Friday, 31 July
Hello again. What a glorious day today! Apparently, it's the hottest day of the year so far but not forecast to last, unfortunately.
As I remember, I was telling you how I came to Christ. I had attended an evangelical event at The Lifehouse Church in Eccles, to see Barry Woodward. Despite digging my heels in, the Lord was determined I was going to show up and I'm so glad I did!
The room was packed. Barry was not on until after the interval and I was entertained by other 'acts' but decided I might just sneak home at the interval. It was lashing down with rain, though, too far to walk home and I thought I might as well stick with it. After all, the bottle of wine waiting for me was going nowhere! Besides, I didn't want to appear rude and ungrateful to Tracy and Andrew.
Barry appeared and my first thought was "He's too loud!" After a while, my ears became accustomed to the volume and I was soon caught up in his story. It's fascinating and, of course, true - his life in Salford as a drug addict, his criminal history, his time spent in Strangeways Prison. He didn't spare the details and I was riveted, wanting to know more and how it would all end. I won't spoil it for you; suffice to say that the Lord stepped into this cynical young man's life, and turned it around for the better - so much better! In fact, he is now a world evangelist, heading up a Christian charity for prisoners. God has gifted him with a charismatic personality, fantastic public speaking abilities and self-deprecating humour - it's a powerful combination! I was highly entertained by his story and was glad I had decided to see him, after all. But that was all I thought there was to it....
At the end of Barry's story, he began talking about people's perspective of Jesus. He illustrated this by suggesting that some people would put Jesus in the boot of their car, only to bring him out on Sunday! "How awful", I thought, "that's not me!" Then he said that some people would have Jesus in the back of their car - still didn't sound right to me. Barry then talked of people who would have Jesus in their passenger seat - much better, I thought. But he topped this by stating that Jesus wants to be in the driving seat of your car - and that's when my life changed! I had what is commonly referred to as a 'lightbulb moment' as I realised, FINALLY, what this Christian business is all about! For a long time, even while attending church, I had stubbornly refused to let Jesus 'drive my car', preferring to drive myself - even though I can't drive - but that's not the issue. I wanted control of my own life. I didn't want Jesus to take control but now, after all these years, I knew where I had gone wrong.
Barry then suggested that if anyone knew they had not yet given their life to Jesus, now was the time. He prayed that people who wanted to receive Christ would do so now and that they should go to the back of the room, where members of the evangelical team were waiting to pray with them. I was the first up! I hadn't a shred of doubt at all that I was doing the right thing. I later found out that about ten people had come forward but I practically ran to the back. I had waited so long and wasted so many years but my chance was here again!
Tracy and Andrew were delighted but possibly not surprised as they had known I was getting ready to make this commitment. Tracy asked how I felt and I told her I just felt relieved - relieved that I had finally made the commitment which should have been made so long ago. I felt peaceful in myself and grateful to God for waiting for me for so long.
I went home armed with lots of literature and, ignoring the bottle of wine, sat and read the lot! I slept well and woke up the following day, knowing that something had changed - then I remembered and said to the Lord, "Oh yes - I'm one of yours now, aren't I?" I felt the physical touch of a hand stroking my head.
That was on Friday, 25 February 2011 and it was the most momentous decision I ever made. As I have said several times, my only regret is that I waited so long. I was afraid that committing to Christ would mean losing control of my life but I am here to tell you that surrendering control to my wonderful, loving Saviour was the best thing I ever did. I don't feel restricted - I just want to live my life as He wants me to. I have no doubt whatsoever that He has my best interests at heart.
So, if you are wondering "How do I become a Christian?" it is quite a simple process. Firstly, acknowledge that you are a sinner and can't save yourself. It says in the Bible that "our good deeds are as filthy rags to the Lord" and this sounds harsh but it just means that, no matter how good we think we are, we can never attain the standards of God. And He doesn't expect us to - He knows us and our faults and that is why He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross in order to take the punishment for our sins. He made this sacrifice purely because He loves us and wants a relationship with us.
So, secondly, you need to believe that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, and that He did indeed die on the cross and then was raised from the dead three days later. His resurrection is our release. It means that we are forgiven for our sins and can still be children of God.
Thirdly, just say a simple prayer. Tell Jesus you acknowledge your sins, realise you can't save yourself and believe that He died for you. Then invite Jesus into your life. And it really is as simple as that! Jesus doesn't turn anyone away, no matter how huge and terrible your past sins have been - He will forgive you if you only ask and believe.
Pretty heavy stuff this week? Maybe. I am just aware that, during these horrible, scary and worrying times, we need Jesus more than ever before. Don't delay - strike while the iron is hot, as they say!
Barry's book, incidentally, is called "Once an Addict" and is selling on Amazon for £3.99 in Kindle. I would highly recommend it.
I also want to share a beautiful song with you from an excellent Christian band, For King and Country. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jThYchneZvw
If you have enjoyed reading this blog, will you please share it? Have a lovely weekend. Stay safe and well God bless.
Love Ann ❤
Friday, 10 July
Hello again. It seems so long since I updated this blog but I have recently returned to work, working from home. So, I haven't had as much free time but have made a commitment to update regularly, every Friday if possible.
Well, on one level, things appear to be getting back to more what we would call normal, which will be a relief for many people who have been stuck at home without seeing their family and friends. I have been reading far too many news headlines, though, with prophets of doom predicting a second and even a third wave of the dreaded virus! I have to remind myself on a daily basis who is in the driving seat - God - and He's far bigger and more powerful than any virus!
I will now return to my story, which I was telling you prior to my brother's death. It seems so long ago but we never know the hour, as they say. My family and I continue to take comfort from our wonderful saviour.
As I recently told you, I had rejected God at the age of 14, and had flirted with the supernatural. My life carried on for many years with me 'in the driving seat', which is what I had wanted. I won't bore you with all the details; suffice it to say I made a lot of bad choices and took a number of wrong turnings. Don't get me wrong - I had a lot of good times, too. But, as I said earlier in this blog, I do regret not accepting the call of Jesus when I heard it. Life would have been very different and maybe less problematic!
So, I tootled along, jumping from one bad relationship to another, one dead-end job to the next, drinking too much alcohol, taking stupid risks, kidding myself that I was happy.
Oh, I never lost my belief in God - I just didn't include Him in my life, as such. I still prayed to Him and I believe He looked after me during the 'wilderness years' before I finally saw sense and surrendered my life to Him. I used to think that following Jesus would be boring, demanding and would stop me doing the things I wanted to do. I now know He is never boring - the more I learn about Him, the more enlightened I am. Demanding? Yes, He is certainly that, in that we are expected to obey His commandments. But, as the Bible says, if we love Him, we want to obey Him. As for stopping me doing the things I want to do - I am more peaceful and contented than I have ever been. I can honestly say that my life has improved 100% since becoming a Christian. And I can honestly say that I would never ever choose to turn my back on Him. My only regret is waiting so long.
In these stressful and worrying times, Jesus is my comfort. I trust in Him to sort this mess out. He is my sanctuary, my saviour and my friend.
So, how did I finally come to give my life to Jesus? Well, it all started with work-related stress. I had been in a job I loved for about nine months when changes were made within the organisation and my role changed radically. I had originally worked for two managers and found myself working for six. My hours increased and so did my stress. I became tearful and anxious, wasn't eating or sleeping. I kept a notebook and pen by the side of my bed, to record reminders of things I had to do. These would wake me up at 3 o'clock most mornings! I battled on and then eventually went to the doctor and was prescribed antidepressants but, instead of going on sick leave, as he advised, I chose to battle on - oh, the sin of pride! Within five months I became too ill to work and subsequently resigned from my job. I then suffered what I now know is a nervous breakdown and didn't work for over a year.
That period of my life was quite horrific in many ways, although a lot of good things came out of it. I received a lot of help from professionals and I grasped every opportunity eagerly. I refused nowt but blows.🙂
Although my breakdown was triggered by work-related stress, it went much deeper than that. I had previously been in abusive relationships and had been a victim of domestic violence. I had many unresolved issues, including very low self-esteem. I lived in Salford at the time of my breakdown and have nothing but praise and gratitude for the help I received. This included counselling, cognitive behaviour therapy, free gym, classes at the START, Salford - digital photography, pottery and creative writing! I was also referred to the Together Women Project, which I understand has since closed down, due to lack of funding. I attended classes for domestic violence awareness, which I found to be extremely helpful.
I was also fortunate enough to meet some very good friends during this time and had the support of my two wonderful sisters. I was surrounded with love and care but it took me 14 months to be well enough to return to the workplace.
By the end of this period, I had no doubt at all that the Lord had looked after me throughout my illness and was determined to show my gratitude by committing myself to Him. I had previously tried attending various churches and had found them boring but was utterly convinced that the time was right to become a Christian, so promised God I would find a church to attend.
And so I did - and that story continues next week.
Please know that God loves you. Stay well and keep safe.