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‘Tis the season…for letting go

One discovery this autumn has been the trails at Mount Stewart. While I prefer running in daylight (& preferably sunshine) I can identify with the benefits of running hard listed in Keri Wyatt Kent’s blog ‘Trail running in the dark

I don’t always have epiphanies during long runs. But sometimes the combination of mind-space, the beauty of creation & the challenge of physical exertion blend together in a serendipitous moment!

One epiphany was during Run Forest Run’s Minnowburn 10k. I had reached the last kilometre (more slowly than usual!) I was running over a carpet of leaves, & more leaves were falling like confetti from the trees as I ran beneath them. It was a beautiful scene- captured in my mind more vividly than on any camera!

As I ran I sensed God say, ‘In life you have to let things go, so I can make them beautiful’

Just as the trees let go of their leaves & let them fall to the ground to create this beautiful scene, so we need to let go.
What do we need to let go of ?:

*Past failures
*Regrets
*Selfish ambitions
*Choking Fears
*Broken dreams
*Emotional baggage
*Pet sins
*Unrealistic expectations
*Pride
*Harmful relationships
*Over-thinking
*(False) Stories told only to ourselves

And whatever else comes to mind.

How can we let go? We need to bring these things to God. Pour out our hearts to the One who knows us best. Let it go & most importantly leave it with Him. Seek His forgiveness if required, then walk in the freedom of His grace

For, ‘There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens’
(Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV)

And Autumn is the season of letting go.

‘Seasons are not only realities that occur outside and around us, in the skies and in the trees. I believe seasons are also internal and personal, interwoven into the fabric of human life. We are designed to transition, to change, and to vary. Our souls have seasons.’
(Seasons of the Soul– Adam McHugh)

The Creator God can bring beauty from brokenness , when we let go & leave our greatest fears & burdens with Him.

‘He has made everything beautiful in its time.’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV)

We have a Cherry tree in our garden. In spring it blossoms where it’s planted. In summer its shiny leaves rustle in the breeze. In Autumn it lets go of its foliage. Already I can see already tiny buds of new life on its bare branches, ready to burst into life in Spring.

Letting go is a necessary step for growth to take place.

‘Perhaps when watchers see us burst into life it will be the colors of Jesus they see.’
(Ashley Hale-The Year I lost Autumn)

For, whatever the season:
‘You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.’
(Matthew 5:14MSG)

Blessings,

Ruth x

Revised & updated from www.blessedme.co.uk

My bothy

A refuge for the troubled mind

I’d completely forgotten the word bothy until we discovered Bothy Coffee this summer.

In Scotland Bothy means a small hut that walkers can shelter in eg Ernie’s Bothy in Balmoral Estate or closer home Salt Island Bothy on Strangford Lough accessible by canoe

I like the idea of a bothy- somewhere to shelter in the mountains or by the Lough as we discover & explore the wilderness!

I like the thought of God being like a bothy.

A refuge. A haven. A shelter.

‘The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.’
(Nahum 1:7 ESV)

‘You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.’
(Psalms 119:114 ESV)

And His Word is trustworthy:

‘This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.’
(Psalms 18:30 ESV)

‘He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”‘
(Psalms 91:1-2 ESV)

In this bothy, our Father God is so close that we are under His shadow & we are shielded by God Himself.

A bothy is not for glamping . It’s a simple hut to protect from the elements.

And so with God our bothy. In troubled times He has promised to provide needs – not our wants.

He gives comfort rather than keeping us comfortable.

He gives shelter in the storms of life. Sometimes He calms the storm & sometimes He calms His child- tear-stained & heavy-hearted in the bothy.

‘You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not recorded in Your book?’
(PSALM 56:8 AMP)

The One who scattered the stars collects our tears. He knows our name & He knows our hearts. And He still loves us.

We can’t go back to change events that caused the storm. We can’t erase our mistakes or undo our past. But we can come to our God & find shelter in the difficult days & peace in the dark chapters.

We can share our heart as we pray to our Maker. We can trust Him at all times, through all our days.

‘On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah’
(Psalms 62:7-8 ESV)

Blessings

Ruthx

*Photo – Mountain Hut in Lauterbrunnen taken by Rob

In Christ

I’m grateful for another surprisingly sunny day (right at the end of summer) spent in this area of outstanding natural beauty-in the middle of the Ards Peninsula! A good place to be & great position to be in!

But our position is more than:

our GPS co-ordinates on this planet,
our location as posted on Facebook,
our step on the ladder or social class,
our status, or branch on the family tree.

It’s better than our rank in the race,
in the company,
or where we are in life
and love.

The only position that truly matters & counts for time & eternity

is our position in Christ

i.e. whether we are in Christ

or not.

Whether we are in a relationship with Him {by trusting Him for forgiveness} …or not

As Christians, our true identity, deepest meaning , & unshakable security are all in Christ alone.

In Christ is the best place to be,
the ONLY place to be,
to truly BE ,
& really live {not just exist }

It’s the difference between:

light & darkness
peace & anxiety
heaven & hell

In Christ is not always an easy place to be.

Jesus said there would be trouble(John 14)

However, He also said that He was greater than any trouble we would face:
‘I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.] (John 16:33 AMP)

The greatest blessing is the blessing of being in Christ

‘For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment’ (Colossians 1:15-18 MSG)

We are ‘a people whose life in Jesus’

For He said: ‘I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of’. (John 10:10 MSG)

When we are in Christ we have:

unlimited grace,
undeserved blessings,
unending love.

Indeed, day by day, we are living in pure grace (Rom 12:6 MSG)

We experience grace heaped upon grace (John 1:16)

Yet often we are unaware of the immensity of pure grace & incessant love from God in heaven above.

For,in Christ, we live a life filled with outrageous, audacious grace.

‘It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.’ (Ephesians 1:11, 12 MSG)

‘He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.’ (Ephesians 1:7-10 MSG)

‘For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.’ (Eph1:4-6)

These verses convey amazing truth, echoed in the words of this modern hymn:

‘LOVED BEFORE THE DAWN OF TIME,
Chosen by my Maker,
Hidden in my Saviour:
I am His and He is mine,
Cherished for eternity.’
(Stuart Townend)

We are brought into the privileged position of being in Christ, through grace:
‘being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 3:24 NKJV)

‘He has saved us and called us to a holy life-not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time’(2 Timothy 1:9NIV)

‘Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.’ (Romans 3:21-24 MSG)

In Christ, we are adopted:
‘So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith’ (Gal 3:26)

In Christ, we are transformed:
‘if anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come’ (2Cor 5:17)

In Christ, we are freed from guilt:
‘Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ’ (Rom 8:1)

In Him we have all that we need!

In Him we are complete, totally complete in body, soul, mind &spirit.

In Him we have real, abundant, everlasting life.

Outside of Him,
apart from Him,
aside from Him,

we are nothing:

-a dead twig
-an empty page
-a lifeless body

‘But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.’ (Ephesians 2:13)

We are:
Chosen & called
Flawed but forgiven
Found & treasured
Redeemed & restored

We have :
Power & purpose

We are:
Beloved & blessed

In Christ!

As this popular anthem declares:

‘In Christ alone
My hope is found
He is my light my strength my song’
(Getty & Townend)

We can be
strong in His strength,
bright in His light

‘For in you I find my dwelling place
In you I find amazing grace
In you I find security
Jesus you are all I need’
(Kari Jobe –Dwelling Place)

In Christ we have ‘strength for today & bright hope for tomorrow’

If we are in Christ, we can declare:
‘Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.’ (Philippians 4:13MSG)

So,
‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.’ (Eph 1:3)

Blessings,

Ruth x

Edited from post originally published at http://www.blessedme.co.uk

Undo

On social media we tend to project the best version of ourselves- the edited glossy digital version with a Pinterest perfect back drop

Normally, in real life things are far from perfect. If you’re like me you manage to function professionally at work- yet unravel at home.

We get stressed & take it out on our nearest & dearest who are trying to help. We walk our proverbial dirty boots all over our homes.

In moments like these we feel that we need the ‘Undo’ button for life’s mistakes.

The Good News is:
‘your God is so big He doesn’t live in boxes but your gritty grace filled life’
(Ann Voskamp)

God is with us in the middle of the messy daily grind.

Thankfully, God is a God of second chances, of third, fourth & fifth chances. The Risen Lord who made breakfast for Peter (after he had denied him) will meet with us in our daily lives.

‘The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbour his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.’
(Psalm 103:8&9)

God loves us when we least deserve it. All we bring to the relationship is our sin. Yet,He came to seek & save us. And when we trust Him we are forever blessed by the overflowing mercy & grace of God.

‘Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”(Luke 5:31NIV) Now, that’s a slogan for  a poster in our waiting room!

Jesus continued, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32 NIV)

We all need the Great Physician’s healing touch on our lives, for according to Romans 3:23, we have all sinned. There are no exceptions.

One morning in church the sermon was based on these verses:
‘Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.’
(1 Timothy 1:15-16 NIV)

When we come to Him for forgivness, our God can undo our sins:
‘For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.’
(Psalm 103:11,12 NIV)

God’s love is deeper than our failings, flaws & shortcomings.

‘The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.’
(Tim Keller)

Ann of Green Gables said, ‘Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it’ (yet!)

Everyday is a new opportunity to experience the faithful love & inexhaustible mercy of God:

‘The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.’
(Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT)

‘Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.’
(Psalm 32:1 NIV)

Blessings,

Ruth x

Edited from original post at http://www.blessedme.co.uk

Created to create

A favourite family pastime is visiting new independent coffee shops. One recent discovery was 5A in Stranmillis, Belfast.

As you know from this page I love collecting quotes. In one of the magazines in 5A ‘The Duncairn’ I read this:

‘Creativity belongs to the artist in each of us. To create means to relate. The root meaning of the word art is ‘to fit together’ and we all do this every day.

Not all of us are painters but we are all artists. Each time we fit things together we are creating – whether it is to make a loaf of bread, a child, a day.’
(Corita Kent)

I liked the quote more when Google told me that Corita Kent was a nun- who created pop art!

I love that idea that we are all artists.

My daughter is truly creative. I can just about draw a stick man while Caris achieved A* in GCSE Art.

Few of us can draw or paint masterpieces but we all have the imprint of our Creative God on our lives.

His handiwork is displayed in the awesome brushstrokes across the sky at daybreak & sunset. In star-studded nights. In fingerprints & heartbeats.

And we are made in His image.

‘For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.’
‭‭(Ephesians‬ ‭2:10‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

The Greek term here translated ‘masterpiece’ or ‘workmanship’ (poiema) is the word from which we get our English word ‘poem.’

‘Being his workmanship doesn’t mean we are all poets. It means we are all poems, individual created works of a creative God. And this poetry comes out uniquely through us as we worship, think, love, pray, rest, work, and exist.’
(Emily P Freeman)

C S Lewis said “We are a divine work of art.”

And we are God’s masterpiece, not because of anything we have done. But because of God & His gift of grace:
‘God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.’
‭‭(Ephesians‬ ‭2:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

In the Old Testament God used artisans to build the tabernacle. Bezalel was ‘filled with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze,in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship. ‘(Exodus 31:1-5)

Today we ‘are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple.’
‭‭(1 Peter‬ ‭2:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬) We don’t just go to church- we are the church.

As living stones we are all different. Our individual creativity is unique. But we are created to create good things designed by God the creator of all.

What are you created to create?

*Nourishing food

*Melody & harmony

*Words that build up souls

*Small group encouragement

*Childrens’ programmes

*Barista coffee & artisan cake

*Photograph memories

*Pastel paintings

* Space in your schedule to listen

*A welcoming home

*A happy childhood

‘There’s no way to be a perfect writer, painter, birthday cake maker but there’s a million ways to be a good one.’
(Holley Gerth)

So be you & do your thing!

It’s liberating to ponder that life is more than following rules. It’s about being & becoming who we were created to be!

‘For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.’
(Philippians‬ ‭2:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

We create not just in our day jobs but in the margins of our days:

‘When our days aren’t filled to the brim, we have more capacity to feed our creativity, be present with others, tend to our own souls, and be attentive to God being with us.

May God renew your spirit, bless you with creativity, and give you a zest for life as you seek out small spaces to find inspiration.’
(Katherine Butler)

‘No moment is useless, no day void, when shaped by the creative power of love.’
(Sally Clarkson)

So, ‘Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.’
‭‭(Colossians‬ ‭3:23‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Consider ‘What’s in your hand?

Ask God what He has prepared for you to create with Him today.

For, you are created to create!

Blessings,

Ruthx

PS You might like:

You are His workmanship-Desiring God

Three questions to help you discover what you were created to create– Living by Design

When you dare to be who you are– Emily P Freeman

And if you like your indy coffee –The Independent Coffee Guide no. 2

Running toward rainbows

I hadn’t ran for over 3 weeks due to an injury so I was determined to lace up my ASICS & get going. The clouds over Strangford Lough at the Narrows looked threatening. Usually I feel blessed to live & work in an area of outstanding natural beauty. But that day I felt overwhelmed & annoyed at myself that I’d been clumsy enough to fall. And annoyed that I still had a niggling pain in my left shin even after 3 weeks relative rest! Sure enough the rain fell. But I didn’t mind getting wet, I just wanted to feel more relaxed!

Then, I looked up & a rainbow appeared between the clouds & rain! It was such a powerful reminder of God’s presence on a very ordinary Tuesday in August!

As you know, the first rainbow appeared after the flood, after the ark rested & the water subsided.

In the calm after the storm God said “Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”
(Genesis 9:16 NIV)

The rainbow is a reminder of God’s promises in the storms of life, & the aftermath that ensues. It is a visual reminder that we can hold on to hope in the worst of times.

‘His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises’
(2 Peter 1:3-4 NIV)

There are so many great & precious promises:

*The promise of adoption into God’s family, if we believe:

‘Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God’
(John 1:12 NIV)

*The promise of relationship:

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”
(Revelation 3:20 NIV)

*The promise of strength:

‘but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.’
(Isaiah 40:31 NIV)

*The promise of His presence:

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
(Isaiah 41:10 NIV)

*The promise of His presence, no matter what:

“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end— Because I am GOD, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior.”
(Isaiah 43:2-3MSG)

*The promise of His presence, always:

‘God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.”
(Hebrews 13:5-6 NIV)

*The promise of sustaining grace:

‘Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.’
(Psalm 55:22 NIV)

*The promise of a future:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
(Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV)

*The promise of guidance:

‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.’
(Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)

Which promises are most precious to you?

Whatever this week brings, run toward rainbows for:
‘His every promise is enough for every step I take’
(Keith & Kristyn Getty)

Blessings,

Ruth x

PS Edited from a post originally on http://www.blessedme.co.uk

The soundtrack for all our days

‘Music is the invisible sound that releases the grip of obscure emotions

If a picture paints one thousand words then a song can evoke a thousand memories!

Pachelbel’s Canon in D is one such song. The first time I remember hearing it was when I was a final year medical student holding a patient’s leg during a hip replacement in Dundee!I’m sure that this practice is no longer allowed as much for health & safety reasons, as limited educational value! But, while the surgeon operated back then, I was enchanted by the soothing music & decided that I would walk up the aisle to that tune.

I was disappointed to learn that my idea was not an original one- Canon in D has featured in the film ‘Father of the bride’ & countless other wedding ceremonies!

I did walk down the aisle to this special melody one week after graduating. And, years later I watched my children walk down another aisle as pageboy & flower girl when Linda & Graeme got married, accompanied by string quartet playing Pachelbel’s Canon.

I wouldn’t say that I’m a melomaniac i.e. someone with an overly great enthusiasm for music. But, I can still remember my heart thumping as we rose from our seats during the Hallelujah Chorus in the Waterfront Hall one Christmas BC (Before Children)

I can clearly recall deep feelings of gratitude that welled up deep inside as Casting Crowns sang ‘Praise You in the Storm’ at a concert a few years ago in Belfast. Similar feelings were evoked when I heard Rend Collective sing ‘Finally Free’ at their home church in Bangor.

There’s truth in these words:
‘Music is a piece of art that goes in the ears & straight to the heart’

‘Music is what feelings sound like.’

Last Christmas, a Spotify subscription helped bring flash-backs over 20yrs to tunes from the 80s & 90s.Aha & the Pet Shop Boys were streaming through the air waves at the touch of a screen!

A few Christmases ago, Santa brought Caris & Ethan original iPod shuffles in blue & pink. The shuffles were marketed as providing the soundtrack to life. That slogan made me think:

If life is our story- which music is the soundtrack?

*There’s a song to be seen

Creation proclaims God-songs day by day. Sunsets & bluebells, seascapes & mountain peaks, starlight & snowflakes:

‘Creation sings the Father’s song;
He calls the sun to wake the dawn
And run the course of day
Till evening falls in crimson rays.
His fingerprints in flakes of snow,
His breath upon this spinning globe’
(Keith Getty)

We, as God’s forgiven children also proclaim His songs:

‘He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.’
(Psalm 40:3 NIV)

Everyday, in our ordinary lives, we are a song to be seen.

‘Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.’
(Romans 12:1-the Message)

As Casting Crowns’ pray:
‘May my life-song sing to you’

Or, as Robert Robinson wrote in 1757:

‘Come thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise’

*There’s a song to be heard:

If we still our souls, we will hear the song God is singing over us:

‘For the LORD your God is living among you.
He is a mighty saviour.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.’
(Zephaniah 3:17 NLT)

‘The Lord will send His faithful love by day;
His song will be with me in the night-a prayer to the God of my life.’
(Psalms 42:8 HCSB)

As we listen to the soundtrack of our life, our heart’s desire should be:

‘Stir in me the songs that you are singing’ (Stuart Townend)

God’s song inspires us to sing even when we don’t feel like it.

‘A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song’
(Maya Angelou)

And our song is our God:

‘The LORD is my strength and my song; he has given me victory. This is my God, and I will praise him-my father’s God, and I will exalt him! (Exodus 15:2 NLT)

‘My heart, O God, is steadfast,
my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.
I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.’
(Psalm 57: 7& 10)

Selah

Blessings,

Ruth x

PS Listen to ‘Singing over me‘ (Kari Jobe)

*Edited from post originally posted at http://www.blessedme.co.uk

Held

Although I’ve learned to travel light, I always make room for my running gear. I may not run long or fast or often on holiday but even if I run once I’m satisfied it was worth making the space!

The first run on this year’s road trip was in Lauterbrunnen Switzerland-the valley of waterfalls, in the shadow of the mighty Jungfrau (4158m) Apparently it was the inspiration for Tolkien’s Rivendale & the location of the North Face Mountain Festival last year.

I ran from our Campsite along the river past waterfalls. I heard the roar of the Tummelbach falls – 20,000 litres per second from Alpine glaciers! It was almost too much awesomeness before breakfast!

The sun continued to rise & bathed the rock faces in a golden glow.

As I ran I was reminded of the words of a short poem that I read long ago – in a book by Joni Erickson Tada:

‘The hands that found it nothing strange,
To carve out a mountain range
Or ladle out a sea
Are holding and moulding me!’

Our Creator God who formed the Alps formed our heart & soul. The hands that hold planets in orbit are holding us!

As I ran back toward the campsite a guy landed effortlessly in the field in front- descending from high above with a parachute holding him in place!

Our lives can go too quickly from solid & steady into freefall. God holds us in place like a parachute! His power & promises can stop us from crash-landing.

‘We who hold on to all the wrong things are held tight by the love of the unchanging, unfading, one true God.
We don’t hold tight because we’ve figured this out.
We hold tight because He holds us’
(Amanda Bible Williams-She Reads Truth)

‘I wish you knew how much I long
For you to understand
No matter what may happen, child
I’ll never let go of your hand.
(Don Francisco)

‘Sometimes holding tight will feel more like hanging on, but don’t give up. Don’t believe the lie that you should let go. God holds you. Hold tight to Him’
(Amanda Bible Williams-She Reads Truth)

‘But even though your heart itself,
Should lose the will to stand
No matter what may happen, child
I’ll never let go of your hand’
(Don Francisco)

Whatever we face, we can rest in the truth that we are held by the One who holds all things together:
He will hold me fast

‘So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’
(Isaiah‬ ‭41:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Blessings

Ruth x

Start well

There are two types of people on this planet- those who are morning people, & those who are not! You either rise & shine or slumber & snooze. In the past I was definitely an owl rather than a lark..

So, I was intrigued to read:
‘The first hour is the rudder of the day.’
(Henry Ward Beecher)

I was also fascinated by the number of times the Gospel writers record that Jesus got up early to spend time with His Father e.g. Mark records, ‘Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.’
(Mark 1:35 NIV)

The challenge of course is that if Jesus, God the Son found it necessary to begin the day with His Father,how much more do we as mere mortals, & saved sinners need to begin our days with God?

I do believe I should begin my day with God but as I said initially I’m not naturally a morning person. I struggle with getting up early enough & hit snooze repeatedly in a dozy state.

I’ll sadly admit, I’ve only managed to start my day with God consistently for two periods in my life. The first time was at university in Dundee when I chose to get up early on a Monday morning to attend the DUCU prayer meeting. The last time was for several months after the New Horizons conference, triggered by pledging to pray for Iraq at 6:45am. But after a trip away from home I defaulted back to my old ways.

I am now trying to reform this habit. I believe its an important habit for me to re-establish.

‘Habits are the invisible architecture of daily life.’
(Gretchen Rubin-Better than Before)

I was challenged by these two clarion calls from yesteryear:

‘Let God’s voice be the first we hear in the morning’ ( M’Cheyne)

‘Do not have your concert first, and then tune your instrument afterwards. Begin the day with the Word of God and prayer, and get first of all into harmony with Him.’
(Hudson Taylor)

The tasks & tempo of life vary with what season of life we are in. But whatever stage of life you are at, it will always be challenging to create the time you need to start well each day.

‘The constant sensory input from all sides is gently addictive-we become used to being entertained and diverted, and it is difficult to carve out the spaces and silence necessary for serious and thoughtful reading of scripture’

This was written by DA Carson in 1998 in the preface of his book For the love of God.This was written before Twitter, Facebook & iPhones. How much more input bombards us now!

The fact that I often chose to begin my day with Facebook rather than communing with the King of the Universe is a sign of how broken I am. I am truly grateful that God Isn’t Finished With Me Yet!

Our lives need to be infused with God’s Word.

Our souls need His truth as an anchor.

‘The soul responds to space, silence, and Jesus.’
(Emily Freeman )

There really is no substitute for time alone with God.

This past week I have been reading about Moses’ relationship with God:
‘The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.’
(Exodus 33:11)

‘When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.’
(Exodus 34:29)

Our faces may not visibly glow after time with God, but the positive after-effects will radiate out to affect our daily lives.

‘Let’s remember to exchange whispers with God before shouts with the world this morning. Let’s take a moment to pause. Get into God’s Word and let it get into us. Before the craziness of another day begins, before checking our phone for text messages, before logging onto our computer…let’s soak in the life-giving truth of God’s Word’
(Lysa TerKeurst-The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands)

I love that idea-whispers with God before shouts with the world.

‘When I begin the day with God’s word, with silence, with a grounding sense of his love for me, then I find it’s easier to bring those things with me throughout the day, and it’s harder for me to locate them if I didn’t pause with them at the start. So let’s begin together. Let’s savor this day’
(Shauna Niequist)

To truly savour each day we need to nourish our souls with unhurried uninterrupted time with God. We must be intentional in removing distractions & creating soul space so we can hear the still small voice of God.

This quiet time is not an empty ritual but a relationship- one to One with God. He sees our hearts & knows our true attitude. Yet He still loves us & desires to spend time with us, that we might know Him.

Starting well requires discipline- from the moment we chose to go to bed & the time we chose to set alarm for.

Some simple steps to starting well:

•Get to bed early
•Set the alarm at a time that allows enough time
•Don’t hit snooze
•Get organized- keep a Bible & whatever else you need in one place
•Read the Bible before you read anything else
•Talk to God before anyone else
•Keep your phone in another room during Quiet Time

If we are intentional with our time with God, He has promised that He will meet with us:
‘Draw near to God & He will draw near to you (James 4:8)

‘This is always the realest, hardest, truest thing — the exhaling relief:you can always have as much of God as you want.’
(Ann Voskamp)

‘Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.’
(Psalm 143:8 ESV)

Blessings,

Ruthx

This was originally posted at http://www.blessedme.co.uk & I’m still working on my morning routine!

Excess baggage

‘He who would travel happily must travel light.’
(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

We’re just back from holiday. We camped in Austria, Switzerland & Italy. Rather than turning up at Eurocamps where the tent (& everything you might need!) is waiting for you, we decided to bring our tents & camping stuff with us. The added challenge was keeping to the Ryanair Family Plus baggage allowance!

We just about managed & as we made our way through security I was reminded how much things had changed since our honeymoon 21years ago. Back in those days we had bought a large terracotta planter & jar. They had to be placed in the cockpit with the pilot!

Last year, Caris bought a flowering cactus at the Flower Market in Amsterdam. It travelled with us on the rest of the Road Trip & made it home to bloom in NI!

I’m learning the skill of packing what is truly essential for road trips. But it’s much more difficult to reduce the excess baggage as we journey through life.

In the past, I’ve listened to the audiobook ‘Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage‘ by Allison Vesterfelt. This tells the story how Allison packed away her unnecessary possessions & crammed the essentials into her car to tour all fifty two states of America. In the book Alison shares insights gleaned along the highways:
“A special kind of simplicity happens when you leave behind all things unnecessary, and even some necessary ones. There is no noise, no chaotic motion—just silence. All of a sudden feelings start to rise to the surface you didn’t even know you had. You start to think thoughts you didn’t realize you were capable of thinking.”

So where can we leave the unnecessary excess baggage that’s weighing us down on this journey of life? How can we get rid of the bricks in our rucksacks?

I love the picture in Pilgrims’ Progress of Pilgrim’s burden falling away at the cross. The forgiveness of God alleviates our heaviest baggage- our sin & gives us freedom to travel lightly.

After I trusted Jesus to forgive my sin during Easter 1988, I remember singing Charles Wesley’s words with all the gusto I could muster:
‘My chains fell off
My heart was free’

God’s grace ushered in a lightness in my spirit. The weight of condemnation had been dealt with & my broken relationship with my Creator was restored.

But as time goes by, we gather baggage.It’s all to easy to pick up burdens we were never meant to carry. We can bear heavy bundles from our past, emotional baggage caused by anxiety, failure, regret or inadequacy. Their constant weight can hinder us in our onward journey.

I hate self-service checkouts. I mean- what is the point? We need assistance from the store staff 90% of the time,especially when the till declares ‘unexpected item in baggage area’ In life sometimes memories or situations load unexpected baggage onto us.

We need to retrace our steps back to the feet of Jesus & lay our burdens down. We can leave yesterday’s regrets, today’s pressures & responsibilities & tomorrow’s worries with Him.

‘Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden’
(Corrie Ten Boom)

When it comes to achieving balance & travelling light we need the help of the One who holds the whole world in His hands. When we feel like we’re juggling umpteen balls in the air, we need to look to our Creator God who keeps our solar system & light years beyond in orbit. We need to trust Him to deal with our baggage. Relief comes when we give our baggage to God to carry.

‘Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.’
(Psalm 55:22 NIV)

‘Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.’
(1 Peter 5:7 ESV)

‘I wonder how much of what weighs me down is not mine to carry?’ (Live life happy) That’s a good question!

Jesus said,“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
(Matthew 11:28-29 ESV)

I’ve been reminiscing with vintage Don Francisco songs this week. These words can soothe our burdened soul:
‘If you’re tired and weary
Weak and heavy laden
I can understand how
It feels to be alone
I will take your burden
If you’ll let Me love you
Wrap My arms around you
Give your heart a home’

‘So I will lay down my struggles
I will lay down my shame
All the fear I drag around through this life
like a ball and chain
(All my questions and confusion)
I will sing Hallelujah to the One who sets me free
And you will find me at the feet of Jesus’
(Steven Curtis Chapman)

Blessings,

Ruthx

PS You May like this article Emotional Baggage & Max Lucado’s book Travelling Light

Rear view mirrors

I rarely look in a rear view mirror in our VW van. I never drive it at home or on holiday (Those who know me best know that driving or should I say parking isn’t a strong point!)

But for some reason, somewhere between Nenzing & Kitzbuhl, between tobogganing & Swarovski crystal (while Rob was driving in record breaking temperatures) I looked in the rear view mirror. In it I saw an Alpine mountain range that we’d driven by without realising it. I took the photo (above) but it doesn’t truly capture the grandeur of the scenery!

The rear-view mirror showed views that I would have otherwise missed. It gave a different perspective on the journey.

Oftentimes, we don’t realise how far we have journeyed till we look back. It’s never a good idea to dwell in the past (especially if hurt, regret & other damaging emotions live there) but looking in life’s rear view mirror can be positive & beneficial.

‘The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us, & we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, & we only know them when they are gone’
(George Eliot- Scenes of a clerical life)

Moments whizz by. Summer days go too quickly. Holidays are fading into the background behind us.

After happy times, we can look back at memories created & remember where we’ve been! As the saying goes, ‘Don’t cry because it’s over- smile because it’s happened!’

Even in challenging times, reflection brings clarity.

As teenagers await their A level results I was reminded again of that stage in my own life when things didn’t go as {I’d} planned. I ended up in Dundee- the right place for me to be, where I met great friends & my husband!

We can trace God’s grace as we look back:
“I have learned that faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”
(Philip Yancey)

Anniversary celebrations this week cause me to look in life’s rear view mirror back over two decades years of marriage. It’s a while since we’ve listened to ‘I could never promise you‘ by Don Francisco. This vintage Christian song was sung by two of our bridesmaids Sharon & Joanne on our wedding day:
‘I could never promise you on just my strength alone,
That all my life I’d care for you, and love you as my own.
I’ve never known the future, I only see today,
Words that last a lifetime would be more than I could say.
But the love inside my heart today is more than mine alone.
It never changes, it never fails, never seeks it’s own.
And by the God who gives it, and who lives in me and you
I know the words I speak today are words I’m going to do’

When I look in the rear view mirror, of a great marriage, I am reminded that we wouldn’t have got through sickness & trials, & the unexpected twists & turns of life without God. Promises & human love aren’t strong enough,but:
‘A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.’
(Ecclesiastes 4:12 NIV)

In my Bible reading today, I read how Samuel led the Israelites in victory over the Philistines. He then paused & looked back.
‘Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”’
(1 Samuel 7:12 NIV)

We may not place stones along the wayside. But we can record God’s provision in a journal! We can pause & trace His grace along this journey we call life. We can cultivate a grateful heart.

Even when we don’t like the view in reverse any better than when we were living through it, we can pour out our feelings to God. Even if the rear view mirror smashes in frustration or anger,we can give all the pieces to God.

‘He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.’
(Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV)

Whether we are traveling through green pastures, by still waters or through dark valleys, if we gaze in life’s rear view mirror long enough, we will see the goodness & love of our Shepherd-God following us.

‘Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.’
(Psalm 23:6 NIV)

‘I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side’
(Chris Tomlin)

Blessings,

Ruthx

Edited from original post at http://www.blessedme.co.uk