always know no matter if you feel it or not you are a conqueror through Christ.  

Lots of love SSL x

Grow or Wilt 

For a long time I didn’t know what true friendship really looked like. Friends are important. Friends help you on your way battling yhrough life – so it’s important we make wise choices. So often we listen to the advice of our friends, that isn’t wrong yet watch who you are journeying life with. Watch what culture, dreams and ambitions you have and see if the people around you enable you to fufill them. Friendship is a two way street so think about the same for your friend. How can you support them in who they are and more importantly who you know they will become?

Your friendships can dictate your convictions. In Jeremiah 12, Jeremiah cries out to the lord about the wicked, he asks “why do all who are treachurous thrive?”. You see Jermeiah was concerned about Idols and a broken covenant with the lord. The people he was running with weren’t running where he wanted to go. So he cried out to God he sought wisdom in every corner of his life because he know the righteous God would awnser him. God is our greatest friend and the deepest foundation. 

If you are in a friendship right now that doesn’t add value to your life then think about cutting it. Or cutting time you send on it. I know it may seem harsh, but your influences shape who you become. If you feel a deep conviction about something your friend does speak to her/him, don’t let unity and good friendship go to waste. Your convictions are Gods direction. Be obedient even if it means some hard conversations.

Learn the diffrence between aquaintance and friendship. This can be a tricky one. If you are starting up a business you ask a businessman how to do it. If you are baking a cake you ask someone who can bake a cake. Friendship is so much like this – yes you journey things together and get things wrong but if the baker sought out a bricklayer to help him bake a cake they would have very diffrent ideas about how to get there and do it. Yes difference is so important and it adds so much value to our life. But the end goal is giving people the opportunity to believe in God. 

The bricklayer, baker can be so much like christian and non-christian relationships. I have so many incredible non-christian friends, who I trust with everything that comes my way but sometimes its not appropriate for them to give me advice and vice-versa siply because we are going in diffrent directions- for the mean time.
As we bid 2016 goodbye and say hello to 2017 take time to realise what you can bring to a friendship and what your friends bring to you. Maybe part of the reason your in a rut is the friends you are running with. Make tough but wise decisions. Don’t let indecision keep you from taking the next steps on the dream.

You are a witness. And being a light to non Christian friends is so Important my friend Matthew once said- ‘don’t trick yourself into thinking you are being a good witness when you are doing the very thing your friends are doing’ 

God is good and he displayed this truth so well. Ultimately Jesus is the one we go to for advice, intimately he is king and our greatest representative of what friendship looks like. He chose 12 but had an even smaller circle if deep dreamers. However in the Garden when he was just about to die- he went off. He knew the foundation of life with God was consoling in him, trusting in him and seeking him above any other friendship. 

Don’t know what to do? Pray. Yet there is also practical advice out there – My friend Noelle talks about friendship amazingly on her podcast – friendingpod. Check it out!

Love xo

Glory

It’s a warm morning. You’re walking down the street with Jesus and you see a man. Lying on the ground. He’s blind. Hasn’t seen a thing in his entrie life. You try not to empatise because if you did you might become too attached – and you can’t do that. Yet you don’t understand why he’s blind. You just don’t get it. You’re frustrated. So you ask Jesus a question you thought you knew the awnser to. “Rabbi who sinned this man or his parents, that he was born blind”.

Then Jesus does what he does best and destroys you. Not in a bad way… in a good way he flips the question into something completely new. “It was not that the man sinned or his parents but it was so the works of God might be displayed in him”.

When talking about healing I am so careful because I know it’s a touchy subject. But listen to me, there are two core convections – God can heal and God will use it for his glory. The blind man was healed through annoiting mud and spit on his eyes, the lady who bled was healed by touching Jesus, Naaman was healed by going into a river seven times – just imagine the Foyle and you get the picture. God is mysterious, yes. But God is good, always.

 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

-John 9 v 24-25

The healed don’t care where you’ve came from they only care where you are going. We all need  a revelation that our past will never define us. That the cobwebs that hide in our closet are not the words of the lord. God calls you into your future. Countless times in the bible God calls the heros of faith to where they are going. He only ever calls out the past to correct or redirect. Know today that your past will never define your future. Likewise know today that each day is fresh. Don’t live on the miracles of yesterday – be available for new ones daily.

Just because I haven’t been healed yet or that everyone I have prayed for hasn’t – does not mean that I will stop believing he can heal. God sent his son for me. So that I could have the ultimate healing – from a broken life to a restored vision. I contend for healing in my body and everyone I meet because God said that it is my ability to do so (with him) but I will not let my disappointment overshadow the King of Kings. For in my darkest moment he still shines bright. For his character is the same yesterday, today and forever. He will not grow weary or faint.

Love xo

Faith Builder

I LOVE CHRISTMAS. Like too much. Way too much. It is the time when we bring Mary and all the other nativity characters out of the wardrobe of our bibles and dust them down. Mary was a virgin, she was pure and discerning. So often when we look at Mary we here the same story, the same thing, my hope is that today we will look at Mary in a new light! Lets Go…

Mary was a faith builder. What do I mean? Mary didn’t ask why? – she asked how?

“How will this be since I am a Virgin?”

I’m sorry but if I was just chilling going through life, eating bread, drinking goats milk being engaged – doing what engaged people do, one of the first things I would ask (after I recovered from the shock) would be why? Why me? I would give some long speech of reasons why I didn’t want to carry the Messiah, why it shouldn’t be me, why this (what I would see as a burden) was placed on me.

Yes I’m selfish… Yet Mary wasn’t – she had faith, she was obedient, servant hearted and trusted that everything would work out. She had the ultimate faith in who God had designed her to be. In what her duty and purpose was. That is why she carried the Messiah, that is why she was the chosen one.

Next in the story of Mary we see she visited Elizabeth.. typical girl. Mary knew that if she was to succeed she needed to get around people who saw Gods blessings in her, who rejoiced with her even in uncertainty. She realised that sometimes Gods blessing didn’t look like blessing to the whole world.  Get around good community. Community builds faith.

Mary didn’t allow her circumstances or world view crowd her faith. She didn’t let her unbelief or the lies the world around her was telling her stop her from rejoicing in the truth of the blessings God had given her. Maybe today you need to recognise the blessings in your life, maybe you need to rejoice with someone or be rejoiced with. Be a faith builder. Trust when uncertainty runs rife, believe when your faith is low and have courage to rejoice even when the world doesn’t rejoice with you. Mary was a simple human too. Just like her you can do it too.

 

xo