Doubt

I’m joining with the #Five Minute Friday community of writers today, to write on the one word prompt; which today is: DOUBT.

Doubt.

Friend or foe?

Doubt hangs about me as if he was my friend; he is always there when I am reflecting and thinking things through. He is always there when I have questions on my mind and even in the wee small hours of the night he seems to be there.

So is he my friend? Does he actually help me? Is he a positive influence on my life?

No, he is not!

So why do I still court him?

Why do I still allow him access to my inner most thoughts?

We are always told nowadays to get rid of those ‘toxic friendships’ which are harmful to us.

So I need to get rid of this Mr Doubt fellow! I need to cut him off from my life.

I guess the fear is if I don’t have him to cling to then who or what do I cling to; who will be my new friend?

The song comes to mind, ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’

What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer!

2 Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
take it to the Lord in prayer!
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
take it to the Lord in prayer!

3 Are we weak and heavy laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge–
take it to the Lord in prayer!
Do your friends despise, forsake you?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In his arms he’ll take and shield you;
you will find a solace there.

So I need to court Jesus as my friend! I need to seek Him out.

Jesus is a good friend; His friendship is healing; His friendship is wholesome; His friendship is peaceful; His friendship is freeing.

I need to go to Him for advice when reflecting and questioning and it is Him I need to find in the wee small hours of the night and Him I need to go to for my solace.

So today I say goodbye to Doubt and welcome my friend Jesus.

Receive

Delighted to be joining #FiveMinuteFriday group for the first word of the new year! And the word prompt we are writing on today is: Receive.

So after a short ponder to see where my thoughts would take me on this word and concept of receiving I thought of this verse from John where Jesus is talking to a Samaritan woman at a well and he says this to her:

Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to,

you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

John 4:10

If you knew.

If you knew the gift God has for you.

And who you are speaking to.

Your would ask me

And I would give you ..

So is our asking too small, are our prayers to small, is our God too small?

If we really knew God to be the Majestic, powerful God, creator of the universe that He is, then we would not be limited in what we ask Him for!

Do we really believe that He is able to do ALL things, that nothing is impossible to Him?

Then we would ask and we would receive.

Much to ponder about this today!

HOPE

Every New Year, I have a word and a text which I carry into the year with me, I rarely know the significance of that word at the start of the year, but as the year and the word unravel I find that they greet and meet one another as faith and circumstances converge.

The word this year has been with me throughout this past Advent Season, it is the word: Hope. With every carol we have sung there has been a longing; an anticipation, even an expectation and you can’t have those things without hope.

The dictionary meaning of hope = A feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen.

So what do we hope for from life, from 2023? Peace; happiness, health; prosperity; good times? And yet do we have assurance that these things will be given? No, we have no such assurance, our hope is unsubstantiated, why? Because no-one has promised us these things, no-one has given us any assurance that these things will be ours.

So what is hope then, what can we be assured off, what have we been promised and by whom?

For that my dear friend, we have to turn to God, because He alone is the promise-maker, the promise-keeper and the one alone who is able to fulfill and carry out these promises in a way that we can place our confident hope in Him.

John Piper defines Biblical hope as: “not just a desire for something good in the future, but rather, a confident expectation for something good in the future. it expects it to happen. And it not only expects it to happen — it is confident that it will happen.”

So what are some of the things we hope for and have assurance of ?

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,

Ephesians 1:18

Hope is faith in the future tense.

Hope is looking forward to that day of Christ’s return when all the wrongs will be made right, where justice will win, when wars will cease, where sin and sickness are no more and where there are no more sorrows or partings or death. Hope holds on to that glorious day!

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. and hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5

So even though life may be tough, even though we have trials and tribulations, the hope that tribulation builds in us is not a hope that will be disappointed.

How?

We have assurance because God has proved His intention to complete His work in us and that proof was in sending His own Son to die on our behalf so that we may have reconciliation with God, so that we might be called His children

God is faithful to all His promises, so we can have hope.

In this ‘in-between’ time of Jesus coming as a man to die for our sins and Him coming again to bring justice and to reign forevermore, we have hope. We have confident expectation that what He has said will come to pass.

Whatever promises of His we are holding onto today or for the coming year, we can have hope, we can have confident expectation that He will fulfill His promises.

So as we enter 2023, we can have confident expectation that God will fulfill all His promises He has made to us.

So we long, we wait, we have assurance, we trust, we persevere and we HOPE.

Hope in God anchors us.

Hope in God does not disappoint us.

Hope in God brings peace.

So as we go forward into the New Year may we place our hope on the Promise Keeper and look to Him with confident expectation that He will fulfill His promises to us because He is able to do it..

Witness

Today, and for the last group of the year, I am joining in with the #Five Minute Friday community of writers, where we are writing and sharing our thoughts on the word Witness.

This is an appropriate word for us at the end of a year for we are called to bear witness to Him, our Lord and our God. Yes we are to be witnesses to Him, for our salvation, but I think also in our daily lives we are to bear witness to Him with the way we live our lives, our attitudes, our demeanour , our walk as well as our talk.

So have we ‘walked the talk’ this year? Have our lives borne witness to the fact that we are a redeemed people, that we follow Jesus, that we have a hope which is beyond anything in this world?

How have we dealt with hardships or sadnesses? Do people see that we rely on Jesus to be our help and strength in our hard times; that we are not in total despair because we trust in the sovereignty of God?

Have we shown kindness, compassion and empathy to those not only in need and struggling, but also with those who are different to us?

Have we moaned and groaned at the state of affairs in our country or have our lives been marked by thankfulness?

As one year soon draws in and a new one opens out what lessons can we learn from the past year and going forward how can we be witnesses to Jesus in our everyday lives, following and emulating Him, bearing witness to His grace and goodness to us?

Endure in the Joy

This is our last week of the review of the word Endure. We have looked at Endurance in the Mundane everyday and last week we looked at Endurance in the Hard times. This week we look at endurance when things are going well, when life is smooth, comfortable and relatively trouble free.

Now, you may think that it strange to talk about endurance in happy times, because surely that is what they are and they don’t take any enduring, we are happy, we are coasting along, life is good!

But you see, often when life is good, when we are free from pressure, that is when we can let our faithfulness slip, that is when we think we are doing okay and so we can relax, we don’t need to attend that meeting, we don’t need to read our bibles so much because life is good!

And we do praise God for those times, and I think we often don’t acknowledge them, almost as if we are not meant to be happy (or perhaps that is just the dour scots in us!!)

So another helpful book I have found this year is ‘A Long Obedience in the Same Direction’ by Eugene Peterson which is a meditation on Songs of Ascents in the book of Psalms.

In the Psalms the people are on a journey, on this journey they experience all of life just as we have looked at over the last few week, the long plod, the hardships, but also times of joy. Take Psalm 126 for example:

It seemed like a dream, too good to be true,
    when God returned Zion’s exiles.
We laughed, we sang,
    we couldn’t believe our good fortune.
We were the talk of the nations—
    “God was wonderful to them!”
God was wonderful to us;
    we are one happy people.

4-6 And now, God, do it again—
    bring rains to our drought-stricken lives
So those who planted their crops in despair
    will shout “Yes!” at the harvest,
So those who went off with heavy hearts
    will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.

Psalm 126, The Message

They have walked through the mundane, they have faced dangers and hardships along the way, but they arrive home exuberant “with arm-loads of blessing”; they are “one happy people”.!

We may be in that place, we may be experiencing a time of happiness! So let us be exuberant, let us rejoice, let us give thanks to the Lord. The Lord has blessed, let us give Him thanks. That pathway of prayer we have made is now filled with praise. That pathway to the scriptures is filled with remembrances of the Lord and His faithfulness. And that pathway to fellowship which we have established is now glorious as we worship God together.

It is not a time for self-reliance, it is not a time for pride as if we have arrived here in this place by our own hard work or doing, but it is a time to reflect and see how the Lord’s hand has been upon us and brought us to this place, a time to see how God has been faithful at sustaining us and upholding us. And from this place to have a deep sense of gratitude and thankfulness.

My dear friends, I don’t know what you have faced this year or the path you have walked, I’m sure at times it may have seemed like a long hard slog, at other times down-right hard, but I hope too that in the midst of that you have also experienced the joy of the Lord and can end the year with thankfulness. Whichever it has been may we walk on in that long obedience in the same direction day in and day out – “he who endure to the end will be saved!”

Endurance in the Hard

Last week we looked at enduring in the Mundane Everyday. But what happens when life throws a curve ball and we are plunged into the unexpected, the frightening, the unknown? How do we endure in our faith, remain faithful, remain obedient and trusting in the hard times?

We keep to the paths we have trod. Those paths we trod in the mundane, those paths we trampled on faithfully, perhaps every wearily, are the ones which will keep us when times are hard.

Remember the path to prayer – we go again, now in desperation we run to that place, we are glad we have established it and know the way to the place of prayer and we go pouring out our souls, our troubles, our anxieties, our fears. And we find grace to help in our time of need.

We tread that path of scripture reading – those words which we instilled within us in the everyday are the ones we now cling to in our need. Those words of truth are what overcome the lies of our doubts, those words of our Saviour, our suffering saviour are what comfort us in our need, we see our faithful God never forsaking His people and we see His love poured out for us on Calvary.

And that path of fellowship which is now established means we are able to go to our brothers and sisters in Christ and share our burdens with them. They are able to minister to us, feed us, hold us, pray with us because we have persevered over our shyness and trusted them with our every day, now we trust them with our sorrows, with our hearts.

We are able to endure in the hard because we have already laid the ground-work of being faithful in the everyday, of enduring the mundane, so that we have the well-worn paths to tread when hardship stri

Endurance in the Mundane

So, as the Name of my Blog suggests I’m very much into ‘finding God in the everyday’. God has got to be real, He has to be there in the everyday, there is no use having a faith for the hard times, or a belief in a distant God, but God here and now day in and day out.

So it is no surprise then that in following on from my new year word ‘endure’ that I have to apply that in my every day.

So what does it look like to endure in your faith in the every day when mostly your every day is mundane? Most of us the majority of the time don’t live in times of crises, they may come and go, but thankfully the majority of the time we are just plodding on going to work, keeping house, looking after family, attending our church. My question is not so much where is God in this, but where am I? What can I do to keep my faith alive, bright and growing?

At the moment I am reading ‘Everyday Faithfulness’: the Beauty of Ordinary Perseverance in a Demanding World by Glenna Marshall where I am seeing her echoing and articulating my own thoughts of this faithfulness in the everyday. She says

Faithfulness to Christ is a daily, lifelong pursuit. A lifetime of daily faithfulness will be full of unremarkable single days of faithfulness. And what encourages us to be steadfast on a daily basis is keeping an eye on this lifelong perseverance Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24:13. Rather than fading from following Him because our love has grown cold, ‘the one who endures to the end will be saved'” (Pg 22)

A lifetime of daily faithfulness will be full of unremarkable single days of faithfulness – yet, yet it is those daily unremarkable single days which are really laying the foundation of our faithfulness, so that in the good and the bad we are able to endure and remain faithful.

How? By treading a path to prayer, so that it is well worn, so we that know the way, so we will know the way in the dark, so we will know the way through our fears, we will know the way to the Father and will be no stranger coming to Him in our time of need.

By treading a path to scripture every day we are reorienting our hearts onto the truths of God’s Word, we are learning the truths of His character and His ways, so that when ill winds blow and doubts assail, we can stand on the truths of His Word and His character.

Another path we tread in our everyday faithfulness is the path of fellowship. We commit to a local fellowship and we turn up, we commit. If we neglect this path we will not know what it is like to ‘stir one another up to love and good deeds’, we miss the opportunity to encourage and be encouraged by others.

Building habits, treading paths of discipline, walking the long road, takes discipline and patience, it requires vigilance and endurance and commitment to the long view of faithfulness and our sanctification. We need to pace ourselves, we need to be steady and committed and to keep on going. Growth doesn’t happen in one big decision, but in the hundreds of daily little ones we make. We need to keep before us Jesus, looking to Him, knowing that each step we tread in the long plod is worth it when we become more like Him and when we see Him more clearly.

Endure – A Review

It has been a while since I have met with you here on the blog, but absence hasn’t meant that I haven’t thought of you and wanted to reach out, but I’ve had a necessary ‘time apart’, a time of reflection, a time of learning, leaning in and listening.

I have been reflecting on my New year word ‘Endure’ and as we fast approach the end of this year, 2022, I want to take this month of November, before all the Advent Reflections begin, to reflect on that word and how it has unfolded for me over the year.

I began my new year post with a definition of ‘Endure’ which is = The ability to continue with an unpleasant or difficult situation, experience or activity over a long period of time.

And throughout the year I have come to experience that endurance is ‘long obedience in the same direction. I had felt at the time that the endurance wasn’t that the year was going to be full of difficulties which had to be overcome, but more in the sense of being faithful and keeping on being faithful, keeping on being obedient whether in the ups and downs or just in the daily plod of everyday life.

So over the following 3 weeks I want to look at:

1) Endurance in the mundane everyday ;

2) Endurance in the Hard things and

3) Endurance in the Joy and happy things.

Hope you will join with me in these next three weeks!

Generous

The Word-prompt for today in the #Five Minute Friday group of writers is: Generous.

When I first took my first faltering pen to begin writing I listened to a week of Conference talks by Christian writers and I was blown away by how generous they all were of one another and their works. There was no jealousy, no grabbing of the limelight for themselves, no holding onto their own writing tips, rather they shared, they shared their journey, their fears, their tips, the things they had learned along the way, they encouraged.

I found kindred spirits at the conference and immediately thought, ‘I want to be like this, I want to encourage, I want to have this same generous spirit’. Where did this generosity come from? I believe it came from their walk with God, they had humble, teachable spirits and walked with a generous God.

So, then my walk with God should reflect in my life. If I am walking, talking, emulating my generous God, then that should flow on out of my own life, where I am then generous towards others with my possessions, my time, my praise, my encouragement.

We only have to look at creation to see how generous God is, the way He abundantly blesses the creation, it is not just functional, it is beautiful.

O Lord my God, how great you are!
    You are robed with honor and majesty.

    You are dressed in a robe of light.
You stretch out the starry curtain of the heavens;
    you lay out the rafters of your home in the rain clouds.
You make the clouds your chariot;
    you ride upon the wings of the wind.
The winds are your messengers;
    flames of fire are your servants.

You placed the world on its foundation
    so it would never be moved.
You clothed the earth with floods of water,
    water that covered even the mountains.

Psalm 104

He is generous in His forgiveness of our waywardness,

Let the wicked change their ways
    and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.
    Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.

Isaiah 55:7

He is generous in His salvation.

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

When we know the generosity of God then who are we to hold back, we should freely give of all that the Lord has given us.

Show

The word prompt today for the #FiveMinuteFriday group of writers is: Show.

The first thing you are told in any writing course is “show, don’t tell” but that can be hard to do, it is easier to just tell.

However, in relation to the stories in our Bibles they have captured that knack of ‘showing’ God’s goodness, faithfulness and patience with us rather than just telling of it.

Take for example the Patriarchs in Genesis they had such dysfunctional families! They lied, they deceived, they had favourite children, they had broken, messy relationships. At times we may wonder why their stories are even in the Bible, yet, yet they SHOW us God’s patience, they show His mercy, they show His grace.

And where best does God SHOW His love to us but at Calvary, on that cross of Jesus.

How do I know God loves me and has mercy on me, but in His Word, in my Bible. Again and again there are examples of God showing His love to mankind and also in my own life again and again.

View

I’m joining the #fiveminutefriday group of writers today to write on the word prompt – view.

This picture may not strictly be a “view” , but it is what I woke up to on Tuesday morning!

Such joy!

It has brought a smile to everyone’s faces.

A surprise at this late time of year.

After the sorrow of the previous week comes new life, new joy, new hope.

Surprised by joy.

“weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning”

Forget

This post is written in conjunction with the #Five Minute Friday community of writers, who write for 5 minutes on a one-word prompt. Today’s word is: Forget.

So although this is the prompt for this week, events have taken place here in our small, isolated, rural community which we will never forget.

We thought we were safe, we thought we were secure, we thought we could escape violence, darkness and evil, but they came to us this week. They came and they devastated, they caught us unaware, horrified they have shattered families and our communities. We will not forget.

The mist hangs low over us this morning, reflecting the heaviness of our moods and emotions. As the rest of the country basks in sunshine we are enveloped in the sorrow and misery of the mist. In being isolated, from what often seems the rest of the world, we are also insolated in our grief, in our sorrow.

Fragile.

Broken.

Sad.

YET let us not forget our God and all His benefits to us. Even here, even now, even in this hard our God speaks:

Do not fear, for I am with you.

Do not be afraid, for I am your God.

I will give you strength, and for sure I will help you.

Yes, I will hold you up with My right hand that is right and good (Isaiah 41:10)

Together

Hello dear friends! I have missed you! I have missed just sitting down here and sharing my thoughts with you, so when I saw that the Five Minute Friday prompt today was together, I just had to make the time to be together with you.

I am a solitary person and don’t need a lot of interaction, but I am realizing more and more that God’s promises are for us together, when we do fellowship in community, when we do church as a body then God blesses.

We often sing Psalm 133 in our church during communion seasons, I’ll quote it from the New Living Translation, but we sing it ofcourse as a Metrical Psalm.

Psalm 133

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem. A psalm of David.

How wonderful and pleasant it is
    when brothers live together in harmony!
For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil
    that was poured over Aaron’s head,
    that ran down his beard
    and onto the border of his robe.
Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon
    that falls on the mountains of Zion.
And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing,
    even life everlasting.

That says it all really !

God bless you!

Stir

This post is written to link with #Five Minute Friday: write for 5 minutes on a one-word prompt. Today’s prompt is “Stir”.

We all know stirrers don’t we? Those people in our work place who like to stir up trouble, they sow seeds of dissension and cause friction between colleagues and between colleagues and management. We also have them in our wider family circles – those whose heart are bitter and who stir resentments into the family pot, spoiling relationships, taking the fun out of occasions, causing strife.

Let us not be like that; let us not be the ones causing the dissension; bringing the friction into relationships or stirring the pot of resentment. Let us instead sow love and harmony, stirring one another up to good deeds; wholesome thoughts and healthy boundaries.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 

Hebrews 10:24

Danger

This post is written to link with #Five Minute Friday: write for 5 minutes on a one-word prompt. Today’s prompt is “Danger”.

I have COVID! Yep, after all the precautions, insolations, masks, zooms etc for the last 2 years, now once the danger has passed and precautions relaxed now I get COVID!

But I wonder if that is how it is in life too? In times of danger we have a natural ‘flight or fight’ response, but once that danger has passed so too we drop our guard and perhaps that is the most dangerous time of all?

This is what Peter says:

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8

Stay alert! Don’t let your guard down! Watch out!

Why?

Because our enemy, the devil, he is prowling around looking for our weak spot, looking for a chance, an opportunity to catch us.

Sometimes that is an obvious trap and we are immediately on alert, but other times it is drawing us away insidiously to the next “shiny” thing. Or perhaps he exploits our weak areas where we are prone to sin, or he catches us in his web of lies, entrapping us in those doubts and lies till we believe them over the Word of God.

We may relax our guard, we may think we are okay, we may have come out of a big battle and think phew, ‘glad that is over with’, but the devil – he never takes time off, he is always on the prowl.

So let us everyday put on the whole armour of God, for only then can we withstand his attacks:

Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm

Ephesians 6:11-13

So friend, let us spur one another on and remind each other to every day put our armour on because just when we think the danger is gone, it is not.

Heal

The Prompt word for today’s #Five Minute Friday group is: Heal. So in light of the recent shootings and sadness’s experience by my fellow writers in the USA, I have written a Lament.

The Leaves of the Tree are for the Healing of the Nation – A Lament

O Lord our God, how long?

How long before You act?

How long before Your justice

Is revealed in our nations?

How Long O Lord will our leaders remain arrogant and prideful

Filling their own pockets and bellies,

How long will they rob and steal from the poor.

Show Your mercy to the nations.

How long, O Lord, must we suffer

And hear of wars and rumours of wars.

How long must we hear of earthquakes and famines?

Before You make Yourself known to the Nations.

How long O Lord before our children are safe

At school, at college, at play and in the world?

How long must the innocent suffer?

Lord, heal the tears of our nations.

O Lord our God, we look to You,

The Man of Sorrows and the One acquainted with grief.

We make our declaration

That in You there is healing for our Nation.

Know

I’m joining with the #FiveMinuteFriday group of writers to write for 5 minutes on this one word prompt, Know.

I find that I have different levels of knowing things, I may have a vague knowledge of something, or someone, I may think I know, or I may know something in my head, but that doesn’t translate into my heart and life.

I think that is what I feel about knowing God loves me. Yes, I know He does, the bible tells me He does, every Christian book and sermon echoes the love of God, but really how much do I allow that knowledge to really sink right deep down within? Listen to what the apostle Paul says in Ephesians 3: 17-19:

“Then you, being rooted and grounded in love,  will have power, together with all the saints, to comprehend the length and width and height and depth of the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.…

When I think negative thoughts of God, when I choose to accuse Him of being uncaring, or absent, then I am not allowing that knowledge of His love to fill my life. When I am feeling unworthy and withdraw from God’s love, then I am not trusting, not really grasping the length, width, height and depth of God’s love for me.

To know, really know the love of God, I have to allow that love in.

Both

I apologize to the #fmf community for not being with you for a while, been BOTH busy and also writing! BOTH is the one word prompt from today in the community of writers.

We have been looking at the Psalms of lament in our Bible Study this week and it amazes me how the Psalmist can hold both doubt and trust, despair and hope, lament and praise at the same time.

But we too experience that tension between faith and doubt in our lives. We believe, yes firmly and steadfastly, yet at the same time when we worry and allow our circumstances to overwhelm us we doubt God is able for that specific thing. We hold both trust and unbelief in our hands.

Perhaps we are just like the father we read about in Mark’s gospel chapter 9; his son was sick, he was worried; he was more than worried, he was probably despairing at each and every convulsion the boy had, what could he do, how could he get his son better? So he comes to Jesus and asks if it is possible if He could do something. Jesus tests him and says: “Everything is possible for one who believes.” and we get that and in our good moments we believe that, but in our fear and anxiety, like the father we cry out: “I believe, help me overcome my unbelief” .

We hold both in our hands belief and unbelief, but our God is faithful and He doesn’t act according to our faith, but according to His own faithfulness!

A Funeral, A Fire and A Wedding

Life is a strange mix, isn’t it?

This past month of April I feel as if we have had the full range of human emotions – sadness, despair, fear, joy and excitement, all brought through the everyday experience of everyday living.

Firstly there was the sudden and tragic death of a very dear Christian man in our community. He was what is known as a ‘character’, his death, like all deaths was sad, but oh how I heard him chuckle at the number and range of people squashed into the church, hearing the gospel as they attended his funeral. He would have rejoiced to see people there who have never attended church before!.

Joy in the midst of sorrow.

Then last week our community experienced the fear of the power of fire which took hold of the surrounding heathland, it raged day and night threatening our villages. What at first appeared spectacular, became something to be frightened of. The admiration for our firecrews grew as they battled day and night and the relief was palpable when the fire was finally extinguished.

Relief after the fire.

Then at the weekend I attended a wedding, a happy event yes, but for me also tinged with sorrow. I was happy and glad for the groom to have found happiness again in his widowerhood, to have found joy after his sadness. But for me, the best and longest friend of his late wife, it was filled with memories and sadness, her children and her other friends all there reminding me of her and the gap she left.

Sorrow in the midst of joy.

I don’t want it to be a cliché when I quote, “For everything there is a season and a time”, but just like the weather in Scotland when you can experience all 4 seasons in one day, so also it appears that in life you can experience different circumstances all in one short month accompanied with the different range of emotions within each season. Joy in Sorrow; Sorrow in Joy; Awe in Fear; Relief in Tears.

I think it is to allow yourself to experience, to go through the emotions, the grief, the fear, the pain, the joy and the happiness and to remember that for everything – there is a purpose under heaven and to submit to God in each of these times and seasons.

Ecclesiastes 3:

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Love

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13

Finishing off today looking at these three things which last forever – today we are looking at Love.

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 

John 15:13

This is Easter Monday, and what a demonstration of love we have just seen – Jesus dying on the cross for us. There could never be more powerful demonstration of God’s love for us.

We are repeatedly told in the Bible that God’s love is faithful, that it is steadfast, that it is everlasting, yet we can doubt that. Perhaps we don’t feel good or worthy enough to receive that love or perhaps that hasn’t been our experience, we have only experienced rejection failure, hardship and we wonder where God is let alone feeling His deep compassion and heart of love towards us.

If this is the case dear friend, still be assured that God is a God of love, look at the cross, look at His son hanging there bearing all the pain and suffering of the world. He has taken it all upon Himself bearing it, paying the price for the sin and chaos and separation which is the reality of the world we live in.

Why? Why did He do that? Because of His great love towards us, so that we may be reconciled to God and have peace with Him. So that the love of God may be poured out into our hearts that we may know Him, know how deeply, committedly He loves us from the beginning of time, in working out this plan of salvation, to all eternity, God loves us.

So these three things remain – faith, hope and love, the greatest of these is holding onto the love God has for us.

Yes and that means you too my friend, God has set His steadfast, faithful, eternal love upon each one of us. As we hold onto faith as we hold onto hope let us also hold on to the love of God which endures forever.!

Hope

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinithins 13:13

Last week we looked at Faith, this week we are looking at the second of these three things which last forever – Hope.

Let me first of all say what this Hope isn’t! It isn’t wishful thinking! It isn’t saying things like “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow”, when there is absolutely no basis for holding to that hope. We use this word hope so loosely that it is hard to define it in a meaningful way.

But let us start by saying that hope needs a foundation, it has to be placed in something/someone trustworthy. Otherwise we are just going to be disappointed, and every time we place our hope erroneously in something/someone untrustworthy it erodes our hope and we become cynical and bitter and find it hard to take people at their word and which then reflects in our reluctance and inability to trust in God.

So hope, as in one of these three things which are going to last forever, what is it?

It is a desire with an expectation of obtainment or fulfillment. So it isn’t a vague wishful thinking, but there is an expectation of fulfillment. So hope in the bible is based on an expectation that God is faithful and that He will fulfill what He has promised, He will do what He said He would.

How do we know this, that God is trustworthy? Well we can read through the Old Testament and see in the history of the Israelites how again and again God did what He said He would do. We can see that He was faithful and as we move into the New Testament we see all His love and promises for redemption fulfilled in Jesus. Perhaps the thing which proves Him most trustworthy of all is that God did not withhold His own Son, His beloved son, so if He was willing to give up His Son so that we can be reconciled to Him surely this is definitive proof that God is trustworthy and we can place our hope in Him?

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Romans 8:32

God then is our solid, secure anchor on whom we can place our hope.

19 This hope is a safe anchor for our souls. It will never move. This hope goes into the Holiest Place of All behind the curtain of heaven. 20 Jesus has already gone there.

Hebrews 6:19

As we go into Easter week and think of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we see that Jesus has already gone into heaven before us to prepare a place for us. He is there, He is waiting, He is preparing our place.

Do not let your heart be troubled. You have put your trust in God, put your trust in Me also. There are many rooms in My Father’s house. If it were not so, I would have told you. I am going away to make a place for you. After I go and make a place for you, I will come back and take you with Me.

John 14:1-3

That hope that we are speaking of then is an eternal hope, it is found in Jesus, it is firm and sure, we have the surety of it, the conviction, the evidence.

Our outward present circumstances then are not the end of our story, but we have a hope for a better, more glorious, more secure future for eternity and that is firm, that is fixed, that is unmovable.

Our hope is sure and will last for ever.

Faith

As we enter into April our thoughts turn towards Easter, and just for a change I thought that over the next three weeks our meditations could be on Faith; Hope and Love.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinithians 13:13

This verse is often mis-quoted; quoted out of context and sentimentalized during Wedding Ceremonies, but let us think on them as the things which are going to last forever, looking firstly at Faith.

So what is faith?

The best definition of faith is found in Hebrews 11:1

Now Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”

So faith is a reality, there is assurance, there is evidence for it, there is substance to it; it is not vague or woolly, or inconsequential.

The ESV Footnotes says: “Faith is a settled confidence that something in the future – something God has promised – will actually happen because God will make it happen.”

So faith is in God, faith is in His promises.

Our faith then is a belief in God, that God is all powerful, that He can make things happen; and that God is faithful to His promises and will do as He says.

But how can we know that?

Simply by knowing Him! As we come to know God more fully our belief and our trust in Him grow. We get to know Him firstly through the Bible, we read about Him in the old Testament, we read of His acts of mercy and grace towards His people; we see that He set His faithful love upon them and worked on their behalf to bring about their redemption, saving them from their waywardness. Then as we move into the New Testament we see God revealed through His Son Jesus, who is “the exact imprint of His nature” (Heb 1:3)

We see Jesus and He shows us the Father heart of God. We see Jesus, the sacrifice of the Father in giving up His Son for us that we may be saved, that we may be loved, that God’s own promises would be fulfilled in bringing salvation to all who would believe.

But what does that mean for us in the everyday? What about when our circumstances are tough and we find it hard to see past them to see God?

Well, we can trust our past experiences of God; we can trust the experiences others have had as described in the bible. And we can trust facts over our feelings, that such a God who was willing to fulfil His own plan of salvation, through the costly sacrifice of His own Son, who proved Himself by sending His Son – this God is worthy of our trust. This is the God we put our faith in.

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Romans 8:32

So we have assurance that God is for us, the evidence of that is found in Jesus. We may not see, but we KNOW. We know God, we know what He has done for us, and we have been shown how much He loves us.

Now Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen

No matter our circumstance then, or the fact that we are clinging on to Faith with our finger nails, we have the assurance that the things promised and hoped for will come to be, even though as yet they may seem afar off.

May we be strengthened in our faith today dear friends as we know, trust and put our faith in our faithful God, looking to Him who promised and who is faithful to keep His promises.

Be blessed.

Spring

I used to think Autumn was my favourite season of the year, but this year it definitely is Spring. Spring is the word-prompt for the #Five Minute Friday group of writers today.

I don’t know why this past winter has seemed darker and longer than others but it has, February came and I was hopeful for the first signs of spring, but alas none came which made winter drag out even more. But in with March and wow Spring has sprung in!

Such joy, such hope, such delight, such relief!

I wonder if we are a bit like that spiritually too? We long for the dark winter of our souls to be over, to be past, we long to feel the joy of the Lord again. It seems like such a long time that we have been sitting with this darkness and low feeling at our feet, that we long for it to lift, to see a ray of light, even a beam of sunshine in our souls.

We are not good at “sitting” with pain, with trials, with hardships, with depression, with darkness, we are always wanting to rush on, to move past it, to get to the other side. Yet, Yet often it is in our weakness that we see and experience more of God’s mercy and Grace, so perhaps the lesson of Winter is Patience and the joy of Spring is the reaping of that patience?

Today, I am thankful that I live in a country with seasons and I am thankful to have the God who is faithful through each and every season which come, both of nature and of the soul.

As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.’
Gen 8:22

Easy

I agree with Kate over at #Five Minute Friday, that I have an easy life in comparison to many around the world. I have much to be grateful for, much to give thanks for, yet I find myself this morning having a pity-party for one!

I haven’t had one of those for a while, I used to be very prone to them, but have been trying to practice thanksgiving which has definitely helped keep the pity-parties at bay.

But today I am feeling sorry for myself. So I acknowledge that, I acknowledge that I have allowed burdens to build and weigh on me, instead of putting them down, I have gathered them all up and I am feeling sorry for myself that I have to carry all these things, no-one knows, no-one cares etc, here I am with a heavy load, poor me!!

But wait a minute.

What was that?

Did I hear my Lord speak?

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

Ah such sweet words!

But in order for me to take up this yoke, I need to first of all put down all those burdens, worries, cares, concerns and anxieties which I have gathered. My Lord is humble and gentle of heart, He knows, He sees, He understands and He didn’t give me any of those burdens I am carrying. So I put them down, so that I can learn of Him, so that I can take His yoke which is easy because He is the other half pulling the weight and His burden is light, He doesn’t put anything on me which He Himself is not going to help me carry and be with me for the time I do.

Today Lord, I put my burdens down, may I let You teach me, and may it be Your burden and Your yoke I come under and not those of my own making. Amen

Unfurling

The snowdrops have been joined by the crocuses which are beginning to unfurl in the first of the Spring sunshine.

The hens are unfurling from their hunched perches, finding delight in dry ground and dust baths.

The sheep, no longer bunched together for shelter, but relaxed, sitting spaced enjoying the chance to rest with the ewes who are with lamb.

The dog, now sprawled out in the sunshine instead of huddled in his kennel.

Yes, spring has finally come to the Croft and slowly, things are beginning to unfurl! That is what spring is like an unfurling. It has been a long, dark, slow, wet, winter so the joy to be able to stretch out, and feel the warmth of the sun entices even the slowest to unfurl.

And yes I am beginning to unfurl too.

Unfurl from the pain and hurt and fears. Unfurl from the burdens of life. Unfurl from the ‘what ifs’ and the disappointments.

Today, I am unfurling. I am basking in the Sun of Righteousness who has healing in His wings. I am unfurling as I find that peace in the Prince of Peace, who gives, not as the world gives, but as He gives. I am unfurling in the forgiveness of my sins through Jesus, I am unfurling in the Grace of God who extends love and mercy. I am unfurling in the faithfulness of God who knows the end from the beginning and extends grace in the middle. I am unfurling in the love and prayers of God’s people.

The saying is that if March ‘comes in like a lamb, it goes out like a lion’ and vice versa. So there may still be wild, hard days ahead, but for today I stop, I pause and I unfurl.

As the warmth of the sun and the ever increasing light of the days come, I rest in my Saviour, I unfurl from all that I have been holding in and I surrender it all to Him.

Carry

Last week I poured out my grief, fears and burdens about being a Military Mama and I thank everyone of you who responded and prayed for us. I felt upheld, I felt carried. Appropriately Carry is this week’s prompt over in the #Five Minute Friday Writing Community.

Today the passage which sprung to my mind is:

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you.

I have made you and I will carry you;

I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Isaiah 46:4

And that reminds me of the faithfulness of God. He is the same God who created me, who will carry me through all of life’s journeys; He is the faithful God who will not give up on me, but will sustain me through each of life’s seasons; He is the faithful God who will rescue me from that fearful dark pit.

So today, I exult in the faithfulness of my God who is the same, ‘yesterday, today and forever’. The God who is my creator, my maker, my redeemer, my Lord and my shepherd. The same God who stood at the door of my heart and knocked all those years ago, He is the One who has carried me; He has been faithful even now that I am grey haired, and He will continue to be faithful, He will continue to carry me.

Praise be to His Name!

Peace

Today, very appropriately, the word prompt in the #Five Minute Friday Group is: Peace.

Peace.

Such a rare find.

Peace of heart and soul and mind.

Peace in families, in communities, in countries, in the world.

I am a military mama, so as you can imagine Peace is being hard fought for on so many levels just now, both at home and abroad.

I did not want to be a military mama. I married a veteran and naively thought that he had left the army behind him, not knowing it would always be there in him in the form of PTSD, flashbacks and inner turmoil. So I definitely did not want my son to go down that same road.

Yet here I am a military mama with a declaration of war made and my son already away.

Peace?

Where is peace in this?

Heartbreak, tears, anxiety, worries yes these are all mine, but what about peace?

Well peace is hard fought for both globally and internally.

I am reminded of this verse

You will keep him in perfect peace,

Whose mind is stayed on You,

Because he trusts in You.

Isaiah 26:3

So today, my eyes are on the Lord, I will battle to keep my heart and mind set on Him, because I do trust Him, He is the Lord and nothing gets past Him.

They say peace is a person, peace is Jesus. He is my peace today, my mind is fixed on Him today.

Stretch

When my kids were small I longed for time and space to myself, now that I have an empty nest I have that, however, time can stretch out in long intervals and I have been particularly conscious of that for many people through lock-down – long stretches of time. For us during lockdown we tried to punctuate those time stretches of hours of the day or even days of the week by small tasks, routines or treats.

When you do have a stretch of time it is all very well to think very lofty thoughts of using that time in prayer or meditation, so you start and 5 minutes later you are finished, the hour stretches on in front of you!!

When I was working through a 12-step program the motto very much was ‘one day at a time’, however, I found that was too long a time period, it had to be moment by moment that I surrendered, that I checked-back my thoughts and emotions.

Stretches of time can be a blessing or a difficulty to work through to fill, but perhaps that is the secret, living moment by moment.

Stretch is the Word prompt from today’s #Five Minute Friday group of writers.

Commit

I am joining with the #FiveMinuteFriday community of writers who write for 5 minutes on a one-word prompt. Today’s prompt is the word: Commit

Often when I see the prompt in the morning I then go out a walk with the dog and mull over the word. I did that today and my thoughts went from my commitment to the Lord, to the Lord’s commitment to me.

I believe the word I am speaking of is the word, “hesed“; this is the word used many times particularly in the Old Testament which speaks of God’s loyal, faithful, committed love to us!

Let us pause, ponder and praise on such wonderful truths:

God is committed to us!

I will make you my wife forever,
    showing you righteousness and justice,
    unfailing love and compassion
.

I will be faithful to you and make you mine,
    and you will finally know me as the Lord.
(Hosea 2:19,20)

God is faithful to us!

The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out,

“Yahweh! The Lord!
    The God of compassion and mercy!
I am slow to anger
    and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.

God is loyal to us!

Yahweh! The Lord!
    The God of compassion and mercy!
I am slow to anger
    and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.
(Exodus 34:6)

Let us pause, ponder and now Praise:

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords.
His faithful love endures forever. (Psalm 136)

Achieve

Kallista's: Pause and Pray

I am joining today with the #Five Minute Friday community of writers, where we write on a one word prompt for 5 minutes! Today’s prompt is: Achieve

I am certainly a task-focused person and often the task comes before personal relationships, before just sitting with someone and I’m sure I often trample on other people’s toes in an effort to finish my task as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

It is taking me a lot of intentional time and effort to move away from being that task-focused person to become more people focused and also to be ‘in the moment’, not being so busy completing my task, that I forget to enjoy, forget to look around and get the bigger picture, forget how it fits into the rest of my day or week.

So a couple of goals for me to achieve would definitely to ‘be in the moment’ and to put people before tasks.

I think this also ties in with ‘sitting at Jesus’ feet’, with meditating, with taking time out to Pause & Praise.

There is only one thing worth being concerned about.

Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:42 [NLT]

So today, instead of rushing through my day trying to complete and achieve all the things on my To Do List, I am going to practice pausing, to be in the moment and to be thankful for all that means and brings.

What about you, how can you pause & praise and keep in the moment instead of running ahead to achieve?

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January Blues

Lucy Pittaway - The Sheep - January Blues

I just want to say Yay! Well done! We have made it to the end of January!

January is such a long hard month after all the build-up and busyness of December. For us here in the North it is still dark and grey and as we say in Scotland, “Dreich”. Really, really dreich!

But before we rush on into February with it’s promise of better, longer, brighter days, lets pause a minute in January. There may not be much going on, it may have been a ‘flat’ month, but at the same time, there has been the chance to pause, to think, to reflect not so much on the past year, but on this year, on it’s possibilities, a chance to make plans, to prepare. A chance to start off with good Bible Reading practices, to start new reading plans, try different methods, a chance to draw alongside the Lord and ask, ‘What now Lord?” and to wait for the whisper of His reply.

I have however also realised that during these grey, dark months in particular that it is important to feed your soul with beauty, goodness and love. So it was particularly uplifting to be privileged to be able to go to see the Nutcracker’ Ballet this weekend, the stunning scenery and costumes, the beautiful music and exquisite dance filled and restored my soul.

February is coming and whilst my heart is lifted at that prospect, at the same time, I want to sit in the peace of January, the quiet, the solitude of the month, and even sit with the feelings of sadness and heaviness, to allow myself to feel so that I can heal and be restored and strengthened.

So yes, I am happy to say goodbye to January, but I won’t rush headlong into February, but rather one day at a time find myself in that new month and hold all the ups and downs, hopes and fears before the Lord, and walk with Him, hand in His, eyes open to all He gives, looking and feeding off the beauty, goodness and love of His creation as it reveals itself in whatever format.

Where can find and incorporate beauty, goodness and love into your life right now?

Possibility

Katie Smith on Twitter: "“My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I  recite my composition concerning the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready  writer.” Psalms 45:1 NKJV https://t.co/uqVfXkqfak

I work in a Library and it goes without saying that I absolutely love books, particularly fiction, I love how it transports you to a different place, time, setting. You open a new book and the possibilities are endless as to where the story may go.

I find that a bit with writing, I sit here at my PC or with an open page on my journal and my thoughts, imagination, inspiration, writing could take me down so many different paths, there are lots of possibilities.

There is even the possibility that one day I would consider myself to be a writer, a proper writer! One who is recognized to be a writer! However, more than that recognition is the desire to write as God would give direction and that my words would be used for His glory and for the benefit and help of others, that they would bring healing, help and encouragement, that my words would be that of ‘a ready writer, overflowing with a goodly theme”

My heart is overflowing with a good theme;
I recite my composition concerning the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.

Psalm 45:1

Possibility is the Word-Prompt in today’s #Five Minute Friday group.

possibility

Important

Remember the Lord your God – Part 6 – Kolumns

This is the first word prompt of 2022 from the #Five Minute Friday Group of writers, and my first time back in a while.

Important is a good word to kick us off this year. What is important? Mmmh if I think about it there are lots of things which I think are important and which I give priority to. However, I have started reading the Book of Deuteronomy and in it Moses is outlining to the people of Israel what is important to take with them into the promised land and the most important thing which he underlines again and again is to remember!

Remember the Lord your God.

Remember His deliverance,

Remember His provision,

Remember His guidance,

Remember His holiness,

Remember His commands,

Remember Him!

If they didn’t remember, give heed to, draw alongside the Lord their God, then they would think that they had achieved everything themselves, that it was their own effort, their own goodness which had gotten them through the wilderness and into this promised land. But it wasn’t! Not by a long shot!

You must recognize that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land because you are good, for you are not – you are a stubborn people

Deuteronomy 9:6 (NLT)

When you have eaten your fill, be sure to praise the Lord your God for the good land He has given you. But that is the time to be careful. Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey His commands, regulations and decrees that I am giving you this day.

Deuteronomy 8:10,11

So too us we have to remember the Lord our God. Remember His deliverance from the sin that entrapped us; remember His goodness even in taking us through our own wildernesses which tightened out bonds to Him, remember the times we tried to do it in our own strength and failed; remember His goodness and redeeming love in picking us up again.

So the most important thing for me this year is to REMEMBER the Lord my God, tying myself in dependence upon Him, relying on Him and giving Him the glory due to Him, acknowledging that anything I have is all by grace.

First Word – Endure

The Word I have felt impressed upon me for this New Year of 2022 is the Word Endure!

The dictionary meaning of Endurance = the ability to continue with an unpleasant or difficult situation, experience or activity over a long period of time.

So endurance is the keeping on going, the getting to the finishing line, no matter the hardships or obstacles along the way!

Now I am no endurance athlete and infact would rather have a soft, easy, cushy life, but the Christian life is not an easy life, we are called into the battle of the war for our souls and we are called to endure, to keep on till the end.

This is the aspect of this word Endure which is impressed upon me, it is not the enduring of our physical, daily hardships, the ups and downs and trials of life, but rather the spiritual hardship, being faithful spiritually, keeping on trusting even when our situations are screaming out for us to question God and His plans.

This passage in Matthew’s gospel shows us that in the last days we will be required to keep on holding on, to endure:

Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers .  And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other.  And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold But the one who endures to the end will be saved.  And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.

Matthew 24:9-14

Our faith is going to be called into question, our trust is going to be tested, we will be called to stand up, be different, and keep on believing, keep on trusting, keep on holding on, keep on being faithful, keep on praying, keep on reading, keep on keeping on – Endure.

When life seems full of hard knocks, unexpected challenges and sorrows of the heart there is so often then a battle in our hearts and minds to keep on believing that God is good and that He is good to us. So easy to give up and give in to the questions and doubts of our minds, but as we endure and press on through those questions and doubts we can come to a place of trust, a place of surrender and be given the strength and grace to keep on going and endure.

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

Hebrews 12:2

So will you join me as we endure through to the end in the battle for our faith, as we endure in the battle of facts over feelings, truth over lies, as we endure in the battle over giving into weariness, as we endure through the battle for our hearts & minds to be set on Jesus, as we endure through in the battle for our souls?

Will you join me in championing each other, encouraging each other towards the finish line, enduring to the end?

I pray for each one of us this year, dear friends, that we will endure, that we will not give up, that we will not give in, but rather press on, press through, keeping our eyes on Jesus.

Last Word – Thrive

What Does Psalm 1:3 Mean?

My ”Word” for this past year (2021) has been Thrive, the aim was not just to survive the year, but thrive in and throughout the year.

So in order to do that I set myself monthly reflections and goals to achieve that, things which would help thrive that month, things like books to read, bible studies to complete, relationships to work on, things to pray through, etc.

So as I reflect back, have I thrived? Have I done more than survive?

I think so, to a certain extent anyway! I don’t in anyway want that to sound smug or prideful, but rather it is thanks to God for His sustaining, life-flowing power that the praise is given.

In a year that would have been difficult anyway, it was even more important to keep my conscious contact with God going and to draw up from His life giving source so that I could still flourish and bear fruit. I have survived those difficulties of Lockdowns and restrictions on social life and contacts and in many ways I have thrived and my knowledge and trust in God have increased by His grace and faithful hand on my life.

As I have seen the Sovereignty of God over those world events which have impacted us all, to a greater or lesser extent whether directly or indirectly, I have come to a greater awe of God and realised in a deeper way that really we are mere mortals and have no control over those things. And as I have come to that understanding and have again and again had to hand over those ‘out of my control’ situations over to God, that has deepened my trust and strengthened my faith.

Sometimes God places us in hard circumstance in order to put our roots down deep, so that we will not just survive, but flourish in the year of drought. For many of us that is what this year has been for us, but with our roots down deep we can keep on flourishing, keep on thriving.

They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season.

Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.

Psalm 1:3

What about you? How well have you survived the year? Have you thrived? Where are you giving thanks for God’s sustaining power?

Advent 4 – Peace

Isaiah 26:3 You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you,

Yet in the dark streets shineth

the everlasting Light;

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight.

When the light comes and pierces our darkness, when we are given hope so that our fears are relieved we find joy, and when we meet with Jesus we have peace.

Peace

Peace which the world can’t give.

Peace which the world can’t take away.

Our streets may still be dark, there may still be fears lurking in our lives and hearts, but as we allow the light of Jesus to shine in those dark places of our lives, as we allow Him to take our fears from all the years, as we allow Him entrance into our lives we find His peace.

Not the peace which is fleeting, not the peace based on an absence of conflict, but a peace with God when our hearts are fixed on Him. A peace which passes understanding and which keeps our minds on Him.

Do you know that peace this week? Where do you need to rest your burdens down to find that peace? What fears do you need to let go of to let the peace of Jesus fill your heart?

My prayer for you this week is that you will find that peace of mind and heart in Jesus in the midst of your day and week and years.

Advent 3 – Joy

When we have been bogged down by our fears the last thing we feel is joy. We feel trapped, we feel down, we feel darkness, we feel despair, we feel hopeless.

Yet in the dark streets shineth

the everlasting Light;

The Hope and fears of all the years

Are met in Thee tonight”

But when we are delivered of those fears relief comes, a lightness comes and joy comes! All those fears from all those years are met in Jesus.

Joy

Joy Comes

Joy comes with the relief, joy comes with the hope. All our fears from all the years are met in Jesus, they are come together in Jesus and He deals with them, He satisfies them, He relieves us of them.

Jesus meets us right where we are, He relieves us from the burden of those fears and brings joy. Joy which no one can take away from us, no-one can rob us of the joy which Jesus brings.

Have you had the burdens of your heart lifted, have you had your fears relieved? Then rejoice, know that deep down joy in Jesus.

My prayer for you this week is that you will know relief from you fears and that you will find joy in Jesus.

Advent 2 – Hope

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Yet in the dark streets shineth
the everlasting light;
The Hope and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

This Advent week we looking at HOPE.

Hope for the “fears of all the years”.

Fears of all the years – that is a lot of fears, over a lot of years!

Even in our own lives imagine if all our fears from all our years were written in one long list, how long would that list be? Some years there may be more entries than others, but still, I know for me that would be a very long list.

YET

Yet Jesus

Yes Jesus is the hope for all those fears which we carry, sometimes we carry them from one year to the other, Yet Jesus.

Jesus is our hope. Our hope is placed in Jesus for our saving, our hope is placed in the fact that Jesus died for us, He has opened a way to God for us, He has gone into heaven before us to prepare a place for us and He will come back again to take us to our forever home.

So we don’t place our hope in the temporal, material, dispensable, fleeting things of this world, but we place our hope in the eternal, the everlasting, the imperishable, the truth and the trustworthy things of God.

Jesus alone is the answer to our hope and fears of all our years, let us place our hope in Him today, giving Him our fears and know assuredly that He will come back for a second advent when He will remove all those fears and tears from all for all time.

My prayer for you this week is that you will find hope for all your fears in the midst of your years.

Advent 1 – Light

I AM the Light of the World

So it is Advent! Lots of busy, lots to do, also lots of Advent Devotionals and Studies, but these lines from the Carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” have really touched me this year and seem so appropriate for this Advent, this pandemic, this life.

Yet in the dark streets shineth

the everlasting light;

The Hope and fear of all the years

Are met in thee tonight

O Little Town of Bethlehem

In the dark streets – our streets are dark, it is winter, the weather has closed in, it is dark, bleak even. There are fears on our streets, fears in our homes, fears in our hearts.

We are still in the midst of a Pandemic, it has not gone away, it mutates, grows, finds new ways to get a grip. Similar really to our fears, they mutate, they grow arms and legs, they can get hold of us and it is difficult to let them go, difficult not to focus on them, difficult not to let them control us.

BUT.

But Jesus.

But Jesus is the light.

In the dark world shines our Everlasting Light.

Jesus is the Everlasting Light, in Him is no darkness at all.

When we turn our fears and our darkness over to Him we find that His light comes into those fears and dispels them and His light shines sanity, serenity, peace and hope into our darkness.

So what are our fears today that we need to turn to Jesus in? Where is the darkness in our life that we need to let Jesus shine into?

My prayer for you is that you will find the Light of Jesus in the midst of this dark world and that you will be the light of Jesus in this dark world!

Secrets

Secrets - Lewis Ballard : Lewis Ballard

I have a secret.

Yep, I do!

Lean in closer and I’ll tell you.

It is kinda something to do with ‘Black Friday’, but not just that!

Have I got your attention now?

Want to know what the secret is?

The apostle Paul call it ‘the secret of contentment’.

It is a secret, something you have to discover for yourself, not necessarily something you are taught. For Paul he learnt it through hardship, through being in want, through being in need of everyday practical things. He learnt that actually he could live without certain things.

 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:11-13

Sometimes our need is all we see; it is screaming at us; we cann’t see or think past it. It takes discipline, it takes making a hard decision to lift our eyes off the need onto the glorious riches which are in Christ and to give thanks, which is declaring God is good, God is in control and God will provide enough and more to sustain me through this need.

So as I was reading and pondering on these verses this morning, it is Black Friday and I thought of all those queuing up at shops to grab a bargain or two or those trawling the internet doing on-line shopping and thought, really what do I need? Am I content? Have I learnt the secret? What is the secret?

The secret I think lies in trust. Trust that actually God will supply all my needs, not necessarily all my wants or all my longings and not necessarily all at once or immediately, but what He will do is provide me with the grace I need to wait, the grace to feel the want, the grace to long for and not yet-receive my heart’s desire. It is to trust that God is sovereign and He is able to provide whatever help, deliverance or thing it is that I need. It is placing my trust in God’s ways and God’s timings.

It is also to be content, to be thankful for all that He has already provided, to be grateful and not to be looking longingly at the next shiny thing, but happy with where God has placed me and the circumstance He has placed me in. It is to hold the things of this world loosely so that I am not too upset if I don’t have them or if they are taken away from me.

So today, join with me in asking and pondering – what are my priorities; where is my heart; what am I placing my trust on? I pray that you too will learn this secret of contentment. And if you have learned this secret, then don’t hide it -make it known. [Hide is the Word prompt on today’s #Five Minute Friday group.

See Grace

This is part of a wee mini series I am doing on the Five Senses looking at Hope, Forgiveness, Courage, Kindness and Grace.

This week we are looking at Grace – what does Grace look like?

For me Grace looks like Victory!

Grace is strong, Grace wins through every time, Grace reaches down to the depths and comes out victorious!

It is the strength of Grace which reaches down and pulls you back up. It is Grace that calls for you when you are in the depths.

It is Grace which takes you small, dirty, insignificant, as you are and transforms you into being a son/daughter of the King of Kings.

It is Grace which takes you at your lowest and puts you back on the path of life. It is Grace which seeks for you when you are lost. Grace meets you where you are, but doesn’t leave you there! It is Grace which takes you and led you, it is Grace which sustains you, it is all of Grace.

It is Grace which takes you home, through all the trials, all the tribulations, pains and fears of life, it is Grace which wins through and takes you to your forever home with our Gracious Lord and Saviour.

What does Grace look like to you? Let me know in the comments section below!

Touch Kindness

This is part of a wee mini-series I am doing on the Five Senses on Hope, Forgiveness, Courage, Kindness, and Grace.

Ephesians 4:32 Be Kind to One Another - Free Bible Verse Art Downloads - Bible  Verses To Go

This week we are looking at – What does kindness feel like?

To me it feels soft, warmth, almost fluffy but not quite!

Against the harsh realities of the world, jagged personalities, bitterness’s and resentments kindness feels soft.

Against the anger, hurts and even violence kindness feels soft.

It is not so much that we touch kindness, but that kindness touches us and when it does it leaves its mark. Strange that something so soft can have such a profound effect, and can leave a mark.

But kindness can soften hard hearts, kindness can dispel anger, kindness can stop violence in its tracks.

Kindness can wipe away tears of loneliness, kindness can take away the sharpness of broken personalities, kindness can remove barriers between those who were estranged.

We can reach out in kindness to our neighbours, our friends, our colleagues, our family, those whithin our sphere of influence. We can be kind, in word and deed, we need to extend kindness in this harsh world.

But we also need to let kindness into our own souls and lives, to feel that softness against the harsh realities, to know that touch when we are feeling bitter, to feel that touch of forgiveness when we feel judged and condemned. We need to feel that touch of the loving kindness of the Lord.

And be kind to one another

What does kindness feel like to you? Let me know in the comments section!

Hear Courage

This is part of a wee mini-series I am doing on the Five Senses on Hope, Forgiveness, Courage, Grace,

Joshua 1:9 - Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courage...

This week we are looking at – what does courage sound like?

For me it sounds like a bell!

Courage for me means that I am having to be brave about something, it means taking a big gulp and doing that something which naturally doesn’t come easy for me and so courage may at first sound like the little tinkle of a bell.

I may have to face a difficult day, I may have to apologise to someone I don’t find easy, I may have to face a medical issue or I may need to step out in faith and do something God is asking for me. However little or however big the thing is I need to garrison my courage.

And then when I have garrisoned the courage, taken a deep breath and start out on the pathway of the difficult task, I hear that little tinkle of courage, but as I progress along that pathway the tinkle gets louder, as my courage grows so does the sound of that bell, it is no longer a tinkle of courage swamped by fear, but a boldness comes and with it the sound of courage changes to a much more resounding gong.

So often in the bible God tells us to ‘Be of good courage’ to be ‘courageous’. He knows our fears you see and when He calls us to do something which goes against our natural instincts He is asking us to step out and trust Him, that He will bring it to pass, that He will step in where we are weak and make us strong.

What does courage sound like for you? Let me know in the comments section.

Mind Your Senses - The Research Group
wordpress.com/post/findinggodintheeverydayblog.wordpress.com/1851

Taste Forgiveness

This is part of a wee mini-series I am doing on the Five Senses on Hope, Forgiveness, Courage, Kindness and Grace,

Sweeter than Honey — Intentionally Yours

This week we are asking – What does forgiveness taste like?

For me it tastes like honey – sweet and soothing.

If we are living in unforgiveness, not having accepted that Jesus died for us, died for our sins; that our sins are removed from us, along with the guilt and shame of those sins, then we don’t know that sweetness of forgiveness. We are not experiencing the soothing forgiveness of Jesus washing away our sins.

If we have unforgiveness in our heart towards others it taste like bile in our mouths, it is bitter and it comes out like poison. Honey sweetens that. Honey smoothly slips down and on its way it touches everything around transforming them to sweet.

Honey heals, honey soothes, honey sweetens.

Forgiveness heals, forgiveness soothes, forgiveness sweetens a sinner heart.

We are told to taste and see that the Lord is good’

Tasting, partaking of the Lord’s forgiveness is seeing He is good, tasting of His forgiveness, His compassion is like tasting honey.

If we have a sore throat and drink a little hot water with a spoon on honey it soothes.

If we have a wound and rub a little honey on it, it heals.

If we are sore with our sin, drinking in of the Lord’s forgiveness soothes our sorry souls,

If we are wounded, broken, shamed, rejected then finding the Lord’s forgiveness and applying that to our wounds heals our sad, broken souls.

Honey, honey on the comb, sweet, healing

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones”

What does forgiveness taste like to you? Let me know in the comments!

Smell Hope

A while ago was listening to a Podcasts by Emily P Freeman, #The Next Right thing where she was talking about the senses and posed the question what does Hope smell like? I found the question interesting and began to ponder what our senses communicate to us about Hope, Forgiveness, Courage, Kindness and Grace and so for the next five weeks we will look at these very things.

So today we start with the sense of smell – one of the most evocative of all the senses they say, bringing us back to childhood memories and can conjur up situations both good and bad. Yet strangely enough my own dad was born without a sense of smell and I remember trying to describe a smell to him, but in my bad effort it was only comparing it with other smells!

Anyway, what does Hope smell like?

For me, it smells sharp, citrus like Lemon. It is something which awakes the senses when you have been dull, when you have been in a fog and then you smell something citrus it freshens your other senses, heightens them even and you begin to wake up, you begin to pay attention and as that smell increases, gets stronger you become fully alert

That for me is what hope is. You get a glimmer, maybe just faintly at first, but a glimmer and with that glimmer, you sit up, you pay attention, you are on the lookout for further signs. Then as you see further signs, maybe something you had missed in your dismay, too wrapped up in your despair to see, hope stirs within you and awakens you.

Why are you cast down O my Soul

Hope in God, my Help and my strength

What does hope smell like to you? You can let me know in the comments section, I’d love to know!

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Equinox, Shifts & Blessings

It is less than two weeks since the Autumn Equinox a time which I normally love as we begin that change from Summer into Autumn. But this year we have been plunged straight into Autumn, infact it has felt almost like winter. There has been a sudden and large drop in temperature along with the usual gales and unsettled spell of weather.

The Equinox has been pivotal changing Summer to Autumn/Winter and sometimes life is like that too, there is a pivotal shift in our circumstances or even just within ourselves, a shift in our thinking which changes the direction we were going in. Sometimes we can pinpoint when that shift took place, sometimes it is more subtle and almost sneaks up on us.

Last year we celebrated our 25th Wedding anniversary during Lockdown, but as I meditated on this milestone I realised that a shift had taken place within our marriage from a place of brokenness God brought healing, from desperation to blessing. A definite shift.

Indeed God gave two promises last year that He would “restore the years that the locusts had eaten” and that ‘the latter glory would be greater than the former “. As we approach this year’s anniversary I see the fulfilment of God’s promise to us and the blessings we have had this past year and the huge, huge blessing of gifts friends and family have given to us in the form of dinners out, hotels to stay in, times away.

So it is with thanksgiving in our hearts that we approach another anniversary and celebrate God’s deliverance and blessing on our lives. We will praise the Name of the Lord who has dealt wondrously with us, who has brought about that restoration, that shift within us.

Purpose

The Chief End of Man is to Glorify God - Free Bible Study Classes, Free  Bible Resources

It is Five Minute Friday time again! This is where we write for 5 minutes on a one-word prompt. Today’s prompt is Purpose.

So what came to my mind was the first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

  • Q1. What is man’s primary purpose?
    Man’s primary purpose is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

That is our ‘raison d’etre‘, our purpose or reason for living.

To glorify God – that means to acknowledge His greatness and give Him honour by praising and worshiping Him, mainly because He, and He alone, deserves to be praised, honoured and worshiped, we give glory to Him by recognizing that greatness, by giving Him His rightful place in our lives.

Enjoy Him – that means we have fellowship with Him. We have His presence! We have relationship with this great God.

So we are not worshipping an unknown God, we are not worshipping and glorifying God out of fear, but in relationship. We are worshiping, praising, giving Him the glory because we know Him and love Him. There is no greater purpose and no greater joy that this.

City

The word prompt for today in the #Five Minute Friday Group is City.

What does this word conjure up for me? What do I think about when I think of a city?

Well truthfully, my heart sinks! I think of noise, crowds, traffic, fumes, dirt, people shoving, jostling, dirty streets. I think of getting lost, of feeling overwhelmed, of feeling like a country bumkin who doesn’t know the rules of the city amidst the city-slickers who know and play by the rules!

It is the feeling of inadequacy and of not fitting in which the city brings out in me. Although thinking of this is a bit like life in general really, we all want to “fit in” to belong; we want to ‘be part of’ what is going on, no-one wants to feel alone and vulnerable, unseen, unnoticed, unimportant.

So city life or country life – same human needs, same human desires, same basic need for connection.

I’m a country bumkin, but I still need human connection, I still need that touch of someone understanding; someone seeing me, hearing me and just as importantly I need to be that ‘someone’ to another person who crosses my way today; just to sit with them, stand with them and let them known that they are seen, that they are important.

So many people with similar stories desperately needed more than the help that we were prepared to give. What they wanted even more, however, was for someone, anyone, even a stranger who was still trying to learn their language, to sit for a while, or just stand with them and let them share theirs stories. I perhaps should have known this, but I was amazed to see the power of human presence. In my pride, I thought that I knew exactly what these people needed, but I would never have thought to put conversation or human connection on my list. Once again, I was profoundly humbled.

Nik Ripken, The Insanity of God, Pg 86

Desperate

Psalm 34:4-5 - Inspirational Bible Verse - Bible Verse Images

Ever been stuck between a rock and a hard place? Ever feel desperate?

Desperate is the Word Prompt for today’s #Five Minute Friday group of writers, joining with them today to explore this.

There have been times when I have been desperate and I’m sure you have too, when you have found yourself squeezed into a tight place not knowing what to do, feeling almost as if you were loosing your mind.

We not alone in this I know, in good company really when you think King David went through exactly the same feelings. In 1 Samuel Chapters 20-22, we see David fleeing for his life from King Saul who was trying to kill him, so he flees to the relative safety of Gath, only to discover that actually it wasn’t that safe for him there either! So what does he do? He feigns madness, so that he will appear unthreatening, so that they will leave him alone! Does it work? Yes it does!

I have never had to feign madness, but in moments of desperation, squeezed, stressed and battered on every side I have felt that the line between sanity and insanity is a very thin line indeed.

But let’s not leave it there, what did David do? He prayed, we know that because He tells us that in Psalm 34, yet this is not a Psalm of lament, but a Psalm of trust and of Praise. Definitely something to learn and be gained from this.

I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak His praises.

I will boast only in the Lord; let all who are helpless take heart.

Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt His name together.

I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears.

Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.

In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles.

Psalm 34:1-6

Rememberance

This weekend is ‘Remembrance Day’, when we remember those who gave their lives in the Great Wars, that we may live in freedom.  This year marking one hundred years since the end of World War One, makes it even more significant.  Armistice Day is on 11 November and is also known as Remembrance Day.  It marks the day World War One ended, at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918. A two-minute silence is held at 11am to remember the people who have died in wars.

There is much to talk about – freedom, sacrifice, grief, and pain and the things we don’t talk about like PTSD, and the mental and emotion scars wars, any war, all wars, leave on those who have fought and those who have watched them go, those still picking up the pieces.

It is a hard time in our house, the tension is palpable as the uniform is pressed, as the shoes are shined  and as the medals are pinned on. The memories unbidden, the fears often quelled rise again, the dreams return, events which no-one wants to re-live come back, all still take their toll, all still have their hold on a life that too young had to face too much, so that even now, even now the scars pulse.

So even for me, though I wasn’t there, though I haven’t seen, though I wasn’t involved, still the impact is there every day, it is just that on this day it is acknowledge by others.

So for me, as we wait for the parade, as I catch sight of my love in his uniform my heart swells both with pride and fear and my eyes fill with tears as I catch sight of the tension in his jaw, his pain.  As we bow our heads for the ‘two minutes silence’, I remember those who have gone on before, I pray for those still here who silently bear the scars and ask for protection on those who may still  have it all to face.

And I remember the Man of Sorrows, the One acquainted with grief, the One who knows pain,  who knows the meaning of sacrifice, the one who knows scars,  the One who bears the scars on His back, on His head, on His hands & His feet and has His side pierced. The Man of Sorrows, who before his death, took the cup of suffering and said ‘this do in remembrance of me’.