Welcome to the Patchwork Blog! I hope you enjoy reading my random thoughts about life, Jesus and the freedom he offers.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Brown paper packages tied up with string

This post first appeared on More Than Writers the blog of the Association of Christian Writers, on September 16th 2016. 

The  Lord has been speaking to me about resting in Him over the last few months. Resting in God is something I know about in theory but am very poor at doing in practise. In practise resting in God means letting go of things. But I frequently don't want to let go of these things.
Now the rest of God is not a rest from work—it’s a rest in work. It’s partnering with God to do what He is calling you to do by His grace, and leaving the part you can’t do in His hands, trusting Him to do it.
  Joyce Meyer

Photo - Kate Ter Haar 
I remember going on a retreat to a convent many years ago. There was a nun leading some of the sessions. I don't remember her name but I do remember her talking about leaving things with God. She spoke about imagining that we had wrapped up our problems in brown paper packages (Are you now singing 'My Favourite Things' from The Sound of Music to yourself? I was when I wrote this). She told us to imagine ourselves leaving our brown paper packages at the foot of the cross with Jesus. 
I am quite a visual person so I found this helpful. I even manage to take her advice sometimes. I leave my parcels at the foot of the cross, neat parcels of brown paper tied up with string, 'To God, Love Lynda xxx' written on the front. So far so good, you may be thinking. But, my problem is leaving them there. I go back to the parcels and start opening them again. I try to peep under the paper like a child with her Christmas presents under the tree. I keep looking at my parcels, wondering what God will do with them. I can't leave them alone. 

At other times, I don't get around to wrapping my problems up for God. I leave them sitting around the lounge of my mind, wrapping paper in a pile, unused. I trip over the unwrapped problems, stubbing my toe on them, or worse. Life gets uncontrollable, with unwrapped problems littering my head, making life difficult. I may even spend time with God, telling him about my problems but I keep them firmly in my hands. I don't leave them with Him, at the foot of the cross. I walk away from my time with Him, parcels of problems still firmly in my arms.

I find it so hard to leave my problems with God. But I want to change. God is speaking to me about resting in Him. He wants me to allow Him to take my burdens. He longs to take my burdens. I know I have a long way to go in this but I am on the way. I won't give up. I will keep going to God,  brown paper packages in my arms and I will leave them at the foot of the cross even if I have to leave the same package many times, re-wrapped many times. They say practise makes perfect! 

What about you? Are you able to leave your brown paper packages of problems at the foot of the cross?  

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Being Loved

First published on my regular spot on More Than Writers, the blog of the Association of Christian Writers, on 16th March 2016

I used to be desperate to be married, but to this day I remain single. Kind-hearted people would tell me 'God loves you'. They wanted me to know I was loved beyond measure by the God of the universe. My reaction was to think 'but He has to love me, He is God'. I wanted someone to choose to love me. I didn't see God's love as a choice somehow.

I wanted someone to choose to love me with all my heart. I instinctively knew it was not good to refuse the love of God 'because He has to love you'. I could never work out why I thought like that though. Why did I think a man would be better than God?

Today it came to me. I wanted any love I received to be because of me. I wanted to have earned the love I received by who I was. I was living a salvation by works, even though outwardly I professed a salvation by faith. I wanted to find a man who would love me because I had earned his love. I wanted to control who loved me and how deeply they loved me by my good behaviour. It was all about me being in control of another person's love - even when that other person is God.

I have learned now to simply accept God's love and it took a major crisis of faith for me to learn this (you can read more about this time of my life in my book He Never Let Go). I now see His love is better. It is better exactly because it doesn't depend on me. I don't have to earn it. I am loved no matter what I do. It depends on Him. It depends on the amazing grace of Father God in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ who died for us. He is Love. He cannot help but love me as He is love. 

I now see there is such freedom in this, such grace. I am loved and it doesn't depend on my earning it. Now I have learned to surrender more to the love of God it has led to the most wonderful by product. In my surrender to His love I have found freedom from food addiction (to read more about my freedom from food addiction read my book Being Known). That freedom tastes so good! Praise God.

So if you read this and you find yourself still wishing to find someone who will choose to love you, if you think that God's love is not enough because He has to love you, I want to ask you a question. Try to answer it as honestly as you can. Are you trying to earn love? Are you wanting to be in control of who loves you and who doesn't by how you behave? True love is not earned. It is given freely. If it has to be earned it is not true love. True love depends on the giver of the love not on the receiver of it. 

My prayer today is that you will learn to yield completely to the love that God has to offer. It is the way to true freedom. 

Monday, 14 December 2015

When the rubber hits the road

I have been challenged over recent months to change the way I think, especially in the area of gratitude and what I think about myself. It is so easy to say 'Trust the Lord' or 'look at God not your situation'. I often listen to the song 'Turn your eyes upon Jesus'. I particularly enjoy the Hillsongs version. But I am going to be honest with you. I am not turning my eyes upon Jesus. Not really. Not most of the time. What I am actually doing is looking at my situation and outwardly saying I trust God. I often say I am going to trust God but I am not trusting Him. I say He is the centre of my life but then fill it with other things instead. I say I am grateful for all He does for me and then never thank Him. 

I worry a lot. I have been especially anxious over recent months. There is always too much month left at the end of the money and bills seem overwhelming. But when I look back at what God has done for me before I find no basis for my worry. Jesus has never let me go without the things I need. During a time of unemployment, when I didn't have the money for my mortgage, I got a letter from my bank saying 'We mis-sold you PPI. Please fill in this form and we will repay you'. The amount I got was enough for the mortgage. I hadn't even considered applying for this as I didn't think I qualified for it. At the beginning of this year I was off sick for two and a half months following a knee replacement. Given I don't get full sick pay, and I am not eligible for mortgage relief from the government for 3 months of each claim, it was a worrying time. However, shortly after seeing my surgeon, I got a letter from the working tax credit department. They were back dating my claim and the payment was enough for 3 mortgage payments. I could go on but you will be relieved to know I will not. 

So why do I not remember these things in a time of need? Yet again, I focus on the situation and start worrying. I allow anxious thoughts to go round and round my mind. I have read the Word of God so why do I not believe it? I mean really believe it. I say the words. I mentally assent to the truth but when the rubber hits the road...I worry instead of believing. I believe the first worrying thought that pops into my mind. 

And it is not just in the area of provision. I say that as a Christian I should love everyone but then I come up against someone I find difficult to get along with for one reason or another. I find myself hating this person not loving them. I may not say this out loud but I am thinking it. This happened recently to me. I was feeling very angry and hateful towards someone with whom I am in regular contact. At first I wallowed in my negativity. I felt justified in it. This person was causing pain and upset to someone I really like and respect. But my attitude was not Christ-like. This is where the rubber hits the road as far as being a Christian goes. I speak of a God of love but can I love the unlovely as He does? I decided I needed to change my attitude. While still acknowledging that the person was in fact in the wrong in one area that was causing pain  to others, I also realised that I needed to get along with them and see them as Jesus does.

I started by giving thanks for this person. It was really hard to do. It took every once of will power to say it to God. 'Lord I thank you for X'. I asked God to help me and then just did it- as an act of my will. The more I gave thanks for this person the more I found my attitude changing.  Day by day I worked on this until I could pray for them with love. I am now able to get along with this person much more easily. I can pray that God will bring this person into His Kingdom and I mean it. But it was hard work. It was spiritual warfare. 

Paul in Philippians 2:12 says the following . 

'Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear' (NLT)
It is really hard work to change the way we think. In my experience it takes a combination of will power and the Holy Spirit.  If I tell myself 'I can't help it', 'I can't change' then I will never change. If I tell myself 'I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength' (Philippians 4:13) and repeat the truth of it to myself again and again my heart will gradually change. If I thank God for the person I find so difficult He will change me by the power of the Holy Spirit. For me it goes to the heart of my faith. If the blood of Jesus is as powerful as I believe it is then I can work with God to change my thoughts.

The Christian life is not easy. Believing God above your circumstances is not easy (no prizes for spotting the massive understatement!). But boy is it rewarding. I feel so much more peace now I have learned to love this difficult person with the love that God has given me. The hate was so much more tiring. I am now working on my anxiety and worry. And I know I will be successful. For I know in whom I have believed. He died to set me free. This is real spiritual warfare. Allowing God to change our hearts.

What one thought can you ask God to help you begin to change?

Blessings to you all.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Worshipping Father in spirit and truth

It may be a daft question but do you give God your problems? I meant do you really give them to Him? 

Or do you do what I often do...struggle with my problem alone, try to work out the solution and then ask God to do that thing for me. All the while feeling stressed and under pressure to do the right thing. 

I realised a while back that this is what I have a tendency to do. I don't always really give God my problems. I keep them all myself and then try to work it all out alone. If I can't work out the solution I sink into a depressed or stressed state that it takes a while to get away from again. 

Just recently, having realised this was what I was doing, I tried to consciously give God my problems. At first though, I thought, how do I do this? How do I actually give God my problems? I know He wants them but how to do I give them to Him?

Then I made a decision to start to pray as soon as I got home from work. I started going to my room, closing the door, putting on praise music and just pouring out my heart to Him about all that was worrying me. I asked Him to show me the way round my problem. I verbally dumped it all on Him, warts and all. Every thought, as it really first appeared in my mind, is what I poured out to God. 

The amazing thing was that when I did that God started to change me. He kept the troubled feelings and gave me His peace instead. I realised it was because I was truly coming to Him, as I was. I was coming to Him in truth. 

"But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way." John 4:23
In the above Scripture Jesus says Father God wants those who will worship Him in Spirit and truth. He wants us to be real, to be who we really are. It is the only way He can change us. Try it and see. 

So, ask yourself, am I being real with God. Am I bringing my real self to Him? I can trust Him with my real self. He is more loving, more compassionate and more merciful that we can ever know. Pour out your heart to Him. You can trust Him. He is indeed your refuge. 

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Remember what God has done for you

I was interviewed by Carol Graham of Never Ever Give Up Hope a few months ago. She was asking me about how Jesus never let me go despite a major crisis of faith, how He set me free from food addiction in the process. The interview went live this week. And Carol sent me the link. I listened to my interview for the first time and it almost brought me to tears. I speak about what happened to me but I don't sit and listen to myself say it. 

It was amazing to go back and hear what God has done for me. I was swept up again into the emotions of the time and was reminded of what God said and what it felt like to be there. 

Various Bible characters at times would leave an altar or a memorial of sorts in places where they had met God. It reminded them of what God had done for them. 

"But then I recall all you have done, O LORD; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago." Psalm 77:11

It is sometimes good to go back over what God has done and remember his power, his love and mercy. 

What has God done for you that you have forgotten?  Remember the deeds of the Lord that you have now forgotten. Encourage yourself in the Lord. 

If you want to hear what encouraged me so the other day then here is the link to the interview on iTunes. 

Remember what God has done. Count your blessings both past and present! 

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Discovering our Father's Heart

This post first appeared as my regular contribution to the More than Writers blog of the Association of Christian Writers on Sunday 16th August 2015

One thing I have learned over the last few years, above all else, has transformed my life. It was one of the final things on my journey to freedom from food addiction and it helped me deal with the pain of unwanted long term singleness. This life changing teaching is discovering the Father Heart of God. For most of my Christian life I have identified closely with Jesus. He is my Saviour, my Friend, and my Lord. He died to save me and I am eternally grateful. However, I used to spend more time thanking Jesus for forgiving my sin than enjoying the outcome of my salvation. What do I mean by that? Is there is a difference you may ask?

When I was training with Church Army, one assignment I had was to read the whole gospel of Mark in one sitting. It was an amazing experience, which took about two hours or so. I read about a man, Jesus, who had two main passions in his life: his love for people and his love for his Father in Heaven. His greatest desire was to bring the two together. He wanted them to know each other and love each other.

I knew Jesus but I didn't really know the love of the Father. I started reading around the subject of God’s Father Heart. With each book I read the Holy Spirit spoke clearer to me that what I really needed was the love of Father God. The final book I read in this part of my search was ‘I am your Father’ by Mark Stibbe. It really spoke powerfully to me. In it Stibbe talks about some of us having an orphan heart. As I read his description of an orphan heart I knew this was the state of my own heart. This was the emptiness I had been trying to fill with food. I started to pray that God would reveal his Father love to me. It was a prayer that my Papa God answered quickly.

One thing that really helped me to discover the Father Heart of God was listening to ‘The Father’s Love Letter’. This is a letter written by Barry Adams based on truth from Scripture. Each line in this letter is taken from the Bible. I found it profoundly moving. I still do. You can read it or watch it here. It can be downloaded for free as a document, a video or audio file. A few years ago I played it frequently, sometimes on a loop for 30 minutes or more. On different days different phrases would touch me and reduce me to tears, but the truth of it began to sink into my heart.

Jesus died to bring us to the Father, so we could experience his Father’s love for us.  The ltter ends with these words “I have always been Father, and will always be Father. My question is…Will you be my child?” He is already our Father but will we be His child?

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Wrestling with God

A version of this post first appeared in my regular slot on the blog for the Association of Christian Writers, More than Writers on 16th July 2015

My post this month is inspired by having read a post on Crosswalk.com, How Wrestling with God will change you forever by Dena Johnson,. In it Dena talks about Jacob wrestling with God. She pointed out something I hadn’t noticed before (I love it when that happens don’t you?). She showed us how Jacob changed how he referred to God after his divine wrestling match.  Before his encounter with God we read this,

 “Then Jacob prayed, O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, 'Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,' (Gen 32:9)

After his encounter with God Jacob is given the name Israel and we read that, 
 “There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel [God, the God of Israel].” Gen 33:20 .

Before his wrestling encounter Jacob describes God as the God of his father and grandfather, but afterwards he speaks of more personally by referring to the God of Israel. Wrestling with God actually brought Jacob closer to Him.  

And boy oh boy can I identify with that. Over the last 6 years I’ve struggled with God, as I went through all kinds of pain, doubt and loss. At the time I was going through it I didn’t imagine it would have the blessed outcome that it did. I felt like a failure.  I was an evangelist with no faith, a food addict and my dreams were in pieces around my feet. Like Jacob I was alone, and like Jacob I fought with God for a blessing. But like Jacob I came out of my experiences with a far strong relationship with God.

While writing my book, He Never Let Go, about my experiences I realised that prior to this a lot of my faith was actually faith in the Church with God supporting this. Now my faith is in God with the Church supporting. I didn’t realise how much I was piggy-backing on other people’s faith until I found myself wrestling with God alone.

But I am so glad God trusted me with that experience. It has ultimately brought me much blessing. I have been freed from food addiction and am gradually getting back to some kind of ministry with my writing. Knowing that what I write helps others is a huge blessing.

Sign up for Seeking the Healer
 at www.lyndaalsford.com
I recently started writing a regular email newsletter, Seeking the Healer, for those seeking freedom from addictive behaviours especially food addiction/compulsive overeating/binge eating disorder (see previous editions here). In it I share some of the things that I have learned on my journey to freedom that will encourage you on your own journey to freedom. I've already been blessed by receiving emails from readers who have been helped and are engaging more with God in their search for freedom - the ultimate blessing for me. If you would like to receive the newsletter please sign up here, or go to www.lyndaalsford.com where there is a sign up link on the home page.

If you are wrestling with God, please don’t give up. The blessing you receive is so worth sticking with your divine wrestling match. Stick with God, He will never let go of you. He loves you.