The Power of Love

 

I used to think that the bible was full of rules that you had to stick to, and if you didn't you would feel the wrath of The Almighty. But after years of reading, and rereading the pages, I've realised that the bible is a manual with lovingly written advice on how to get the best out of life. You have to know the heart behind the words to understand the tone, and sentiment, and how it's intended to be received.

 

I've known the feeling of hurt, guilt, and shame from not heeding those life-giving nuggets of wisdom, and I've also know the freedom from taking them to heart and putting them into practise.

 

You see, God isn't a dictator, He's a loving Father. He wants the very best for you and I, so He's given us some amazing guidelines on how to try and achieve that.

 

God is love. That's His DNA. Every decision He makes is in the name of love, and because we are His beloved children He wants us to feel loved, know his love, and to pass it on to those around us.

 

'To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides' ~ David Viscott

 

So what is love?

 

1 Corinthians 13 v 1-8

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”

 

From this passage in Corinthians we can see that love is not just a feeling. Love is a choice. We have to choose to be patient, we have to choose to not keep any records of wrong. We have to choose to always protect, always trust, always hope and always persevere. Sometimes we won't feel the love, and sometimes we won't feel like choosing to do these things, and these are the time when we have to make that decision to do them anyway.

 Love Does.

I've just finished reading a wonderful book by Bob Goff called 'Love Does.'

I had the privilege of hearing Bob talk early last year, and I immediately fell for his charisma and zest for life. Everything Bob does is in the name of love. That's his driving force. It's hard not to be inspired by him, and to be in total awe of him, whilst listening to him share his stories of lavishing love on people. Like the time he instantly forgave the old lady who crashed into his car, and still to this day sends her flowers to help her get over it. Or the time he redirected his town's parade so that his dying neighbour could watch it from her living room window.

Bob's love is not fake, and it's not forced. It makes me wonder if, after choosing love time and time, and time, again, it just becomes part of your DNA. It just becomes who you are.

Bob could be an exception to the rule, but I think he's definitely an example of what can happen when love doesn't just stop at a feeling and is put into action.

 

So, in this month of 'Love', let's not just think about the feelings we get when we think of that special someone, but rather, let's make choices to pursue those things in 1 Corinthians, and lavish love on the people around us.

 

 

Let's spread some love.

 

 

Oh Hello Beau   

Oh Hello Beau

 

 

In these next two weeks leading up to Valentine's Day, please join me in posting photos on Instagram of our 'lavishing love' moments, using the caption 'Love is....'

Let's have some fun, thinking outside of the box, and be as creative as possible.

 

On Valentine's Day I will pick my favourite, who will win one of these gorgeous block hearts (pictured above) from our friends at Oh Hello Beau. Remember to tag @be_lovedbeloved in your posts so that I can see them, and I'll even re-share some of my favourites along the way.

 

And as the famous 'Frankie goes to Hollywood' song says....

 

"The power of love

A force from above

Cleaning my soul

 

Make love your goal."

 

As always,

Love and be loved,

 

Gemma x 

My 2016 book list.

 

Every year, a few days before New Year's Eve, I like to take some time out to reflect back on the year I have just had, and set myself some challenging, yet attainable, goals for the year ahead of me. I usually set the goals with a group of close friends, and we keep each other accountable throughout the year. I find that having my friends involved means that I try harder to accomplish what I set out to do.

My goals usually comprise of 4 different areas; Spiritual, Family & Friends, Work, Health & Lifestyle.

Last year, amongst my list of goals, I set myself a target of reading at least 6 books that would either help me, or encourage me, spiritually.

I'm happy to say that I managed to read 12 books last year, which did actually surprise me a little!

The majority of the books were extremely encouraging and definitely had an impact on me in one way or another, and so I have decided to share 10 of them with you, in the hope that you may be encouraged too.

Amazingly 4 out of the 10 books were written by people within my church family, which I think is pretty awesome!

 

These are not in rating order, but in the order I read them;

 

Jesus the one and only - Beth Moore

 

Summary;

An in-depth study of the life and ministry of Jesus. In Jesus the One and Only, Beth Moore introduces readers to an intimate Saviour as they get a close-up and personal portrait of the life of Jesus the Messiah. This is far more than just a work on the life of Christ. As He has done in the past, God uses Beth's words to woo the reader into a romance with the One and Only. The reader comes to know Christ personally, watching and listening as He breaks up a funeral by raising the dead, confronts conniving religious leaders of His day, teaches on a Galilean hillside or walks on the waves and calms the storm.

My thoughts;

This book was a perfect start to 2016 for me, as it helped me understand Jesus in a much deeper way. Beth's angle, and the way she presents Jesus to the reader, helped me with areas where I'd struggled to see compassion. This book helped shape the rest of my year especially with reading the bible.

 

In Security - Ems Hancock

 

Summary;

Insecurity is based on doubt. It asks deep questions like “Do I matter? Am I important? Am I loved?” It also asks shallower questions like, “Do I suit this skirt? Can I get away with this haircut?”

Whoever you are and whatever you do, you will have times when you feel insecure.

This book offers practical, simple ways to apply biblical truth when insecurity strikes.

My thoughts;

In Security highlighted areas in my life that I needed to work on and helped me to work those out with the help of scripture. Ems is a brilliant writer and manages to weave her infectious humour with her knowledge and wisdom. I'd definitely recommend this book for anyone struggling with niggling insecurities.

 

Facing my past, unlocking the future - Christie Spurling

 

Summary;

In Facing My Past; Unlocking the Future Christie recounts how he was given up at birth and placed in a children’s home before being adopted into a loving family.  He shares his journey from being an angry, hurting child to the steps God led him on to becoming the founder and CEO of an award-winning youth charity, N-Gage.

This book is a challenging, honest and true story of healing and restoration; of coming to understand the love of a Heavenly Father and the support of a faithful family.

My thoughts;

I have always known parts of Christie's story, but through reading his book, it helped me to see the full extend of the journey he has been on and how God's hand has been on him right from day one. N-Gage is a charity I freelance for and support wholeheartedly.

 

Life begins when you choose - Joyce Gbeleyi

 

Summary;

These true stories of women in Manchester, each from a very different background, reveal lives transformed as they encountered Jesus through their church communities.

The stories are easy-to-read but many are hard-hitting; they tell of how much we need God in our lives to bring us from hopelessness

My thoughts;

It was an absolute pleasure to share my story in this book, and to read the incredible stories from other women within my church community. I'm sure they have had a huge impact on the people who have read them.

 

Born to create - Theresa Dedmon

 

Summary;

Offering a launching pad for you to burst into the realm of creative expression—that fun, fantasy world where the Creator is waiting to welcome you. There is a connection between creativity, your identity, the Church, and the world—and it is an important connection. Creativity is tied to all believers’ identity, all who are made in the image of the Creator, all who are born to create! Overflowing with many thrilling, modern-day testimonies, Born to Create emphasises the magnitude of both craft—practice and excellence—as well as anointing. Many who have been freed to embrace their creative ideas and passions, whether in the art fields, business, or education, share their amazing stories with you. Their freedom allowed them to powerfully release healing, the prophetic, and the knowledge of God’s love into the marketplace. Live creatively, friends.

My thoughts;

This book opened my eyes to how much God wants us to use creativity everyday and challenged and inspired me to use my creative gifting differently, especially within worship and prophecy.

 

Beloved - Rachel Gardner

 

Summary;

I hope that reading this book will help you to wake up to God's love in fresh, even unexpected, ways. This is your one, wild life. The only way to live it well is to live well in love. The only way to live well in love is to let God love you, and others through you.

This will change everything.

Don't settle for being defined by glamour, social media status or anything else. You are worth so, so, so much more.

My thoughts;

Beloved has exactly the same heartbeat as the Be Loved course. If you want to know what Be Loved is all about before you invest in the course, then read this book!  It blew me away that God whispered such a similar message to both Rachel and I, at similar times, without us knowing each other.

 

The Sisterhood - Bobby Houston

 

Summary;

The Sisterhood explores God's vision for women: what they should believe about God, themselves, and their ability to make the world a better place. Bobbie shows readers how to embrace and implement that vision in every aspect of their lives, helping them to discover their gifts and talents, and includes personal stories from women around the world. The book concludes with a challenge to join the worldwide 'Sisterhood' movement, motivated by the belief that if one woman can change the lives around her, then a united group of women can change the world.

My thoughts;

The Sisterhood is an inspiring journey of how something can grow from a seed to a huge oak tree. Bobby's story tells us how she listened to God's direction, and acted in obedience, which has resulted in her growing an incredible ministry, that impacts the lives of so many women all around the globe.

 

The search for home - Beatrice Smith

 

Summary;

In April 1994, ten-year-old Beatrice came face to face with the Rwandan genocide when machete wielding killers burst into her family’s home, seeking their lives. Forced to flee, Beatrice and her family found themselves moving from one country to another in search of safety and rest. Destitute refugees, they faced innumerable challenges along the way, but also experienced God’s provision and miraculous rescue. Now settled in the UK, Beatrice reflects on the tumultuous journey that brought her here and how God worked healing and restoration. Told through the eyes of a child, The Search for Home is an inspirational story that gives insight into the plight of millions of refugees today.

My thoughts;

Beatrice's story hit me hard when she shared parts of it with me personally over coffee one day. You will not believe what you are reading at times, and how God spared the lives of not just her, but her whole family, during such an awful and devastating time. This story is full of hope, bravery and miracles.

 

Love does - Bob Goff

 

As a college student he spent 16 days in the Pacific Ocean with five guys and a crate of canned meat. As a father he took his kids on a world tour to eat ice cream with heads of state. He made friends in Uganda, and they liked him so much he became the Ugandan consul. He pursued his wife for three years before she agreed to date him. His grades weren't good enough to get into law school, so he sat on a bench outside the Dean's office for seven days until they finally let him enroll.

Bob Goff has become something of a legend, and his friends consider him the world's best-kept secret. Those same friends have long insisted he write a book. What follows are paradigm shifts, musings, and stories from one of the world's most delightfully engaging and winsome people. What fuels his impact? Love. But it's not the kind of love that stops at thoughts and feelings. Bob's love takes action. Bob believes Love Does.

When Love Does, life gets interesting. Each day turns into a hilarious, whimsical, meaningful chance that makes faith simple and real. Each chapter is a story that forms a book, a life. And this is one life you don't want to miss.

Light and fun, unique and profound, the lessons drawn from Bob's life and attitude just might inspire you to be incredible too.

My thoughts;

I fell in love with Bob's enthusiasm, love for life, and the people he meets, when I first heard him talk early last year. I wanted to get my hands on his book ever since then, but didn't actually get it until this Christmas. When I finally had it in my hands, it only took me two days to read it! Bob shows that love isn't a feeling, it's an action, and when we show people incredible love, incredible things happen.

 

Scars accross humanity - Elaine Storkey

 

Every three seconds, a girl under the age of 18 is married somewhere across the world usually without her consent and sometimes to a much older man. Combining rigorous research and compelling personal testimonies, Elaine Storkey investigates the different forms of violence experienced by women across the globe today. From female infanticide and child brides to domestic abuse, prostitution, rape and honour killings, violence against women occurs at all stages of life, and in all cultures and societies. How and why has this violence become so prevalent? Storkey examines the answers that are commonly offered, including theories based on evolutionary psychology and the rise of patriarchal power structures. She also considers the role that religion can play for good or ill in the struggle against this universal injustice.

My thoughts;

To be completely honest, this has been quite a tough read so I haven't finished it yet, but I felt it was really important to include in this list. I think in the past I've made the decision to turn a blind eye to what goes on in the world, but reading this has made me more determined to stand up for those without a voice, and shout against injustice. If you're up for the challenge then I'd recommend you read this book too.

 

So that's my top 10 for 2016. I'm currently reading 'Reasons to stay alive' by Matt Haig and next on my list is 'Dirty Glory' by Pete Greig. If you have any book suggestions for me for this year then I'd love to hear them.

 

Also, if you read any books from my list please let me know what you thought of them.

 

Wishing a happy and healthy new year to you all!

 

Love and be loved,

 

Gemma x

 

 

Set her up to win.

 

 

Following on from my last post about winning, it got me thinking a lot about races, especially marathons.

 

Life can feel very similar to a race. We're all taking part in it, we're all heading in the same direction, Some of us are more able than others, some clearly more energetic and enthusiastic than others, but ultimately we're all in it together.

During a race, especially a marathon, there are only a handful of runners who know they could possibly win, to actually cross that finishing line first. Everyone else taking part is in it for a personal gain, to cross the finishing line, no matter where they are placed.

Most marathon runners know they won't come first, but that doesn't stop them wanting to race. They are still going to push themselves as hard as they can, even though they know there is no chance they will win. They do this because crossing that finishing line, no matter where they are placed, means that they are a winner. They won their own race. They set themselves a goal, and they did it. They don't care how many people finished before them, the fact they took part in it, and succeeded, is what counts.

Have you ever watched a marathon and seen the determination on people's faces, then the pure joy when they have finished the race?

“You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.

I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.”

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 MSG

Like I said, life is like that race. We all have our personal goals, and even when people seem to be winning ahead of us, we need to keep our eyes fix on the prize and keep on going. We need to remember that we're not running against other people, we're running with people, towards the finishing line.

During a race there are people there who are only there to help you win. There's the event organisers, the marshals, the people handing out refreshments, the first aid people and the supporters. They aren't there to race but they're there to help you race. They're there to help you win.

This year I attended the Cherish conference in Leeds. It was a brilliant conference that had some incredible international speakers, but it was the opening message by the conference organiser, Charlotte Gambill, that has stuck with me ever since. The message was entitled 'Set her up to win', you can listen to the full message here.

The message was a challenge to us all to not be envious or jealous when our friends are achieving greater things than us, but to support them and cheer them on. By praying for them, loving them, supporting them along the way, setting them up to win means you will also win. Their win will be your win too.

“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honour, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”

Hebrews 12:1-3 MSG

When I think about my journey with Be Loved, it hasn't just been me running alone in this race, there has been a whole host of people in it with me.

When my family tell me they're proud of me, they are setting me up to win.

When my friend Emma looks me in the eyes and tells me she believes in me, she is setting me up to win.

When my friend Beatrice tells me I'm brilliant and that I can do this, she is setting me up to win.

When my friend Hannah sat for hours and hours with me and helped me make sense of it all, she was setting me up to win.

When my friend Charlotte helps me with business ideas, she is setting me up to win.

When my friend Lucy took photos of me for my profile, she was setting me up to win.

When my other friend Lucy filmed me for a promotional video, she was setting me up to win.

When my friend Katie edited the Be Loved journal, she was setting me up to win. 

When my friends Hannah and Hannah helped me trial the Be Loved course, they were setting me up to win.

When my whatsaap group of brilliant ladies say they will pray for me, they are setting me up to win.

When my friend Avril drops me an encouraging text or email telling me she's praying for me and cheering me on, she's setting me up to win.

When my friends Emma, Carly, Lucy, Jo, Abi and Leoni tell me I can do it, even when I think I can't, they are all setting me up to win.

When you, my followers, like or share a post or make a positive comment, you are all setting me up to win.

I'm thankful for all the people in my life that are doing this race with me, and I hope that my wins are their wins too.

I also hope that in return they can see that I'm trying to set them up to win. When I say I'll help, I try my best to do all I can to help. When I say I'll pray, I keep those things safe in my heart so I remember to pray. I try to cheer my friends on as best I can and speak positivity into their races.

 

Beloved, keep your eyes fixed on the prize and run your race with grace and perseverance. Setting people up to win along the way. These verses in Philippians sum it up perfectly...

 

“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

 

So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.

 

Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites.

 

But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Saviour, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.”

Philippians 3:12-21 MSG

 

Thank you for running this race with me.

 

Love and be loved

 

Gemma x