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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

Named not labelled

I’ve watched all the Disney princess movies- many more than once. Or twice! In our house we preferred the Disney Princesses with mischief in their eyes & sass mixed with sparkle (like Princess Merida in Brave or Rapunzel in Tangled)

We celebrated when Princess Leia became a Disney Princess.Our children were introduced to the epic adventure of Star Wars from a young age. I have cute photos of a little Luke Skywalker wielding a light saber beside our very own Princess Leia with blonde hair twisted into buns. Hours passed on the planet of make-believe.

Fairytales aren’t always sweetness & light & ‘happily ever after’ For every damsel in distress, & prince that’s trying to save her, there are witches, dragons, wolves & allsorts of darkness lurking!

The real-life stories of princesses (& actresses) are rarely straightforward & carefree.Carrie Fisher (the actress who played Princess Leia) struggled with drug addiction & Bipolar Disorder.

Carrie Fisher wrote in the Huffington Post:
‘At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.’

Sometimes we can feel smug & sorted about what we’re dealing with. A sense of pride when we feel calm & controlled.We can be functioning well despite emotional baggage & unwelcome diagnoses.We can project the best versions of our broken selves.

At other times we can be highly functioning but a little fragile just beneath the surface . We can feel we’re just one small tug on the thread away from totally unravelling.

As we journey through life unwanted labels are stuck on that we can’t take off.

Depression.Anxiety. Stress. Burn out. Anorexia.Psychosis.Bipolar.

The labels extend beyond mental illness to physical ones & our current status in life:

Single.Divorced.Childless.Bereaved

& to our children:

Autism.ADHD

In my day job I give labels & discuss labels given by specialists. Of course diagnoses have their place to aid treatment. But some diagnoses hurt & sting. They bring tears to our eyes & put an ache in our hearts.They can be life-altering & life-limiting .Some labels we give ourselves can affect us too. Energy-sapping. Growth-stunting.

After a brief moment of self-sufficiency we realise we’re haven’t got it all together.

Whatever our story, our struggle, our label,
We’re not doing life on our own.
We’re not holding on,
We’re being held.

Jesus’ words echo deep:
‘Apart from me you can do nothing.’
(John 15:5 ESV)

Without God we are like a dead twig. Lifeless. We couldn’t breathe-let alone get through a day without Him

As Jesus-followers struggling with mental illness & emotional health, we can’t function without:
God’s grace & strength
A supportive circle of family & friends
Necessary medication
Daily doses of God-Words
Conversations over coffee (talking to the right people)
Fellowship- being the church even when we don’t feel like it
Counselling to get us on track
Whatever else it takes -running reading,writing,caffiene,chocolate(…you name it)

And I’ll write it again-above all, we can’t function without God Himself!

He is close to the broken hearted (Psalms 147:3) He knows the  name of each twinkling star in our galaxy & galaxies far,far away. (Psalm 147:4)

Even more amazingly, He knows my name- He knows your name. He calls us by our name-  not only our first name but our true name, our new name given by God:
‘And I will give to each one a white stone, & on the stone will be engraved a new name that no-one understands except the one who receives it’(Rev 2:17-NLT)

God gives us names, not nick- names or derogatory names to pull us down but rather new names to build us up:

Precious
Chosen
Sought-After
Cherished
Truly Forgiven
Deeply Loved
Never Forsaken
Forever Blessed
Mine
Daughter of the Most High God

His perfect love casts out fear (1John4:18)

‘Fear calls out our doubts; God calls out our names.’(Bob Goff)

As we respond to Abba, calling our name, we will know that He is:

Always Faithful
Always There
Always Enough
{No matter what}

Our Good,Good Father knows our name & our heart, our struggles & our failures, yet truly loves us.

‘His love never runs away or wavers. It extends into all of those places where you feel most unloveable, where you can’t imagine he would want to go. Those parts of you that cause others to run away are the very parts of you that God runs toward.’
(Tullian Tchividjian)

‘The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.’
(Psalms 147:11 ESV)

‘If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it.
If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it.
He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning.
Whenever you want to talk, he’ll listen.
He can live anywhere in the universe, and he chose your heart.’
(Max Lucado)

Blessings,

Ruth x

PS If doubt & fear seem louder than the voice of God calling your name listen to:

You say-Lauren Daigle
I am who you say I am– Hillsong
No longer slaves-Jonathan David & Melinda Helser
Good good Father-Chris Tomlinson

Hope

I’ve ditched new year’s resolutions for bucket lists & one word for the year.

‘For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.’ (TS Eliot)

Last year my word was be.The year before I chose run. This year my word is hope.

Hope: A feeling of expectation & trust

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.’
(Emily Dickinson)

Hope is what’s needed in our daily lives & broken planet. The truth of the Christmas Carol reminds us:
‘A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices’

But hope is more than a feeling. Hope is a Person. His Name is Jesus. He came from heaven to the manger & grew in the carpenter’s workshop. He lived & died in this world. He rose again & left His Spirit in us if we believe:
‘Christ in you, the hope of glory.’
(Colossians 1:27 NIV)

God has given us everlasting hope:
‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’
(1 Peter 1:3 ESV)

‘But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.’
(Psalms 71:14 ESV)

‘Hope is not the belief that things will turn out well, but the belief God is working through all things, no matter how things turn out.’ (Ann Voskamp)

Even when we feel down, we can know hope:
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation, & my God”
(Psalms 42:5 ESV)

‘For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.’
(Psalms 62:5 ESV)

‘In the storms of life, we can ‘hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul’
(Hebrews 6:18-19 ESV)

Hope can keep us steady & ground us! It’s an anchor for our anxious souls in the faithfulness of God.

‘Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.’
(Hebrews 10:23 ESV)

We can choose to be hopeful when things seem hopeless. It’s a choice of prospective.

‘Chose hope– it will anchor you’
(Jennifer Rothschild)

When this world makes us weary & grinds us down, we can be renewed by hope. We can rise above our troubles:
‘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)

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness’ (Bishop Tutu)

‘The promise of hope is that our now is not forever’
(Christy Wimber)

So, ‘Let hope keep you joyful’
(Rom 12:12)

We need to share our hope with those who can see the difference it makes:
‘always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you’
(1Peter 3:15 ESV)

We can sow seeds of hope.

Then…

Wait. Expect. Trust

In our God

‘Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.’
(2Thessalonians 2:16-17 ESV)

‘And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.’
(Psalms 39:7 ESV)

In our God, we find hope…
for today,
& for tomorrow,
& always.

Blessings,

Ruth x

For when the year doesn’t feel new anymore

It’s not even half way through January yet & it feels like a month of Mondays!

Planet Earth celebrated another revolution around the sun with great optimism! Shiny happy people around the globe danced as the clock struck midnight.

Turning the calendar with fireworks & parties often doesn’t alter much in our lives. Our mindset may be buoyed temporarily by the ‘New Year, New You’ mantra.

We can step out on 1st January as bouncy as Tigger but we can quickly default to Eeyore ‘Same old, same old’:

*When the same struggles emerge from the year before

*When no news seems like good news

*When you feel the same broken emotions that there’s not even an emoji for

*When pesky viruses clog your head & hamper fitness plans

*When that ‘black dog’ named Depression follows us into 2019

*When your stressors at work don’t stay behind in 2018:

It’s OK not to be OK

‘It’s ok not to feel twinkly’ (Blurt)

Many of us step into a new year with clear resolutions & plans.

The thing is, we ourselves can’t muster up any new ways or lasting change.

We need the love & mercy, goodness & grace of our God- this year & always

‘In the middle of your mess is the Messiah.Look to Him for joy’
(Jennifer Rothschild)

God is with us forever {not just for Christmas!}

‘We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God. He is nearer than our own soul,closer than our secret thoughts’ (AW Tozer)

He created us, knows us best & yet He loves us most. He is the Unchangeable One who can make things new from the inside out.

He gives fresh starts as often as we ask for forgiveness. He creates new beginnings & multiple chances.

We can pray the words of David’s psalm:
‘Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.’
(Psalms 51:10)

We can come to God with our frustrations & failings, our misunderstandings & contradictions. He is More than Enough to deal with them- & care for us.

‘He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, & reveals His thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, & treads on the heights of the earth-the Lord God Almighty is His Name’ (Amos 4:13)

By faith, we can walk close to Him:
‘My goal this year? To stay close to the One who made me. Because being close to Him brings me closer to who I was made to be.’
(Michelle Cushatt)

God said, “I will take you by the hand and keep you”
(Isaiah 42:6 ESV)

When we don’t feel buoyant &shiny, when we feel down& frustrated by ourselves & others, we can shift the focus from ourselves to God:
‘Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God’
(Psalms 42:5 NLT)

‘Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God— soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God.’
(Psalm 42:5 MSG)

No matter how we’re feeling,today & throughout the year,
‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.’
(Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)

‘No matter what this year holds-
In the stressful times:seek God
In the painful times: praise God
In the terrible times:trust God
And at all times-at all times, & at all times
thank God’
(Ann Voskamp)

Blessings,

Ruth x

All I need

Our God is All-sufficient,

Always enough.

Enough for where we are at,
As well as where we are heading.

Today & always,
Now & forever.

Enough for ordinary everyday life,
And extraordinary circumstances.

Enough for holidays & family life,
And dramas and challenges.

Enough for the storms we may face,
And the halcyon days after.

He gives just enough:
Grace
Strength
Peace
Presence

For the step we’re on in our journey
For the page we’re at in our story

Our God is All-sufficient:

Always enough,
Always faithful,
Always loving,
Always there.

Blessings,


Ruth x

Everyday epiphanies

Today is the twelfth day of Christmas- ‘The Rules’ state that the Christmas tree must be down & away by today! Ours is still standing as I write. It always feels like a pleasure to decorate the house for Christmas, & such a chore to pack it all away again.

Today, is also known as Epiphany- when we celebrate the coming of the Wise Men to visit Jesus (Many very patient children across the globe don’t get their Christmas gifts until today!)

Epiphany also means a moment of sudden understanding or revelation-an intuitive grasp of reality through something simple,yet striking.

Many of our days consist of ordinary things- school runs, homeworks, dirty laundry, hoovering up Christmas’ aftermath, taking rubbish to the dump.

Christmas is a celebration of Jesus, God the Son, stepping down from heaven into our ordinariness. If, in our ordinary day-to day life, our hearts are grateful for God, & and all He has done, then our days will be punctuated by extraordinary God-moments, ‘everyday epiphanies

‘Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world’
(Sarah Ban Breathnach)

In these ordinary moments we can communicate with God & listen for His gentle whispers:
‘Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God; but only he who sees, takes off his shoes. The rest sit round it & pluck blackberries’
(Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

God’s fingerprints are all around us, if we open the eyes of our hearts & really see. Some evenings the brushstrokes of our Creator are visible across the sky at sunset – displayed in orange brilliance. As the sun sinks in the West, the moon glows in the navy sky & stars appear one by one.

The night sky is as beautiful tonight as it was over two thousand years ago when those astronomers gazed at a new star. Those Magi followed the star to the One who scattered stars into space, yet became an ‘ordinary’ baby that we might have the sure hope of eternal life in His extraordinary heaven.

‘Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.’
(Cappeau)

Tonight, God doesn’t want wise men & women to follow the stars. Rather, He wants us to shine like stars in the universe (Phil 2:15)

To shine for Him.

To twinkle just where we are.

So that others might see the Light of the world in us & grasp His reality in their ordinary daily lives.

(Though our lives can never be truly ‘ordinary’ again, once we have been touched by the Star-Scatterer’s nail-scarred hands)

‘As with gladness, men of old
Did the guiding star behold
As with joy they hailed its light
Leading onward, beaming bright
So, most glorious Lord, may we
Evermore be led to Thee.
(William Dix 1867)

‘Look for Christ & you will find Him & with Him everything else’
(CS Lewis)

Blessings,

Ruth x

Captured time

Captured Time. I read the name of the antique shop in Greyabbey as I ran past.

Captured Time. Now more than ever before we love to capture moments, to create happy memories. But we can’t capture time itself- we can’t catch it. No matter what, the earth keeps spinning, time marches on & moments run through our fingers like grains of sand.

Tonight we celebrate another revolution around the sun- the end of another year- chronological (Chronos) time

We’ve also just celebrated the moment that split history in two:
‘The hinge of history is on the door of a Bethlehem stable’
(Ralph W Sockman)

I love how this poem puts it:

BC:AD

‘This was the moment when Before
Turned into After, and the future’s
Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.
This was the moment when nothing
Happened. Only dull peace
Sprawled boringly over the earth.
This was the moment when even energetic Romans
Could find nothing better to do
Than counting heads in remote provinces.

And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect
Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.’

(U.A. Fanthorpe)

This was God ordained Kairos moment:

‘But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.’
(‭‭Galatians‬ ‭4:4-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Jesus said, “ I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”
(‭‭John‬ ‭10:10‬ ‭MSG‬‬)

‘Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth’
(Hark! The herald angels sing-Charles Wesley)

Our Unchanging God transcends time:
‘Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.’
(‭‭Psalm‬ ‭90:2‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Yet, ‘Eternity stepped into time, so we could understand’
(Michael Card)

And He is at work in time:
‘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)

Psalm 39:5 (AMP) says ‘My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best each of us is but a breath’

Selah’ is the word that follows next, & the amplified version translates this word as meaning ‘Pause, & think calmly of that!’

Indeed. Selah:Pause.Stop.Think.

‘Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.’
(James‬ ‭4:14‬ ‭NIV)

Our time here is so transient, like a vapour, like the notorious Irish mist that appears for a little while, then vanishes.

‘What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night… It’s the breath of the buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass & loses itself in the sunset’
(Native American saying )

In complete contrast, our God is from everlasting to everlasting. To Him, one thousand years are just like a day that has past (see Psalm 90)

‘We are a moment, You are forever
Lord of the Ages, God before time
We are a vapor, You are eternal
Love everlasting, reigning on high’
(Robin Mark)

Compared to the vastness of eternity, our time here is but a moment.

Yet, our lives are in God’s hands & we can trust in Him.
‘Lord,through all the generations, you have been our home’
(Psalm 90:1-NLT)
‘He has been God ‘from “once upon a time” to “kingdom come”’
(Psalm 90:2 MSG)

So, as we live our lives, we can stay close to Him & dwell with Him. We can make the most of our time here. We can’t capture time but we can ‘redeem the time’ by walking through life with Him.

‘Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.’
(Psalm‬ ‭90:12‬ ‭NIV – A prayer of Moses the man of God)

All our days are written in His book. The Author of the epic story we call ‘Life’ knows how many pages are in the story of each of our lives (& of course what actually happens in our story)

‘Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I’d lived even one day’ (Psalm 139:16 MSG)

The Author of All knows how the story ends- with a happy never-ending:
‘This life is but a shadow.What is real is what will follow’ (attributed to CS Lewis)

As we pause & reflect on the Eve of 2019,we can trust the One who has been there already & holds it altogether:
‘I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied, “Go out into the darkness,
and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light,
and safer than a known way.”
(Minnie Haskins)

Blessings,


Ruth x

Tis the season…our souls {should} feel their worth

My favourite Christmas carol used to be ‘In the bleak mid winter’ Now it’s ‘O Holy night’ (& apparently it’s the most popular favourite carol in the UK)

It seems a shame that carols are confined to December.It’s a pity to pack them away with the decorations till next year, since there’s such deep truth contained in them:
‘O Holy Night
The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.’
(Cappeau)

I’ve sang this carol many times, but I’ve never really noticed this line before:
‘Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.’

The soul felt its worth.

Our soul is our spiritual, immortal essence, our God-made core, sealed with His image.

God formed us:
‘The Lord looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race. From his throne he observes all who live on the earth. He made their hearts, so he understands everything they do.’
(Psalms 33:13-15 NLT)

God placed eternity within us:
‘Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.’
(Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT)

At exactly the right moment, during that Holy Night,
‘when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.’
(Galatians 4:4-5 ESV)

The Christmas story is part of God’s Grand Plan, conceived in eternity past- to redeem our souls.

What is your soul worth? What lengths & depths did your Creator God go to reach you?

Our Eternal God Almighty became a helpless baby.

He left the dazzling glory of heaven to be born into squalor.

He stepped out of the realms of eternity to enter the confines of time.

He lived & bled & died…. for our souls.

As Max Lucado wrote, ‘God did something extraordinary. Stepping from the throne, he removed his robe of light & clothed himself in skin’

That same Yahweh God ‘the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it’ (Isaiah 42:5) entered our world as one of us.

The baby in the manger is God the Son:
‘He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.’
(Hebrews 1:3 ESV)

‘He came to us that we might come to Him’ wrote Deitrich Bonhoeffer

This is the good news proclaimed by angels that will cause great joy for all people (Luke2)

‘For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’
(Luke 19:10 ESV)

‘For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.’
(John 3:17 NIV)

‘For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?’
(Matthew 16:26 ESV)

‘How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?’
(Hebrews 2:3 ESV)

Billy Graham writes about our soul’s worth in ‘The Value of your Soul

He also wrote:
‘God does not change-
And neither does His love.
He loved you before you were born..
He loves you now…
And He will love you forever’

Can you feel your worth?

Can you sense this great hope?

Will you respond in worship?

‘A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

Fall on your knees
O hear the angels’ voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
(Cappeau)

Blessings,

Ruthx

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Healthy body, healthy soul

Behold!

‘Let the wonder never cease’

Behold: gaze on a remarkable thing

Wonder:a feeling of amazement & admiration, surprising curiosity

‘For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.’
(Isaiah 9:6 NIV)

‘His name is God With Us and we believe He is.’
(Emily P Freeman)

‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory,
the glory of the one and only Son,
who came from the Father,
full of grace and truth.’
(John 1:14 NIV)

‘He was created of a mother whom he created.
He was carried by hands that he formed.
He cried in the manger in wordless infancy,
he the Word,
without whom all human eloquence is mute.’
(Augustine)

‘God is in the manger’
(Bonhoeffer)

‘In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.
(CS Lewis -Chronicles of Narnia)

‘He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.’
(Colossians 1:17 NIV)

‘But the baby in her womb
He was the maker of the moon
He was the Author of the faith
That could make the mountains move’
(Andrew Peterson)

‘As he sleeps upon the hay he holds the moon and stars in place
Though born an infant, he remains the sovereign God of endless days’
(Bob Kauflin)

‘Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect lamb?
That sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am’
(Buddy Greene / Mark Lowry)

‘Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die:
Born to raise the son of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born King”
(Mendelssohn )

‘The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.’
(C.S.Lewis-Mere Christianity)

‘Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.’
(Isaiah 25:9 NIV)

‘Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!’
(2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV)

Come,let us adore Him!

Blessings,

Ruth x

Neither Merry nor Bright

Tis the season…that God is close to the broken hearted

For the myriad of hurting hearts this Christmas.

The Christmas lights were turned off in St George’s Square Glasgow on 24th December 2014 as a mark of respect to those who tragically lost their lives there when a lorry careered into a crowd.

Christmas lights have went out in homes, hearts & lives across the globe- extinguished by loss, grief, terrorism, cancer,sickness & suicide.

Anguish has been painfully, indelibly etched on the broadsheet & tabloid pages carrying news from Yemen to Myanmar & everywhere in between & beyond.

This month I’ve sat across a desk from too many people for whom Christmas is not the most wonderful time of year but rather the most difficult, dreaded time of the year.

I’ve stared into eyes brimming with tears for as long as I could bear –
Hearing the deafening silence that trails behind grief.
Sensing the ongoing heartbreak & unimaginable loss.
Feeling the palpable pain of an aching void left behind.

I’ve been reminded of the words from Les Miserables:
‘There’s a grief that can’t be spoken.
There’s a pain goes on and on.
Empty chairs at empty tables
Now my friends are dead and gone.’

For many this Christmas there are empty chairs & places in their homes and hearts.

For them, Christmas accentuates winter of the heart & soul.

Like in Narnia – it seems that it’s always winter & never {truly} Christmas again.

There’s no merry & bright.
No wonderful ,white Christmas.
No magic & sparkle.

Yet, it was into darkness like this- indeed because of darkness like this, that God sent His Son- as Imanuel- God with us.

Jesus, the Word of God, God the Son entered our world as a baby in the manger.

‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.'(John 1:14 NIV)

Or as Eugene Petersen paraphrased this verse:
‘The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.’ (John 1:14 MSG)

I also love the deep truth of this paraphrase:
‘He pitched His tent in the darkness of our valley’
(Geoff Thomas)

God came down to be where we are.

Bringing:
Love to the unloveliness of this fallen planet
Hope in hopelessness
Everlasting light in deep darkness
Comfort to those who mourn
Healing to broken hearts & lives
Freedom to captives bound in sin.

‘Christmas means Jesus came down & got involved in suffering. He hears your cries’
(Tim Keller )

‘The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’
‭‭(Psalm‬ ‭34:18‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

‘When Love came down to earth
And made His home with men,
The hopeless found a hope,
The sinner found a friend.
Not to the powerful
But to the poor He came,
And humble, hungry hearts
Were satisfied again.

What joy, what peace has come to us!
What hope, what help, what love!’
(Stuart Townend)

When you strip away the trimmings & decorations, Santa & the reindeers, the indulgence of over eating & over spending…

When you listen for the still small voice of God…

When you follow the shepherds & the wise men to the stable …

There you’ll find the heart beat of Christmas- Jesus, God the Son- the reason for the season.

At Christmastime, you may find Jesus rejoicing with those who rejoice – at family gatherings & social events.

But I think you’ll be more likely to find Him mourning with those who mourn, drawing alongside the marginalised, the broken & the needy.

During His time on earth, he was familiar with sorrow. He knew the reality of grief & loss. The shortest verse in the Bible simply states,
‘Jesus wept'(John 11:35)

‘Yes he walked my road, and He felt my pain,
Joys and sorrows that I know so well;’
(From the squalor of a borrowed stable-Stuart Townend)

He knows us. He loves us, & He cares deeply about us. The One who scattered the stars at creation’s dawn is also a Collector of tears:
‘You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.’
(Psalms 56:8 NLT)

Even through tears, at this time,at the heart of Christmas you’ll find Jesus. In Jesus you’ll find the hope & comfort you desperately need.

He says ‘Come to Me’

This Christmas, Jesus is not lying in a Christmas card stable. He is not sitting at a Pinterest perfect Christmas dinner oblivious to your need. Rather, He’s reaching down & reaching out – to your hurting heart.

He’s waiting for you – to come to Him.

Jesus said,“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”(Matthew 11:28 NIV)

He’s asking, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? 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.” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)

‘While God may not deliver us from pain & suffering, He’ll walk with us through it’ (Tullian Tchvijan- It is finished)

God is with us:

In our pain
In our grief
In our sorrows
In our darkness
In our trials
In our triumphs
In our daily lives

When the lights are switched off at Christmas, only Jesus can colour to our hearts & lives-for He is the great light of the world

‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. ‘(Isaiah 9:2 NIV)

Blessings,

Ruthx

Tis the season…to give {& receive} gifts

Tis the season…to shop till you drop,grab a coffee to go, then shop some more!

Of course we started exchanging presents as a reminder of the gifts of gold,frankincense & myrrh presented to Jesus. But at times we go Totally Over The Top. I mean,what do we give our nearest & dearest who have everything they want-& more?

I walked under the canopy of lights in Victoria Square on then through the Christmas market to get inspiration. St George’s market was shut but a red sparkly bow adorned the entrance- making the whole building look like a present.

There are daily emails bombarding my inbox with all sorts of gift ideas- including Boots star buys that I’m tempted to buy for myself!

While we endeavour to give great gifts, God is the ultimate Gift-Giver:
‘Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.’
(James 1:17 NIV)

‘God’s gifts put men’s best dreams to shame’
(Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

The Greatest Gift came in unexpected wrapping. All the fullness of God- His grace & goodness, majesty & might, bundled in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

The Greatest Gift-
The Hope of the world:
Planned by God,
Foretold by prophets.
Sent by Love,
Under a starlit sky,
Surrounded by angel song,
Wrapped in grace from above.

‘Once in our world, a Stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.’
(C.S. Lewis)

As we grow older our Christmas wish list gets shorter & we find that the things we want aren’t things. Sometimes the best gift we can give to others is our time.

Someone once wrote that love can be spelt T-I-M-E. Jesus loved us so much that He gave up eternity to spend time on earth.

‘For God so loved the world that He gave His One & Only Son’
(John 3:16)

‘Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love’s sake becamest poor;
Thrones for a manger didst surrender,
Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love’s sake becamest poor.’
(Frank Houghton)

He came to earth & became flesh, so that we can be adopted into the family of God through faith. The Gift of God means that we can become children of God.

‘The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.’
(C.S.Lewis-Mere Christianity)

‘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)

‘See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.’
(1 John 3:1 NIV)

God’s gift is a long lasting, never-ending present-eternal life.

‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
(Romans 6:23 NIV)

God’s gifts can be found in unexpected places in our lives-in the dark, difficult days:
‘God said “I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.
I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.”
(Isaiah 45:3, 7 NIV)

Going forward through the darkness into the light, His Presence is the greatest present.

Christmas is:
when God reached down,
when God became one of us,
with us in this journey of life.

Isaiah foretold this crucial aspect of the incarnation:
‘All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)
(Isaiah 7:14 NLT)

‘His name is God With Us and we believe He is.’
(Emily P Freeman)

‘Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!’
(2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV)

This Christmastime, if you haven’t already done so, will you accept this ultimate gift from God – the Gift of Himself, for now & forever?

Blessings,

Ruthx