2021: New Beginnings, New Flames

Author: Dr. Maria Heath

Picture: Pixabay

2021: New Beginnings, New Flames

God is calling us to carry a new fire in 2021, says Dr. Maria Heath, as she invites us to embrace the new things the Holy Spirit is doing.

As we begin 2021, I pray that each one of you will be blessed with the amazing and unconditional love of God our Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ.

A wise person once said to me that the safest place to be is in the will of God. I am reminded of that as we leave behind 2020 and head into the unknown of 2021, and my prayer is that we would each stay in that safe place, which enables us to rest in the shadow of the Almighty, as the psalmist prays:

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High,

will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, 

my God in whom I trust.”

(Psalm 91: 1-2)

Remaining In God's Will In The Middle Of The Ocean

I'd like to share a story with you from my own life of a time I had to discover and remain in the safety of God’s will.

After I had trained to be a teacher, I was invited to do a doctorate in the area of mission and evangelisation. I had never considered doing further study, but sometimes the Lord takes us down paths that we wouldn’t choose.

Although I had struggled all the way through school, when I went to university as a mature student after living in a new community full time for 4 years, I had discovered new academic gifts. (To this day I am not sure if these were gifts that were always there but dormant, or new gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit!) I had also become aware that the pastoral work I was engaged in needed a sound theological foundation, and this was a great opportunity for me to receive this. 

After a number of years working on my thesis, I wanted to give up. 

I felt like I was drowning in the middle of an ocean. I had done so much work and yet there seemed no end in sight. I wondered how I would carry on. During these few years, I had got married and we had two children (by this point they were aged 1 and 2) my husband and I were both working and juggling childcare between us, so I was fitting my studies in when I could.

I remember saying to my husband one morning that I felt maybe I should stop doing my PhD. It was too stressful and our family was more important. We were living in London and struggling to make ends meet, so giving up work was not an option.

Hearing Clearly From The Lord

We prayed together and he received these words for me: 

“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 1: 4-6)

Through these words, the Lord was very clear that I should finish the doctorate, that he was the one who had called me to do it and he was the one who would bring it to completion. Alex was very clear that this was what the Lord was saying too. 

Over the following week, we spent time asking the Lord how we could proceed. We sensed him saying: Go back to what have I called you to.

For both of us, the basic calling is in evangelisation, especially in training others how to evangelise. For me, this was clearly my studies and for Alex, at the time, it was his work in the parish. To cut a long story short, the end result was that we gave up all the other paid work we were doing. As a result, we had to move out of London, so we could cut our outgoings.

Within a few months, we had moved to Northampton, where we didn’t know a soul. Once there, Alex was offered a part-time job out of the blue with the Diocese, working in adult formation across all the parishes, which in time became a permanent position. I was able to complete my studies and so was awarded a doctorate.

God Is Good!

I still find myself often praying that verse from Philippians because for me, that study was part of something bigger, a call to equip people to embrace their calling to evangelise, and that is something that is still ongoing.

Upon completing my studies, I was appointed as a pastoral worker focusing on mission, and a number of other doors were opened to put what I had learned into practice. God is good!  

Since this time, Alex and I regularly ask ourselves these questions: what are we called to? Are we doing things that we should not be doing, or is there something new we should be doing?

 I love the song ‘New Wine’ by Hillsong. There is this line in it that says:           

“I lay down my old flames

To carry Your new fire today”

It reminds me that we always need to be willing to lay things down. Some of these things may be very good things in themselves, but sometimes God is calling us to carry a new fire, or to focus on the flame he wants us to carry, rather than the one we think we should carry.

He Has A Plan For You

Why am I sharing all this with you?

I sense that as we progress into 2021, and with the vaccination meaning that we will, at some point, be able to return to more normal activities, there may be a temptation to take up from where we left off before; to take up all the activities we were so busy with. But let’s use this time as a gift and ask the Lord: what is it you want me to do? What should I take up again? What should I not take up again? Is there something new I am meant to do? 

We do not know what the future holds and, even with a vaccine available, we don’t know what else is around the corner. Yet we worship the King of the universe who knows all things. He has a plan for you and he has work that only you can do, with your set of gifts, experiences and contacts:

 “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

Since as members of the Church we are called to preach the Gospel at all times and in all seasons we now have a new opportunity, as we begin to emerge from this pandemic, to find new and more effective ways of doing things.

CNSC: A New Thing

We know that, as we emerge once again, we will find that many things in our parishes and groups will have changed or may have ceased to exist altogether. So rather than seeking to maintain the status quo of what we once knew we have a unique opportunity to do things differently.

Maybe you got busy doing things before and you lost sight of your real calling because there was so much to be done? There is an opportunity for a new level of fruitfulness as we ask God to direct us and bring to completion the work he wants us to do. 

Finally, I want to let you know that, in the last few months, the NSC has been in a transition period.

We have now formally become the Charis National Service of Communion (CNSC) in line with the new international structures. This marks an important step for CCR in England and has given us an opportunity to ask the same questions that I have been talking about here. In the coming weeks, we will be updating the website to reflect this. We will also be sending you details about the new CNSC in the coming weeks.

I bring these few reflections to a close by offering the same prayer for each of you, especially for this year with all that it will hold:

“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

(Philippians 1: 4-6)

May God bless you.

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