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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

Death is dead!

Death is dead! It might initially seem like a strange statement. But on this Easter Sunday, it’s a very appropriate truth.

Today, more than any other day, we celebrate the fact that Jesus is alive!

‘And then on the third at break of dawn
The Son of heaven rose again
O trampled death where is your sting?
The angels roar for Christ the King’
(Hillsong-Anastasia)

The stone was rolled away.
The tomb was empty.
The angel gladly proclaimed, “He is not here He has risen!”

‘See What a morning!’ is a powerful song & its words inspired this post. The last verse triumphantly proclaims:

‘Death is dead
Love has won
Christ has conquered’
(Townend & Getty)

When Jesus cried ‘It is finished’ with His final breath, it was a declaration that He had completed His redemptive work.

He came to bring:

•Beauty instead of ashes
•Gladness instead of mourning
•Praise instead of despair
(Isaiah 61)

He arose, ascended & in now lives in resplendent glory in heaven.

‘Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.’ (Hebrews 7:25 NIV)

These are great words to ponder & cherish.

If we ask God for forgiveness, through accepting what Jesus has done, & trusting in Him, He will completely save us (The older versions say ‘save to the uttermost’) And now, Jesus ‘always lives’ to intercede for us. He is our Mediator. He liaises between us & God, acting on our behalf.

Jesus ‘always lives’:

‘Because he lives…
We can face tomorrow
Because He lives…
All fear is gone’
(Bill & Gloria Gaither)

Before He died, Jesus comforted His followers,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1)

Jesus also promised that He is preparing a place for us:
“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”(John 14:1-3 NIV)

I believe He’s still preparing that place in His Father’s House, our Eternal Home even today.

As Keith Green said & sung:
‘ And if this world took six days and that home took two thousand years,
Hey man, this is like living in a garbage can compared to
What’s going up there!’

For,
‘No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.’
(1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT)

Since Jesus conquered death, we can place our hope in God- not merely for this life- but for the next. Our hope transcends time into eternity. Death is not the end- it is but a shadow.

Because of Jesus’ triumph we can have a happy never-ending!

‘Everything sad is going to come untrue’
(Tolkien)

Today let’s worship the Life-Giving, Death-Defeating God who can give us the strength to keep going.Today & forever. Now & always.

Jesus said,”And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:20 NIV)

Blessings,

Ruth x

Spiritual Amnesia

Easter 1988 is etched in my memory. Way back then, I truly prayed to God for the first time. I asked Him to forgive my sin, & be Lord of my life. Eight others also committed to follow Jesus. It was an amazing Youth Weekend. The presence of God was palpable as we sang songs under the stars on Ballycastle beach.

A couple of years later I was asked to give my testimony. I stood at the front of church & shared my story. I shared this quote:
‘We get & forget
God gives & forgives’

It’s so true. God forgives us & blesses us. But we get & forget.

In the busyness of life, is it possible to forget the God we cannot breathe without?

Yes, we have poor memories. We forget God’s presence day by day.

We look at the storm & forget about our Anchor.

We focus on our problems & forget our powerful God.

Terror looms across the globe & we forget our Conqueror.

We forget to connect with our unseen Shepherd, the Guardian of our souls.

We easily unravel. In times of trouble we forget how God has led us in the past

We forget the cost of undying love.

Francis Chan in his book Crazy Love wrote about Spiritual Amnesia- how we forget how awesome God is.

‘For the LORD your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God.’
(Deuteronomy 10:17 NLT)

Forgetting God is not a new phenomenon.

In Exodus, the Israelites felt hungry & thirsty & forgot their dramatic rescue from Egypt & the miracle of crossing the Red Sea.

The night before He faced the agony of the cross, Jesus had his last meal with his disciples & washed their feet. He spoke challenging last words.

‘And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”’
(Luke 22:19 NIV)

He knew the disciples too well. He knew their shortcomings, & that they needed to intentionally remember Him. Although they had witnessed the miracles & parables, & done life with the Servant-King, often the human default setting is forgetfulness.

Yet, God will not forget us.

‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands’
(Isaiah 49:15-16 NIV)

We are engraved on His hands, & he will not forget us! He will not let go.

Jesus prayed for us before the anguish of Gethsemane, the night before those hands were nailed to a cross:
‘I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.’
(John 17:20-21 NIV)

How can we respond to our God who gives & forgives?
‘And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the LORD your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul.’
(Deuteronomy 10:12-13 NLT)

‘We can be tempted to forget about the miracle work of grace & begin to notice all the things we do wrong. We can begin to confuse ourselves with our sin’
(Trillia J Newbell)

We need to remember God- tolook at our Saviour rather than our sin, to focus on His forgiveness rather than ouf failings:
‘Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.’
(Psalm 103:2-5 NIV)

Samuel set up a stone,and called its name Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”
‭‭(I Samuel‬ ‭7:12‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

We need to look back on our lives & trace God’s grace woven through.

If we’re suffering from spiritual amnesia,we need to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Take time to reflect & remember:

‘Tis grace that brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home’

Blessings,

Ruthx

A perfect mess

I know what I should do.

I know what God wants me to do.

Yet, I live a ‘life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart & mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different’ (Rom 7:25-MSG)

As we all know from experience, we don’t stop falling short and messing up once we become Christians. We all have days when we feel like a lousy Christian. ‘I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.’ (Romans 7:15 – NIV)

Yes, when we least expect it, our inner dragon appears.Flames of anger come out of our mouths- usually directed at our nearest & dearest, destroying any atmosphere of love!

Sometimes a coffee is all it takes for the dragon to disappear again (temporarily) Sometimes the calendar just has to move to a different time of the month.Sometimes we just need a hug or a cry. Sometimes we need something more deeper.

In C.S. Lewis’ ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ Eustace’s ‘inner dragon’ is so apparent that the boy is actually covered in dragon’s skin to illustrate our sinful nature.

All the ‘Sons of Adam & daughters of Eve’ have a bias toward sinful nature. ‘Adam ate the apple & we all got toothache’ (so a Hungarian proverb says) ‘Every inclination of the heart is evil’ (Gen 8:21) ‘My decisions such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me & gets the better of me every time’ (Rom 7:20 MSG)

When we come to God & ask for forgiveness, we are ‘cleaned up by Jesus & set apart for a God-filled life’ (I Cor 1:2 MSG) He is faithful & just & will forgive us our sins (IJohn1:9)

But, we don’t stay clean long. We need to keep going back to God. Just like clothes in the washing machine & the dishes in dishwasher, no matter how clean they are when they come out, they get dirty again! Our lives get messy & we need many, many trips to God’s laundry room to be cleaned – to be steeped in His awesome loving grace and mercy.

We are a perfect mess.When God sees us through Jesus, we are perfect in His eyes, though we continue to mess up because of our in-built bias to sin.

Sometimes, we can’t see beyond past sins or failings either. Many of us have a lot of guilt-especially mummies. For,’Guilt comes with the placenta!’ We feel guilty about everything from bottle feeding, to not spending enough time with our kids. In the past I’ve even felt guilty because the tooth fairy forgot to come to our house!

Too often, we’re so caught up with our baggage & guilt that we don’t grasp our true worth in God’s eyes.

We find it difficult to accept God’s love, and we therefore lack confidence to reach out to others with His love. If we don’t love ourselves, we’ll find it nearly impossible to love others.

We need to take off the masks & come before God as we are. After all, we can come no other way.

Some of us are so caught up with the past that we’re wasting the present. When we look deep in the mirror, we need to truly know that with God our past is forgiven!

Forgiven.

Forgotten.

Forever.

‘You’re infinitely messier than you dared admit & you are infinitely more loved than you ever dared dream’
(Ann Voskamp)

God’s love covers our sin when we trust Hm to forgive us.

‘In your less-than-lovely moments, God sees a precious daughter in need of His perfect love’
(Lisa Harper)

‘God attaches no strings to His love. None. His love for us does not depend on our loveliness. It goes one way. As far as our sin may extend, the grace of our Father extends further.’
(Tullian Tchividjian)

‘His love for us cannot be outdone or undone’
(Amanda Bible Williams)

He redeems & restores. God is able to renew us from within

‘We’re all a little broken. We don’t need varnish- we need a carpenter’
(Bob Goff)

Our Creator is the only One who can fix us. He loves us as we are but cares for us too much to leave us broken.

‘God sings a louder song than any difficulty we face – a song of renewal, restoration and never-failing compassion.’
(Aubrey Sampson)

We need to focus on our Father, rather than our failings, & look to our Saviour rather than our sins.

For, ‘I stand in Christ, with sins forgiven;
And Christ in me, the hope of heaven!
My highest calling and my deepest joy,
To make His will my home.’
(Stuart Townend)

Blessings,

Ruth x

Soul-care

Self-care is promoted in books, blogs & magazines. We’re beginning to grasp that it’s not selfish to care for ourselves. It’s necessary unless we want to collapse & burnout. It’s essential to look after yourself- you can’t pour from an empty cup. Right?

But have you considered the importance of soul-care?

‘Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well’
(3 John 1:2)

A healthy body & a healthy soul sounds like a utopian ideal. Yet often we focus on looking after our physical bodies & ignore our souls

‘It is not reasonable to think the soul would be properly cared for when it isn’t even seriously acknowledged.’
(Dallas Willard – Renovation of the Heart)

Our souls can seem abstract at times but I think these definitions help:

‘Your soul is what integrates, what connects, what binds together your will, then your mind (those thoughts, feelings, and desires going on all the time), and then your body (with all of its appetites, habits, and behavior)’
(John Ortberg)

‘Our soul is like a stream of water, which gives strength, direction, and harmony to every other area of our life. When that stream is as it should be, we are constantly refreshed and exuberant in all we do, because our soul itself is then profusely rooted in the vastness of God and His Kingdom, including nature, and all else within us is enlivened and directed by that stream.’
(Dallas Willard – Renovation of the Heart)

So,’How’s your soul?’
(Robert Cup)

‘We will always take the most care of that which we value most deeply.’
(John Ortberg-Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You)

Our soul gets crushed under noise, busyness & distraction.

‘When a woman lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule she’ll ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul.’
(Lysa TerKeurst)

Caring for our souls needs time out.

In our frenetic, tech-packed world
‘Stillness is to my soul as decluttering is to my home’
(Emily P Freeman)

We can’t tend to our souls ourselves- we need to entrust them to the One who made us.The One who scattered the stars created our souls. He is able to nurture our souls:

‘In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.’
(James 1:21 MSG)

Jesus said,”I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
(John 15:5 ESV)

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

Jesus said,”Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)

‘Abide in my love’
(John 15:9)

Remain in God’s love ‘Being present, being beloved, being still.’
(Ann Voskamp)

We can build ourselves up in our faith by connecting with God through prayer:
‘But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending life, the real life!’
(Jude 1:20-21 MSG)

We need to keep on praying:
‘I pray because I can’t help myself.I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me, all the time, waking or sleeping. It doesn’t change God- it changes me’
(CS Lewis)

Caring for our souls means soaking in God’s Word. For our soul needs truth like our body needs oxygen.

‘Take Your truth, plant it deep in us;
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness’
(Getty)

Our souls can feel burdened by the trials & troubles of life.

‘Sometimes when you are in a dark place, you think you have been buried, but you have actually been planted’
(Christine Caine)

Sometimes dark places in our lives create space for our souls to grow.

‘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)

‘He restores my soul’
(Psalm 23:3)

Restore means to return to original good position, repair & renovate. God can revive our weary souls as we turn to Him.

‘Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.’
(Psalm 62:5 NIV)

We can look back & reflect how God has restored our souls in the past.

‘I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.’
(Psalms 143:5 ESV)

‘We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain’
(Hebrews 6:19 NIV)

Hope in God gives our soul security & brings us into His presence.

No matter how stormy life gets, we can know, ‘It is well with my soul’

So let us draw near to God & nourish our souls

‘So let us know and become personally acquainted with Him; let us press on to know and understand fully the [greatness of the] LORD [to honor, heed, and deeply cherish Him]. His appearing is prepared and is as certain as the dawn, And He will come to us [in salvation] like the [heavy] rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth.’
(HOSEA 6:3 AMP)

May our soul’s Creator, Redeemer & Restorer nourish our life with His gentle rain, as we trust in Him.

Blessings,

Ruthx

PS You might also like

Healthy body, healthy soul

Tis the season…our soul {should} feel its worth

Playlist for the troubled soul

Playlist for the troubled soul

Perhaps you’ve read the post ‘For the troubled soul

I’ve been thinking of songs that helped me in times of trouble.

This short playlist contains songs to sing out loud as a declaration of difficult truth, blending into quieter songs to contemplate & speak hope to painful circumstances:

Our God is greater

Blessed be your name

Whom shall I fear?

Sovereign over us

Still

Our God is in control

Blessings

God Almighty can speak comfort & peace into our troubled souls.

‘He speaks to the sun and it does not shine; he seals off the light of the stars. He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea. He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted’
(Job 9:7-10 NIV)

He named the stars & He knows your name.

He trod on the waves & can calm your storm.

He formed the earth & He can deal with your mountains!

‘He who forms the mountains,
who creates the wind,
and who reveals his thoughts to mankind,
who turns dawn to darkness,
and treads on the heights of the earth—
the Lord God Almighty is his name.’
(Amos 4:13)

The mystery & majesty of our star-making, mountain-moving, wave-calming God:

‘Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!’
(Rom 11:33)

‘If GOD hadn’t been there for me, I never would have made it.
The minute I said, “I’m slipping, I’m falling,” your love, GOD, took hold and held me fast.
When I was upset and beside myself, you calmed me down and cheered me up.’
‭‭(Psalm‬ ‭94:16-19‬ ‭MSG‬‬)

*What songs would you add to the playlist?

Blessings,

Ruth x

Closer than you think

‘Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me’
(St Patrick)

Today I’ve been thinking about this prayer of St Patrick. A reminder that Christ is all around us. He is in all things & through all things.

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

If we don’t feel close to God, it’s us that have moved away, not God.

‘Draw near to God & He will draw near to you’ (James 4:8 NKJV)

God is there, whether we can sense Him or not.

Scrabo Tower stands like a sentinel at the head of Strangford Lough, even when its obscured by legendary Irish mist! The fact that we can’t see it doesn’t diminish it’s presence!

‘We may ignore, but nowhere can we evade the presence of God.
The world is crowded with Him.
And He walks everywhere in cognito.
And the incognito is not always hard to penetrate.
The real labour is to remember,to attend.
In fact, to come awake.
Still more, to remain awake’
(CS Lewis)

‘The beauty of the gospel is all around us, in the parables of our lives, in the hearts of those who believe, in the graces that seem so common but really aren’t common at all. God has filled his people and his world with his glory. Blessed are those who actually look for it. Even if it only looks back at you a few fleeting seconds at a time.’
(Chris Tiegreen)

Come close to this God, our God & He will come close to you.

It’s all about choices.

We choose which way our relationship with God goes – whether we’re walking closely to Him, or far away. We decide if we’re going to give our relationship with God the priority it deserves.

We are all sinners-even Saint Patrick declared this. Yet we can know the blessings of Christ in us- the hope of glory.(Col 1:27)

Many of us are prodigals. Of course, we’re still our Father’s children – nothing can change that. But we’re certainly not close to our Father- we’re living in a distant land, far from the Father’s house. We’ve squandered His riches, freely given to us. We’re missing out on the privileges of His children – we’re searching for scraps in the pigsty when we could be feasting at His table.

Maybe today, we need to come home, to return to our Father’s house, to feel the warmth of His embrace and the unspeakable joy of a restored relationship. There’ll be no anger, or awkward questions, just His tender voice saying, “Welcome home” and His deep unconditional love- the love that He’s been aching to show us while we were apart. And we’ll wonder why we were away so long – away from our Father’s house, but we’ll realise that we were never, never away from our Father’s love.

‘Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart’
(Psalm 37:4-NIV)

Come close to God & He WILL come close to you.

‘Above and below me
Before and behind me
In every eye that sees me
Christ be all around me’
(Leeland)

‘May the strength of God pilot us,
May the wisdom of God instruct us,
May the hand of God protect us,
May the word of God direct us.
Be always ours this day and for evermore.’
(St Patrick)

Blessings,

Ruth x

Bright beginnings

Spring has officially started- despite the rewind to the chill of winter today.

Daffodils are sprouting wildly along hedgerows & tete-a-tete in window boxes. Croci erupt across roundabouts in purple,white & orange. Lambs are bouncing in the fields- full of the joy of spring!

‘Look, the winter is past, and the rains are over and gone.
The flowers are springing up, the season of singing birds has come’
(Song of Songs 2:11-12 NLT)

‘It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.’
(Rainer Maria Milke)

Spring is a very visual reminder of new life & bright beginnings. A whisper to our hearts that no winter lasts forever.

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

‘When spring comes it leaves no corner of the land untouched’
(CS Lewis- Miracles)

The Creator God who ushers in new seasons, who brings new life in to hardened ground in spring, can breathe new life to hardened hearts. His grace can give a bright new beginning after a winter in the soul.

If you have been weighed down by the pressures & cares of this life, God offers hope of a bright new beginning.

If you turn to God for forgiveness, He doesn’t just give a new start in life but rather a new life to start.God doesn’t just rearrange our life when we come to Him, He recreates it:

‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
old things have passed away;
behold, all things have become new.’
(II Corinthians 5:17 NKJV)

I was thinking of the simple but profound truths contained in a chorus we sang in Youth Fellowship :
‘I am a new creation
No more in condemnation
Here in the grace of God I stand’

‘Therefore, having been justified by faith,we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom also we have access by faith into this gracein which we stand,and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.’
(Romans 5:1-2 NKJV)

Don’t keep dwelling in the chill of winter – embrace the warmth of God’s grace this spring.

Rejoice in the hope of bright beginnings.

‘Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present.
I’m about to do something brand-new.
It’s bursting out!
Don’t you see it?’
(Isaiah 43:16-21 MSG)

‘God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life’

(Psalm 51:10 MSG)

‘And now to him who can keep you on your feet,
standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating—
to our one God, our only Savior,
through Jesus Christ, our Master,
be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time,
and now, and to the end of all time. Yes.’
(Jude 1:24, 25 MSG)

Blessings,

Ruth x

Gather grace, scatter grace

The Christmas story has been put to the back of our mind until it’s unpacked again in November.Yet, the truth of the Baby-sized grace of God wrapped in eternal love lingers on:
‘You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.’
(2 Corinthians 8:9 NLT)

Jesus, the True Word & the Brightest Light became flesh & blood & dwelt among us. In John 1:16 we read how we have received grace upon grace from God:
‘For out of His fullness (abundance) we have all received [all had a share and we were all supplied with] one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift [heaped] upon gift.’
(John 1:16 AMP)

God has poured His grace into our lives- sending us a Saviour& giving us His Spirit.

‘By grace I am redeemed
By grace I am restored
And now I freely walk
Into the arms of Christ my Lord’
(City Alight)

His grace is always enough:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV)

‘And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.’
(II Corinthians 9:8 NKJV)

We don’t deserve God’s grace in our lives.He freely gives it to us when we trust Him.

‘I do not understand at all the mystery of grace- only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us’
(Anne Lamott)

Just like the manna from heaven that had to be gathered daily (see Exodus 16) God provides grace for today.

Daily grace, day by day.

Just enough for now.

Rend Collective wrote:
‘Gather for strength
Scatter for light’

I expanded that phrase as I meditated:

Gather grace for strength
Scatter grace for light

Gather grace,scatter grace

God’s extravagant grace can’t be hoarded. It needs to be shared. Freely received & freely given- extended to others who (like us) need grace most & deserve it least.

Last year at an OMF meeting, I watched Steve Saint on a video. Sixty years ago his father Nate Saint, along with Jim Elliot & four other missionaries were killed by Auca Indians in Ecuador. The infamous story is recorded in the book by Jim Elliot’s widow entitled Through Gates of Splendour.

The rest of the story Steve told was new to me. After the murders, Steve, his mother & aunt Rachel lived among the Auca tribe. In God’s time, many became Christians & the tribe actually shared God’s grace with Steve when he was a young boy . Steve grew especially close to Mincaye- the tribesman who killed his father. Steve said ‘Hurt people hurt people. But forgiven people forgive people’

God’s grace changes lives & creates (almost) unbelievable stories.

This is counter-cultural, other-worldly, amazing, downright outrageous grace. Such grace is birthed by God alone. Given by Him- gathered then scattered by His children.

When we see God’s grace at work in us & around us, we can encourage others & scatter God’s grace.

Tonight in church, we read this verse about Barnabas:
‘When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.’
(Acts 11:23 NIV)

Gather grace for strength today, then scatter it to encourage others.

Blessings,

Ruthx

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