Breaking down the barriers

Do you ever feel like you’re up against a barrier?

The password you’ve forgotten – so you can’t check your phone bill. The road that’s been closed – so you can’t get to work on time. The property prices that are soaring – so you can’t buy a house. The job you’re not qualified for – so you can’t pursue your dream career. Maybe even the colour of your skin, gender, additional need or age – perhaps this causes you to miss out on opportunities or even not to be treated as equal with other people.

God puts up no barriers

God puts up no barriers. I do, though – I want a relationship with him on my terms, and will pick and choose which bits of my life I’ll let him be sovereign over. “I’ll do anything you want me to do, Lord… so long as I don’t have to give up my own comfort!” I put up a barrier between myself and him.

The Bible’s first example of people putting up a barrier between themselves and God comes very, very early on. God has just created a world which is perfect. He has created human beings. The human beings are free, and don’t even feel any shame about being naked. They have something useful to do, caring for God’s wonderful world. They’re following God’s ways perfectly and he is totally present with them — no barriers! Then they break the one rule God has given them, effectively turning their backs on him. God calls out to them – not scolding, but longing to find them and walk with them once more. It’s too late. Their wrongdoing has put up a barrier.

It’s therefore not surprising that the barrier (human refusal to listen to God) has continued to work itself out through the ages. Tragically, parts of the church have even been complicit in this, making it hard for people to enter God’s presence. Maybe you’ve experienced this (I have). If you have, I’m sorry.

God loves us too much to leave us like this. 

It was always God’s plan to smash down that barrier. So he gives us the best thing he has to give: his son. Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross smashes down the barrier between God and humans, taking our shame away. At the moment of Jesus’ death, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split…” (Matthew 27:51). The sound of it echoes in my ears, assuring me that I can stand confidently in God’s presence, that I can live in right relationship with him. He won’t shut me out.

If you’re hitting a barrier and you want to get to know your God again, don’t look at how many good deeds you’ve notched up this week. Don’t look at your gender, level of education, physical or mental strength, age or skin colour. Don’t even look at the leader of your local church (as helpful as I hope s/he is!). Look at Jesus.

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12)

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7)

If you’ve been encouraged by this post, please consider sharing it with someone else who would enjoy it. Thanks! 

Giveaway winner!

The random number generator picked comment number 5.

So the winner is…

Jo Briggs!

Jo, you have won a copy of ‘If You Forget Everything Else, Remember This – Parenting in the Primary Years’ by Katharine Hill – I’ll get it to you ASAP!

Thank you so much to everyone who commented and entered – look out for more giveaways coming soon!

The picture shows some lovely flowers from my friend Liz. Not related to the giveaway but a beautiful example of life to the full on my kitchen windowsill!

‘Remember This’ – the fifty likes GIVEAWAY!

Hooray! We’ve made it to 50 ‘likes’ (well 51 actually) on the Facebook page – THANK YOU! As promised in this post, I am now launching a giveaway to express my gratitude to anyone who’s ever read Living Life to the Full.

I recently published a blog post about brokenness, being imperfect, and Jesus’ work of restoring us into the image of our Creator. In this post, I mentioned something that had really helped me in my frailty as a parent – a parenting course run by a wonderful York-based parenting/relationships charity called Family Matters York. The fab FMY are linked to the larger national charity Care for the Family, which according to their website ‘aims to promote strong family life and to help those who face family difficulties’. Care for the Family was launched in 1988 by Rob Parsons (ever heard of the ‘Sixty Minute’ parenting/relationship book series? Rob’s handiwork!) and the charity now runs events and courses across the UK, and creates resources that are used all over the world. Their work is motivated by Christian faith, although their resources and support are available to everybody – of all faiths and none!

What’s all this got to do with the giveaway?!

One of Care for the Family’s regular contributors, Katharine Hill, has recently published a new book for parents of children of primary school age entitled ‘If You Forget Everything Else, Remember This – Parenting in the Primary Years’ . I had the privilege of hearing Katharine speak at CFF’s ‘Mum’s the Word’ tour when it came to York a couple of years ago, and she’s GREAT. Having had four children of her own, who are now starting to leave home, Katharine is a fount of wisdom on all things parent-y. So when I learned that she’d published a book about parenting children of primary school age, my ears pricked up and my glasses were even hunted down!

I don’t like those guilt-inducing parenting books or articles that tell me WHAT to do – I prefer a gentle approach. Being busy, I get on best with books which are sub-divided into manageable chunks. I’m also relatively new to parenting a child of primary school age – Freddie started Year One last month, and all those hours I spent at ante-natal classes debating the merits of gas-and-air versus pethidine seem to bear little relevance to the experiences we’re now having (oh OK, zero relevance – although gas-and-air still seems a good move on a weary day – any bribable midwives out there?!). Katharine has produced a book that ticks all my picky boxes. She has drawn on the Old Testament book of Proverbs and the wisdom contained therein to produce a book written in chatty stories and bite-sized chapters which you can dip in and out of. It’s a comfy and life-giving read.

The book can be got for £7.50 on the Care for the Family website. But, seeing as I think it’s great, I’m going to give away a free copy to one of you lovely blog-readers!

Here’s how the giveaway works

To enter, simply comment on this post and share with me the wisest piece of advice you’ve ever been given. I’ll go first: I was once advised that before reading the the Bible, it can really help to pray the prayer of Samuel – ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:9). It turned out to be great advice and has opened up the Scriptures to me time and again.

Over to you! Comment, and you will automatically be entered into the giveaway. You don’t have to be one of the Facebook likers – anyone can enter. You can comment within the actual blog below, or on the Facebook page  or on the Twitter feed.

The giveaway ends at midnight on Saturday 10th October. The winner will be chosen using a random number generator and will be announced on Sunday 11th. Just one comment per person, please!

Thank you!

THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED. CONGRATULATIONS TO JO WHO WAS THE WINNER!

With thanks to Jo Wells at Care for the Family.

Time for a giveaway!

Does anyone else feel it’s time we had a giveaway on the blog?

Yes, me too! The Facebook page for Living Life to the Full – Izzy’s Blog has been live for a few months now and it seems that a good many of you engage with the blog this way. I’ve been really encouraged by you guys ‘liking’, reading the blog, and sharing your experiences of having ‘life to the full’ (John 10:10). Thank you!

So, how about a giveaway?! Once we reach 50 ‘likes’ on the Facebook page, I will launch a giveaway on this blog. We’re at 39 likes at the time of writing, so it’s within our grasp! If you’re reading this post not-via-Facebook, the Facebook page can be found here, or via the link on the sidebar. The giveaway won’t be anything massive but will be something good!

So, let’s like! If you can think of friends who would enjoy Living Life to the Full, would you be so kind as to invite them to like the Facebook page? All you need to do is click on ‘Invite friends to like this page’ link under the group photo at the top. You will then be presented with a list of your Facebook friends – so invite away!

THANK YOU for helping me get my little blog out into the big world!

P.S.  The giveaway when it launches will be open to those who don’t have a Facebook account as well as those that do (although I’m not going to deter anyone who sets up a Facebook account especially so they can ‘like’ my page!)

P.P.S. Not relevant to the giveaway, but for those of you that tweet, the blog is linked to Twitter too – follow me by here or via the link on the sidebar. Thank you!

P.P.P.S. Is anyone else now feeling jolly about the fact that Facebook does seem to have its positive side?