During Lent in the build up to Easter I was challenged by the ‘40 acts generosity challenge’ by the organisation Stewardship; 40 days, 40 challenges and 40 reflections to make a difference. I admit I didn’t manage to meet all the challenges, but I was inspired and motivated by the daily blogs and accounts of extravagant kindness and generosity carried out by people across the world.

Stewardship have extensively researched the science of generous giving and concluded that giving not only helps our mental well-being but also our physical health. Giving our time, advice, money, support, food or aid to others has scientifically been proved to reduce blood pressure, release oxytocin (a feel-good hormone) and enhance sleep.

Recently though my family and I have been the surprised recipients of some anonymous but incredibly kind and surprising generosity. A few weeks ago, we received an envelope with a typed note and a restaurant gift card inviting us to enjoy a meal out together. No name was given, and we can’t trace the handwriting.

This week we went to a local restaurant to celebrate Theo’s birthday. At the end of the meal when I asked for the bill the restaurateur excitedly told us that the meal had already been paid for!  Someone had phoned up and agreed to pay for our meal! She was ecstatic – it had never happened to her, we were flabbergasted it had never happened to us either.  We don’t know who it was, we don’t know who knew where we were, but we are astonished and grateful.

In the Bible Jesus says, ‘it is more blessed to give that to receive’ (Acts 20:35). Stewardship would back this up. I would add how blessed we have felt to receive so generously over this last month.

Thank you! Whoever you are, your kindness is humbling, inspiring and greatly received and appreciated. As the writer of Hebrews puts it, Let us think about each other and help each other to show love and do good deeds.’ (Hebrews 10:24)

You can read more about the science of generosity by following this link

See you Sunday

Be Real, Be Authentic, Be Honest … Dream Big!

Claire McNish is a wonderfully creatively talented writer, blogger youth leader, park runner and preacher whom I am thrilled is an active member of RBC. Claire is also my guest blogger this week, and was part of the RBC group who attended the Premier Woman to Woman conference last weekend. Its been so encouraging hearing the stories coming from the weekend so I invited Claire to tell us all about it Over to you Claire……..

These were some of the points I took away from the Premier Woman to Woman Conference that took place on Saturday 30th March at the Methodist Central Hall Westminster.  Hosted by Maria Rodrigues, a presenter on Premier Christian Radio, and sponsored by Harvester Ministries.   A conference specifically for women that seems to happen every two years.  An opportunity to be refreshed, challenged and encouraged by the Word of God through different speakers.

Last Saturday, about 12 ladies from RBC joined in with 2,000 women from all walks of life and different Christian denominations and backgrounds as we gathered in the beautiful auditorium for a day filled with amazing worship music led by Lou Fellingham and her band that really brought us into the presence of God, along with deeply challenging yet encouraging talks by gifted speakers.

Rachel Hickson started the day off by asking us to think about what is Real in this day and age, in society, in our world where real sometimes seems to be a subjective term.  Rachel reminded us that God is real, His Word is truth and an anchor for us.  She reminded us that our circumstances and situations, the trials we go through in life are real – BUT GOD – there is hope in God.

Sometimes we get lost living behind masks of protection, happy sanitised successful facades that we display on social media and to the outside world.  Being real means being vulnerable, honest, humble.  A willingness to make mistakes, to not live (or pretend to live) the perfect life.  That there are parallel tracks we walk in life – the balance between good & difficult.

Being real means setting boundaries, saying No when we need to and learning to rise above disappointments – even when it’s God who has disappointed us.

Terri Savelle Foy in her extravagant Texan style using oversized props challenged us to dream.  To dream big, impossible dreams.  We were encouraged to seek God, to find out where our passions lie, where we sense God is calling us & to commit our dreams to Him.  Terri told the story of an American Pro Golfer who was asked by a Saudi Prince to teach him to play golf.  It seems no expense was spared and the Pro Golfer had a wonderful time teaching the Prince.  When it came to the end of their time together, the Prince asked what he could give the golfer in return for his training.  A bit taken aback, the golfer suggested a golf club – the instrument used to drive the golf ball – as he was a collector.  Back in the States a few weeks go past and then one day in the post is an envelope from the Saudi Prince, inside were the title deeds to a lavish Golf Club – A golf course and all its facilities.   Our dreams, whatever we can conceive in our minds are smaller than what God, the King has in mind for us if we dare to trust Him.

Esther Bonsu shared her testimony – one of harrowing abuse that led to addiction and then life as part of a gang before she came to faith, came to know the love, power, freedom and forgiveness in Jesus – now she is a dynamic, young public speaker who shares her faith wherever people will listen.

Sheila Walsh shared her testimony – how she used to hide behind the mask of Christian Evangelism until one day she broke down live on national TV and signed herself into a psychiatric hospital to receive the help she so desperately needed.  While in there, on suicide watch, she was aware of the presence of an angel.  A reminder that the Shepherd knew who she was, where she was and that He was with her.  God met with her when she was at her lowest point and lifted her up.  Sheila challenged us to have that real, honest, gut level conversation with God – about where we are, our struggles, our disappointments.  For God has watched the movie of our lives, every scene – nothing is hidden from Him.  And He loves us still.

There was so much teaching packed into the day, interspersed with moments of reflection and space for prayer for those who wanted it.  Many of the speakers had also written books and those were on sale for people to purchase as was Lou Fellingham’s latest worship album.  Terri and Sheila made themselves available to sign books and chat with people who wanted to chat to them.

I think everyone who went to the conference came away energized and excited to dream big, to discover the things God was calling them into – challenged to be real and honest with God, to deepen our faith and our relationship with Him.   And so that this conference doesn’t just become another event on our calendar that we can say we’ve been to – those of us who went have agreed to meet up monthly to keep each other accountable on the journeys started and work begun on Saturday.

Conferences like this one, are a chance to take time out and spend it with God, hearing from Him through the speakers; leaning in to Him during worship and prayer… and being encouraged by others as we chat and get to know each other better.    As part of the women’s ministry team at church, we will try and advertise more of these sort of conferences as we become aware of them as they really are amazing, encouraging things to be a part of.

We are running our own, smaller day conference later in October with an amazing guest speaker lined up.  And next March is the SEBA Women’s conference weekend that will be taking place at Ashburnham – if the one two years ago was anything to go by, this is set to be a wonderful weekend of soaking in God’s presence and challenging teaching from His Word to help us grow deeper in our faith.

Come and speak to Anne C, me – or anyone else in the Woman’s Ministry team to find out more.