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Resolutions

I’m not a big fan of the new year. These days we tend to treat it like most other nights in the holidays. The kids are tired and need their beds – and so do we!

And New Years resolutions just don’t happen. Partly because for the first few days of the new year anything fresh, new routines, anything which requires enthusiasm – just aren’t going to work round here! 

After the craziness of Christmas, the house is full of bad-for-you food, we are all exhausted, we are all grumpy… We just need rest, recovery and with God’s grace have enough patience with each other to not fall out! 

It’s back to school, back to normality today and we are just about ready for that (maybe!) I did start to think about if there are things I should try to start or resolutions I should make. 

But to be honest, I’m not a fan of the whole ‘new year, new start’ thing. I think it just sets me up to fail. Because I do fail – every day. And I’m thankful that every day I can have a new start – not just on the 1 January, or today – but any day I choose to repent and receive God’s grace. 

And my resolutions are the same today as they are every day… To do my best to live life the way God asks me to, to make decisions in line with what we believe He is saying, be full of love and grace and hope and to bring life to the people and situations I find myself with. 

It doesn’t always go to plan and after a couple of weeks off I probably do need an injection of life to get me going again… But as the old year morphs into the new, life will carry on… And I’m satisfied with that… Because on the whole, life is pretty ok.

New adventures…

You may have noticed via social media that Paul now has an office in our garden. It’s quite a big investment and while we hope it will benefit Paul’s work, prevent distractions and be a fantastic creative space… None of those are the main reason for building it. 

The main reason is because we wanted to free up a bedroom. Some people have assumed this is so our girls can have separate rooms or so we have a spare room. It is neither of these. (And I’m not pregnant either!) 

For quite a while now we have wondered whether we could and should considering opening our home to someone else. We have always had a strong desire to be hospitable and those of you who know us we’ll know we both have a heart for the oppressed, disadvantaged and vulnerable. 

A while ago I attended a seminar at New Wine on fostering and adoption… I guess we must have been interested before that or I wouldn’t have gone to it… But it really set us thinking about if this is a route we should go down… And recently we decided we should explore this option further – and now are part way through the application process.

We believe this is one way we can outwork our belief, routed in our Christian Faith that we should love and value the least and last in our society… That we should meet the needs of those around us and that when we show hospitality to others it’s as if we were doing that to Christ himself. 

The charity Home for Good has a vision that if one family in every church, supported by the church community, was able to foster or adopt, it would be possible for there to be no children left in the care system. Obviously there are loads of great foster carers who aren’t Christians too… But actually if more of us as Christians put our money where our mouths are and with the support of our churches opened our homes, what a fabulous thing we could do.

(If you want know great ways to support us or other foster carers Home for Good have some really great pointers.)

I’m well aware that some of our friends will think we are completely mad… And maybe we are a bit we are a bit. But you know sometimes I think that doing what God is asking of us requires us to take leave of what might most make sense and step out and take a risk. Whatever strain or difficulty it brings (and I’m under no illusion about that) it seems to me it will bring a greater benefit to the young people we are able to share our lives with. And my hope and prayer is that our lives will be enriched by it too.

Living below the Line 

I’ve written a blog on our experiences of Living Below the Line this week.

You can view it here:

https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/zoebell

Money Money Money

I’ve been doing some thinking around money issues recently. I guess partly because we’ve been running the CAP money course with a couple of groups, which has made me reflect on our own finances and values. And partly because I guess money and what we do (or don’t do) with it is something that we all think about a lot!

I think I have a tendency to be quite judgmental about how people use their money. I kind of expect everyone to live by the same principles I live by. Or at least the principles I aspire to live by. A wise person said to me recently that the problem with that is not only that I’m judging others, which I shouldn’t do, but that when I myself can’t live up to what I expect of everyone, I feel guilty. Mostly guilty for having stuff that others around me don’t. 

We all have to make choices however, and I guess there are others who have things I don’t, or spend money in ways I wouldn’t consider, because our spending often reflects our values. And that’s true or not we have much money.

At the risk of sounding judgmental of people who don’t live this way (and I don’t want to be… I’m just reflecting on some thoughts and challenges that we are working through ourselves at the moment) I’ve also been thinking about what it means to be a ‘good steward’ of money. We often hear about good stewardship in church contexts… Basically it’s about how we look after our money in a way that honours God. It’s a recognition that all that we have is God’s and entrusted to us and that we should treat it as such.

My main reflection on this is that often it seems that this ‘looking after’ of money often becomes about making the most of our money, making it go further, investing it wisely, saving etc. But I’m wondering if this is really what God is asking from us? (This might just be personal or maybe God wants to challenge his wider church on it too?)

For instance, I think it’s wise to save in some situations. For things we know we are going to need to spend on: Christmas, car insurance, the new cooker we might need of ours is on its last legs, a well-needed holiday etc. But the only things I can think of in the bible that relates to savings say things like ‘Do not store up treasure on earth’ (Matt 6:19), ‘go and sell all you posess’ (Mark 10:21) and ‘Do not worry about tomorrow’ 

God seems to have much more positive things to say about giving and being generous than he does about keeping or saving for ourselves or our families.

The same comes with paying tax. As someone married to a self-employed person, I am probably more aware than most about how much  gets paid. The temptation can sometimes be to find ways to avoid paying so much tax. What can be claimed as legitimate business expenses etc? I’m not advocating necessarily that we should pay more tax than we should… But what does Jesus have to say on this matter? When he was asked directly whether tax should be paid he said ‘Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s’ (Mark 12:17) 

Should we be quibbling about tax and trying to find ways to pay less, or should we be happy to give back to the state? I find this a particularly interesting debate in the light of politics, public spending and the church’s role in challenging social policy when it comes to helping the poor. Whatever we think of the current, or other governments, do we have a responsibility to contribute to the state so it can help others less fortunate than ourselves? Can we be on one hand critical of the governments benefit policy if we ourselves are holding back from putting into the pot? 

We often don’t have a problems pointing out that what’s legal isn’t always moral when it comes to bankers bonuses or millionaires tax avoidance. But are we making financial choices that are moral and informed by Godly principles, or are we happy to simply stay withing what’s legal? 

 What would God say is good stewardship? Is it more important to save our money or be generous? Do we have the right to benefit from our earnings or should we share and help the poor? Should our priority be investing for the future and our families or benefitting others here and now? 

I don’t think I know the ‘answers’ to most of these questions, even if I do have a view. However what I would love is if you, by reading this, have been challenged to think about your financial choices.

Ready and waiting

Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty. (‭Zechariah‬ ‭1‬:‭3‬ NIV)

God keeps reminding me of this simple truth lately. When we come to Him, he’s there waiting. No matter what I have done, no matter how long it’s been since I spoke to Him, no matter how distracted I’ve been, when I return to Him, he’s there.
And that truth resonates with my experience… when I humble myself and engage with Him, he responds, right away, and engages with me. He’s ready for me, always, whenever. What a beautiful, simple truth.

One year celebrations

Tonight we had some team training for our detached youth work team and realised it was our first birthday! We celebrated with cake.
As we did our termly review with StreetSpace, I was once again encouraged and blessed to see how far we’ve come. On a week by week basis it can sometimes feel like there’s little or no progress, especially in the winter when the weather is bad, its dark, and the streets and park is quiet.
However it was great to reflect on the relationships we are building, and see all the exciting little moments and stories we’ve shared with young people.
And to see those as part of a larger, unfolding story that will take many years to be complete. Some of these young people are still very young, 10 or 11.
I’m dreaming of the impact we can have by sticking around and still being present in their lives when they are entering adulthood, 8,9,10 years down the line…

Doing something uncomfortable

Today, I want to follow up from my last post where I committed to try to so something uncomfortable each day.
I know it may seem a bit forced, but I actually set a reminder on my phone for each morning to remind me to do just that!!
It doesn’t mean I have quite managed it every day, but it does mean that I have been nudged. And that reminder sits there looking at me every time I look at my phone (which is quite alot!)
And it has made a difference… In the last few weeks I have visited my neighbours in their homes 3 times. I have crossed the road to chat to them a number of times, going out of my way to do so. I offered to vacuum an elderly neighbours flat (in the end her daughter did that… But I still spent an hour with her chatting). I have invited people to the estate-based lifegroup I am part of.
(And during those weeks I was in Albania for a week – not engaging with my neighbours at all… Maybe another post sometime about the things I was challenged with there!)
I’m not telling you all this to big myself up… But more to celebrate the fact that when we respond to something that has challenged us, and make a choice to act on it, we can really see thing start to change and move. And each of the things I have done has been small, manageable and enjoyable!

D.L. Mayfield

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