If you haven’t gathered from my blog already I am a Christian, my faith has an impact on every aspect of my life, or at least it should do, that means how I spend my (our) money, what I do with my time, what job I do, how I parent my children, how I vote, what I write in my blog, everything. As a Christian I also need to grow in my faith by doing things like accessing good Bible teaching, doing personal and corporate Bible study, praying and sharing fellowship with other believers. Being fed spiritually is important in order that I continue to grow in my knowledge and love of God which in turn should affect the lives of others who I encounter in my everyday life.
A great way of being fed spiritually is through attending conferences with great preachers and speakers but these conferences can be expensive, in part due to the quality of the speakers invited and often because of the distances they are travelling. I find that these types of conferences in Northern Ireland can cost anywhere from £15 to £100. So it was a joy and a privilege to attend a free Presbyterian Women’s conference this week where the speaker was a girl called Emma Scrivener.
It has been said that ”the best things in life are free” but let’s face it very little is free these days so when I told friends there was no ticket required and this was a free event their reactions were not dissimilar to Adam Sandler:
Ok so it wasn’t a horse or a car called Ferrari but I felt a bit the same myself so I was reluctant to miss this opportunity. My mother-in-law, God bless her, agreed to take my two older girls so it was just Tabitha and I. Of course Amelia just so happened to be off school that day and after a morning of tidying up after they went from room to room wrecking everything in their path, as well as feeding Tabitha then cleaning copious amounts of sick off my clean clothes for going out in public again, and packing the girls up for an afternoon at Nana’s, I did stop and ask myself was it all worth it? Then I caught myself on, it was an afternoon with only one child to deal with, of course it was worth it. Oh and Emma Scrivener was tipped to be great too.
If you haven’t heard of Emma Scrivener she is the author of a book called ‘A New Name’, published by IVP, and she blogs at emmascrivener.net. Emma won the 2014 New Media award for Christian blogger of the year.
Emma was speaking on the theme ‘Here is Love’. She drew on the text in 1 John 4: 7-21 about God’s love and ours. Emma said that the world says ‘’love yourself,’’ religion says ‘‘make sure you love God first’’ but the Gospel says ‘’receive God’s love and then pass it on.’’ Her testimony was interspersed in the message as she bravely shared about her own battle with anorexia. One of the things that Emma said really struck me, she talked about how as Christians God’s love flows onto us and that love should spill over onto others. This was by no means the first time I had heard this but it hit home that afternoon. She said that while anorexia is something she feels a lot of guilt about and something that she finds shameful she no less shares her experiences of it because she knows it blesses others for her to do so.
I had read Emma’s book a few years ago and cried most of my way through it. It resonated with me, although I have never struggled with an eating disorder Emma spoke a lot about identity and self-image. I don’t know many women who don’t struggle with self-image, myself included. The way she writes is eloquent, poetic almost, and powerful so I had purchased copies of her book for some younger women I knew also, certain that they too would be greatly challenged and encouraged by her words. If she could speak as well as she wrote I knew this would be a great event and what a blessing to be able to hear her speak for free. This is a yearly conference which is funded by the generous giving of Presbyterian Women throughout Ireland.
I have to confess I am not purely unbiased when it comes to PW, I used to work for them so I have seen first hand how these women benefit the church through serving, prayer, financing mission both at home and overseas and enabling discipleship. It is truly humbling when believers give of themselves and their resources in order that others might grow in their faith. And isn’t that a tangible sign of God’s love flowing out of them and onto others.
It has to be said that this kindness is not limited to Presbyterian Women, anyone who has attended the New Horizon conference in the University of Ulster in Coleraine in July will have been spiritually fed through the teaching of world-class speakers, funded largely by a number of anonymous big donors.
Before we were married, Steve and I attended a Christian Leaders’ conference in Hungary through his work. It was called the European Leadership Conference. The line-up of speakers was impressive, many of them well known biblical scholars, but the beauty of the conference was that those attending from the likes of the UK and America, those with the means to attend, sponsored Christian leaders from Eastern Europe, those without the means to attend such a conference ordinarily. We learnt and grew side by side over the course of the week, we shared ideas, knowledge and visions. It was a wonderful thing to behold.
In a culture that is more and more self-seeking and ‘me’ orientated. We as Christians need to be the difference, and like Christ seek to serve and to sacrifice of ourselves and our resources for the benefit of others. While at times I think we, as a family, do not have much, hence the constant budgeting, the reality is that we have much more than others in this world. I’m guessing most of you own a car, did you know that only 8% of the world own a car. Even in a Northern Ireland context we are more well off than we think, Storehouse a local ministry, say that the average user of their foodbank in Belfast have just £2.88 to live on a day, find out more at www.storehousebelfast.com. Good stewardship over what we have is important because one day we will have to give an account to God, and tell Him what we did with what He gave us, take a look at the parable of the talents in Matthew 5: 13-30. God will not just ask us what we did with the money He gave us but with our gifts and talents, our time, our families, everything that He has entrusted to us. The Master will be looking for a return on his talents.
We love because Jesus Christ first loved us, if we’re not doing that already it’s time to pay it forward. We live across the road from a South African family who we’ve been friends with for five years now, they’ve become like family to us over that time. When our first daughter was born they noticed and put a congratulations card through the door, we met on the next street a week or two later, I thanked them for the card, we got to talking and the rest as they say is history. We share much together, our faith, our time, our homes, our resources, our hopes and dreams, our lives. I often wonder if what we have with these friends resembles, to a small extent, the early church in Acts 2. Our love runs deep for them and their children and our lives have been enriched through them, it’s hard to describe just how much. In them we see love in action on a weekly basis. I could say the same about many of our family members and some of our other friends. The love of God which spills out of them and onto us makes us wealthy beyond measure. Truly the best things in life are free, after all you can’t buy love.