John 3:16

Probably the most famous verse in the bible. Seen on football shirts at major tournaments. “God so loved the world 🌎 that He gave his only Son ❤ that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life”.

The late MP Sir David Amess achieved a lot locally. He gave himself for Southend people. His hard work was often behind the scenes but his efforts have been posthumously recognised with the town becoming a city.

Underpinning Sir David’s motivation was a strong belief in God which impacted a number of things he chose to champion. He made a difference despite always being a backbencher. But ultimately he had a higher hope, one to which John 3:16 points.

Where is your hope and mine, ultimately? Work today, and most days, is pretty incessant. There are lots of other things to do outside work. The pace can seem relentless. Where does my love show, my efforts matter and my hope lie? Beyond my legacy where is my eternity?

For persecuted believers John 3:16 is very real. Life for many is a real struggle. But knowing that God loves them so much that Jesus died for them inspires them to live ordinary but often extraordinary lives. They have a future hope that many around them seem uncertain of. To know you are loved and secure makes a real difference. Hea Woo is one of the most remarkable women I have met…

Beaches and benches…

First of all it’s been a really difficult day with the murder of a local MP. So sad and unnecessary. Praying for peace.

Looking back it was lovely to spend a few hours walking from Cromer to Overstrand last Friday, paddle in the sea and read. I even did a bit of rock pooling!

Back to work last Monday. It’s been a busy week workwise but I did have the chance to bike into town a couple of times for meetings. It was lovely to ride down the seafront one day.

I had a bit of a challenge with getting my catheters while away but got them eventually. Yesterday I had my first ever endoscopy. It went pretty well but I need further tests and at least a year to wait for an op.

Life is a gift, which the horrible murder of Sir David Amess, shows is very fragile. Going into Hospital also brings out that our health and our existence is vulnerable.

For many Christians around the world life is always very much on the edge. They can be attacked at any time. Unprovoked. We can make a difference though.

Thanks for your interest. Thanks to a supporter the total raised for 60@60 has reached £7 000. So encouraging.

Peace…and finding it

I am now nearing the end of my period of leave. It was lovely to see old friends up north though 740 miles was a fair trek. I got home to find out I had to sort out some medical matters urgently then within hours was on the train up here to Sheringham. From the Pennines to the sea.

Today I enjoyed a trip on the North Norfolk Railway with a 110 year old loco. It was nice doing railway stuff but also walking down into Weybourne to visit the Priory, see the windmill and walk along the cliffs.

It was good especially to sit by a pond on Kelling Heath, feel the sun on my face and the breeze. 20 minutes before moving on but special and got me singing.

The fact that I have been distinctly under the weather this week (though a bit better) and the constant nag that I should be doing some activity, doing more, seeing more, makes it hard to settle and switch off. I know that God gives peace but too often I feel like I am missing that unhurriedness Jesus had. I have much to learn!

Peace is a challenge for persecuted Christians, though in situations much worse than mine. The external threats they face from families and authorities; the difficulty of finding employment and the rejection by society can really pay a toll. Like Matti on the video below who lost his identity. But so many find peace in Jesus and in the help they receive from Open Doors local partners, funded by you. Thank you!

https://justgiving.com/fundraising/AdrianSmith6060

On tour..

It’s been a mad week workwise then starting a break. As I write I am back in the North West having spent a lovely couple of days in Liverpool with my middle daughter, Jen. We went on the ferry across the Mersey, visited the Beatles story and travelled down the famous but unremarkable Penny Lane a number of times.

Yesterday, we visited Albert Dock and had lunch there. It’s the biggest collection of Grade 1 listed buildings (for historic interest) in England but was so nearly demolished. But some people saw their potential to be an amazing place (and as Planner I have to congratulate those of my profession involved)…

God is in the profession of restoring ruined lives. He can see the potential in the rubble. However, in many places in the world, Christians are the lowest of the low, like dalit converts in India. Many oppose the restored people they see; change is threatening. But for many the transformation is astonishing and your support helps makes that possible. For others, like in Iraq, it’s having the courage to stay and rebuild shattered communities after the destruction caused by IS and the continued uncertainty. Thank you for helping make this possible.

https://justgiving.com/fundraising/AdrianSmith6060

The Cross

I have had this small insect in my house for the last few days and posted this picture on Facebook. Someone replied that they weren’t sure about it’s beauty but it was a bit repulsive.

Looking past the legs and tail I see the cross ✝️ The Bible says the cross and all it represents (Jesus dying to take away our sin) is offensive to Jews and foolishness to the educated. So why do so many of us wear a symbol of execution around our necks when we would never think of displaying an electric chair or a guillotine?

The cross has come to represent a symbol of love or maybe just an elegant, simple piece of jewellery. But, like the McDonald’s Yellow M symbol, it is instantly recognisable.

When Jesus called his early disciples he simply said “Follow me”. For these young twenty somethings it was a bit like Alan Sugar calling them to be “The Apprentice”. Imagine being in at the start of what would become something worldwide in its reach; of seeing lifes transformed; going places you’ve never been; doing things you could never imagine; becoming part of a community; hearing amazing story telling and learning key principles. Leaders and recruiters, what an offer for potential candidates!

Then the cross. Not what they expected. The end. Your life under threat. But this isn’t the end, it’s just the end of the beginning. Lifes transformed the disciples helped change the world but ultimately all but one lost their own lifes too, including on crosses.

Two thousand years later, in India, 🇮🇳 Christians pray and see miraculous healing of paralysed people. It is not unusual there. They have an expectancy many of us in the west have lost. But those, particularly in rural areas, see transformed lifes but also suffering. Beatings and being driven out of their villages. The cross brings hope and healing, power and possibility but also suffering, sorrow and rejection. It is, like the insect in my house, both beautiful and repulsive.

60@60 is still open if you want to support persecuted Christians

https://justgiving.com/fundraising/AdrianSmith6060

Flexibility

I was reading the Bible in Mark 2 this week. It talks about new wine in new skins. Old wine skins are inflexible and can’t accommodate the need for expansion in the new wine.

In life, in work, in faith it is easy to get stuck doing things the way you always have. Routine is good but it really does get in the way sometimes. It can stop us reaching our potential because we daren’t step away from it.

One of the things that 60@60 taught me is to be a bit more flexible. It made me try things I wouldn’t normally even think of. I wouldn’t have had tasted “the new wine” of fresh adventures if I’d been like an old wineskin. But I still have lots of things where I need to learn to be more flexible. How about you?

For persecuted Christians the need to be flexible is essential. For some who have come out of very regimented and controlled religious backgrounds it is a big change. For others it is a case of needing to be flexible to avoid beatings and worse. But once the new one is tasted it is, for many, worth the cost.

https://justgiving.com/fundraising/AdrianSmith6060

Please don’t forget it’s the Open Doors UK “Standing Strong” event on Saturday night. There is still time to sign up even if it means recording Strictly..!

Life with the long green tube..

Since I last posted I have had the catheter removed (yay!) but am having to adjust to a life of self-cathetising. This is something I need to do around four times a day as I am no longer able to pass water naturally. It has been quite a change to routine, with everything revolving around it. I have had to learn how to do it by trial and error, to adapt and face the fear and bits of pain. To know that the next one is coming and face up to it.

How do accommodate major, unwanted changes to your routine? To be honest, though I’m coping I’m tired and it has stirred up a range of emotions. Fear and resentment, of feeling overwhelmed have mingled with acceptance and a recognition that what I have to go through is so much less than many. It is easy to let this dominate life but God is so much bigger. By the beach yesterday it was great to see the beauty of the early morning as well as the rose in my garden. I was watching Songs of Praise earlier and a lady was on there had endured daily headaches for years and many brain ops. She defined Hope as Holding On Past Empty and had a cake making enterprise. Beauty out of difficulty.

Persecuted Christians face the same range of emotions that we go through. I was reading of a Cuban pastor who had been placed in a high security prison who was really struggling with what he was going through. Elderly pastors in Eritrea 🇪🇷 being re-arrested after a brief period of release. Prisoners in jail in Iran (and many other countries) with very limited access to health care for their medical conditions. They go through every gamut of emotion as they try and cope. Sometimes they are strong and sometimes weak but they find God is faithful.

Please do pray for those who are having to make significant adjustments in their lifes right now, such as Afghan refugees. And consider coming along to the annual Open Doors conference this coming Saturday 25th via Zoom (or similar) where you can hear first hand from those who have gone through persecution. And, whatever your circumstances, may God uphold you!

https://justgiving.com/fundraising/AdrianSmith6060

Challenge and opportunity (or success by degrees)

Most things in life come with threat and opportunity intertwined. Sometimes we have the option to stay in our comfort zone; other times there is no going back or staying where we are. My youngest daughter got her degree results today; the choice now is what to do next and the challenge of finding a job. Leaving behind the familiar and known. Going she knows not where. Threat and opportunity stand together as she contemplates the next stage of life.

My daughter got a high 2:2 incidentally. Unremarkable you may say. But I am so proud of Natalie because she overcame so many challenges along the way and seriously contemplated giving up. But she didn’t, she stuck at it and got her degree. Talent is an element in achieving success but a will to keep going is often much more so. By the way, if anyone knows of opportunities for a passionate wildlife conservation graduate do get in touch!

For so many persecuted Christians threat and opportunity are intertwined. A Chinese student may lose grades or not get a degree because of their faith. Others in the middle east may find their job chances severely curtailed. But at the same time many find opportunities to share their faith and talk of finding a richness in their life they didn’t have before. Jesus taught that death to self is necessary to truly live. Finding a pearl in a field, a merchant sold all he had to get it. So many Christians around the world know real threats but for them there is something much greater worth having. Will you support them?

https://justgiving.com/fundraising/AdrianSmith6060

Control

Control is in many ways essential. It allows things to operate as they are designed. If I can’t control my car properly, it crashes. A failure to appropriately control my temper results in damaging words and actions. Not controlling the temperature and length of cooking results in a burnt meal.

I grew up in a household where having everything under control was afforded high priority. I learned that creating an illusion of control was important (and to avoid the things I wasn’t great at).

During 60@60 I learned to control a lot of things (though not without stress and fear at times). It was often good to face that stretching. But now with a bag on my leg it in many ways controls me and walking relatively short distances is a challenge, though I am adapting.

How do we react when our control is taken away? I’ve found in a way that it affected my identity and picture of who I was. But, within that it was important to swallow my pride and let others help me. And to let God hold me. I hope the attached song speaks to you.

For all those persecuted Christians in countries like Myanmar, Iran and North Korea where the state tries to control everything, being in control is hard. But even though the choices are limited and the implications grave, people still choose to follow Jesus; to love and to forgive.

To find out more about persecuted Christians please watch the short video below. The 60@60 fund is still open too-now less than £120 away from £7 000!

Blessings and thanks.

https://justgiving.com/fundraising/AdrianSmith6060

A time for everything..

Ecclesiastes 3 in the Bible talks about there being a time for everything…a time to laugh and a time to cry; a time to live and a time to die among other things. I was struck reading Mark that “when his time had come” Jesus started his ministry. There is significance both in not missing things but also in not forcing something before it’s time.

What is it time for in your life? It could be a small thing or the start of something greater. But whatever it is “seize the day” if it’s a good thing and seek grace and strength if it’s more difficult.

I have had quite a few painful moments with my catheter but it slowly seems to be settling down with no blood loss today so far. Moving around is a bit easier too. Just need to keep adapting.

We have been dogsitting this week or rather Nat has. 36kg of very large dog!

Sometimes we look after our animals better than people. Cows are revered in Hinduism in India but Christians in many areas are beaten and abused. Yet all people are special. It is challenging to love your enemies when your time for persecution comes yet so many pray for their enemies.

Thanks as ever for your interest.

https://justgiving.com/fundraising/AdrianSmith6060