Culture

I am joining this week with the #fiveminutefriday group of writers where we write for 5 minutes on a word prompt.  This week’s prompt is Culture.

So when I think of culture I also think of identity and of retaining our identity no matter which culture we live in or move to.

Think of Abram, God called him to go, to leave his father’s land, his culture, his familiar to go to the unfamiliar, the new, the strange.  But what was he to do in that new, strange land?  He was to retain his identity as a servant of the living God.  He wasn’t to mix, to water down his faith, take on other Gods, no he was to remain faithful to YAHWEH.

The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you’….. The Lord appeared to Abram and said ‘to your offspring I will give this land’, so he built an altar there to the Lord.  Gen 12:1-7

So what about us?  Do we mix in the our cultures so much that we are no different from those around us?  Do we take on the identities of those around, so that we are just like them, you can’t tell us apart?

Sometimes we are called, sometimes circumstances just dictate that we have to uproot and move somewhere new.  But wherever we go we should never lose our identity in Christ.  Whose we are, whom we serve should be so ingrained in our lives, that whilst we may have to adapt, we never compromise our faith, we serve the living God and that should be evident to all no matter our culture or place we live.

 

Gen12

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Practice

Joining with the #fiveminutefriday group of writers again, where we write for 5 minutes on a word prompt.  This week’s prompt is: Practice.

When I heard this word, I immediately thought of ‘Practice the Presence of God’ which is a wee book by Brother Lawrence, who was a cook in a Monastery, and who used to have uninterrupted conversations with God.  It didn’t matter that he what he was doing, everything else was too trivial to interrupt his conversations with God.

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Now I would love to practice that!! But life is busy, people and things clamour for my attention.  Meditation usually leads to shopping lists or to do lists!  How to practice this presence of God in the midst of everyday life?

I do love my quiet time with the Lord in the morning, but somehow by the end of the day that sweet presence has gone, lost in the midst of the day’s activities.  How to keep that sweet presence with me throughout the day?

Here are a few ideas to keep that connection going throughout the day:-

thankfulness

arrow prayers

serenity prayer

breathe

Simple things, repeated often keep that connection, but I have to practice them, I have to keep at them otherwise they slip and are lost in the midst of the day.

How do you practice the presence of God?

 

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The Art of Lamenting

Whilst I have done my fair share of lamenting over my life, I think it is something I have often felt guilty about, even ashamed about and is not something which I would normally share with others.  However, at a recent church bible study we were discussing laments in connection with mental health.  This piqued my interest and I have now had a wee look at this ‘Art of Lamenting’.

The first thing I have learnt is that it is okay to lament!  It is nothing to be ashamed of or to feel guilty about!  It is an honest response to our pain and suffering when we cry out to God with our situations, speaking them out as they are and not trying to make them sound ‘acceptable’ nor give them an air of forced joyful acceptance!!

There are typically 5 phases of a lament:-

  1. The address or introductory cry
  2. The complaint, the stating of the problem/situation
  3. A confession of trust
  4. A prayer for deliverance
  5. Praise

These phases can been seen in the Psalms of Lament, for example: Psalms 3, 4, 5, 13, 14, 17, 27 ,36 ,40, 42,43, 89, 142 for individual Laments and Psalms 12, 44, 58, 60, 80, 89, 126, 129 for Corporate psalms of Lament.

These are phases we go through, not always in one day, i.e. we don’t utter our lament and then wham everything is okay.  It is a process of admitting our helplessness and turning over our situation and our wills to God and then coming to that place of trust in Him, where we know and see that He is in control and is bigger than our circumstances, even if those circumstances are not changed.

A lament is our authentic prayer to God.  It is our honest heart cry.

It is good and healthy to state our case before God without dressing it up. Lamentation should take us from the mourning/angry, self-centred stage to looking up to God, looking up, looking out and finding hope.   It is a hope which is placed in God alone, as we stand stark with no-where/no-one else to turn to.  That hope then encourages us to trust a bit more and a bit more till we come to a place of submission.

God is big enough to deal with all our laments, worries, woes and complaints, we should not be afraid to do this.  It is our journey with Him and it is victorious to be able to come to a place of trust in the midst of our situations.

Vaneetha Rendal Risner has a Chapter on Lament in her book: The Scars That Have Shaped Me.   She calls the chapter (7) Beauty from Bitterness and says:

When we lament we invite God into our pain, so that we can know His comfort and others can see that our faith is real.  Our faith is not a facade we erect to convince ourselves and others that pain doesn’t hurt – it is an Oak tree that can withstand the storms of trouble and pain in our lives and grow stronger.

So my friend, let us not dress up our pain, let us not put on a facade and be all stoical about it, but rather let us be honest before God and before one another and call our pain and agony for what they are.

Through our lamenting let us keep the communication channels to God open.

Through our lamenting let us invite God into our pain.

Through our lamenting may we yield our pain to God and may He indeed bring beauty out of bitterness and victory through our trust in Him.

May we learn the art of lamenting, of laying our souls bare before God and coming to a place of trust in the midst of our situations.

 

 

 

Touch

Writing again for Five Minute Friday where this week’s prompt is: Touch

I don’t always like people touching me.  I am an introvert and so guard my privacy and personal space, but even I at times need the touch of another.  The patting of an arm, the drawing into an embrace, a hug, a peck on the cheek.  Sometimes we just need that touch of empathy from a fellow human.

There are many lonely, and often elderly people within our communities who rarely experience the touch of another human.  I am often conscious of this and do try to give them some sort of touch.  Sometimes there can just be a longing for human connection.

When I think of touch in the bible I think of the lepers, whom no-one touched, no-one went near, they were the outcasts, no-one wanted to touch them.  How they must have longed for the touch of another never mind a tender, empathetic touch, just any sort of touch to remind them that they were still human, still valued, still thought of, still loved.

Then there was the woman who longed to touch Jesus, in the midst of the crowd, she just longed to reach out and touch Him and when she did, it was a healing touch, she felt it immediately reverberating through her broken body.

So for me today, yes I want to feel the touch of the Lord, yes I want to reach out and touch Him, feel Him, have my broken soul healed by Him.  But also if I am to be His hands extended in this world, then I need to reach out and literally, physically touch others, let them know that I care, let them know God cares, let them know that they are loved, valued, and that they can have the touch of the Master.

 

 

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Next

I am joining up with the writers of ‘Five minute Friday’ on this week’s prompt which is :- Next

I have just come off a week away on holiday, which has been a good time to relax and clear my mind.  So what is next now that we are back?  As I get back into routine and tasks, what is next, what is the next thing to be done?

Truthfully, I  am reluctant to get back on that wheel of the next meeting to attend, the next task to do, the next job to go to.

Or even to think about the next phase of my life and all the changes that could bring, or the next new thing to study and learn from God’s word, the next command to obey, the next comfort zone to leave, the next step of faith to take.

I actually just want to stay in this little time of ‘post holiday contentment’ before life takes over.  I’m not ready for the next yet.

So, as I enter into today I will try and do so slowly, not rushing, but moving from one thing to the next and as I do so I pray that the next will flow and will glorify God.

Lord, I give you my next.

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Lack

Today I am linking up with the women of Five Minute Friday. The idea is simple: Write for five minutes flat on the week’s posted topic. This week’s word is : Lack

For me the word ‘lack’ conjures up negative pictures of want/need or emptiness.  There is something I am lacking, something I need or want a physical/material thing, or something inside of me which is empty and needs filling up.  Those empty places are my vulnerable places, those are the ones I may cry out to God for, but yet never utter to another soul, I may not even articulate them at all, but there is a lack, something is missing.

Does God always fill those empty places? No.

Does God always cover over/heal those vulnerable spots?  No

Does God always fulfill my physical needs?  No He does not!

Because in His mercy and in His Sovereignty, He knows what is best, He knows that the vulnerable spots, the empty places are what drive me to Him, are what keep me bound to Him.  To always give me what I want is like spoiling a child, and not for the good of the child.  So my Heavenly Father knows me and gives me all that I need, but not all that I want.  I may lack some things, but in others, in Him I am rich.

Sustained by grace.

 

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Unmet Expectations

Unmet expectations = frustration!

At the weekend I placed expectations upon someone, even knowing as I was doing so that they could not meet them.  The result was that I was left disappointed and frustrated with myself as much as with the person.  I was unrealistic in my expectation, I knew they could not meet or fulfill my needs.

So what could/should I have done?

First of all I think that I have to accept a situation/person as it is/they are and not somehow think that they are going to change out of the blue, even if I want them too, even if it would suit me if they did, even if it would be nice if they did, because the reality is that they have their own issues to deal with.

Being realistic about the person/situation then means that I look and realise that my needs are not going to be met there.  So I need to look elsewhere.  Perhaps I need to look within myself, can I meet my own needs?  Is there another person I can share with?  Are my needs just purely selfish and self-centred in the first place?  Have I just entered into self-pity mode, feeling sorry for myself?  Do I just need to stop thinking about myself and turn to others, do a good deed to take me out of myself?

Perhaps I should have applied the  HALT principals.

Am I:

  • HUNGRY?
  • ANGRY?
  • LONELY?
  • TIRED?

So in the midst of the frustration, perhaps I should have taken that step back, looked at these needs, attended to them then the outcome would have been better, nicer, kinder for everyone concerned.

Perhaps also I am looking for a person to fill a need, which actually only God can fill.  Perhaps I needed to cry out to God, perhaps I needed to take all my hurts, feelings and cares to Him and find my solace in Him, find my fulfillment in Him.

Next time …

Hopefully next time, I will HALT, I will turn to my Saviour and cry out to Him and look for my fulfillment in Him.

Next time, I could choose to turn to Praise, I could choose to turn to rejoice and I could choose not sink into that frustrated, disappointed self-pity-party.

Next time ..

Today even – I choose joy.

 

 

Measure

Today I am linking up with the women of Five Minute Friday. The idea is simple: Write for five minutes flat on the week’s posted topic. This week’s word is : Measure

So what is the measure I use to give?  To give of my time, to give of my finances, to give of my gifts/skills?  Do I have a sliding scale according to how much I like doing/giving of something ?  Is it dependent on who I am doing it for, different ways for different people according to how much I like them or judge their need to be?  My goodness! I realise how prejudiced I am and that I do limit how much I give depending on the people or situation.

So what does the bible tell me?

Luke 6:38
Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full–pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

It tells me that by limiting my giving , I am infact limiting my own blessing!  By limiting my giving to those I like or count worthy, I am limiting God’s blessing on my own life.

By giving abundantly, giving generously, giving freely and without prejudice , then I will receive back much more than I ever gave out in the first place.

The amount I give is the amount I will receive back!

Pressed down, running over and poured into my lap!

 

I need to open wide my hands,

open wide my heart,

open wide my life

and give according to the measure I have been given by Christ.

Freely, freely you have received , freely, freely give …

 

 

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Rewards

When our dog was a puppy we trained him using rewards as an incentive.  So when he obeyed, he got one of those little puppy treats.  When he behaved, he got a reward.  He learnt through rewards.

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We do this with children as well, don’t we?  We reward good behaviour with words of encouragement or treats.

Does this then spill over to my spiritual life?  Do I expect rewards from God?  If I have been ‘good’, if I have been faithful in my quiet time, in going to church, in doing good deeds, do I expect a reward?  Do I expect God to show me favour?  Do I expect an extra blessing?  Do I expect God to give me an easier life because I have been faithful and obedient?

If so, then my thinking is wrong.  My devotion, service and faithfulness to Him should all come out of a grateful heart, a heart full of love towards Him.  His grace is unmerited, His favour is freely given, His mercy is extended in grace.  I don’t deserve any of it.

He should be enough for me.  He Himself is my reward and with Him I should be eternally fulfilled and happy.

 

“Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”  (Gen 15:1)

 

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PLACE

Today I am linking up with the women of Five Minute Friday. The idea is simple: Write for five minutes flat on the week’s posted topic. This week’s word is : PLACE

When I read this week/s prompt I immediately thought of this song by Matt Redman

Once Again

Jesus Christ, I think upon your sacrifice
You became nothing, poured out to death
Many times I’ve wondered at your gift of life
And I’m in that place once again
I’m in that place once again. And once again I look upon the cross where you died
I’m humbled by your mercy and I’m broken inside
Once again I thank you
Once again I pour out my life
Pour out our life’s to you. Now you are exalted to the highest place
King of the heavens, where one day I’ll bow
But for now I marvel at your saving grace
And I’m full of praise once again
Full of praise today
I’m full of praise once again. And once again I look upon the cross where you died
I’m humbled by your mercy and I’m broken inside
Once again I thank you
Once again I pour out my life

Yes, I’m in that place once again. Once again weary and tired of doing things in my own strength, once again weary and tired of carrying worries and anxieties with me.

So once again, I come to that place at the foot of the cross, once again humbled and broken. I come to that place where I can lay down my burdens, that place where I can lay down my anxieties, that place where I can find refreshment for my soul, that place where I can find healing balm, that place where my sins are forgiven.

Once again broken and humbled. But in the right place, at the foot of the cross looking to Jesus.

Are you in the right place today? Are you there at the foot of the cross?





 

More

Today I am linking up with the women of Five Minute Friday. The idea is simple: Write for five minutes flat on the week’s posted topic. This week’s word is : MORE

For some reason the passage of scripture which came to me is this one from Joshua chapter 15:

16And Caleb said, “I will give my daughter Aksah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher.” 17Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Aksah to him in marriage.

18One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him b to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, “What can I do for you?”

19She replied, “Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water.” So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.

‘give me also springs of water’

You see Aksah knew she had the land, had the inheritance, but she wanted more. She wanted her & her land to flourish, she wanted it to be watered, she wanted it to bear fruit, she wanted more.

‘Give me also springs of water’.

The water which will well up and become life-giving, the water which refreshes our souls, the springs which remain constant and fresh and which won’t run dry.

Lord give me also springs of water.

Give me this water so that I can drink deeply of it, give me this water so that I can flourish, give me this water so that I can more than just survive, give me this water so that I can thrive and flourish for Your Glory.

Give me also springs of water.

Guilt

I’m not talking about the guilt we get when we do something wrong and of which we should repent, but of false guilt. We can get trapped in a cycle of this false guilt can’t we? What are the things which trap you, what do you feel guilty about?

I feel guilt when I don’t meet someone else’s expectations .

I feel guilt when I don’t match up to someone’s perceptions of me.

I feel guilt when I feel I have let someone down.

I feel guilt when I can’t do something I feel I should be able to do.

I feel guilt when I can’t protect my children from the heartaches and trials of life.

Yes, I seem to feel an awful lot of guilt!

Guilt robs me of joy,

Guilt keeps me bound in a cycle of unworthiness,

Guilt weighs me down,

Guilt drains me,

Guilt immobilises me and keep me bound in that cycle of feeling guilty, feeling I can’t do anything about it and so feel guilty about that!

Phew how exhausting all that is!

So what can I do, what can we do with all that guilt?

First of all, we need to get a right perspective of this . Have we sinned? Have we fallen short of God’s high standards? Yes absolutely, but praise Him …

There is now no condemnation for those in Christ.

So if we have confessed our sin, if we have acknowledged all aspects of it, turned from it, asked for forgiveness then there is no condemnation from Jesus and if Jesus does not condemn us, then we should not be afraid of man’s condemnation.

Sometimes we just have to let go of other people’s standards and expectations of us. It is their standards, theirs expectations and not ours, so we should not berate ourselves when we can’t match up to theirs. I have to walk my own walk humbly with my God. We can never match His standards, but Jesus can and has done so and through Jesus we are accepted and justified (just-as-if I never sinned).

No condemnation!

Now I can walk free from the guilt of having failed others, walk free from the guilt of not meeting expectations, walk free from the guilt that would entrap me and walk in the freedom of Jesus.

Just

Today I am linking up with the women of Five Minute Friday. The idea is simple: Write for five minutes flat on the week’s posted topic. This week’s word is : JUST

God is just, good, fair, impartial, He hates evil, but loves justice.

Do I believe this?

If so, why do I find myself explaining/justifying God’s actions/ways to others? If so, why do I feel I have to intervene and sort out situations instead of leaving them with God to act according to His justice and mercy.

God is Just. Full stop . No need to explain, no need to intervene, just leave it, just trust, just believe, just wait till you see God work out His ways, just look at the cross.

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BUILD

Today I am linking up with the women of Five Minute Friday. The idea is simple: Write for five minutes flat on the week’s posted topic. This week’s word is : BUILD

When I think of building I think of blocks one on top of the other. But in order to build you need a good foundation and that reminds me of the parable of the wise and foolish men. The wise man built his house on a good strong foundation, the foolish man on sand and when disaster struck, guess what? His house fell down!

So for me I have to have my faith, my life built on a solid foundation, on Jesus Himself. This week the ill winds of pain and sorrow blew in, a situation which I have no control over again came into our lives and it is hard, it is sore, those ill winds are blowing mighty hard, but Praise God, we have not been shaken, our foundation is strong and sure in Jesus.

Where

Today I am linking up with the women of Five Minute Friday. The idea is simple: Write for five minutes flat on the week’s posted topic. This week’s word is : Where

As I get older my “where’s” get more frequent! Where are my car keys, where’s my jacket, where is that receipt, where have I put such and such a thing, where is it?

Where has the time gone? Where are those precious moments with my children? Where has time passed me by?

However, one thing I do not ask is, ‘Where is your God?’, for I know Him. I know that He is with me, I am more sure of that today than I have ever been. I can look back and through the trials and hardships of life I can see that the Man of Sorrows has been right there with me. “Where is your God?” they may say, and I will answer, He is here, Immanuel God with us, Jesus on the Cross proves, yes demonstrates God’s love for me. Where are you God? You are there on the Cross, suffering, redeeming, saving. Where is He?, He is right here in the every day, in the messiness of life.

Convenient

Today I am linking up with the women of Five Minute Friday. The idea is simple. Write for five minutes flat on the week’s posted topic. This week’s word is : convenient.

I like things to be convenient, I like things to be at a convenient height for my shortness, I like things to be conveniently laid out for the morning so that I am not rushing, I like going to the local shop rather than drive to the supermarket because it is convenient. I like having visitors when it is convenient, I like meeting up with friends when it is convenient .

But what about when it is a busy week and someone needs help, or an extra church meeting is called, or someone wants to come and stay.? How do I react when people and things get in the way and come at a time when they are not convenient.?

Then I need grace, grace to be disturbed, Grace to go out when it is not convenient, Grace to extend mercy when it doesn’t suit me. I need to be saved from my convenient life and be willing to be stretched, flexible and expanded to live a reaching out kind of life, where others are put first before my convenience!


101 Things

Yes, it is that time of year again when people, myself included, have signed up for 5/10k running events and challenges, which means training time!! Groan, groan!!

Do you know the hardest part of training for me? Doing it! Actually making the time, getting prepared and just getting out there is really, really hard! There are a 101 other things I think are more important or pressing for me to do and to put them aside to go for a training run is so difficult.

It is a bit like reading your bible isn’t it? How many times have you vowed to start a new bible reading plan, or download a study or join a group or set aside a time of day, and it just never seems to happen! 101 other things get in the way. You sit down to pray and the phone rings or you suddenly remember something you were meant to have done. Always, always distractions.

Yet, as with any training, once you start it is well worthy it. It is worth putting in the effort, it is worth carving out that time to do it. Once I have been my run, had my shower and am sitting having a cup of coffee and piece of toast I feel great and glad I made the effort to go out and do it.

So too with Bible reading, it is well worth it, worth getting up early for, worth making that time, the benefits out-weigh the hardship. Being fed and refreshed in the Word of God makes the difference to your day, to your outlook, to your life.

So just do it! Just put those 101 things out of the way and do it! Get into prayer, get into Bible Reading and actually you’ll find that those one hundred and one things still get done.!

For this I have Jesus

Like many of you, I always find New Year a time of reflection of the past year, but my thoughts are mainly of the year ahead – what will it hold? Sometimes we know, we may have plans, things to look forward to, there may be specific events already on the calendar, but from the day-to-day we often don’t know, the unexpected comes, our plans are thwarted or what looks like a blank calendar fills up all to quickly, or maybe not, maybe it stays blank for a long time.

I am reminded of the words of Graham Kendrick’s song ‘For this I have Jesus‘ and I am comforted that no matter what happens I have Jesus. No matter the highs or lows Jesus will be there beside me and I am thankful for such reassurance. I pray that you too will know, that know matter what ‘for this we have Jesus‘ all through this next year of 2019.

FOR THIS I HAVE JESUS

For the joys and for the sorrows
The best and worst of times
For this moment, for tomorrow
For all that lies behind
Fears that crowd around me
For the failure of my plans
For the dreams of all I hope to be
The truth of what I am

For this I have Jesus
For this I have Jesus
For this I have Jesus, I have Jesus
(Repeat)

For the tears that flow in secret
In the broken times
For the moments of elation
Or the troubled mind
For all the disappointments
Or the sting of old regrets
All my prayers and longings
That seem unanswered yet

For the weakness of my body
The burdens of each day
For the nights of doubt and worry
When sleep has fled away
Needing reassurance
And the will to start again
A steely-eyed endurance
The strength to fight and win

Graham Kendrick 

In the Lowly

As I read the account of Jesus’ birth in Luke chapter  2, I am struck by the simplicity of it all.

We are rushing round decorating our houses, buying presents, shopping for food,  buying outfits for our parties and yet there was Jesus in the backwater of Bethlehem, away from the hustle and bustle even of the Inn, born, wrapped in cloths and laid in a manger!  The difference is stark!

We are looking for the luxury, He came in the lowly!

For those who find our version of Christmas hard, for those sad and broken-hearted, take comfort for it was for You He came! Not in razzmatazz and glory, but in the stark and lowly.  He left His place of glory and came to the place of lowly.

For the sad, the lonely, the hurting, the broken, Jesus came.  You may not feel like celebrating Christmas, and that is okay, but You can come to Jesus, born in a manger, born in obscurity, born in simplicity,  born in starkness, born lowly.  And indeed you will be more blessed, because you don’t have to hunt for Him through all the trappings, or through our self-sufficiency, but you can find Him in the lowly, in the starkness of the reality of your life .  And  be assured He will find you and reach down to you in that lowly place!

So whatever our Christmas may look like, may it look like us being glad we have a Saviour, one who chose to come from the holy and chose to come to the lowly and in our self-sufficiency not forget our need of Him.   God bless you and yours.

Opportunity Knocks!

Good example from David’s life of a wrong opportunity. Thanks Lesley.

Life in the Spacious Place

This post is written to link with Five Minute Friday: write for five minutes on a one-word prompt.  The prompt today is “opportunity.”

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They say that opportunity knocks.

The question is: will we answer?

It’s not going to force its way in.  It presents itself to us, letting us know that it’s there, but we have a choice about how to respond.  Will we leave it standing on the doorstep, or will we invite it in?

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines opportunity as “an occasion or situation that makes it possible to do something that you want to do or have to do.”

Opportunity makes it possible, but we have to discern whether or not it’s the right time, or the right course of action, to turn that possibility into reality.  That’s where we need God’s wisdom because it’s not always clear.

As David hid in a cave, on the…

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