I like that Jesus did it but I don’t want to

He stands looking right into my eyes with a gun pointed at my head. I am frozen still with fear unable to move. He shouts at me; “If you want to live deny that Jesus is Lord!” I can barely breathe, I am shaking like a leaf but as I open my mouth to speak everything I’ve known of my Lord comes to mind, my heart is filled with peace and I reply; “Jesus Christ is Lord!” 

The rest is a blur.

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I cannot tell you how many times I’ve thought through this scenario. In my mind it’s the ultimate sacrifice I could make for my Lord, my Jesus. The One who gave His all for me. To die for His name’s sake – what a sacrifice!

Now, at the moment in Canada I do not live in fear of that type of persecution for being a Christian. That’s not the type of sacrifice I can make for Jesus and I’m going to hazard a guess at saying that’s not the type of sacrifice you can offer Jesus either.

“Phew!” says us. That would be a pretty big price to pay and if we’re being truly honest we don’t want to give that big a sacrifice.

Over the past year or so I’ve noticed there seems to be a hierarchy in christian circles as to who Jesus calls to sacrifice for His name’s sake. Here’s  few:

  • Missionaries in far off countries… usually we use Africa as an example – Let’s face it…they’re super Christians. They go into lands where no one has heard about Jesus and risk their lives for the sake of the Gospel. They sacrifice a lot – they move countries, leave their family, learn a new language, give up a decent lifestyle, have little medical care and always have to carry around a little orphan child.
  • Pastors – God only calls those who have it all together and are as close to perfect as humanly possible to be Pastors so of course these guys are willing to sacrifice for Jesus’ sake. It’s only right that they sacrifice their family time, rest and sometimes health for the church they serve, they’re getting paid for it.
  • Bible College Students – They are the ‘extra-holy’ onesThey went to college to learn how to pray, read their Bibles and serve; not to mention meet and marry a like minded ‘extra-holy’ one. You see they should live their lives different to other pew people because they’ve got extra letters at the end of their name not to mention a fancy degree!

I hope you giggled reading that list. I legitimately have heard each of those excuses used by ‘normal’ Christians in response to being questioned about how they are living their lives for Christ.

The more I look at the lives of every disciple ever called by God (or ‘to those who became Christians’) in the Bible I see one common thing; 100% sacrifice.

Read Luke 5:1-11 when Jesus called the first disciples to follow him; “…they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.”

Luke 5:27-31 Jesus calls Levi and “Levi got up, left everything and followed him.”

I love the story of Saul’s conversion in Acts 9:1-19 Jesus calls him, he has to stop what he’s doing and listen to what Jesus asks him to do. Never once after meeting with Jesus does he go back to his old life – he left his power, status and lifestyle behind in pursuit of Jesus.

Recently God’s been speaking to me about sacrifice. Not the idea of being a Martyr for Christ, however if that day comes I pray I’ll stand firm- but more of a daily sacrifice. He began speaking to me about sacrifice during my Christmas vacation. I went home to Northern Ireland for a couple of weeks after being away for nearly 9 months – for those who don’t know me I’m a real people person. I love being with people, sharing in their lives and being there for them as much as I can. As you can imagine living half way across the world from my family and friends kind of makes that a little bit difficult so catching up with everyone was bliss. But then came the dreaded goodbyes. I hate being ‘that’ girl in the security line but you can’t hold tears in… (funny story: my gate was closing and I was told to use the fast track lane but I hasn’t paid for that privilege so I chanced it and I’m pretty certain the tears stopped the guy asking questions and I got right through! lol)… in that moment when I’d said goodbye to those I love I was convinced that was the greatest sacrifice God had called me to make. How wrong was I.

You see the life of a believer is to be one of constant sacrifice. The art of saying no to self and yes to Jesus.

What did Jesus have to say about this? “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lost it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” Luke 9:23-24

What does that look like us for today in 2015?

  • Are we willing to sacrifice those extra minutes in bed in order to spend time seeking God at the start of the day?
  • Are we willing to sacrifice our popularity (even among Christian friends) by taking a stand against something that goes against God’s word?
  • Are we willing to sacrifice that job, relationship or circumstance in order to go where God has called us to or to serve in a ministry he’s called us to?
  • Are we willing to sacrifice that TV show, social media or activity that eats our time away so that we can spend time reading our bibles and praying ?
  • Are we willing to sacrifice that money we would spend of coffee or clothes to give to something God wants us to give to?
  • Are we willing to sacrifice anything hinders our walk with Jesus no matter what the cost?

At the end of our lives we’re going to have to stand before Jesus, the one who died so that we might live – we will have to give an account for our lives; the places we went, words we said or didn’t say, time we wasted, things we watched, listened to or were involved in. I don’t say this to scare you – I say it to encourage you (and me) that we have one life to live for the sake of Jesus.

We are given one life to make a difference for the Kingdom of God – Jesus gave His whole life for us… what are we willing to give Him?!

 

We were made to be creative.

In the beginning God created the Heavens and the earth… Genesis 1:1 

We worship a creative God. One who knows how to take nothing and turn it into something beautiful. Don’t believe me? Have a wee look at some of these photos I’ve taken recently…

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We are made in the image and likeness of God. So if He’s creative…guess what? That means we’re creative.

Psalm 139:13-14 says; ‘For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.’

God has made you to be you. Don’t hide your creativity… use it to bring glory and honor to the Lord.

If you sing, sing loudly.

If you can draw, draw your heart felt response to God.

If you can dance, dance to the glory of God.

If you can write, start typing… or handwriting (do people still do that?! :P)

If you can bake, rejoice in the Lord as you create tastiness.

If you can build, build in response to who God is.

If you sow, knit or cross-stitch, do it with a happy heart.

If you make music, use it to point others to Jesus.

If you are sporty, play hard and play fair.

If you take photos, use it as a way to explore God’s creativity.

If you do something I haven’t listed, good for you! Get creative, use it as praise and help show the world who the Creator is.

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This world would be boring if we were all the same. God is not a boring God. His creativity knows no end. Pursue Him through your own creativity.

“Great weather for maple syrup!”

The battle is won.

You may have thought it was won on Golgotha. It wasn’t.
You may have thought the sign of victory is the empty tomb. It isn’t.
The final battle was won in Gethsemane. And the sign of conquest is Jesus at peace in the Olive trees. For it was in Gethsemane that he made his decision.

HE’D RATHER GO TO HELL FOR YOU, THAN GO TO HEAVEN WITHOUT YOU.
Those same hands that crafted the universe will wipe your cheek. The same hands that clenched as a Roman spike smashed through them, will wipe your face, and brush away your tears – FOREVER.

– Max Lucado

It’s Good Friday… I am so thankful for my Saviour. I am so thankful that He endured the cross for me despite my sinfulness, brokenness and all my failures. I am so thankful that he rose again to bring me new and eternal life. I am so thankful that I am living a life of fullness just like he promised. I am so thankful that he has given me the privilege of serving Him.

What a whirlwind my life has been since I touched down in Canada! If I’m being honest I’m still processing a lot of things…I still cannot put pen to paper and journal everything that has been happening but I trust in good time the Lord will enable me to do so. However, it is so wonderful to finally be where I know God has called me to be. I have experienced the reality of Philippians 4:7 on a whole new level; ‘the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ Never once have I felt alone, overwhelmed or doubted my calling and I give God all the praise for that. I truly am at home here and I’m so excited to start living my Canadian life. 

It’s been fun getting used to a new culture and some of their practices:

  • When you go to someones house the first thing you do is take off your shoes! I actually like this because it means you can decorate your toenails nice and pretty. But if you were to do that in Northern Ireland people would start to panic and think you were staying all day!
  • When you walk into a shop within 10 seconds some super smiley staff member comes up and asks “Hey, how are you today?” – When you grow up in NI this is so counter cultural… shop staff being nice?! What?! and they actually stand there until you tell them how you are. Not gonna lie, it’s a little awkward but I’m sure I’ll get used to it.
  • Instead of Northern Irish neighbours passing comments about the weather being ‘great for the ducks’, Canadian neighbours chat about the weather being ‘great for maple syrup!’
  • We got new curtains for the house and I said we’d need to iron them before putting them up; I was met with the response “You’re so Northern Irish, everything has to be prim and proper. Canadians don’t iron!” Needless to say, I ironed the curtains haha.
  • I keep forgetting when I speak that I have an accent, which means the people I am are talking to usually don’t listen to what I’m saying because they are too enthralled by the accent and those in the surrounding area stare, a lot.

However somethings remain the same:

  • I got asked if I was over 15 yesterday!
  • I still find my jokes funnier than anyone else
  • Singing Frozen songs is always acceptable no matter what the situation

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I moved to my new house in Napanee on Saturday, spent the weekend getting settled in and then the work started on Monday. We had a kids club Monday night, youth group on Tuesday night and another kids club on Wednesday night. I love that you can go from one country to another yet the kids and young people are somewhat still the same- they are longing to find the meaning of life, they want acceptance and ultimately they need forgiveness of their sin and to meet the living Saviour, Jesus! The method may be different in certain areas but the message is still the same. God answered so many of our prayers this week. He truly is the big God who rules over all things and people, and at the same time he is a personal God who cares about the little details in our lives.

I appreciate this blog isn’t very detailed but I am sending email prayer updates which will be more detailed so let me know if you wish to receive them. I am so thankful for you all,  for your love and support – I continue to pray for you. I take great comfort in knowing that the God who holds me in the palm of His hand also holds you too!

Oh, I forgot to mention my most exciting news since moving… Yesterday I got myself a wee hamster called Norman! He is my new favourite thing!

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Why I’m moving to Canada

“Laura, why are you moving to Canada?”

“Because God told me to.”

“How?”

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The summer after my first year at university I went to visit my brother who had recently moved to Canada. I’d been before as a kid but could not remember anything about it! (Much to my parent’s delight after spending a fortune to bring us out there!) I spent the 5 weeks there just holidaying, visiting family and seeing around the place. It was beautiful. During my 5 weeks I attended a church in the local area. One Sunday morning an older lady came up to me and we started chatting. I remember her getting really excited and saying “You’re Irish so you must know about the Faith Mission? They’ve a camp around here would you like to go visit it?”

Okay. Disclaimer- yes I did know of the Faith Mission but I didn’t know much about the Faith Mission. So we went up to Campbellville to visit the camp- I’d never been to a camp before so this blew my mind. We drove up the driveway and there were kids running around on the grass outside, swinging off trees, sitting at the picnic tables chatting. It was the classic ‘kids camp’ experience. I got to meet some of the staff, sit in on the chapel time and see the general happenings of camp life. In that moment, I was converted. I knew I wanted to be part of this at some point. Before I left I chatted with the boss and I remember him clearly saying in a jokey way “Sure, who knew you’d be popping up to Campbellville when you came over for a holiday!” and the lady that took me replied “The Lord did.” 

That was the start of my Faith Mission in Canada story. One meeting, one evening, one simple conversation, one stirred heart.

As we drove away I prayed “Lord, I’d really like to serve here one summer.” My heart had fallen in love with Canada.

My brother took me to the airport and as I was at the check-in counter he asked; “You looking forward to going home?” I started to cry and said; “No, I’m dreading going home, I love it here!” This was so out of character for me. I was a home-bird. I loved Northern Ireland. I wasn’t a fan of travelling. I knew then that God was starting a work in my heart.

I got home to not-so-sunny Northern Ireland, went straight back into my second year of university, youth work and life. But I kept daydreaming about Canada. I just knew I was supposed to go and serve at camp so I booked my flights for the following summer and served for 4 weeks there. This was the game-changer for me. God really started revealing the possibility of me moving to Canada at some point in my life. But when? God knew I had another year of university, he knew I was thinking about marriage and the future, he knew I really wanted to be a youth worker, he knew how much I loved all my family and friends.

Before I flew home that summer I prayer “Lord, I would really love to come and serve here again next summer. If it’s Your will please work it all out.” 

And so began my final year at university- you know that year. Where you’ve to start looking towards the future, applying for jobs, figuring out where you’re going to be or what you’re going to do because let’s face it, you can’t be a student the rest of your life! I had some pretty tough decisions to make. Each year I would go to a national youth worker conference in Eastbourne in November but the run up to leaving that year had just been crazy- I was so confused about God’s plan for my life, there were almost too many options. So before I set of for that conference I said “God I’m giving you this whole weekend to speak to me. I won’t be distracted or rushing around. I am willing to obey whatever you ask me to do.” (You ever prayed those prayers? They are scary- you have just made a promise to God, like…He won’t forget!!!) I got to the conference and on the Saturday afternoon I went to the prayer room and sat before the Lord. He lead me to

Isaiah 6:8: Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

I knew God was calling me to share the Gospel with people but I just didn’t know where, when or how. So I asked him.

Then I heard him ask me in my heart;Laura, do you trust me?” 

“God you know I trust you!”

“Laura, do you trust me?”

“Yes, Lord I trust you.”

“Do you trust me with your life?”

“Of course I do. I gave my life to you and trust you completely!”

“Do you believe that my plans for you are better than your plans for you?”

“Yes, Lord, I know you’re plans are better than my plans.” 

Then came the sledge hammer in my heart

“I want you to be ready to go where I call you to go.” He then proceeded to ask me to give up the most important thing in my life at that time.

It’s easy to say yes to God when it works within our own timescale, our own plans, our own situations. It is so much more harder to say yes to God when it causes us great sacrifice. I don’t write this half-heartedly, I write this from the memory of the tears, of the sleepless nights, of the questioning, of the doubting, of the heartbreak. But I also write this from the deepest place of knowing God’s love, his faithfulness, his care, his provision, his answers. Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice for us, he gave up his life so that we may have life in and through him. Who am I to say no to some form of sacrifice?

I pressed on with uni and ministry, I applied for job after job with rejection letter and after rejection letter. I was losing hope, and losing it quickly! “God what are you doing?! You called me to study youth ministry, you know that’s where my heart is at! Why can’t I get a job?” In the midst of all this I received an email from Faith Mission asking me to come and serve with them that summer (2013) Needless to say I jumped up and down when I got that email because God had been answering prayers I wasn’t aware I was praying…but I now realise he was answering the prayers of other people who were praying!

Throughout my whole uni course I met with my Pastor regularly and within the last few months of my placement with my church I couldn’t help but notice the random (well, what I thought at the time were random) statements he would make mid-conversations.

“You know no matter where you go Towerview will always be your home church, right?”

“See if you ever send prayer letters out to people, make sure you include us in the mailing list.”

And then one day after we’d finished praying he said; “I don’t know if this means anything to you but while we were praying the Lord showed me a picture of you as a missionary and then he gave me the verse Mark 16:15 ‘Go into all the world and preach the Gospel'”

I remember getting quite frustrated and thinking ‘I’ve told you so many times I want to stay in Northern Ireland and do youth ministry… I don’t get why you’re saying things like that!’ (I’ve since repented!)

It was nearing the end of June, I had no job prospects for when I return from Canada in late August and I knew I was doing everyone’s head in because I had no life plan. I finished packing my case, got on my knees and prayed; “Lord, I am giving you this summer. Show me what you want me to do with my life, I will go wherever you want and I will do whatever you ask. Just please make it clear.” 

And oh boy, did the Lord make it clear.

As I stepped through the departure gates in Dublin airport I got the overwhelming feeling that the next time I do this it will be with a one way ticket and it will be to Canada. How on earth do you process that when you’re heading over for what you assume is just the summer?! And as soon as the plane touched down my heart pipes up “aww I’m home!”

I spent a few days at my brothers and then headed to go and do VBS and camps. I had only walked in through the door when one of the girls I’d met the previous year asked; “How’s things? So are you thinking about joining the mission?” I was like “emm… no, the Lord knows that my hearts in youth ministry so I don’t think the mission is for me.” Looking back she must have thought I was awful rude. But she just smiled as if to say “We’ll see”

As the days went on and the more I prayed God began to awaken my heart to the realisation that there was a reason I had to sacrifice things in my life, there was a reason why I didn’t get any of the jobs I applied for, there was a reason I had no idea what I was going to do in September. The reason was, he wanted me to join the Faith Mission in Canada! He showed me that just because he had given me a passion for youth ministry didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy and be passionate about other forms of ministry too.

It was Canada Day weekend and we were hanging out at one the worker’s houses, the room went quiet and she just asked…“Well?” and I knew exactly what she asking about, I replied; “I have too much peace about it for it not to be from God. I have to apply to join the mission.”

When I told my church family about it the common response was; “We all knew you were going to Canada to join The Faith Mission. We were just waiting for you to realise it.”

The Lord keeps asking me on a daily basis; “Laura, do you trust me?” and in light of how far he’s brought me and how good I know he is, my heart rejoices to say; “Yes Lord, I trust you and I will keep on trusting you!”

And that my friends, is how I ended up moving to Canada.

[There were also other stories, scripture and people that God used to lead me but I’d be writing all day if I included those!]

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Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. – Psalm 37:4

To find out about more about Faith Mission (in Canada) head over to www.faithmissioncanada.org