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Cultivating our life

‘You may not be everything
you thought you’d be by now
But you can be the one who loves,
serves & gives her all,
& waters & nurtures
every plant in the garden
that God has already given her’
(Morgan Harper Nichols)

I love those words- partly because I can easily identify with the sentiment that I’ve fallen short of my own ideals (never mind anyone else’s) But I also love the sense of place and space. There’s a boundary-a limit to what we have influence over. Although there’s a whole wide world, God has gifted each of us a garden to tend to.

That’s especially important today in these unprecedented days. Days with frightening headlines. Constant talk of a global pestilence, with climbing mortality rates. Stalking fear. Rising anxiety

While it feels like this planet we call home has shifted on its axis & paused, we can look to our own backyard. While the gravity of the situation weighs heavy on our shoulders & while we can pray for our whole wide world (which is all under His care) God gives us our garden to look after.

Our patch of Earth- that only we can tend to.

Our home- more than just the rocks &beams, but our family & friends that bring it to life- the children that grow before our eyes.

Even in these dark days.

Especially in these dark days.

Dark chapters in earth’s history.

In our garden, the soil can be a dark seemingly lifeless place.

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

‘New life starts in the dark. Whether it’s a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, new life starts in the dark.’
(Barbara Brown Taylor)

So hold on to the truth.

‘In darkness God’s truth shines more clear’
(Corrie ten Boom)

In the Bible, Jesus said that God is like a Gardner, & we are like the branches of a vine.

Jesus said:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
(John 15:5 NIV)

As we look after our gardens gifted to us from our Gardner God,we can only do it with His help

‘Whatever I have, wherever I am,I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am’
(Phil 4:13-MSG)

‘I have strength for all things in Christ who empowers me (I am ready for anything & equal to anything through Him who infuses inner strength into me’
(Phil 4:13 AMP)

‘When you go to God,
He will infuse you with
The strength you need
To do that which He has asked you to do!’
(Patsy Clairmont)

When we draw near to God. & remain close to Him, His Gardening Spirit works in our hearts & helps us cultivate our lives.

‘But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard’
(Galatians 5:22-23 MSG)

‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.’
(Galatians 5:22-23 NLT)

God will water our gardens & produce fruit that we cannot grow on our own. So let us draw near to our Creative Gardening God.

‘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)

He is the one who sends rain to us & our garden- gentle spring rain to make us grow.

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

Sometimes it’s hard to envisage how the gardens we have been given will turn out. Especially against the backdrop & upheaval of COVID.

We need our Gardner God’s perspective.

‘This is not a time to look too far into the future, or even the next few weeks or months. This is a time to think in terms of moments. Leaning into your faith during this pandemic means asking yourself, ‘What is my next right thing?’
(Emily P. Freeman)

‘Sometimes life is so hard you can only do the next thing. Whatever that is just do the next thing.  God will meet you there.”
(Elizabeth Elliot)

What is our next right thing to tend to in the garden we have been gifted?

‘Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.’
(Galatians 6:4-5 MSG)

We can do our creative best with the gardens we have been given.

‘Cultivate thankfulness’
(Col 3:17 MSG)

‘Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.’
(William Arthur Ward)

‘Discover beauty in everyone.’
(Romans 12:17 MSG)

‘Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.’
(Matthew 6:30-34 MSG)

Let’s read that poem one more time, then serve, give, water & nurture the garden we have been given.

‘You may not be everything
you thought you’d be by now
But you can be the one who loves,
serves & gives her all,
& waters & nurtures
every plant in the garden
that God has already given her’
(Morgan Harper Nichols)

Blessings,

Ruth x

Feeling abandoned – but never alone!

Loving God means trusting Him when life hurts

Readings: II Corinthians 4:8&9, Isaiah 43:1-3

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 twenty something to the big 3- 0 would be even worse!

But no matter how many ‘big’ birthdays pass, I am sure they 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- a psychiatric hospital. 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?” (Matthew 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 (Hebrews 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” (Isaiah 43:1-3-NIV)

The Message phrases those words this way- “Don’t be afraid,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”
(Isaiah 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’ (Psalm 34:18 – NLT)

Like the foot- prints 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 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 give depth and character to the tapestry of life. 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 (Romans 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 back- ground. 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 Corinthians 4: 8&9 NLT)

As I said before, 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. (Deuteronomy 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!

‘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)

A prayer from the heart

Lord, I need You.
I need You now more than ever before.
I need You to minister to me-to help me
rise above the problems and difficulties of life.
I need You to fill up my emptiness, because
I’m completely wiped out and spent.
I need Your grace at this time of need.
I need to sense Your love now more than ever.
I need to feel Your arms of love around me, to enable me to feel safe and secure, despite the turmoil around. I need to be touched by You- so that
I can reach out to others.
I need Your strength at my time of weakness.
I need Your joy now, when life hurts deeply.
I need You to know the cry of my heart, a cry so deep, so silent that no-one else hears.
I need Your patience to take one day at a
time, step by step with You.
Lord, I know that You are all-
sufficient. You are my All in all.
I CAN depend on You- my Rock,
my Song, my Awesome Father God.

(This prayer was scribbled in a journal during another hospital admission. It was truly a prayer from the heart)

The words of our Father

“I am your fortress in times of trouble,
My love is the anchor when things go wrong,
You are precious and in all situations,
I am working to make you strong!

I am your Rock when life seems uncertain,
My presence will guide when things are unclear.

You are loved and in all your problems
You can trust and have nothing to fear.

I am your Helper in times of testing,
My strength shows up best when you are weak, You are my child and through all the tough times, You can know my strength whenever you seek”

P.S. My 30th birthday (& 40th too!)has long been and gone! On my 30th we had a great barbeque-complete with an adult sized bouncy castle. It was a bright, sunny day- and more importantly there was sunshine in my heart- a complete contrast to my 29th

Blessings,

Ruth x

*Revised & updated from ‘Its all about love’ self published in 2007

Just trust- one day at a time

The love of God means our future is secure
Readings: Psalm 25:1-10, Proverbs 3:5,6
It was 19th July 2002 – our 5th wedding anniversary and I felt like I was the happiest person on the planet!
We were on holiday by Lake Orta, one of the smaller Italian lakes. Caris, our 18 month old toddler was asleep in the cot, Rob was having a siesta and I was sitting out on the balcony-4 months pregnant with our second child.
The sunshine was making the lake shimmer below. Bright red geraniums were bursting out of window boxes all around. Birds were singing & life was beautiful!
I was reading, reflecting & scribbling in my journal and thanking God for all his blessings over the previous 5 years. I was thanking him for the baby, yet unborn.I just felt so blessed.
I was looking forward in anticipation to the next 5 years, wondering what lay ahead, asking God to guide us-as a couple and as a growing family.
Someone said that it’s just as well that we don’t know what lies around the corner-and it is! If someone, anyone, an angel-or God Himself had revealed that day what the future held for us in the next few years, I don’t think that I would have been able to get up off my chair- and I certainly wouldn’t have got on the plane home! For the next 3 years were the most difficult of my life so far.*
A few months later, I woke suddenly in the middle of the night, and heard God’s voice say, in a more real way than ever before, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you”
As Christians, we don’t need to fear- no matter what – for our Father God is with us, through it all.
Our future is not random or haphazard. Our loving Heavenly father who knows what is best for us has planned it. “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”(Jeremiah 29:11 –NIV)
Often we worry about what the future holds, but we shouldn’t. After all, today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday! We must just trust. ‘God is not asking you to have your whole future figured out. He is asking you to trust that He has your future planned’ (Stormie O’Martian)
Our future happens just one day at a time & He gives ‘Just enough light for the step I’m on!’(as the title of one of Stormie O’Martian’s books reminds us)
And no matter what, He is in control.
When I was a teenager, my Granda Murphy always wrote Proverbs 3:5&6 on my birthday cards, as a reminder that I should trust God, rather than my own instincts, and that I should seek Him first for guidance. The day I got my A level results, these verses ‘just happened’ to be my daily reading. I’d spent most of the day in tears as I hadn’t got the grades for Queen’s University Belfast. These verses reminded me to just trust. Looking back I realise that it was God’s plan for me to study in Dundee for five years!
And if I had gone to Queen’s, I wouldn’t have met Rob and many other great friends, and I would have missed out on all the craic of living away from home!
I like the way the Message paraphrases those verses:
‘Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do,
everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track’
(Proverbs 3:5&6 The Message)
God is charting our path:
‘You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am. You both precede and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head’ (Psalm 139:3&5 – NLT)
He goes before us:
‘The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged’ Deuteronomy 31:8 – NIV)
And He goes with us:
‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord Your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you’
(Deuteronomy 31:6 – NIV)
Our destiny is in His hands. He knows the way that we take and He leads by quiet waters and green pastures, through mountains and valleys and the storms of life. As God of the universe, He holds our future. And as Abba, Father, He holds our hand.
Corrie ten Boom’s father told her:
“When Jesus takes your hand, he keeps you close. When Jesus keeps you close, He leads you through your whole life. When Jesus leads you through your whole life, He brings you safely home”
Step by step He’ll lead us all the way home.
‘For this God is our God forever and ever; he will be our guide, even to the end.’ (Psalm 48:14 NIV)
‘You will keep on guiding me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny’ (Psalm 73:24 NLT)
His love surrounds & protects us.
‘But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him’ (Psalm 103:17 – NIV)
His love stretches from eternity past and never ends. And we can rest in God’s plans for us.
‘You have a place in God’s plan that no-one else can fill- and it’s running over with blessings only He can give’
(Day Spring Cards)

‘Settle with the past.
Engage with the present.
Believe in the future.’

Blessings,

Ruth x

*Read that part of the story next in ‘Feeling abandoned but never alone’

**Revised & Edited from ‘Its all about love’ self published in 2007

Celebrate the moment!

The love of God means today is for really living


Readings: Lamentations 3:22-26, Psalm 118

‘Just a tiny little minute, only sixty seconds in it’
But, it’s the minutes that make up the hours. The hours turn into days and the days become weeks. The weeks make up the months on our calendars. The months mark the seasons, and so the year rolls round. The years blur as major life events, birthdays and anniversaries make landmarks in our lifetime.
In these ‘wiping years’ when we’re wiping little bottoms, noses, faces and messes, it’s easy to let the day go by in a blur of seemingly mundane tasks!
We aren’t able to see beyond the messy room, the endless dirty dishes and laundry. And we feel like we’re going to scream if we hear “Mommee!” one more time!
Sometimes, we merely exist, rather than truly living life as God intended it to be. It’s easy to miss the point. It’s easy to miss the wonder of these years when our children are growing, discovering and absorbing so much.
But, no matter what, the Bible says: ‘This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it’(Psalm 118:24-NIV)

‘Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.’
(Psalm 90:12- NLT)

On 1st September 2001, I took my 6-month-old baby daughter for a walk along Ballywalter Beach. It was a bright, sunny day. The tide was out and the water sparkled. It was the first day of the new school term. A woman stopped me to say, “Make the most of it! My baby has just started school!”
And now, 19 years later, I wonder where the years in between have gone. Caris is now at university and that walk along the beach is just a distant memory- though we’ve walked that beach together many, many times since. I’m just glad that I chose to go for a walk that day and didn’t just get bogged down with the housework!
A Scandinavian proverb says: ‘This day is a gift from God. What you do with it is your gift to Him’
Some one put it like this:
‘Yesterday is history,
Tomorrow is a mystery,
Today is a gift,
That’s why it’s called the Present!’
Every new day is a fresh opportunity to experience God’s love and mercy.
‘The unfailing love of the Lord never ends!
Great is His faithfulness;
His mercies begin afresh each day’
(Lamentations 3:22&23 –NLT)
‘God has called us out of ho-hum mundane living to experience the abundant life’
Jesus said:
“My purpose is to give life in all its fullness” (John 10:10 – NLT)
“I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of”
(John 10: 10 –The Message)
I was very challenged by something that Gloria Gaither said in an interview that was published by In Touch magazine in March 2001: “When your children are saying “Mommy, mommy” and you’ve got other things to do, I think you have to ask “Is there any eternity in it?” and give yourself away for things that last forever. A child is more eternal than a clean house…A calling builds itself into a calling out of a lot of days of regular stuff. There is eternity in every moment”
Wow! Think about it-there is eternity in every moment, when we see those tiny little minutes from God’s perspective! ‘Everyday we stand on chords that vibrate throughout eternity’ (Charles Finney)
We have got to ‘Make the most of every opportunity’ (Colossians 4:6-NIV)
What we think is an interruption may be a divine appointment. Don’t let opportunities pass you by because you think you know how your day should unfold! Listen to those inner promptings, and gentle nudges that come from the Holy Spirit. And remember, a coincidence is when God acts and decides to remain anonymous!
God wants our tiny little minutes, our days and our 24-7 lives to be given to Him.
‘Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life-and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him’
(Romans 12:1-The Message)
I probably don’t need to remind you that just 10 days after that carefree walk on the beach, the unthinkable happened.11th September 2001. 9-11 is a date etched on our minds forever- the day that shook the world.
And many more terrorist attacks, natural disasters & unexpected events have happened since. Just now, our planet has paused- reeling with the effects of coronavirus.
We truly don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Tomorrow is guaranteed to no one. Tomorrow might never come.
I truly believe that God wants us to seize the day- Carpe Diem! What a difference it would make if we viewed our limited, precious time from God’s perspective.
‘Celebrate God all day, everyday’ (Philippians 4:4-The Message)
‘And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him’ (Colossians 3:17 – NIV)
‘What you have done and created and loved in the Name of Jesus is all that will last’ (Angela Thomas)

We have this moment

‘Hold tight to the sound of the music of living,
Happy songs from the laughter of children at play;
Hold my hand as we run through
the sweet fragrant meadows,
Making mem’ries of what was today.

Tiny voice that I hear is my little girl calling
For daddy to hear just what she has to say;
And my little son running there by the hillside
May never be quite like today.

Tender words, gentle touch, and a good cup of coffee, And someone that loves me and wants me to stay;
Hold them near while they’re here, and don’t wait for tomorrow
To look back and wish for today.

Take the blue of the sky and the green of the forest
And the gold and the brown of the freshly mown hay,
Add the pale shades of spring and the circus of autumn,
And weave you a lovely today.

For we have this moment to hold in our hands
And to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand;
Yesterday’s gone, and tomorrow may never come,
But we have this moment-today!
(Gloria Gaither-quoted with permission)

‘Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.’
‭‭(Matthew‬ ‭6:34‬ ‭MSG‬‬)

Blessings,

Ruthx

*Edited & updated from my book ‘Its all about love’ 2007

Who am I?

These are unprecedented days, when it feels like earth’s axis has shifted & our planet is holding its breath. We struggle to function normally & find stability.

We must look beyond ourselves to our Creator & His love for us:
‘Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is an illusion’
(Brennan Manning)

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

If we trust God as our Saviour, we can find hope & peace. For these days & anyday.

‘Not because of who I am
But because of what you’ve done’
(Who am I-Casting crowns)

‘You are one in whom Christ delights & dwells, & you live in the strong & unshakable Kingdom of God’
(James Bryan Smith)

‘I am chosen
Not forsaken’
(I am who You say I am)

‘You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
And You say I am held when I am falling short
And when I don’t belong, oh, You say I am Yours
And I believe’
(Lauren Daigle-You say)

‘I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God’
(No longer slaves)

‘See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.’
‭‭(1 John‬ ‭3:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

I am Abba’s child & I can rest in that truth- today & always.

Blessings,

Ruth x

Psalms-words to live by

‘God’s words, creating & saving words every one,hit us where we live’
(Eugene Peterson)

‘In my heart I store up your words’
(Psalm 119:11)

Time with God in the Psalms is a good start to any day- everyday- especially days like this!

Psalm 37 has been a favourite Psalm since teenage years.There’s a list of beneficial things to do when our minds are overwhelmed. When we feel like we’re on the edge of a precipice. When it feels like the world has been put on pause (as my son said) When we’re all holding our breath.

Psalm 37’s theme is ‘Trust in the Lord’

And its first words are ‘Do not fret’ And that command is repeated in verse 7 & 8.

So what can we do instead of fret?

*’Trust in the Lord, and do good’
(v3 ESV)

*’Dwell in the land’
(v3 ESV)
Dwell calmly, securely & gratefully

*’Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.’
(v4 ESV)
Focus on our Unchangeable God rather than our ever changing world situation.

*’Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.’
(v5 ESV)
Pray through your day- hand it over to God

*’Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him’
(V7 ESV)

‘Quiet down before GOD, be prayerful before him.’
(Psalm 37:7 MSG)

*’Refrain from anger, and turn from wrath!’
(V8 ESV)

Cultivate Gentleness & self control

I love these soothing words from another Psalm:

‘When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.’
(Psalms 94:19 ESV)

And there are many cares just now. COVID has entered our world as ‘the pestilence* that stalks in darkness’
(Psalm 91:6 ESV)

*The definition of Pestilence is a ‘Highly contagious devastating infectious disease’ And there’s been pestilences throughout world history from the Psalmist David’s day till now.

We can focus on the Most High God who’s great name is mentioned in the same Psalm a few verses before ‘the pestilence’

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

Blessings,

Ruthx

PS I like this post- CS Lewis on Coronavirus

You might also like ‘Calm for the anxious mind’

Waiting for the fog to rise

We are blessed to live between the Lough & the Sea. So there’s often fog in the morning especially when the seasons are changing- from summer to autumn or winter to spring. A couple of mornings this week the fields surrounding our house were clothed in a layer of fog.

Fog can descend on our life too. Looming life changes, stressful events & current news headlines can reduce our clarity & vision. Even our excessive busyness or our poor choices can produce fog.

Fog descended quickly during my Gold Duke of Edinburgh expedition in the Antrim Hills. We followed our path for a couple of hours, trusting our instinct rather than the compass. When the fog lifted, we were right back where we started, having wandered in some convoluted loop!

In this journey we call life, the Bible is our Compass & God is our True North!

So, if we feel like we’re muddling through the middle of fog:
‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.’
(Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)

Sometimes (over)familiar words leave a deeper impression when we read them in a different way:
‘Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for GOD ’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.’
(Proverbs 3:5-6 MSG)

‘When I took a long, careful look at your ways, I got my feet back on the trail you blazed.’
(Psalm 119:59-60 MSG)

In the fog we need to look to God rather than our feelings. We may feel frustrated, fearful & alone.

‘We must navigate by what we know is true no matter what we feel’
(Sheila Walsh)

When we are confused & uncertain in the fog, we can trust that God’s goodness & mercy are following us as we journey. We may need to slow down enough to sense this truth.

And,
‘Sometimes, it’s by walking into that very mist that we grow in ways we never would have otherwise.
Sometimes, it’s through what becomes the fog’s reprieve that we can appreciate the blaze of the sun.’
(Kara Lawler)

When we can’t see clearly because of the fog,
‘God is too good to be unkind and He is too wise to be mistaken. And when we cannot trace His hand, we must trust His heart.’
(CH Spurgeon)

Last month I read through Genesis with She Reads Truth. We followed Joseph’s life through the unexpected fog of slavery & imprisonment. Yet, when the fog lifted,Joseph had the clarity to tell his brothers:
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”
(Genesis 50:20 NLT)

And at the end of his life traversing the fog of deception, wrestling & grief, Joseph’s father Jacob blessed him &said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day,”
(Genesis 48:15 ESV)

We need to get to learn to trust our Great Good Shepherd:
‘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)

In the fog, we can turn our worries into prayers:
‘casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully].’
(1 Peter 5:7 AMP)

We can dare to hope in the uncertain days when we can’t see clearly where our next step leads:
‘Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.’
(Lamentations 3:21-23 NLT)

‘And hope is what keeps you going in the fog’
(Emily P Freeman)

When the fog descends may we look away from ourselves & listen for the voice of our Shepherd- who knows us best yet loves us most.

And remember:
‘The fog always rises.’
(Kara Lawler)

Blessings,

Ruthx

My first Valentine

I read a heartfelt blog post last week about a Grandfather who sent flowers every Valentine’s Day

It instantly reminded me of my Granda Murphy who sent me a Valentine card every year in my teenage years!

One of my earliest memories is sitting on the doorstep in Lawnview Street watching rain ‘dance’ on the pavement (im)patiently waiting for him to come home from work.

Granda worked as a painter at Harland & Wolff. He painted my brother & I matching sleighs for unexpected heavy snow. And colourful bird boxes to hang on our garden fence.

He took us to Portstewart in the summer, & each time I walk along the Coastal Path by the convent I’m reminded of him.

Granda Murphy also sent birthday cards & congratulations cards.

He wrote the same verse in the cards-Proverbs 3:5&6. These are verses to live by- here & now as much as back then:

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

‘Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for GOD ’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track’
(Proverbs 3:5-6MSG)

We can trust God deeply because He knows us fully & loves us the most.

‘For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.’
(John‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

On Valentine’s Day & everyday:

‘You are so very loved.
I pray that you would
Remember it,
Know it,
Live it,
Breathe it,
Rest in it:
Beloved’
(Sarah Bessey)

Blessings,

Ruthx

Mary, did you know?

It’s just over a month since we celebrated Christmas.The decorations are packed away till next year along with the Christmas playlists.But the melodies & words of some songs linger on. Like Pentatonix:

‘Mary did you know…
That your Baby Boy has walked were angels trod?
When you kissed your little baby you kissed the face of God?’
(from a song by Mark Lowry & Buddy Greene)

Mary, did you know?

After centuries of silence from God, He sent His angel Gabriel to appear to this teenager.

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.”
(Luke 1:30-32 NIV)

This fulfilled the ancient words of the prophet Isaiah:
‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel which means “God with us”’
(Matthew 1:23 NIV)

Even while Mary was pregnant, she grasped her place in the immense plan of God. She said:
‘From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me-holy is his name.’
(Luke 1:48-49 NIV)

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary declared.
(Luke 1:38)

Mary’s obedience led to a lowly stable in overcrowded Bethlehem. And there, God stepped into time, wrapped in skin & swaddling cloths.

‘Within moments the hand of the Star Hanger clutched Mary’s finger.The feet of the Sky Walker lay in Joseph’s palm’
(Max Lucado)

It was clear that Jesus was no ordinary baby. Mary & Joseph were visited by shepherds who spoke of angelic choirs, & astronomers from the East who spoke of a guiding star.

‘Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.’
(Luke2:19)

There were many divinely orchestrated extraordinary events to ponder. There must have been so many thoughts in Mary’s mind as she touched her firstborn’s tiny hands & feet & kissed His face. Though she may not have fully comprehended the enormity of God’s plan I think she knew that Jesus was:

Human & divine
Word & flesh
Her son- & God the Son

For Mary, the Christmas story wasn’t just something to be painted on cards or acted in school plays. It was the narrative of her family life, just the beginning of ordinary days with her unique son.

Most of Jesus’ childhood was unrecorded. But when He was twelve, He went missing in the Temple, but was discovered teaching the Teachers ‘in His Father’s House’

‘Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.’
(Luke 2:51-52 NIV)

Mary was there too when Jesus’ ministry began. She was a guest at the wedding in Cana when he performed His first miracle tuning water into wine.

As Jesus performed signs & wonders, healed & preached, opposition grew. Perhaps Mary pondered the ominous words Simeon had prophesied when Jesus was a baby:
‘And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’
(Luke 2:35 NIV)

In chapter 19 of His Gospel, John records that Mary was at the cross. The Son she had bore & raised & nurtured was hanging, crucified- the most shameful death for her perfect son.

And even while dying, he was concerned for her & asked John to take care of his mother when he was gone

Mary did you know at this darkest hour God was at work in history redeeming His people?

Mary’s heart must have broke & her soul was pierced, as she watched the blood stream down His face. Those hands & feet that she’d caressed were nailed to the cross.

Mary, did you know what held Him on that cross?

It wasn’t the nails driven deep.

It was love deeper still.

It was sin – the deepest need of each human soul to be forgiven.

The shocking reality is:

‘It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished’
(Stuart Townend)

‘When every unclean thought,
And every sinful deed
Was scourged upon His back
And hammered through His feet.
The Innocent is cursed,
The guilty are released;
The punishment of God
On God has brought me peace.’
(Stuart Townend)

The punishment of God
On God has brought me peace.

This is what it cost to save & redeem us. This is why He was called Jesus

‘She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’
(Matthew 1:21 NIV)

Yes, our deepest need is a Saviour. So, at just the right time, God sent His One & Only Son- that we may be forgiven children of God:
‘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 was born to Mary:
‘Born that man no more may die:
Born to raise the son of earth,
Born to give them second birth’
(Hark the herald- Mendelssohn)

Mary did you know?

We’ll never truly know what Mary knew. But we know that she believed.

‘Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!’
(Luke 1:45 NIV)

We are blessed too when we believe!

Blessings,

Ruth x

A thrill of hope

Hope was my word for the year. As we lived through 2019 it was easy to loose hope in the world & myself.

‘Here is the world.
Beautiful & terrible things will happen.
Don’t be afraid’
(Buechner)

I was reminded of hope as we listened to carols:
‘A thrill of hope
The weary world rejoices’
(O Holy Night)

And it’s true:
‘Without the weariness there is no thrill of hope’
(Shannon Martin)

God stepped into our weary world at just the right time.

‘Hope arrives, small & warm’
(Shannan Martin)

Hope wrapped in cloths, lying in a manger.

‘Because of Bethlehem-
Love is born
Hope is here’
(Max Lucado)

Hope has a Name & our hope is renewed when we trust Him.

‘Hope isn’t about about thinking something will get better. Hope is about believing Someone better is already here.’
(Ann Voskamp)

Hope saves us from our sin & ourselves.

Hope anchors & grounds us.

Hope lifts us & leads us.

‘This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary’
(Hebrews 6:19 NLT)

Hope is not lost in personal tragedy or trials.

Hope is not shaken by world events.

‘When everything shakes, God remains unshaken’
(Max Lucado)

The anchor in the storm. The constant in our chaos.

‘O Lord, let me not fear too much the storms & winds of my daily life & let me know that there is ebb & flow.. but that the sea remains the sea’
(Henri Nouwen)

We’re holding onto Hope.

‘Sometimes you don’t hold out much hope for tomorrow – only to find Hope Himself is already holding you now.’
(Ann Voskamp)

Yes, we’re holding onto Hope, but He’s holding onto us!

‘Tomorrow could bring beauty; it could bring heartache. But as I’ve been reminded, even in my darkest moments, Christ holds me fast. Each moment is laced with His grace.’
(Melissa Zaldivar-She Reads Truth)

‘The seasons change & you change, but the Lord abides evermore the same & the streams of His love are as deep, as broad & as full as ever’
(CH Spurgeon)

So, as we begin a new decade
‘Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future.      
(Robert H. Schuller)

‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.’
(Romans 15:13 ESV)

‘Hope now
Hope always’
(Psalm 131:3 MSG)

Blessings,

Ruthx