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We have God’s attention: Steps out of self-pity, negativity and grumbling

Posted by Andrew Ryland
on 11th April 2021

On Sunday morning 11 April 2021 we looked at three events in Exodus 15, 16 and 17.

We saw that the journey of faith involves repeatedly setting out in response to God's call and promises.

We also saw that difficulties will be encountered, and how we react to those challenges will dictate whether we grow or lose our way.

In the Old and New Testament, the events of Exodus 15, 16 and 17 are used as examples.

For example:

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 1 Cor. 10:6

So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. Hebrews 3:19

There are various missteps they made. Those include grumbling, unbelief and testing God. The whole talk can be heard online. But here are a couple of practical helps provided during the talk.

To escape self-pity

Here are 7 suggestions for how to navigate your way out of self-pity (inspired by Simon Holley, the team leader of the Catalyst Network of Churches):
1) Remind yourself that self-pity is a demonic strategy to discourage and disable you.
2) Feel the pain of the situation and ask for the pity and comfort of the Holy Spirit.
3) Recognise that you can take your thoughts captive – for example, you don’t have to tell yourself lies that it was better in the past!
4) Stop rehearsing the bad. Instead, give thanks for every little blessing you can think of (e.g. the parting of the Red Sea, the ten plagues on Egypt?).
5) Remind yourself that you have God’s attention. You are NOT forgotten by God. And his will really is ‘good, pleasing and perfect’ (Romans 12:2).
6) Set out. Take action to improve even one aspect of your situation.
7) Turn your thoughts to others. God loves them too. They are also hurting.

To escape negativity

How about doing a 40-day negativity fast?
Wendy Mann, who’s coming to preach this autumn, recommends that we choose to take every negative thought captive and choose to declare the goodness of God over our lives and the lives of those around us, for 40 days.

What a negativity fast is not:
1) It is not denying that problems exist
2) It is not 'stuffing things down' that are wrong
3) It is not critical of others who may be struggling
4) It is not irresponsible concerning things that need to be done.

What a negativity fast is:
1) It is determining to focus more on God's promises than on problems
2) It is learning to speak with hope about even the toughest of issues
3) It is becoming 'solution focused' rather than 'problem focused.'
4) It is refraining from giving voice to pessimism, criticism of others, self-criticism and other forms of unbelief
5) It is speaking about problems to the right people in the right way
6) It is replacing negative words and thoughts with positive words and thoughts based on God’s promises.
 

Remember:

Grumbling is the shape that prayer takes when we believe that someone, other than God, is in charge of our life.
Grumbling is the language of self-pity, of those who think they do not have God’s attention.
 

Scripture shows us that we do have God's attention. We should not keep testing him and asking him to prove this. He proved it on the cross. Even when he does not answer our prayers how we hoped, we can be assured we still have his attention. He loves us and is for us.

Meanwhile he invites us to test him in just one way: to set out in obedience to his commands and see what he will do to bring others to salvation. 

All of this is grounded in Christ and what was accomplished on the cross and in the resurrection. From that great intervention by God into human history flows all goodness that we experience. As the Apostle Paul puts it:

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32

Wow!

God's loving rule is currently resisted and hindered. But don't worry. It will not always be so. Keep praying for his kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. One day, when Jesus returns, that prayer will be fully and finally realised. Meanwhile we have need of patience and faith, hope and perseverance.

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Blessing the Community

Posted by Lucy Munton
on 6th April 2021

This year has been pretty tough. I am sure you will agree! But our community group have been trying to find ways to be a blessing in the community, and to bring smiles to peoples faces especially during this challenging year. It all started with a conversation in our group, where someone was talking about how their NHS co-workers were feeling demoralised and fed up – immediately we started planning how we could show love for a set of complete strangers. Spreadsheets were formed, and cards started to be written and of course cakes were made! We managed to gather the names of 50 NHS staff members, contacts of someone in our group and packed each person up a bundle of love. We even had the kids drawing rainbows and writing their names on. Each person was prayed for by name at community group and we left the rest to God. The response we got from this was fantastic –

‘Emotional to receive – thank you so much.’ ‘Thanks for being so kind’ Thank you for thinking of us.’ ‘Getting this felt like a big hug that we all needed.

It was a huge success and opportunity for us to do something for others – showing God’s love in a tiny way. We then decided to move to the educational sector – and wanted to encourage the whole school community – we decided to name them as being ‘community heroes’ throughout this pandemic, and off we went again. We all knew what we needed to do, with the spreadsheet being a bit bigger this time we managed to pull off 85 individual cards, cake and we bought daffodils to give to each member of staff. I was lucky enough to be part of the delivering around school, and what joy my heart felt, as I saw my colleagues, friends and team receive encouragement and love from complete strangers. The atmosphere was electric, as the children were cheering for their teachers and school staff – joining in with recognising the important role they have played over the past year. There were tears of thanks, and smiles all day. I love the energy and enthusiasm that has gone into both projects, and I am already excited about the next ….

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Loving our adoptive families well

Posted by Lisa Mason
on 28th March 2021

After four years of praying and waiting, we are delighted that Sam, Emily and Mia will be welcoming a baby boy into their family over the next few weeks and bringing him home for good at the start of April.

Having another adoptive family in our church is incredibly exciting, we get to see the heart of God for us demonstrated as they give themselves to loving and caring for their new son and baby brother. We also have the privilege of seeing God’s purposes to bring goodness and hope being fulfilled through their lives and through our church family as we support and care for them.

Perhaps you are wondering how you can best support this wonderful family through this time. Here are some thoughts from myself (as an adoptive parent) about the unique nature of adoptive parenting. We hope this will help you as you pray and care for these guys for the weeks and years to come.

During the first week of transition, when our adopted son was being eased into life in our family, there came a day when we took all of our children out together for the first time without our son’s foster carers. All four children ran headlong away from us towards the first thing they set their eyes upon that caught their interest and I noticed a sensation that I had never acknowledged before. In that moment, I felt a deep safety that my biological children would not venture far from me and would turn back the instant they needed me. It felt as if an invisible piece of string was extending between us. But my adopted son did not have this string, I had no idea if he would even remember who he had arrived with or ever come looking for me if he needed help. This story illustrates the first and biggest upheaval of adoptive parenting that makes it substantially different from parenting biological children. In adoption, you are seeking to create that invisible string, to teach your child to depend on you for all of their needs, from the most basic to the more complex. In biological parenting you are gradually trying to test and stretch and lengthen that string, to give your children greater independence and teach them to function successfully without you.

If you have carried and birthed a biological child, even before they were born you will have built up millions of memories and moments where you have nourished, soothed and calmed them simply by being attuned to their movements and moods. Even if there have been difficulties and challenges through pregnancy, that baby will still feel safer with you than with anyone else in their world.

From the moment we are introduced to an adoptive child, they are instructed to call us mummy or daddy, but never has a title felt so poorly earned. We will have spent hours in meetings and training events, trying to learn to be good enough adoptive parents but our new child will have more positive associations with nearly every other adult they have met than they do with us.

As adoptive parents we carry grief for all the moments, days, weeks and months with our child that we have missed, the milestones that we have to look up in a book when we talk to our parenting friends, the memories that arrive as photos of them looking very happy in somebody else’s home. We then have to try to learn the signals and cues of a little person who has attuned themselves to a different adult, home and routine.

The phrase ‘they are so lucky to have you’ is like an arrow into all of this grief and pain. The sad story of our child’s life that we are trying to get our own heads around, then curate and share with them in an age-appropriate way is a constant presence in our minds. Most of the time this situation feels anything but lucky. If you want to encourage our friends, avoid these kinds of phrases and instead let them know that you are praying for them, give them words of encouragement and support, bearing in mind that adoption is not the fairy tale ending to their child’s story.

Here are some other simple examples of how being mindful of the story of adoption might be helpful when you are trying to think what to say or how to respond to our friends.

If you are passing in the street or bringing round food for a meal rota, please say a quick hi but don’t stop – the adopted child needs to be closely surrounded by their family for the first few months and slowly introduced to new faces as they settle and feel safe. It’s better to call on the phone for a catch up instead, let your friends know that you would love to see them but let them decide when their child is ready to meet new people.

Once we’re out and about and meeting together again, please be mindful that adopted children are really good at putting on a brave happy face, it is a survival mechanism that has successfully kept them alive. When you see them around other people, especially at a church gathering that is busy and noisy, they are likely to appear smiley and confident. Avoid telling the adoptive parent how happy their child looks, they probably already have to hear that phrase a lot and it may jar with their reality. The adoptive parent will probably be slightly ignoring you and watching their child like a hawk, unable to relax if their child is out of sight. Please don’t feel offended by this. You could try watching their child with them and ask them to point out any little clues that they might be looking for that their child is feeling overwhelmed.

Adopted children will often hold hands with other adults and pull out all the charms for grown-ups who are not their parents. This is because they are not entirely certain who will be taking them home at the end of the day, so they are working hard to get everyone on their side. Please try to redirect their affection back to their parents and affirm that relationship – they are not ready to build attachment with anyone else just yet. The adoptive parents should be the ones to decide when they are.

Please don’t ask for details about the adopted child’s earlier life. Assume that this is a really hard and difficult story that your friends are carrying because otherwise their child would not be living with them. But they need to hold and guard this story for their child, it’s hard to do that when friends are curious because it’s a weight they would probably love to share, please don’t tempt them to do that, trust that they will share what is appropriate and safe if necessary. Please be careful when using the names of this family in a public setting – please think about the comments you make on Sam and Emily’s Facebook pages. Don’t ever put photos of their child online.

For adoptive parents, the same things will be hard for a really long time (often many years). If your friend poured their heart out to you last week because they were really struggling, the same things are still likely to be hard the next time you meet but they might not want to bore you with the same details all over again. Just assume whenever you talk that they are working really hard to know and care for their child, give them the encouragement and affirmation they need to keep going or the space to voice their fears and regrets. Don’t worry that you need to be able to explain their child to them or help them with their parenting, they will have professionals in their life to help with this – just be their friend, a safe person to talk to and pray with.

Thank you so much for reading this and for your love, prayers and support for this family. Although we have spoken more here about the challenges of adoption, the joys are deep and rewarding. We know that God has such good plans for each member of this family and will be glorified in all of the joys and challenges that they face together in him.

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