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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

Thoughts about thoughts

‘Don’t believe everything you think’
(Gretchen Rubin)

‘You can be the air traffic controller of your mental airport. You occupy the control tower and can direct the mental traffic of your world!’
(Max Lucado- Anxious for Nothing!)

‘We should start choosing our thoughts like we choose our clothes for the day’
(Farnoosh Brock)

‘No matter what the situation,
Remind yourself: I have a choice’
‘Don’t get stuck owning other peoples’thoughts & emotions about you’
(Toby Mac)

‘You have power over your mind not outside events. Realize this & you will gain strength’
(Marcus Aurelius)

‘Make sure your own worst enemy doesn’t live between your two ears’
(Laird Hamilton)

‘Be careful what you think ad your thoughts run your life’
(Proverbs 4:23 NCV)

‘Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.’
‭‭(Philippians‬ ‭4:8 MSG‬‬)

Blessings,

Ruth x

Creation therapy

School’s out for  summer & the weeks of July & August stretch in front of us with the promise of holidays & free time {& hopefully continued amazing sunshine too!}

I didn’t realise until recently just how important escaping to the great outdoors is for me. And I am not alone- especially in this  season!

‘Some old fashioned things like fresh air & sunshine are hard to beat’
(Laura Ingalls Wilder)

‘Live in the sunshine
Swim in the sea
Drink in the wild air’
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

The Norwegians have a word friluftsliv literally meaning ‘free air life’ which sounds much more poetic than ‘outdoors’

Shinrin-yoku in Japanese means bathing in the forest literally or figuratively ie the relaxation gained from soaking in the atmosphere of the forest.

There’s nothing like a walk along the beach or in the hills or woods to clear our minds & refresh our perspective.

Getting out in nature beyond wifi helps us unplug & unwind.

Life feels better barefoot, detached from technology, surrounded by the God-made world. And sometimes standing on our doorstep looking up at the stars is enough to shift perspective. Or sitting in our garden or local park.

Being outdoors has been proven to promote relaxation & lower tension & blood pressure. But for me, time in nature means much more than that. I feel connected with God. For, ‘Creation is filled with signs that point to the Creator’

His finger prints are seen across our amazing world- designed & hand-made by Him.

‘From the highest of heights to the depths of the sea
Creation revealing Your majesty
From the colors of fall to the fragrance of spring
Every creature unique in the song that it sings’
(Chris Tomlin)

We can ‘Stop look around & praise the Name of Him who made it all’ {as engraved a rock in Tollymore}

It’s like therapy – creation therapy!

And we feel blessed & grateful.

It’s not that God isn’t speaking. In everyday life but often there’s just too much noise to hear. We need to get away from technology & distractions & soak in the God-made environment.

It’ll be quiet enough for us to here Him whisper,‘Be still & know that I AM God’ (Psalm 46:10)

And humbly respond:
‘LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens…

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”
(Psalm 8:1, 3-4 NIV)

So this summer, wherever you go,whatever the weather, make sure you have some creation therapy!

Blessings,

Ruth x

Decluttering our mind

Every week I see posts and advertisements about decluttering our homes

Marie Kondo’s book ‘Spark joy’ guides us to get rid of items that don’t.

Josh Becker ‘The more of less: finding the life you want under everything you own’ inspires us to clear the clutter.

It’s a good idea to get rid of unwanted items & sort the mess in our homes. But what about our minds?

My introverted mind is never quiet. There’s constant mental chatter. My mind rarely feels tidy or sorted.

Thoughts collide & merge like black scribbles in my brain.

There’s just so much to take in ..that I don’t actually have to!

‘Information overload keeps us mired in noise…. This saps us of not only willpower (of which we have a limited store) but creativity as well.’
(Daniel Levitrin)

‘We don’t have the capacity to handle all the input that’s catapulted at us day in and day out.’ (Marian Vischer)

Before long, distracted thinking leads to distorted thinking. Emotions like anxiety anger, resentment, regret compound the issue.

There’s so much mental clutter. I may resolve to sort things but it’s like I’m still carrying things around in mind. Like how black bags of charity shop donations stockpile in the corner- or in the boot of my car.

Worry & overthinking just adds more overflowing bin bags to the pile.

Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism says: ‘We need space to escape in order to discern the essential few from the trivial many. Unfortunately, in our time-starved era we don’t get that space by default—only by design.’

We don’t have the mental bandwidth to deal with everything. We have a choice & we need to curate our thoughts. We need room in our minds to think clearly.

‘The mind feasts on what it focuses on. What consumes my thinking will be the making or breaking of my identity’
(Lysa Terkheurst)

We need to focus on our thoughts.

‘We should start choosing our thoughts like we choose our clothes for the day.’
(Farnoosh Brock)

We always have a choice & we must choose wisely:
‘The soul becomes dyed by the colour of its thoughts’
(Marcus Aurelius)

‘Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.’
‭‭(Proverbs‬ ‭4:23‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

That’s too true.

Peter Pan urged ‘Think happy thoughts!’

If only it was as simple as that. Banish the bad thoughts & usher in bright ones!

We need to move from the mind candy of distractions & screen scrolling to nourishing brain food.

‘Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.’
(‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭NLT)

We need to renew our minds:
‘Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.’
(‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:2‬)

While it is God who can change our way of thinking, we can play our part:
‘You can be the air traffic controller of your mental airport. You occupy the control tower and can direct the mental traffic of your world!’
(Max Lucado- Anxious for Nothing!)

We can create mind space by shifting worrying thoughts- turning our cares into prayers:
‘Don’t fret or worry.
Instead of worrying, pray.
Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.
Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.
It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.’
‭‭(Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭MSG‬‬)

I love that image of Christ displacing worry in our life. He can settle our minds & calm our thoughts when we trust Him.

How can we declutter our minds?

*Create mind space- allow your thoughts to marinate- when it’s just you & your thoughts- no music/podcasts/radio/TV. Maybe go for a walk unplugged!

*Have a thought download -clear your mind by listing what thoughts are consuming it now. Write it down.

*Reduce input -unsubscribe & limit scrolling

*Anchor your distracted mind by reading truth- like the verses mentioned above.

Blessings,

Ruthx

Healthy body, healthy soul

When I’m running, I always wear ASICS trainers! ASICS are recommended by podiatrists & favoured by runners everywhere! (Apparently there’s been at least one pair of ASICS on the winner’s podium of every Olympic marathon!)

The brand ASICS is an acronym for the Latin phrase ‘anima sana in corpore sano

It means a ‘healthy soul in a healthy body

That sounds like idyllic perfection! But it’s not a new concept. In the New Testament John wrote:

‘I pray that you may prosper in every way and that your body may keep well, even as I know your soul keeps well and prospers’ (3 John 3 -AMP)

We are familiar with the concept of a healthy body. And, it is important to look after our bodies. Paul reminded Christians in Corinth ‘Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives among you?’ (1 Corinthians 3:16 NIVUK)

Just as we look after our bodies, we need to tend to our souls.

We expend a lot of effort & energy on our bodies-diet & exercise & of course clothes, hair & make-up . However, in our instant, modern world, a healthy soul is a somewhat more abstract, alien concept!

CS Lewis said, ‘You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body’

Our bodies are our outer wrapping. Our souls are the very essence of our being.

But truthfully, most of us spend very little time thinking about our souls. But we’ve missed the point if we focus only on our bodies, that last only for our brief lifetime of ‘3 score year&10’

Jesus said,
‘What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?’
(Mark 8:36 &37 NIV)

We cannot ignore & overlook our eternal souls. For nothing is worth more than our soul. Our soul is the part of us that goes on forever & ever. Our soul is immortal. It has everlasting, eternal value.

The Bible says ‘He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV)

He has planted the seed of eternity in us. Our life & our time here on earth is like a water droplet compared to the vast ocean of eternity. After death, our soul lives on forever, either with God, in heaven, or without Him, in torment. That’s not a popular or PC statement, but it’s what God says in the Bible.

‘Life is the soul’s nursery, its training place for the destinies of eternity’ (William Makepeace Thackeray)

Each of us are created for eternity. CS Lewis wrote ‘If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world’

We are made in God’s image. Each of us have a God shaped hole at our core, in our souls- a space that only He can fill. Deep within us all there is a longing, a restless yearning, that nothing or no-one but the Eternal God can satisfy.

St Augustine said,‘ Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee’

In the beginning we were created perfect in body, mind & soul. The world was an idyllic perfect paradise. But our human souls were darkened, forever tainted & stained by sin, back in the Garden of Eden, as a result of disobedience. Only God redeem & restore our soul.

God said,
“Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth;
for I am God, and there is no other.”
(Isaiah 45:22)

The Bible says ‘Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.’ (John 17:3 NIV) For, God wants us to ‘seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.’ (Acts 17:27 NIV)

Maybe in the past, you did turn to God in faith. Maybe over time, life has got cluttered, your soul has been distracted. God desires to have a close relationship with you again:

God says ‘I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist.Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” (Isaiah 44:22) So, ‘Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.’ (Lamentations 3:40)

But once we have turned, or returned to God,how do we nourish our souls?

‘Faith and prayer are the vitamins of the soul; man cannot live in health without them’ (Mahalia Jackson)

In Jeremiah 17:7-8 the Bible says:
‘But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.’

What a lovely picture of vitality! If we nourish our souls, our whole lives will flourish from the core of who we are, from who we were created to be!

Jesus said in John 15, “Remain in Me” or “Abide in me” –like the vine & its branches. Staying close to God is the key to a healthy soul.

Close to Him, our soul flourishes & we are vibrant & fruitful.

Apart from Him, we can do nothing- like a dry twig lying on the ground, separated from the main plant.

Jesus also said, “Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matt 11:28-30 MSG)

Those soothing verses are like a spa for the soul!

We can make our own individual choices for a healthy body, but a healthy soul comes from turning to God, abiding in Him & finding true rest there. God alone can restore & redeem our souls-after all it was He who created us & planted eternity within.

‘The soul, like the body, lives by what it feeds on’ (Josiah Gilbert Holland) So, we need to make time, & spend time feeding our souls. For, ‘Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul’ (Dorothy Day)

Psalm 1 echoes the sentiments of the verses in Jeremiah. It mentions those ‘whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night’ (v2) ‘That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.’(v3)

We need to ‘delight’ in God’s Word- to soak in His truth & replenish our spiritual energy by faith & prayer. If we nourish our souls by being in a relationship with God, our whole lives will flourish. We will be the person we were created to be.

So,‘I pray that you may prosper in every way and that your body may keep well, even as I know your soul keeps well and prospers’ (3 John 3 -AMP)

Blessings,

Ruth x

When life hurts

Feeling abandoned – but never alone

I dreaded my 30th birthday for a long time! I remembered how much I hated turning from 19 to 20 and I was sure changing from twentysomething to the big 3-0 would be even worse! It was actually a great day & I had a birthday barbecue & the sun shone!

Time has past & I have since turned 40 – & now I’m 40 till I’m 50! (It’s just a number) But no matter how bad any milestone birthday is, I am sure it will not be as bad as my 29th.

For 16th June 2003 was my worst birthday. In fact it was the worst day of my life so far.

On that day, I was admitted to Knockbracken psychiatric hospital in Belfast.

I had been struggling with severe mental illness for 7 months. I was anxious, depressed and even suicidal. I felt so alone. My husband was at home with my two small children, trying to explain “Mummy’s gone to hospital because she’s lost her smile” A lot of my family were away in America at a wedding. I felt so low as I looked around the grey walls of the ward, wondering how I was ever going to get out of this place. For the first time in my life I felt abandoned by God. The words “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” echoed through my mixed up mind.

Yet even in this deeply dark time, God’s still small voice reminded me that Jesus knew how I was feeling. For on the cross, the cry from Jesus’ anguished heart was “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46) On the cross, to a much greater extent than we will ever know, Jesus felt abandoned by His Father God as He took on the sins of the world. And at that time, in the middle of my deep depression, I could take comfort from the fact that Jesus understood, that He could sympathise with my weaknesses (Heb 4:15)

The next day Pastor Baird came to see me and read Isaiah 43 and the Word of the Lord was deeply comforting :
‘But now, this is what the Lord says-
He who created you, O Jacob,
He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name;
you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour”
(Isa 43:1-3-NIV)

The Message phrases those words this way-
“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 your God, your personal God”
(Isa 43:1-3 – The Message)

No matter how hard life gets, no matter how down we feel, no matter how much we feel on our own, we are never alone. God is there with us – in the middle of our troubles, heartache and despair.
‘The Lord is close to the broken hearted; He rescues those who are crushed in spirit’ (Psa 34:18 – NLT)
Like the footprints poem reminds us, in our darkest hour, when there is just one set of footprints in the sand, we are not alone, God is carrying us.

Slowly and steadily over the days, weeks and months, I began to feel better – thanks to God and a very supportive family (and of course medication and my psychiatrist too!) Looking back, I can see God’s hand at work. I can see how He brought us through and I can see how He taught me to rely on Him.

There are some things that can only be learnt in the middle of difficulties. When our backs are to the wall, we tend to fall to our knees. Our heart cries out to God and He hears us. There are treasures of darkness – times of feeling God close against the odds – character building, spiritually defining times.

And these dark threads are necessary in the tapestry of life. God, the Master Craftsman is working on us, His work of art – and the dark areas are what give us depth and character. It’s hard to see all this at the time, but at the end, when His work is complete, we’ll gasp in awe and realise truly that our God does work together all things for the good of those who love Him (Rom 8:28)

It is in the valleys of life – not the mountain tops that the real fruit grows, and God wants us to be vibrant, productive, fruitful Christians. A diamond sparkles best against a black background. God the Master Craftsman knows that we, His precious stones reflect His glory best when times are tough.

Yes, we may feel abandoned, but we are never alone. ‘We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going’ (II Cor 4: 8&9 NLT)

Someone once said that it’s just as well we don’t know what is around the corner of life – and it is. But God knows, and He is holding us, leading us on. And all around, and underneath are His everlasting arms (Deut 33:27)

In the midst of all our trouble,
Heartache and despair,
We have a God who stands beside us,
A Friend Who’s always there,
A Hope when things seem hopeless,
A Faith when things go wrong,
A Love that will never fail us,
That’s never been more strong!

I wrote that poem when I was a teenager & its still true.

And so are the deep, painful truths in these verses:

‘But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold’ (Job 23:10 – NIV)

‘Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colours. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.’
(James 1: 2-4 – The Message)

Blessings

Ruth x

PS This post originally appeared as a chapter in my book ‘It’s all about love’