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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’

Vending machine empathy

I haven’t met a snack-dispensing vending machine that I did like (yet!) But my favourite vending machine (so far) is the one I discovered in the old Downshire Hospital while doing on-call shifts in Psychiatry. It dispensed large bags of Haribo Starmix before they were trendy. Though these little rings, stars & cola bottles are not the most nutritionally beneficial snacks in the world, the sugar hits kept me going through the night.

Last year on Facebook I scrolled upon a photo of another vending machine. ‘The light’s out but I’m still working’ was scrawled on A4 paper & stuck on its glass. It struck a chord & I empathised with the vending machine more than any human I’d encountered that day.

After months of overworking my light was snuffed out . My inner spark was gone. Sticking an ‘out of order’ sign on wasn’t an option. Like the vending machine, I just had to keep on working.

On reflection I can’t say I totally burnt out but the candle was very definitely burning at both ends & smoldering in the middle.

I had a pounding headache during my waking hours, felt unrefreshed after waking from broken sleep & developed ocular migraine that I’d never experienced before.

I’m not a workoholic. I didn’t choose to be this busy. I was simply trying to do what needed to be done. But this didn’t feel like the job I signed up for. I didn’t need this pressure. Due to circumstances beyond my control, work had become unmanageable & out of control

As the hours racked up I felt that I was getting nowhere fast:

‘Everything was important, as a result you get stretched thinner and thinner. He was making a millimeter of progress in a million directions.'(Greg McKeown)

Most days I felt like I was wading through treacle in a fog.I didn’t feel depressed – just really stressed.

‘Burnout’ occurs when ‘…people give too much for too long and receive too little in return’ (Taylor and Francis, 1988.)

‘Stress is the feeling that we have when we perceive that we have a need or obligation [but] inadequate resources to handle it,’ (Alan Levine)

At the height of my work related stress,I completed the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) for the craic & I scored at high risk of burnout in all 3 elements:

1 Burnout- emotional exhaustion

2 Depersonalisation- loss of empathy, with detachment & cynicism

3 Personal achievement- negative assessment of self, failure to achieve despite efforts

As Professor David Peters, head of the Centre for Resilience in London, states: ‘Long term drowning in high levels of adrenaline and cortisol eventually makes you ill. But before that, it makes you stupid and unfriendly.’

That may sound harsh but it’s true. I hardly recognised myself. My short fuse had blown. I definitely didn’t like the person I’d become.

Throughout this time I could just about hold it together at work but at home I was the worst version of myself. Yet I felt I could relax with my nuclear family & that Rob & God were the only ones who really knew what was going on in my head.

I felt connected with God on trail-runs- my favourite form of creation therapy! Yet church felt so far removed from my real life. It felt less painful not to go – or even to just work {gasp}

I got annoyed & resentful about those who worked part-time or don’t work at all. Or who used to work but now everyday is a Saturday. I felt nauseous at the inequity of spare time. I grew more introverted & mourned bygone days of balance.

I thought back to a different season, a favourite chapter when the kids were small & work was confined to 3 days. My week was punctuated by coffee & Bible Studies with friends – doing life together & connecting our souls.

One night I had reached the end of myself, dialling -in to do more work on the laptop after a long day at work

Above the desk I have a photo Rob took at Mount Blanc with a quote from the Getty’s hymn:
‘Help us grasp the heights of your plans for us’

“Is this the height of Your plans for us? For me?” I vented at the Only One who could help. God is able to deal with our raw emotions & fragile state.

I knew deep down that this frenetic way of life was not God’s design. I couldn’t keep going.

“I’m not cut out for this!” I informed Him.

Instantly the words from Emily P Freeman’s book Simply Tuesday came to mind.
You are not cut out but placed in’

I knew I was where I was meant to be. That didn’t minimise the pressure but perhaps started to rekindle my purpose.

I’m not telling my story because I think I’m unique. Stress at work is sadly too common

A survey of 500 GPs in the UK published in the BMJ in 2012 found 46% were emotionally exhausted, 42% were depersonalised and 34% felt they were not achieving a great deal.(Orton et al)

And of course it’s not confined to healthcare. And those who don’t have paid employment can feel overwhelmed by the pressures of life.

What can we do if the light is off but we’re still working?

Look after yourself

‘Self care means giving the world the best of you instead of what is left of you’
(Katie Reed)

Be kind to yourself – We need to be . Listen to Andrew Peterson’s song

Cut yourself some slack in this season

‘Take a deep breath. Get present in the moment and ask yourself what is important this very second.’
(Greg Mckeown)

‘Do the next thing’ (Elizabeth Elliot)

For ‘A Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’
(Lao Tzu)

Reframe

We need to see things in a new way.

One helpful quote I discovered was:
‘You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf’ (John Kabat-Zinn)

I really need to turn it into a poster for the wall!

For church I try to remember:
‘You don’t just go to church, you are the church!’

Choosing change

‘There’s no life work balance without making decisions or without courage’ (Michael Hyatt)

I needed to make choices or this season would become the pattern for rest of my life. The children won’t be at home forever- & I want to spend quality time with them.

I decided to go into work early each morning to get things done at the start of the day. I made an executive decision to leave the work laptop at work.

Having boundaries between home & work has helped. There’s pressure but it’s contained & feels more manageable.

Know yourself

The ancient wisdom (& painful accuracy!)of the Enneagram helped me understand myself. I’m a type 1 (perfectionist) Whose harsh inner critic was deafening. Under pressure I disintegrate into a badly behaving type 4 ( ie all emotions & little sense!)

Find out your type.

Listen to typology podcast or read ‘The road back to you

Read helpful books
– in small chunks when you can concentrate

On Kindle I’ve been reading ‘Refresh-Embracing a Grace paced life in a world of endless demands’ (David & Shona Murray)

On Christian audio I’m listening to ‘Reset-living a grace paced life in a burnout culture’ (David Murray)

Reset is geared for men (especially those in ministry) & Refresh is written for women. David is a pastor & counsellors & Shona (his wife) is a Family Doctor.

Even the thought of a Grace paced life brings hope

It’s good to talk

Burdens are better shared & it is good to talk but sometimes we have to choose carefully who we talk to.

If your family & friends can’t really help- speak to your GP. We’re here to help!

Lastly but most importantly

Trust God

(The One who made you, knows you best yet loves you most)

I love the way the Bible tells the whole story of its characters – the best of times & worst of times.

In 1 Kings chapter 18 Elijah had challenged the Israelites to choose their true God, defeated the prophets of Baal, climbed to the top of Mount Carmel, seen answered prayer for rain & ran 10k supernaturally fast.

One chapter later he ran for his life, journeyed into the desert & sat under a broom tree praying he might die.

Elijah fell asleep then was advised to get up & eat by an angel of God (Sometimes simple tasks like sleeping & eating are what we need most & all we can muster) Strengthened, Elijah journeyed to Horeb the Mountain of the Lord& into God’s Presence . He experienced wind, earthquake & fire then the still small voice of God

When we are His, God meets us in the middle of our mess & chaos- if we can hear his gentle whisper above the noise of our troubled minds.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
‭‭(2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

I love this verse amplified:
“My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough–always available–regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.” Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me.”
‭‭(2 CORINTHIANS‬ ‭12:9‬ ‭AMP‬‬)

We can trust the grace of God & His power & promises as we journey through life & work:
‘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)

‘Steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.’
‭‭(Psalms‬ ‭32:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

Blessings

Ruth x

Fashionably Busy

Have you noticed “busy” is the new “fine”?

People ask “How are you?” We answer “Busy” or “Busy as always!”

And it’s true- we’re busier than ever before. Even before the school routine is up & running after summer, I feel like I’m scrambling to keep on top of work responsibilities. Time spent working is mushrooming out of my control. Like many, I’m drowning in a sea of paperwork! We often are so busy we feel dizzy & weighed down by pressure!

‘Beware the barrenness of a busy life’ urges Socrates

‘Busy is not the same as productive’ states minimalist Joshua Becker

We’ve got to face facts-there’s never going to be more hours in the day.Twenty four hours are available, & that’s it.

The challenge is to re-orientate our days & maximise our time.

We crave the utopia of life-work balance. To achieve it, we must look to the One who keeps planets in orbit -our Creator God who made the world then rested.

How can we maximise our time?

Seek God first

‘Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.’
(1 Chronicles 16:11 NIV)

In quiet moments with God, consider:
*What has God given you to do?
*What is your assignment from Him?
*Are you where God wants you to be?

If you honestly answer these questions, I suspect you’ll either feel a calm assurance or an unsettling realization that something has to change.

At the Worldwide Convention, I heard Jamie Taylor (great-great grandson of Hudson Taylor) ask:
‘How is God using your profession as a profession of faith?’

‘Your career is what you’re paid for.
Your calling is what you’re made for’
(Holly Gerth)

Once you discover your God-given assignment, don’t hide from it (like Saul who hid in the baggage when Samuel was choosing the first king- see I Sam 10)

Samuel later urged Saul:
“But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.”
(1 Samuel 12:24 NIV)

Whatever you do pray

Samuel’s challenging last words to Saul were:
“As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you”
(1 Samuel 12:23 NIV)

We can pray about our day ahead, our family, friends & co-workers. We can talk to God about our pressures & frustrations.

Make good choices

In her devotional book Savor, Shauna Niequist encouraged me to make a list of things I do & things I don’t do. This helped bring clarity to what I should agree to, & things I should decline.

‘Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t matter’ (Francis Chan)

Make time for healthy habits

If we are to stay well enough to accomplish what we’re meant to, we need to eat well & get adequate rest. We need to carve out time for exercise. For me- preferably in the great outdoors. There’s nothing like connecting with creation to clear the mind!

Cut out distractions

“It is impossible to do everything people want you to do. You have just enough time to do God’s will. If you can’t get it all done, it means you’re trying to do more than God intended for you to do (or, possibly, that you’re watching too much television.”
(Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life)

We all need to relax & unwind at times. But, we all waste time. Maybe you binge-watch TV? Perhaps, like me, you’re busy surfing (the net) On 24th August 2017,there were 1 billion Facebook users in a single day!

“One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.”
Hard hitting words from John Piper

Like David, we can pray:
“Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.”
(Psalm 119:37 NIV)

Just do it!

So, as we start another week, in our unique God-given assignments :
‘My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.’ (Colossians 2:6, 7 MSG)

And remember, you don’t have to complete your assignment alone, God is with you & will give you the strength you need:
‘We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.’
(Colossians 1:12 MSG)

Blessings,

Ruth x

Wide open spaces

I’m sure there are some of you who are already humming the Dixie Chicks song ‘Wide Open spaces’ in your head!

When I read ‘wide open spaces’ I immediately think of a walk in Glencoe, between two of the Three Sisters. The trail starts off as a steep, narrow gorge, then as you climb, suddenly & very unexpectedly, the path opens out into a large flat valley between the towering mountains.

The Bible talks about wide open spaces (that I think also follow on from steep, difficult times) I read this yesterday:
‘He stood me up on a wide-open field; I stood there saved-surprised to be loved!’ (Psalm 18:19-MSG)

God brings us from the confined claustrophobic places (our life of sin, lived our own way, without Him) out into the vastness of His grace!

Our dog Layla sometimes stays in a stable when we are out. When I get home, I let her out and take her for a walk round fields. She is usually hyper with excitement, & bounces a lot, before running in huge fast circles & figures of eight in the wide open space!

Because of Jesus, through faith, ‘We find ourselves where we always hoped we might stand- out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise’ (Rom 5:2-MSG)

Through faith in Jesus, we have unlimited access to the Most High God, the Creator of the universe!

Wow! We can look around at the wide-open space of God’s grace in which we stand!

We can feel the wind of His presence & sense the vastness of His love.

He gives us SPACE to truly live & ROOM to grow into all He created us to be. He frees us from our confined selves, & gives us the freedom of wide-open spaces.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians: ‘I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small but you are living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!’ (II Cor 6:11-13-MSG)

We can live BIG, open, spacious, gracious lives.

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

Blessings,

Ruth x

Because He died

Because He died, we are redeemed & restored.
Because He lives,we are rescued & renewed!

Because He died, sin is conquered.
Because He lives, we are beloved & blessed!

Because He died, our past is forgiven & forgotten.
Because He lives, we can face tomorrow!
(as the Gaither song states)

Because He died, we can truly live.
Because He lives, we have strength to have the life He died to give us.

Let’s live the life He died to give us!

The adventure begins

Adventure– definition: ‘an unusual and exciting or daring experience.’
Synonyms: exploit,escapade,experience,
‘but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.’
‭‭(Daniel‬ ‭11:32‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

I was walking across Conway Square en route to Caffè Nero for a caffeine boost.

I glanced to my right. A t-shirt in the shop window said ‘It isn’t an adventure till something goes wrong!’

I smiled. It’s true! I smiled more as thoughts of real life examples proved its truth.

Like the time Before Children when our hired car suddenly started smoking like a dragon – in the picturesque village of Macugnaga near Monte Rosa in the Italian Alps. Right in front of their annual parade. ‘Rapido! Rapido!’ the Italian police man roared- his main concern was clearing the obstruction rather than our safety the smoking car! The parade was interrupted for a few minutes- our holiday was interrupted for a few days!

A hitch hike down the valley, a train journey to Orta followed by a 2 mile walk to the villa ended the day. Then a few days of negotiations with the hire car company!

Or the time we were travelling to Eilean Donan castle. We stopped at a picture-perfect Inn complete with a majestic stag & snow-capped mountain outside. We ordered breakfast & without any shaking or warning Ethan’s ketchup exploded over his face & the walls & curtains of the dining area.

Or last year when the aircon in our campervan broke right at the start of our summer road trip. Instead of driving south toward Italy we turned left & kept going to Copenhagen! Sometimes you have to embrace the detour!

Yeah- it’s not an adventure till something goes wrong!

When I was a student in Dundee, I used a devotional book called ‘Adventure with God’ I liked that idea- doing life as an adventure with God. Back then life was ordered & contained. Studying & time with friends. Minimal responsibility ( though I don’t think I appreciated the lightness of this) Days were bright & carefree

Steven Curtis Chapman wrote this song –The Great Adventure:
‘Saddle up your horses
We’ve got a trail to blaze
Through the wild blue yonder of God’s Amazing grace
Let’s follow our leader into the Glorious unknown
This is the life like no other
This is the great adventure’

I’ve heard him sing it in concert- it’s got a feel-good country n western vibe. I was reminded again of the song as I’m reading his biography Between heaven & the real world.And it’s a great image- trail-blazing through life in God’s amazing grace.

‘In the surety of God’s love we can let up on the reins of our everyday, and enjoy the panoramic view of his covenantal faithfulness, stretching as far as the eye can see’ (Amanda Bible Williams-She Reads Truth)

As we travel along this journey called life, God will guide us through lush green pastures & verdant valleys with pleasant vistas to the mountain tops where we gasp at the grandeur of His Grace.

But it isn’t an adventure until something goes wrong!

‘All who sail the sea of faith
Find out before too long
How quickly blue skies can grow dark
And gentle winds grow strong’
(Scott Krippayne)

During halcyon days disaster can strike.
An unexpected phonecall.
A sudden illness.
An unwanted label.
The end of a relationship.
Bad things happening to good people.
Life interrupted.

Storms can hit our life in different ways at different times- altering its course but ‘Smooth seas don’t make for skilful sailors’ (African Proverb)

In this adventure called life, God never promised to take away the storm but to be with us in it:
‘Sometimes He calms the storm
With a whispered peace be still
He can settle any sea
But it doesn’t mean He will’
(Scott Krippayne)

‘Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea— the Lord on high is mighty.’
‭‭(Psalm‬ ‭93:4‬ ‭NIV)

‘Sometimes He holds us close
And lets the wind and waves go wild
Sometimes He calms the storm
And other times He calms His child’
(Scott Krippayne)

In the dark days, in days of difficulty & lament, in this life we live as an adventure with God, we can declare:
‘This is not where we planned to be
When we started this journey
But this is where we are
And our God is in control’

Steven Curtis Chapman wrote these poignant words after his daughter Maria died in a tragic accident at their home:
‘This is not how it should be
This is not how it could be
This is how it is
And our God is in control’

No matter what, God is Sovereign. He is in control of our adventure with Him. He is with us in the trials & these may even bring us closer to Him.

Charles Spurgeon wrote “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”

Painfully challenging words.

Dave Furman has written a book entitled ‘Kiss the wave: Embracing God in your suffering’ He is a pastor in Dubai who has suffered debilitating nerve pain for years. His wife Gloria wrote this blog. Watch this short video about Dave’s story.

In our adventure with God, He is present with us in the dark chapters.
‘Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.’
(‭‭Psalms‬ ‭23:4 NLT)

‘Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.’
(John Newton)

‘God takes us where we did not intend to go to produce in us that which we could not produce on our own. It’s called uncomfortable grace.’
(Paul Tripp)

In this great adventure called life we are never alone. It might not feel OK (it might never feel ok) but He is there.

‘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)

No matter what chapter we’re in – still waters, green pastures or the valley of dark shadows He is with us.

As we trek through this adventure called life, God says:
“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)

‘Maybe it’s here in the waiting
that you learn to get lost:
lost in the adventure of learning to know Him more
because you know that whatever happens,
He has wonderful things in store.
And even when it’s hard
It’s worth waiting for’
(Morgan Harper Nichols)

‘Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations’ (unknown)

Blessings,

Ruthx

Love is the way

At the Royal Wedding yesterday, Bishop Michael Bruce’s delivered the unforgettable sermon watched by millions worldwide. “There’s power in love,” he proclaimed.

He read:
‘Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. ‘‭‭
(Song of Songs‬ ‭8:7‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

He also quoted Dr Martin Luther King Jr:
‘We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love, and when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world, for love is the way.’

I love that phrase ‘the redemptive power of love

I immediately thought of perhaps the most well known verse in the Bible:
‘For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life.’
‭‭(JOHN‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭AMP‬‬)

The redemptive power of love was mentioned at the wedding but demonstrated clearly on the cross. God loved the world SO much that He sent His Son to redeem us:
‘But when [in God’s plan] the proper time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the [regulations of the] Law, so that He might redeem and liberate those who were under the Law, that we [who believe] might be adopted as sons [as God’s children with all rights as fully grown members of a family].’
‭‭(GALATIANS‬ ‭4:4-5‬ ‭AMP‬‬)

That’s the redemptive power of love!

‘Ultimately, the source of love is God himself’ preached Bishop Bruce yesterday.

God’s very essence is love.

‘God is love.’‭
(1 John‬ ‭4:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Paul wrote ‘And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God’ (Eph 3:17-19 – NIV)

David wrote ‘Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies. How priceless is your unfailing love!’ (Psalm 36:5 & 7 – NIV)

God’s love is boundless.
We will never fully grasp or understand it.
It goes beyond our dimensions.
It just can’t be measured.
It is so wide that it encompasses the whole world.
It is so long that it can reach us just where we are, when we need to feel loved the most.
Its height is higher than our highs and its depths are deeper than our downers!
It is like a waterfall, deep and never ending from before time began to eternity!

‘I could more easily contain Niagara Falls in a teacup than I can comprehend the wild, uncontainable love of God’
(Brennan Manning)

Paul says ‘May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvellous love’
(Eph 3:17 NLT)

May we draw nourishment and energy for daily life as we meditate on the awesome love God has for us.

‘And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.
(Eph 3:17- 19– The Message)

‘Life is the question and life is the answer
And God is the reason and love is the way…’
(Kris Kristofferson – Love Is The Way)

‘And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.’
‭‭(1 John‬ ‭4:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Love is the way!

‘May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love’
(II Thessalonians 3:5 – NIV)

Thank You God!

Lord, I thank You for Your amazing, unending, unquenchable love:

-A love that cost your Son His life.
-A love that began in eternity past.
-A love that forgives my sin – my failures and shortcomings.
-A love that redeems and restores.
-A love that forgets the past.
-A love that brings joy to the present.
-A love that brings hope to the future.
-A love that has adopted me into Your family.
-A love that gives life purpose and direction.
-A love that has no limits.
-A love that knows no barriers.
-A love that stretches beyond our farthest horizons.
-A love that reached down to me, just where I was.
-A love that has done more than we could ever dare to imagine.
-A love that can only come from You – my awesome Father God.

I thank You from the bottom of my heart.
I thank You with all that I am.
I thank You with all that I’ve got.

I thank You for this love You’ve poured unreservedly into my life:

-A love I don’t deserve
-A love I could never earn.
-A love I can never fully comprehend.
-A love that is mine to embrace and enjoy.
-A love that is Your gift to me – Your gift of grace.

Thank You God – I want to say thank You with my life.

Blessings,

Ruth x

Are you tired?

Today,

Are you tired,
Worn out,
Burned out?

Are you feeling
Stressed,
Depressed
Stretched
Under pressure?

Are you drifting,
Free-falling
Stumbling
Hurt
Despondent
Defeated
Overwhelmed?

Take your mind off your seemingly giant problems,
And focus on our Gigantic God.

He is Eternal
Ever-Lasting
All-powerful

Our Loving Father
Our Good Shepherd
Our Mighty God.

Bask in His presence

Be captivated by His love

Feel His embrace

Soak in His grace

Remember,

You are encircled in His love
You are held in His grace
Our God is All-sufficient

Always enough
Always faithful
Always loving
Always there.

Jesus said:
“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)

Blessings

Ruthx

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Margin

I got a mid-week break away from work this week to go on a course. The paper provided for notes (pictured above!) had the slogan ‘Left blank for your brilliance’

I don’t often exude brilliance but I liked the concept of leaving space- making space & creating margin!

I reflected how just before Easter I’d caused avoidable stress in my life again as I hadn’t left any margins.

With daily work, end of year deadlines & commitments life felt crammed to the edges. With exploding, expanding to-do lists, and all the must-do, & feel-we-should-do things, there was no space,no margins on the page in the book called life!

But, the Author of Life designed our life-pages to have margins- space around the edges, after the gotta-dos! We’re not meant to be crammed full of activity, that runs over the edge (& can drive us to the edge & beyond if we’re not careful!)

Holly Gerth blogged about margin.She spoke of school days when notebook margins were filled with doodles. It brought back memories of doodling swirly lines, flowers & hearts in the margins of school notebooks (especially in French class!)

Holley wrote ‘The margins of life are the playground of the souls’

I love that idea!

Holly continued, ‘In spaces where there is less, we discover more of what we really need for all we are, for all we do’

‘Margin is the space between our load and our limits’ (Richard A Swenson)

We need to manage our load on the daily grind before we reach our limit. We need to lookout for ourselves.

For ‘Self-care means giving the world the best of you instead of what is left of you’ (Katy Reed)

When Tony Horsfall spoke at New Horizons he stressed the importance of building margin into our lives. He mentioned a book by Richard A. Swenson entitled ‘Margin: Restoring emotional,physical, financial & time reserves to overloaded lives’

Overloaded lives’- I’m sure that phrase strikes a chord with more than just me! A review of the book on Amazon, describes it as a book that ‘teaches you to live life as Jesus lived’ Certainly, Jesus lived life at an unhurried pace-despite all He knew He had to accomplish. He desires that same serenity for us too.

Jesus said “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.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)

Read those soothing verses again, slowly!

In the middle of our rush and busyness, what is God trying to say? If we can pause long enough to hear His voice in our hectic schedule, He says, “Be still” (Psalm 46:10) – or as the Message puts it- “Step out of the traffic!” Get off the motorway, onto the B road, the scenic route, the road less travelled. Stop and look around! Smell the roses! Watch the sunset! Gaze at the stars! Kick some leaves! Have a mellow coffee with a friend! Take the kids to the beach! Seize the day! Celebrate the moment! This is your life- not a dress rehearsal!

No-one is going to get to the end of their life and wish that they had sent more e-mails, attended more meetings, made more phone calls. So, take a deep breath and slow down– don’t let what seems urgent rob you of what is really important.

God says, “Be still and know that I am God”. It’s in the quiet space, the margins of life that we can connect with God.The Psalms are punctuated by the word ‘Selah’, or ‘Interlude’ as the Message translates it. We need to punctuate our life with interludes,margins & new paragraphs, of quiet pauses with God.

‘Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at Me, your High God above everything’ (Psalm 46:10 – The Message)

‘We have to slow the rhythm of rush in our lives so that the best of who are can emerge.’ (Lysa Terkeurst)

‘Make time for the quiet moments as God whispers & the world is loud’ (Jennifer Rothschild)

‘Creating space for my soul to breathe is about respecting the daily pauses I need to be fully myself so that I can be present with God and faithful in my home, my work, and my community.’ (Emily P Freeman)

Maybe at the start of another new week, we need to do something we may not have done since primary school- take out a (metaphorical) ruler & pencil to create a margin on the pages of this week!

How do we create space & make margin?

For me,

*Getting up early in the morning creates space.

*Aiming to be efficient rather than just busy

*Creating boundaries between home & work. My work laptop no longer comes home with me

* Making personal decisions- for ‘All change begins with a choice’ (Michael Hyatt) We can’t do everything- we can choose what’s important to us. ‘Every time we say NO to something that is not important, we are saying YES to something that is.’
(Michael Hyatt)

*Planning ahead- making margin in the week for family time. Margin each week to rest. The idea of Sabbath – the weekly rhythm of rest is as old as the world itself. The Designer of life knew His creatures need margin.

What does margin create space for me?

*Chair time – engaging with God in His Word

*Coffee time with Rob – making time to chat about the day

*Reading – even a few pages- especially fiction

*Watching the sunset

*Running- to clear my mind.

*Writing – Contemplate et contemplata aliis tradere ie time to contemplate & pass on the things contemplated.

The Cambridge dictionary defines margin as the amount by which one thing is different from another. We are all created to be unique. Each of our margins will be different.

What will your margin look like?

The white space in our life is where the magic happens. (No sidebar)

Read more at ‘10 things I do to add margin to my life’ & ‘Reclaiming margin: Why it’s important’

Blessings,

Ruth x

PS you may also like:

Empty cup

Frazzled All The Time?

Memos to myself

Replay or remind…?

It feels like lightyears ago but you might remember the premillennial tape recorders. You know -the ones that we used to record the Top Ten directly from radio onto tape!They were often black with chunky oblong buttons-labelled play, stop, fast forward, record,rewind & replay.

In life, I  wish I could rewind to good times & fast forward the bad chapters But , in reality, there are no fast forward or rewind buttons.

However, every day,we can replay over & over & over again (ad infinitum) Whatever  has been recorded on our mind’s hard drive can be replayed, with ease in our (un)quiet minds!

Our inner voice can whisper, or shout various lyrics:
You can’t
You’re worthless/useless
I can’t believe you did/said that
You’re a lousy mother/wife/Christian/_______
(Fill in the blank & choose an option depending on what area you feel like you’re failing at this particular moment in time)

We may replay:
Conversations we had
Conversations we will never have
Conversations we wish we could have

We can replay:

Anxious thoughts
About what might happen
About what might never happen!

Even worst case scenarios.
Over & over & over again!

We can replay the ‘good ol’ days’ of yesteryear.
Often inaccurate memories replayed can leave us stranded by nostalgia.

Christian Psychologist Paul Tripp states:
‘No-one is more influential in your life than you are, because no-one else talks to you more’

But,
‘Don’t believe what you think- you cannot be trusted to tell yourself the truth’
‘How much more interesting would our lives be if we lived the story we knew to be true rather than engaging in an imaginary story where paranoia crowds out the truth.’
(Al Andrews via Storyline blog)

To stop this destructive replaying,we need more than a PMA (Positive Mental Attitude), we need to plant the truth of God’s Word within our hearts.

‘Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free!’ (John 8:32)

In a world that grasps relative truth, our God is the voice of truth I believe the Bible is timeless truth from Ultimate Source of truth -for every child of God.

If we immerse ourselves in this truth, it will free us from the anxiety of endless replaying. This truth will calm the tossing & turning of the storm within & without & allow halcyon days to return

We need to remind ourselves of this truth & write not just notes to self but memos to our souls!

‘You are made to move in grace—
not to be held in place by fear.’
(Holley Gerry)

‘The words your mind think —
become the house your heart lives in.’
(Ann Voskamp)

The truth from God can renew your minds (Romans 12:2) Indeed,  Jesus’ blood has cleansed our consciences ‘that we can serve the living God.’ (Hebrew 9:14)

Jesus said:
‘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)

Rather than replay, we need to remind:
Remind ourselves of truth rather than replay lies.
Remind ourselves of God’s Words rather than replay deeply hurting words from others.
Remind ourselves of God’s voice rather than replaying  our own inner voice.
Remind ourselves of blessings rather than replaying potential difficulties.

To be able to remind ourselves of God’s truth, we need to be deeply aware of it! We need  discipline to read & study it.

The last time I had the opportunity attend a Precepts Bible Study, we studied I Peter together.

So many treasures of truth to hold on to are contained in chapter 1 alone:
*We have an inheritance that cannot fade- kept in heaven for us(v4)
*We can rejoice though distressed by trials (v6)
*We have a faith more precious than gold though refined by fire (v7)
*Though we haven’t seen God, we can love Him, believe in Him & rejoice in Him (v8)
*We can prepare our minds for action & fix our hope on Jesus (v13)
*We are called to be holy like our Heavenly Father (v15)
*We are redeemed by His precious blood(v18)
*We are born again of the Living Word of God (v23)

At church we have been studying 2 Peter, & have been reminded that God has provided us with everything we need to live:
‘His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness 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)

These truths are ours to remind ourselves!

These blessings are ours- because we are His!

Read these chapters yourself!

And as you choose to remind rather than replay:

‘Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.’ (2Peter 1:2)

Pause to think:

*What songs have you been replaying repeatedly?

*What have you been replaying in your mind?

*What truths can you remind yourself of instead?

Blessings,

Ruth x