Sunday, December 23, 2007


I was listening today to the song, 'It's the most wonderful time of the year'. I love this Christmas song – it's one of my favourites just because it has such a feel good factor about it. However I am sitting in my flat, alone, and realising that for some, this is most definitely not the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas is in your face for the whole of December, you can't avoid it. It's celebrated on all the radio stations, on all the T.V shows, and every town centre. I guess those for whom Christmas is hard or lonely will be reminded of their loneliness everywhere they go. I have always tried to remember that some people will not be having a Christmas like mine. When we were younger and Mum and Dad were CO's we often spent much of Christmas day at the Army helping out with the Christmas lunch for those who had nowhere else to go. On other occasions we had some people come and join our family for Christmas dinner at our house. This was very long ago now, and I don't remember that much about it. I hope that I was gracious about this and didn't moan too much. I hope I could appreciate that there were people who needed to be loved and cared for on that day more than ever. I hope I understood how blessed I was and I hope I was happy to share that blessing with those less fortunate. I honestly don't know if I was any of that. What I do know is that it is a long time since I have had to make sacrifices like that on Christmas Day. I hope one day I will be gracious enough to go and look for opportunities to do that again.

I once read a book called 'Second Choice' by Viv Thomas. The book was written to try to help Christians to understand that even when the world they live in, and the circumstances they have to face, are not their first choice, there can be untold blessing in that world. Take for instance my childhood Christmas days. It may be that having strangers at my families Christmas dinner was not my first choice, but there is something so special about giving. When I look back at those times, I think about those people and wonder whether spending their Christmas with us actually helped them to enjoy the day more. (It's possible – my brothers were much younger then and not half so annoying!!!!) I really hope so. If it did then even now, the blessing of that second choice for me lives on in the knowledge that my very small sacrifice gave someone else some happiness.

I find this a massive challenge in the situation I find myself in today. I often feel like I am living in a second choice world. I guess many will not have to read to far between the lines to know what I mean by that. I won't spell it out! Sometimes in the midst of living in a state of 'second choice' it is so hard to think that it can be of any benefit to you. Sometimes it feels that all it brings is unhappiness and discontent. Sometimes we don't even want to think about the fact that it might be better for us, or even that something good might come out of it, because we desperately want our first choice. I am trying to learn that if I sit and wallow in the fact that I am not living my first choice, (woe is me!!!), then I won't even get any blessing out of the second choice world, and neither will anyone else. I am a bit of an 'all or nothing' girl and so I often fail to realise that 'nothing' is not better than 'something' even if that something is not 'everything'. If a glass isn't full, it might as well be empty, forget this half full / half empty nonsense! I want to embrace the place I find myself in, so that I am able to use that to be a blessing to others, and maybe even find some happiness for myself. But embracing something when you can't see beforehand what benefits it might bring, is hard. Embracing something you have always wanted to avoid is hard. Embracing something when you know it is going to hurt, and hurt badly, is hard.

This sounds really depressing, and it's nearly Christmas so I don't want to end it on a sad note, so I will also say that I can't wait for Christmas. I love it. I love going carol singing with the youth on Christmas Eve. I love the raucous singing, the laughter, the friendship. I love seeing people I love as we go from house to house. I love Christmas day and being with my family. I love going to church and remembering who and what this time of year is actually all about. I love celebrating that on the day itself. I am going to love seeing Lee and Tracey and baby Oliver on Boxing Day, and will love having my Nan to stay for a few days. I will enjoy spending New Years Eve with my wonderful church friends, and bringing in the New Year with the people I love the most - including God!

Happy Christmas everyone.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


I have Christmas decorations in my flat! Now it officially feels like Christmas. My family came round this afternoon to help me, and I have to say, it looks lovely sitting here in my lounge looking at my Christmas tree. In true 'Kirsty's flat' style, the tree has red and silver decorations on it, with red lights. My balcony has lights on it - one of the few in my block of flats that has, so if you are driving past, look out for the bluey coloured lights. Thats my flat! I have been somethat reserved with the rest as I am a minimalist when it comes to decor, so there is not a massive amount of 'stuff', but just enough to feel Christmassy.

Now I know that there are a lot of people that really don't like Christmas. I completely understand the annoyance with the commercialisation of the season, but I love it. I love the 'happy' atmosphere that seems to appear at Christmas. I love the willingness of people to let go and have fun for a while, to share gifts and be excited. Most of all, this year, I am really beginning to sense the hope that this season brings. This was exemplified by hearing Rhydian singing Oh Holy Night on the X factor, becasue I really noticed the words:

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Saviors birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt it's worth

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

Fall on your knees!
Oh hear the angel voices
O night divine,
O night - when Christ was born
O night divine,
O night - when Christ was born

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
So, led by light of a star sweetly gleaming
Here came the wise men from the Orient land

The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger
In all our trials born to be our friend

He knows our need,
to our weakness no stranger
Behold your King, before Him lowly bend
Behold your King, your King, before Him lowly bend

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His Gospel is Peace
Chains shall He break for the slave Is our brother
And in his name all oppression shall cease

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we.
Let all within us praise His holy Name

Christ is the Lord, then ever, ever praise we
His power and glory evermore proclaim
His power and glory evermore proclaim

I could probably write a blog post for each line of this song, but I just want to highligt one that caught my attention today. 'Till he apeared, and the soul felt its worth'. This line contains so much depth. And what's more its still true today. Souls are still finding their worth today, as they discover Jesus. They are finding their worth, not in themselves, but in the love of God - who chose to give up His glory for a time to let us know that we are worth something to Him. That He wants us to be with Him for eternity, and that He is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to allow us to be there. That is the worth of each soul that Jesus appears to today. That is the worth of my soul. And your soul. I don't want to be a cynical, grumpy person this Christmas. I want to sing those words and feel their meaning within my own heart and soul.

Thank you God for thinking we are worth something to you. Thank you for giving yourself up for us, for walking on this earth with us, and for showing us how to live. Thanks for loving us, and for your incredible gift of eternity with you.

Behold your King!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Performance or Worship - part 2.

I said there might be another. Apologises if I cover the same ground again. For the context see, Performance or Worship - Part 1. Again, where I say 'worship', please read sung worship. I know it is much more than that...I am just focussing on a specific here.

So today someone made a comment that made me think. She said 'Our worship should be fit for a King'. Now of course, this is absolutely true. We are worshipping a King so we should never be satisfied with worshipping that King in a mediocre fashion. However, I don't believe that anything we can offer will ever be fit for our King. He is too great, too holy, too incredible for us to ever be worthy of being in his presence, or even daring to think we can offer anything to him that is worthy. But, that does not mean we shouldn't offer Him the best that we have. God knows us, He knows that we are fallen and broken, and when humbly coming to Him and offering up ourselves, offering Him praise and honour and love, from an honest heart that is truly grateful for what He has done for us and truly in love with Him, I believe He gracefully accepts it.

However, sometimes when we are trying to engage in worship, things can go wrong. We can be in the middle of worshipping and the power point fails so nobody has the words. We can try to listen to a cd, and a broken lead means that the cd is distorted, we can prepare and prepare to try to create an atmosphere which enables people to tune into God, but 'things' can so easily spoil that. I have mixed feelings about when this happens. To be honest, there have been times where I have felt that when things go wrong like that, it has actually heightened my experience of worship - why - because it breaks the routine it is easy to fall into of singing without thinking, of tuning out when someone is praying or reading the Bible or giving a sermon - (not that I ever would Richard and Ann!) I think sometimes when everything goes as planned, it is easy to lose something of the authenticity of our worship.

To be honest, the last couple of weeks, things have gone wrong with the technology we use in worship, and there are times when this has frustrated me, where I have wanted to fully engage with God, and have been hindered from doing so by 'stuff'. But - there has been something about the last two weeks in our church that I have really loved. I can't quite put my finger on it, but there has been a bit of a buzz. Am I the only one? I wonder if sometimes sharing in the annoying little things that happen together, being able to laugh about them, and being able to get past them actually brings us closer together, and reminds us of our position before God. We aren't shining stars able to give God the performance of a lifetime, we are human beings who get stuff wrong, make mistakes, sing out of tune, and get our words muddled up. But that is how God accepts us and loves us. I completely believe we should always try to offer him our best, but we should also be humble enough to recognise that when stuff goes wrong, we can still recognise God for who he is and tell Him that.

If the devil has any part in the little frustrating things that have been happening in our church during worship, then I pray Him out, but I also pray that He will be humiliated by our willingness to worship God humbly and joyfully even when things are going wrong.

I would like to clarify that I don't believe that mediocre worship is something we should be trying to attain. We should always give God our best - but when our best efforts are thwarted by things out of our control, I think we should try to use them to remember who we are, and who God is, and why we are there in the first place.

I so desperately want our church to be a vibrant place, filled with the Spirit, evangelising and seeing people accepting Jesus as their Saviour. I want to see people finding their place in ministry at this church, discovering gifts and using them to build God's kingdom. I so want to see people so filled with the spirit that they are moved to worship God extravegantly. I want people in church to feel that they belong and that there is a community of people who love them. I want people to be constantly journeying into deeper relationship with God, finding out more about Him, and more about how to live by His word in this world, and through that becomming ever closer and ever more in love with Him. I want to see the children praising God, and saying their prayers, I want to see the youth questionning what it means to be a Christian in this world, and discovering that their faith can be real and active and can make a difference. And I want to see them discovering that God can offer them so much more than this world can. Mostly, I want to see the church praying, crying out to God to let all of the above things be seen in the Salvation Army at Romford. I want to see His people on their knees accepting that we can do nothing without the power of prayer and the fire of the Holy Spirit. I want to see us crying out for that Spirit to come in power in His Church.

Sometimes it seems like we are a far cry from being that kind of church, and yet I believe there is potential. I think there might be something in learning humility that can show us that whilst our worship will never be perfect, it can still be God honouring. I don't want these little annoyances to get in the way of us recognising and praising God for who He is. I just wish I could stop getting distracted by them. I wonder if this is about choice. Do you think we can choose to let them get in the way - or not to?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Selective Hearing?

Ok, its been a while, but I have got myself all confused again and need to blog the thoughts swirling around my mind! Mainly because I really can't get myself to sleep. Most people who read this will know that I have a big 'thing' about prayer at the moment. In any conversation about God or Church etc, I always seem to end up talking (or rather whining!) about the need for prayer. Sometimes I feel a bit like a fraud when I do this. I always think that people with a passion for prayer must be such good pray-ers, but I am not. I struggle to make time for personal prayer, I get distracted, I lose focus on God, I talk loads and forget to listen (or rather don't really know how to listen!) and so on.

Its this whole listening thing that is bothering me today. When we make a request of God, we are told we should be prepared for Him to answer. Apparently He always does answer, but not necessarily by granting the original request. The problem is how do you interpret the answer? There have been a number of times that I have requested something from God, when the opposite thing has happened. On many of these occasions, I have chosen to interpret this as meaning I have to be more persistent. On other occasions I have decided that maybe I was asking for the wrong thing. The question is, how do we know which it is?

Also, another issue is what about when you get inconsistent answers? Say you asked for confirmation about something you had decided to do. Then say that during that day 2 things happen which could both be considered to be answers to that prayer. One of which is a confirmation, one of which is the opposite. How do you decide which one to listen to?

I guess I am worried that I might have been guilty of selective listening. Choosing to listen and act upon only those answers that fit with the things I think or feel. But now, when faced with a need for an interpretation of a situation, I don't know what to do. Do I stop praying for it and rather try to change my own thinking and feelings about it? Do I keep being persistent? If I am persistent, does that mean that I am going to waste my life chasing an answer I am never going to get? Does it mean I am doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result (which according to Albert Einstein would make me insane!)

I guess from re-reading the paragraph I have written the most sensible thing is to try to change my thinking and feelings - but how on earth do you do that? Plus, what about when you get those inconsistencies. One situation encourages you to keep praying and another suggests you are praying for the wrong thing. What do you do then?

I guess Romford Salvation Army has been struggling for a while now to try to start 'doing something' relating to evangelism. We keep being reminded that we already are doing things as a corps - a lot of which us weekday workers don't see happening, and yet there still seems to be this undercurrent of discontent, of a need for more, for something different. I do believe this discontent comes from God, and that we are beginning to address it in the right way, and as I keep saying I think we need to seriously commit this to God in prayer continuously, asking for Him to lead. My problem is, until I can figure out how to interpret the voice of God, what is the point in praying about it and asking for guidance. I don't want to ask for guidance that I or the corps then ignores because we had 'selective hearing', I want to be persistent, but don't know when I am doing so wrongly, and I certainly don't want to do that. I guess what I am saying is HELP!

Maybe I need to pray for discernment?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Day 5

Day 5 consisted of a bit more Christmas shopping, which means I am now nearly finished I now have 4 small gifts left to get (and maybe a couple of extras). That is a good feeling. I even got wrapping paper and ribbon! How organised am I?!?!

In the afternoon I went through my finances trying to work out why I have been struggling for the last two months. After all my essentials and a small budget for clothes and extras like eating out and coffee shops etc, I should have £40 left each month. I then realised I hadn't accounted for holidays or presents in that, and things like roots end up being very expensive. So the fact that I have been running out of money is probably quite simply because I can't afford my lifestyle! How rubbish is that?!?!

I think I am going to have to start eating out and going to coffee shops and buying clothes less! I might need to try to work out a budget soon. I might also need to ask for a pay rise!!! :-) (one can but hope!)

All this actually made me think. Its easy to moan about the materialism we find in the world. Its easy to get frustrated with how commercialised Christmas has become, and yet I find myself in the thick of it all. The Bible says you cannot serve two masters, and yet because we need it for everything, money is such a massive part of life and its really hard to not get caught up in worrying about it or wanting more of it. How do we learn to not end up serving money? I try to live sacrificially and generously, and so far I have always had enough and it has never got to the point where it has become a real problem. Is that because I have chosen not to worry about it, or is my lack of worry really lazy and irresponsible?

Hmm. Big questions!

Lastly, I drove down to Southampton to visit my brother and he cooked very delicious lasagne for me! Yum. And I had a Q burger! (See maybe this is why I run out of money!) But it was yummy!