August Reflection – Running on empty: lessons from an Icelandic geyser

A few years ago, I got to visit the most beautiful place on planet earth – Iceland – and watch a geyser explode right in front of my eyes. It was fascinating. After the initial pillar of water propels itself into the air, the base of the geyser drains of all the water for a few minutes. As I stood engrossed, I felt God whisper powerful truth to me: “That’s you, Claire.” Literally, I was the human equivalent of a drained geyser: I was running on empty. Burnt out. Done.

Are you living a life of ‘breaking busy’? Alli Worthington in Breaking Busy defines this as a life without peace where decisions are made for the approval of others not God. I know what it feels like to be tethered to an ever increasing do-list; it feels overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. It’s far from the “life to the full” that Jesus talks about in John 10:10.

Sound familiar? I am sure that for many of us as GB leaders, it does sound familiar. Then let’s take off your busyness badge of honour and breathe. And ask yourself a question: Why am I always striving to make myself busy?

Many of us have formed complicated narratives about our own identity and self-worth. In the world we live in, it’s quite easy to discover that our self-worth is built on a foundation of sand especially if we judge it through the world’s definition of success, achievements and other people’s approval. As Fil Anderson asks in Running on Empty: “Are we unable to distinguish between activity and identity, so our activity determines our identity?”

So how can we implement a different rhythm of living?

1) Pausing to recharge

I had to recognise that my passion and enthusiasm for God’s ministry can be the same energy that causes me to ignore my needs and deplete myself. Just like our mobile phones, we have a finite capacity. We need to ensure that we’re recharging and plugging ourselves into our ultimate power source: God.

2) Cultivating self-compassion

Some may perceive self-care as selfish, but we can’t live the life God has created for each of us if we don’t take care of ourselves. For me, self-compassion is ensuring that I don’t just have a Sabbath on Sunday but have a Sabbath hour every day: 60 mins of doing something that lights up my soul.

3) Be present over perfect

Amid all the striving that causes us to seek perfection, it is powerful, counter-cultural and biblical to pause and remember: “I am enough.” Imagine if we all extended God’s grace to ourselves when we suffer or feel inadequate.

In God’s eyes, you are loved (Jeremiah 31:3), forgiven (Titus 2:14), chosen (Isaiah 43:2) and valuable (Deuteronomy 7:6). Sometimes we need to make more time to breathe in these God-truths and breath out the lies that our culture feeds us.

Sometimes, the most courageous thing that God is calling us to do is to stop and be still.

If you would like to explore creating Rhythms of Grace in your life, Claire will be leading GB International’s first LEAD//FOLLOW webinar on Saturday 5 September at 0600-0730 and 1200-1330 GMT. Book online here before Wednesday 2 September.

July Reflection – Random Acts of Kindness

Have you ever been struggling with your shopping, and the children are not very much help when you are trying to pack the car in the car park, then suddenly, a lady comes over to offer her assistance.  How do you react?  Is she going to take my bags or is she going to help?

I know what it is like to be struggling with life.  When my family was young, my husband John, and the company that he was working for went on strike for 6 weeks.  We also found out that our fourth child was on the way (Elizabeth). There was no money coming in, so once a week, I would take the girls and our son, and we would deliver the local newspaper to all the people around our area. This would help with our household expenses. Both of our parents would help with food for us, but we didn’t want to be dependent on them. Then one day sitting on our front doorstep was a box of groceries. We had no idea where the box had come from. This went on every couple of weeks. We think that it may have come from a neighbour or the Leaders of the local Girls’ Brigade we attended. No-one ever said anything and I could not thank them. In later years I have done the same to others, what was done to me in the earlier struggling years.

There are lots of ways of helping people. If you see a homeless person, buy them a cup of coffee/tea and a sandwich. Help at the local homeless centre (if you have one). Smile at someone who is looking down and say hello. This may help them through the day, a smile can go a long way.

Encourage your girls and young women to bring in a tin or a packet of food to Girls’ Brigade (when it is safe for you to meet again). This can then be put together for a family in need in your community.

In the Bible there are many stories that are told of people helping others, the Good Samaritan is one that often comes to mind. Tabitha helping the poor by making clothes.  In 1 Timothy chapter 5 verse 10, it tells us about showing hospitality to others, helping those who are troubled and washing the feet of the traveller.  There are lots of stories in the Bible that look at kindness to others.  If you have two of anything share it and this sharing will go onto bigger things.

At the time of writing this reflection, in outback New South Wales, Australia and other areas there is drought, we are praying for rain for them, but they are fast running out of water.  Our company is looking at ways we can help them.  One township where there is a Girls’ Brigade company has water to last 5 months, in some of the out lying areas there is no water at all. We are buying water and sending this to them to share around their community and families.

I challenge you to do at least four acts of kindness this month.

 

Blessings
Renelle Neale
IVP
Pacific Fellowship

June reflection – Celebrating God’s creation

Kind – the dictionary says is – doing good, sympathetic, gentle, tender, merciful, loving, showing compassion.

The Bible says all those things, plus – a friendly attitude towards others.

 

In Colossians 3 v12 – 15 we read:

“Since God chose you to be the Holy people whom He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tender hearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”

You must make allowance for each others faults and forgive the person who offends you.

Remember the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is Love that binds us together in perfect harmony.

 

Sometimes I am sure we find all that hard to do.

But as we strive to be more and more like Christ, His Holy Spirit will surely help us to achieve this.

 

When we think of Celebrating God’s Creation, we should all be doing our best to keep His Creation as He made it.

God said as He completed His work – ‘He saw that it was good’.

If God looked down on His creation today would he still say ‘it was good’?

I think not.

Mankind has not done a very good job of caring for God’s creation.

But we can all make a conscious effort to, first of all,

 

Reduce the things we buy to basic needs

Re –Use every item we can

Recycle items for a further use

 

We have become a world of ‘throw away’ mentality. We see so much waste going on all around us, particularly in affluent countries.

I am very sure this is not the way Christ would have us live.

As Christians we should present to the world around us qualities of Kindness, Self-control, Integrity, Compassion, Humility, Endurance, Peace, Joy and Love.

If the whole world could take on these attributes what a different place it would be!

I send you my Love

Jill Clarke. CNZM

GB International Patron

April Reflection – Peer Pressure

Hello from the Isle of Wight, the southern tip of England. It is a beautiful place to live and the Island’s motto is “All this beauty is of God”. How blessed am I! We are surrounded by water and I love to swim in the sea and walk along the beach. Amongst the busyness of everyday life there is such peace as you listen to the waves rolling in & out over the golden sands.

The beach has always been my go to place when I have been upset, worried or under pressure and especially when I am happy. I feel very close to God as I walk along the sands. Often the poem “Footprints” by Mary Fishback Powers (see below) comes into my head and I know that I am never alone.

 

I was asked to write this reflection before the end of 2019 – way before COVID-19 took hold of our lives; so I thought I would add to it now.

How are you feeling? How has your life been impacted?

For me personally I am finding being indoors very limiting so I am trying to ensure that I can find a neighbour or elderly church friend that I can help each day. I can go shopping for them or just ring them for a chat; especially those that I know are on their own. Our church prints a weekly newsletter plus our Sunday service including songs, prayers and bible readings. Most people receive it by email but we have a few that need it to be hand delivered so a team of us print them and walk the streets of Ryde to deliver them. This is an ideal way to prayer walk the town as we go and then we spend time chatting to whoever we are delivering too – in one place I now chat with several of her neighbours as they are all sitting in the shared garden area. They share the service sheet together, which is great.

The beach has become my refuge during this time, it is where I choose to go to spend time with God as I listen to the waves coming in and going out. Our God is an awesome God and he has given us so much to think about, look at and listen to. Go outside to hear the birds singing and the trees rustling in the breeze.  The other day I laid on the grass in the park overlooking the beach and just looked up into the sky and began looking for the shapes and the animals in the clouds – I haven’t done that since I was a teenager and it felt so good. A time when my life was carefree! This is the life God wants for all of us Matthew 6:25-34.

 

Peer pressure is the direct influence on people by peers, or the effect on an individual who gets encouraged to follow their peers by changing their attitudes, values or behaviours to conform to those of the influencing group or individual. This can result in either a positive or negative effect, or both.

 

How do we deal with peer pressure?  What do we say to our friends?

 

4 ways to say “no”

It can be hard to say ‘no’ to our friends, especially when they are all joining in.

Sometimes it can feel like we have to do what they tell us in order to be accepted. It can make you feel scared and alone. It is not ok for friends to pressure you like this – and it’s not your fault. Try these tips and see if they help:

  1. Say it with confidence. Be assertive. Practise saying ‘no’, so that it is easier when someone asks you to do something you know is wrong. Avoid situations that feel unsafe or uncomfortable. You could explain that you are going to pay for something instead of stealing it.
  2. Try not to judge them. By respecting their choices, they should respect yours.
  3. Spend time with friends who can say ‘no’. It takes confidence to say no to your friends. You could try seeing how your other friends stand up to peer pressure and you can try this too.
  4. Suggest something else to do. If you do not feel comfortable doing what your friends are doing, why not suggest something you could do instead.

When I was a teenager (many years ago some of you may say), I was in this situation many times and it was hard to admit in front of friends & to my 4 brothers that I was a Christian and went to Church every Sunday as well as going to Girls’ Brigade on a Wednesday evening – my favourite part of the week. Then my Church youth leader gave me a bracelet with 4 letters on WWJD (what would Jesus do). I wore it all the time and it really helped me to focus when I had difficult decisions to make. If Jesus was stood next to me, what would he do? Or I would ask myself – “Would I be happy to take Jesus with me?”

 

If we always follow our friends does it make us feel good or does it leave us wondering what life would be like if we had followed our instincts, our parents instructions or what the teacher had asked? I know if I ever did anything wrong it gave me a horrible feeling in my stomach and I couldn’t sleep at night until I told someone my fears. As a child this was usually my mum or dad – once I gave my life to Jesus it was a privilege and still is to share everything with him.

 

I asked some of the girls in my GB group – 3rd Ryde for their views on peer pressure and these are their replies:

“Peer pressure is a big thing that affects all teenagers. I feel that my experience with peer pressure made me want to change my personality and the way I look to ‘fit in’. It made me doubt myself and feel very low at times. However now that I’m older I have started to think that it doesn’t matter what people think of me, making me feel more comfortable with the way I look and happier within myself.” Georgina, 16

“Peer pressure is when your so called ‘friends’ tell you to do something that you don’t want to do such as smoking, skipping lessons at school or even dealing with drugs and no one should be peer pressured – it makes people feel sad because you know you shouldn’t of done it and then you will realise they are not true friends but if you have people peer pressuring you, you need to say no and tell a teacher if you’re at school or a parent or if you are at Girls’ Brigade you should tell a leader or whoever you are comfortable with.” Kelsey, 12

 

At the moment we are forced to stay home and spend time with our families. How do we stay in touch with our friends? We are using social media – how safe are we? Are we thinking of what we are posting especially photographs? Please do not be persuaded to make inappropriate posts. Once again my bracelet comes to mind WWJD – would you want Jesus to see what you have written? Would you want him to see the photograph?  Would you want your parents or grandparents to see them?

A couple of sayings my mum would often be heard saying to us – “Remember to put your brain into gear before opening your mouth” and “If you cannot say something nice, do not say anything at all.”  I would say to you all “Remember to put your brain into gear before posting on social media.” And “If you cannot post positive, encouraging messages then do not post at all.” Please remember what goes online stays online.

How can we get through this time – another bracelet I was given as a teenager – PUSH (pray until something happens)!  God is never engaged; he is never too busy to listen to his children. Cast all your worries onto him.

God wants each one of us to live our lives to the full and we cannot do this if we are always worrying about what others are thinking and saying. We need to fully focus on God and then we will be truly blessed by him.

 

Spend time looking after yourself. Ensure you eat healthily, stay hydrated, exercise and sleep well. Take care of your mental well-being too – The Girls’ Brigade Ministries have some amazing resources on their website under KOKO that may help you.

 

Matthew 6:25-34

‘Therefore tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father, feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life.’

 

John 10:10

‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’

Each of us is unique and made in the image of God.

 

Jeremiah 1:5

‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’

 

Jeremiah 29:11

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’

 

The above 3 readings are very powerful and each one shows us how much God cares for us and loves us. God tells us that he has a plan for each of us and that he knows us intimately. How awesome is our God. Even if there are times when we forget about God – he never forgets about us; he never stops loving us and he never stops wanting the best for us. God is the same yesterday, today and forever.

 

Prayer

Dear God, help me to love you and understand your word. It is awesome that you knew me and loved me before I was even born. Help me to share with my friends how much you love each one of us. I am only one person but with your help and guidance I can step out in faith. In this time of uncertainty I pray that you give me patience, compassion and understanding. Help me to be kind to my family as we spend time together.  Encourage me to share my concerns and anxieties with you. Help me to trust in you. Amen

 

Ephesians 3:20

‘Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.’

 

Footprints by Mary Fishback Powers

One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; one belonged to him, and the other to the Lord.

When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand.  He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.

This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it. “Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.”

The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”

 

 

March reflection – Heritage and Tradition

What is our Heritage? Something that comes to us by reason of birth. We can inherit land or a portion of the land. Our Heritage is the environment into which we are born and raised. We might think that because we are redeemed in Christ, our heritage shouldn’t matter. We might reason that if we are mature in Christ, our heritage should affect our identity very little. However, our Heritage influences the way we live. There are bondages in our lives that are a result of our Heritage.

We have been made heirs of the Kingdom, through Christ. Although we are citizens of a heavenly culture that has its own heavenly identity, we are still living as citizens of this earth. Missiology scholar David Hesselgrave writes, “Though Christianity is super cultural in its origin and truth, it is cultural in its application.” We apply Christianity in the midst of identities that have been greatly shaped by our heritage.

This affects our ability to communicate the Christian message from one culture to another. When sharing the gospel cross-culturally, we try to make the message clear and accurate in that particular cultural setting. The same principle applies when we try to live out our faith. Our unique heritage affects the way we try to live out our identity in Christ within our communities.

So what is Tradition? Tradition is a long-established ritual, custom, or belief that is passed down from one generation to the next. Traditions can be a healthy and positive way to maintain family cohesiveness and can help create a sense of belonging within a community. But when we look at our Mission as GB, what are our traditions that have been passed down since 1893? This is God’s Mission and are we sure that our ‘GB Traditions’, “We always do things this way”, are not blurring the line between God’s Truth and our own inventions?

Mark 7:13 warns us not to ignore God’s traditions in favour of our own.

We have been around for 127 years this year, so we must be doing something right! Not all of our heritage and traditions are ungodly, so it is time to take an inventory of our traditions and align ourselves with God’s Mission in this generation.

As we continue to be Fruitful and Overflowing, it calls for us to have eyes that see beyond ourselves. Let’s look around us and make the world a better place in the community that we live in. #ShowKindness

February Reflection – Building Relationships

I believe that we need to have a close loving relationship with God first before we can relate lovingly to others. God’s unconditional love for us naturally motivates us to love ourselves and then this enables us to reach out to others in love. As we receive God’s love and forgiveness for ourselves, we can then intentionally begin to build good relationships with our family, friends and girls by releasing this love and forgiveness we have received from God, to them.

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Matt 22:37,39 (NIV)

This is the simple truth: LOVE is the foundation for building good, healthy and loving relationships.

‘Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.’ 1John 4:4 NIV

As we draw closer to God and abide in Him, we will be able to become intentional in relating to others and begin growing our relationships. As leaders, we need to lead like Jesus. We need to allow His love to flow through our lives, through our thoughts, speech and actions. It has been said that we can preach the gospel through our daily interactions with people. They don’t want to hear a sermon. They want to see an example of Jesus in your life. Let the love of Jesus shine through you as you interact with those you lead.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.’ Galatians 6:10 NIV

To cultivate healthy relationships, start with an attitude of gratitude. The habit of being grateful for the people in our lives helps us to be happier and more able to enjoy our relationships. We need to affirm each one daily and tell them we care about them. Accept them and value their presence and contribution in our lives. When people feel loved and accepted, they would be more likely to respect and respond positively when we interact, give feedback or correct them.

Paul says in Philippians 1:3, ‘Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God’ (NLT).

We also need authenticity in our relationships. To be authentic, we must try to have genuine and heart-to-heart conversations. To do this, we need to be able to listen well, go deeper to know what’s in their hearts and not just stay at a superficial level of chit-chat. We need to be sincere, have no hidden agendas, not be hypocritical or two-faced, always speaking the truth in love, always mindful of what’s best for others. Being authentic requires both courage and humility. It means facing our fear of exposure, rejection, or being hurt again. Being real and honest in sharing ourselves show that we are willing to trust them and this encourages others to be authentic too. The relationship deepens and people trust us and get honest and real about who they are and what is happening in their lives. They share their hurts, reveal their feelings, confess their failures, disclose their doubts, admit their fears, acknowledge their weaknesses, and ask for help and prayer.

Listening intentionally with our heart, without being judgemental and showing respect for others will help build trust and strengthen relationships. We will be able to make an impact and speak positively into their lives when any situations arise. Authentic relationships lead us to intentionally grow others. If we accept and care very much about someone, we would not want them to continue to do things we know that are wrong. We would want to help them grow into the person God would want them to be. We would do this lovingly, by speaking the truth in love.

We need to help one another improve our relationships and make it stronger as we serve each other.

We must be inclusive and reach out to the people with disabilities as well. We must be willing listeners and empathise with them.

God wants us to accept diversities and differences in each one.

God has designed us to build each other up and care for each other, complement each other. That’s the way God meant for it to be!

‘Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact [we] are doing’ 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV.

Grow through being examples. Jesus did this in teaching his disciples. John 13:14-15 says, ‘Since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you’ (NLT).

To grow in relationships, you should have meaningful conversations about real issues. Dedicate time to having conversations around the things that really matter in life. However, be careful to always be encouraging and not be hurtfully critical when we speak. So speak positively and kindly.

Comparing won’t help someone grow. Everybody’s unique. Nobody in the world is like you! That’s why comparing is lethal to any relationship. Accept each other, warts and all, then allow God, in His time, to help us become the persons He wants us to be.

The Bible says, ‘Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else ’ Galatians 6:4 NIV.

Relationships can grow through conflict and reconciliation. When we encounter conflict and strife, we must always be committed to resolving issues and restoring harmony. Be willing to say, “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you,” over and over again. Develop the ability to forgive and ‘forget.’ While mentally forgetting an offense may be impossible, it is possible to resolve not to bring the issue up again. Remember that love covers all sins. Love each other enough to forgive, be reconciled and grow stronger in the relationship.

‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.’

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a NIV

The Bible says, “Love one another.” “Forgive one another.” “Care for one another.”

“Pray for one another.” “Encourage one another.” “Help one another.”

“Counsel one another.” “Support one another.”

May God enable us to be aware and intentional as we build meaningful relationships that bring happiness to all and spread the love of Jesus in our spheres of influence.

January Reflection – Show Kindness

‘The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.  The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.’

Psalms 145:8-9 NIV

As we begin a new year, let us keep this verse in our hearts and allow God’s love to shine forth from us. ‘The Lord is good to all, He has compassion on all he has made.’

Compassion is kindness and love in action. If we are to be ambassadors for Christ, kindness and love should be evident in our daily interaction with others. To be kind, nurturing and effective leaders, we must first of all believe in and receive God’s love and complete acceptance of us. When we are able to love and accept ourselves, we will be able to reflect and show God’s love to those in our care.

Just as a farmer needs to pull out the old weeds, till the soil, remove the rocks and prepare the ground for planting fresh crops at the start of a new season, we need to prepare our hearts for the year ahead. The weeds would be the hurts, rejection, criticisms, anger and bitterness we encountered or inflicted on others throughout the past year. We need to put them all behind us and ask God to remove all these negative feelings. We need to release forgiveness, be reconciled and respond instead with kindness and love. If we don’t, they will be rocks that will continually hinder us from moving forward.

Let’s focus on being intentional in showing compassion to all. By showing kindness and love, we provide an environment for growth in our lives as we allow the love of God into our hearts.

Love can take root in our hearts and this will in turn, control our thoughts and words. Anger and bitterness will no longer rule our tongues. We will be more accepting of others and be able to release forgiveness and move forward with God’s love in our hearts.

The greatest commandment is: ‘Love God with all our heart and soul and mind. Love your neighbour as yourself.’

Love helps us to speak with kindness and blessings into negative situations. As God’s people, we need to model this love consistently to all.  Showing compassion and forgiveness is a reflection of our good, kind and loving God and makes a greater impact on the people we interact with.

Kindness and forgiveness are the two big building blocks in life we want to have. Let us treat others with care and consideration, readily forgiving mistakes made, continually helping them grow to be better people.

Kindness springs from a heart of love. It shows no impatience or rudeness when you are inconvenienced by someone who is weaker and slower, younger or older or different from you. Often, our thoughtless words and critical comments cause others to feel hurt n rejected.

Instead of reacting to things with anger and cynicism, let us respond positively and lovingly.

Let us be intentional and choose to think well of others and to speak kindly.

In our homes, schools, work places and community, let’s choose to make showing love and kindness, our way of life.

May God help and bless us all as we grow to be more like Jesus and bring joy into the lives of many.

‘Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.’  Ephesians 4:32

‘But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’

1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV

December – Be a Peacemaker

Following ICGB in Zambia last year my husband and I spent a little time in South Africa.  While we were there we visited the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg and Robben Island in Cape Town where Nelson Mandela was held in prison for 18 years.  We learned a great deal about Nelson Mandela and the rise and fall of apartheid.

One of the learnings was that despite what Nelson Mandela had suffered he sought reconciliation and a peaceful negotiated settlement following his release from prison.  It took absolute determination to choose a peaceful path rather than revenge or violence.

Peacemakers are relationship builders.  Being a peacemaker has the potential to change the lives of those around you.  Everywhere there is conflict:  In the workplace, our communities, our countries and internationally.  Most people will avoid conflict because it is uncomfortable to address it or fear that it will be handled badly.

However, ignoring or avoiding conflict does not deal with the pain which is caused by conflict.  Negotiation and discussion are the greatest implements we have for promoting peace and development.

Building good relationships and friendships takes time and effort.  A little like planting seeds, the results are not seen immediately but over time, with nurturing, they will grow and thrive.

Being a good friend and having good friends reduces stress, contributes to a sense of well-being and prevents loneliness.  It is acknowledged that social isolation and loneliness is a growing problem for many seniors in developed countries.  One of the solutions can be for younger people (Girls’ Brigade members) to reach out and befriend seniors in their family or community.

At times we need to persevere when the friendship hits a rocky patch.  The easy option is to walk away at these times; a good friend will persevere and resolve the issue at hand.

The hardest thing in a friendship can be to admit when we have made a mistake.  While this is hard to do it will do great things for the friendship.  Often, through these experiences we grow in ourselves and become more resilient and a better friend.

Jesus was a peacemaker yet He was not afraid to challenge those around Him and there are many examples of this in the Bible.  In this month of December we celebrate His birth and take time to reflect on His influence in our lives.

“Happy are those who work for peace; God will call them his children” (Matthew 5:9).

“So then, we must always aim at those things that bring peace and that help to strengthen one another’ (Romans 14:19).

“And goodness is the harvest that is produced from the seeds the peacemakers plant in peace” (James 3:18).

November Reflection – Reflections on God as a God of peace

On 24 September, 2018, a day before the start of the General Debate of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit was convened.

The focus of the Summit was on Global Peace in honour of the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela.

This Peace Summit offered the opportunity for the world leaders to renew their commitment to global peace, conflict prevention and resolution, peace building, promotion and protection of human rights and long-term development initiatives as called for by the Secretary-General, Mr. Antonio Guterres. The Peace Summit also adopted a political declaration, which will reaffirm the values of Nelson Mandela.

These world leaders recognised that, as in the words of once popular American singing group The Chi-lytes,” There will never be any peace, until God is seated at the conference table”.

As members of the Girls’ Brigade family, we know that our God is a God of peace.

In the creation story in Genesis, chapter 1, we are told that God created a perfect world, where everything was in harmony. However, through disobedience, this peace was disturbed. Throughout the years which followed, through the teachings of the prophets God tried to restore this peace.

Zechariah 9: 11 states “He will proclaim peace to all nations”

Finally, God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, whose birth was foretold by the prophet Isaiah 6:5 that he would come as “The Prince of Peace”. At Jesus’ birth, the angels heralded his coming with the announcement of “Peace on earth and goodwill to all men”.

Jesus in his teachings, brought a message of peace. For example in the Beatitudes he says: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matt 5:9)

Through Christ, God is reflected as a God of peace

Corinthians 14: 33 reminds us …”For God is not a God of disorder but of peace”

As we seek to follow in the footsteps of Christ, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we must seek after peace.

Further, we know, that Peace is a Fruit of the spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” (Galatians 5:22).

How can we achieve this peace? We must put our trust in the God of Peace.

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

However, although we desire peace, there will be no real peace until there is equality and justice for all.

But what is perfect peace? Can we define it? Yes, it is a condition of freedom from disturbance within the soul; it is perfect harmony reigning within. To be filled with perfect peace is to be spiritually healthy and free from all discord within the soul. There can be no room for jealousy, envy, discontent, uncontrolled temper, selfishness, pride or intolerance in the soul which is filled with peace, for all these things are disturbing factors in the heart. They are discordant notes. We must make every effort to conquer these feelings, and replace them with love for each other and, by our example show our girls a better way.

The peace which God offers, and which by His grace, we may experience, is very practical. God calls the peace which he gives, “perfect peace”. He demonstrates this peace through his son Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.

Love of Christ will enable us to demonstrate the Peace of God.

God’s peace is perfect. It is perfect in quality- perfect in the kind of peace that it is.

It is perfect in Quantity, the supply of it is sufficient, and it is constantly available to us.

How does this perfect peace come to us?

By the Holy Spirit. As the Holy Spirit fills and floods our lives, so He produces this wonderful fruit within us.

  • By His Word.  Psalm 119:165 tells us that “things and people can so often disturb us, or even cause us to stumble, but there is a promise of perfect peace to those people who love and meditate in and obey the word of God.”
  • By our belief in and obedience to God’s Son. In Leviticus 26:3-6, God guarantees to us that if we will walk in His statutes and keep His commandments, He will keep our hearts in perfect peace; if we will do our part, then God will surely do His part.
  • By constant praise and prayer.

Who is it that God will keep in perfect peace? It is those who put their total trust in Him.

Peace for us as members of the Girls’ Brigade family, is not merely absence of conflict; if we want to build lasting peace, our thoughts of peace must be translated into positive action as we demonstrate this in our interaction with our girls and with each other.

We cannot close our eyes or ears to violent actions which make peace seem less and less attainable; whether we live in Africa, Asia, Caribbean & Americas, Europe, or Pacific regions, violence is a daily challenge for many of us.

Conflict prevention and resolution means we must diffuse conflict by replacing it with positive actions which demonstrate that we care, and are determined not only to speak peace, but to show peace daily.

As members of the family of GB International, we are delighted, and share the joy that Girls’ Brigade President’s Committee, was able to announce the following initiatives recently:

  • That after a 15 month application process, Girls’ Brigade International has been accredited with special consultative NGO status by the United Nations. This is an integral part of Girls’ Brigade International’s future advocacy strategy moving forward and an achievement to celebrate on our 125th birthday year
  • On International Day of the Girl (11 October 2018), Girls’ Brigade International launched a new free resource for local Girls’ Brigade leaders called GB’s ‘Raising Hope’ Advocacy Toolkit

The toolkit has two specific aims:

  1. To equip GB leaders (particularly at local level) to be strategic and intentional about advocacy
  2. To empower girls and young women to be at the centre of leading social action initiatives to transform their own communities.

I am confident that these two GB initiatives will go a far way in encouraging and facilitating peace in the lives of our GB families and persons with whom they interact.

For many years Dr. Elizabeth Ward, a consultant epidemiologist at the University of the West Indies,    Mona Campus, Jamaica and Chair of the Board of Violence Prevention Alliance in Jamaica, took the time and worked with  girls  in one of our inner city Girls’ Brigade companies, Pretoria Road United, to demonstrate “another way of life”. They made placards, held peace marches and conducted talks and other practical sessions to show an alternative lifestyle of peace. These girls live in communities where violence is commonplace.

We know that many GB companies around the world take time to demonstrate actions of peace to our girls.

We must embrace every opportunity to show our girls a peaceful way to resolve their conflicts whether at home, school, or in the workplace.

We must show them by our actions that we serve a God of peace.

As members of the Girls’ Brigade, when we engage our girls in activities teaching useful skills which can help them to earn a living and become independent, when we teach Christian values and attitudes through Godly counselling, when we teach them self discipline through drill and when we help them to interpret God’s word and apply it to themselves through bible drama, poetry or song or just by helping them to solve problems on a one-to one basis, we are demonstrating God’s peace.

When we set up homework centres to help them to be successful in their school exams  and take their place in their community and in the world, when we engage in outreach activities in our communities with them, we are showing them that the God we serve is a God of peace, an active peace.

As we make every effort to be fruitful and overflowing in our activities, may we demonstrate loving, caring, practical actions that will show others that we serve a God of Peace, who commands us to live out this peace in a troubled world.

John 14:27 says “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful.”

Be not fearful, but go forth and share the gospel of peace in all you do.

October reflection – God in the midst of difficulties

Some of us are blessed. We are born into a loving, financially stable family. Our friends are similarly blessed as we grow up with every educational and emotional benefit available. We enjoy our teen years and in young adulthood further our education at University or find rewarding and meaningful work. In time we form stable often life-long friendships, some marry and are able to afford homes and provide for children, whose lives will in many ways mirror those of their parents.

If we have been part of a faith-based community – which I guess is most who are reading this reflection – we are often blissfully unaware that our life is NOT the life of about 90% of others in the world. We often see our own lives as “normal” and available to anyone who, if not born to it, can attain this “good life” by hard work and diligence.

In the main we do not suffer oppression, deprivation of the basic needs, chronic physical and mental ill-health, gender inequalities, warfare and homelessness, imprisonment and injustice. We find many small things to upset us – no parking spaces at the shopping centre, internet connections that won’t work or are too slow, occasional illness, disobedient children, the old lady at church who just talks too much and takes up our time.

For us JOY is usually not a huge problem. It is, like our good mental health, just part of our lives – or if it is not, it is probably merely a temporary lack of JOY and equanimity. But are we talking about JOY? Or is this rather the happiness and gladness that are experienced by the fortunate in the world?

What then for the other 90%?

Those whose childhoods are marked by political uncertainty and instability, fear, hunger, lack of education, poor health care, inadequate housing, childhood disease and early death are, surprisingly, the majority of children born into the world today. We do not have to go to third world countries to find girls whose childhoods are spent horrific situations that include abuse, poor parenting, few educational opportunities and lack of adequate adult nurture and care.

Many, many children grow up in such circumstances – without a great deal of happiness. But they often find JOY. When we are willing to share a time of caring and give encouragement lives can be transformed from physical poverty to emotional and spiritual wealth. Enriching a girl’s life need not be providing “things” but may mean insight into her daily life and small measures of support which may come through something as simple as a continuing, reliable relationship or providing a firm, loving, nonjudgmental presence to which she can turn and return.

For girls and women living in and near poverty JOY itself is a source of life. Many, in difficult places living awful lives, find JOY in the small and seemingly insignificant daily happenings in life – the care of a neighbour, the sharing of food, the ability to help another. Whilst we can talk about Empowerment and Bright Futures – as outlined as themes for this year’s Day of the Girl Child on October 11th – many find JOY in so many other ways and places – a small flower, a sunset or sunrise, a healthy new baby, the love of family. Empowerment can bring changes to lives but it is a concept far from the lives of many. JOY however is all embracing and inclusive and is the “right” of all made in God’s own image.

Sharing our source of true JOY – our trust and relationship with Jesus and God – is what Girls’ Brigade is about. We have the privilege of walking alongside girls in their formative years – as youngsters, teenagers, young women – as they are setting their paths in life AND even more importantly the paths in which they will guide their families and communities.

May the JOY of the Lord be your strength today and each day you walk on his wondrous earth.