Run to the Tower

We were at Glendalough today. We had some of St Kevin’s Coffee, walked past God’s Cottage to the boardwalk around the lower lake & gazed up past the tree line to the Spinc where we walked last time.

But the sight I love best at Glendalough is the Round Tower- built in the Middle Ages & still standing tall!

This tower & others like it remind me of the verse in Proverbs:

‘The name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.’
(Proverbs 18:10 NIV)

He is the Tower we can run to when life hurts as these verses remind us:

*’GOD is bedrock under my feet, the castle in which I live, my rescuing knight. My God—the high crag where I run for dear life, hiding behind the boulders, safe in the granite hideout; My mountaintop refuge, he saves me from ruthless men.’
(2 Samuel 22:2-3 MSG)

*’For God alone my soul waits in silence; From Him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, My defense and my strong tower; I will not be shaken or disheartened.

Trust [confidently] in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him. God is a refuge for us. Selah.’
(PSALM 62:1-2,8 AMP)

*’God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.’
(Psalm 46:1 NIV)

*’The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him’
(Nahum 1:7 NIV)

If you read the verse from Proverbs again, it’s the NAME of our God that is the strong Tower to run to.

‘Your Name is a strong and mighty tower
Your Name is a shelter like no other’
(Paul Baloche)

Years ago when the kids were younger, life was more balanced &amp & work was contained,friends & I gathered round the book ‘Lord I want to know you’ by Kay Arthur .It was a devotional study on the names of our God- Jehovah, Yahweh,the great unchangeable I AM. I still feel encouraged when I think back to the deep truths of God together:

Jehovah Jireh (Gen 22:8)The Lord who provides- all that we need

Jehovah Tsidkenu (Jer 23:6)-The Lord our Righteousness – who cleanses our sin- our deepest need of all

Jehovah Nissi (Ex 17:15)- The Lord is my banner- my leader & protector in battle

Jehovah Raah (Psalm 23) – The Lord is my Shepherd -who leads us through life

Jehovah Rapha (Gen 20:17)- The Lord who heals-& restores

Jehovah Shalom (Judges 6:24)-The Lord is peace -in stormy times

Jehovah Mekoddishkem (Exodus 19:6)-The Lord who sanctifies you – & cleanses our sin

Jehovah Shammah (Ezekiel 48:35)- The Lord is there – at all times

He is there. Always there when we need Him. Our invisible Tower of refuge , whether we recognise Him or not.

He is there, even when life seems too dark to see the Tower:
‘Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on their God.’
(Isaiah 50:10 NIV)

We can rely on Him for He has said:
“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 43:1-3 MSG)

When we are tired & weary, we must keep running toward the Tower.

We can run to the Tower, & know this truth:
‘You are my strength; I wait for you to rescue me, for you, O God, are my fortress.
But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress. O my Strength, to you I sing praises, for you, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love.’
(Psalms 59:9, 16-17 NLT)

We can run to the Tower & cry from our heart:

‘Hear my cry, O God; Listen to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to You, when my heart is overwhelmed and weak; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I [a rock that is too high to reach without Your help]. For You have been a shelter and a refuge for me, A strong tower against the enemy. Let me dwell in Your tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. Selah.’
(PSALM 61:1-4 AMP)

Pray, in the words of that ancient Irish hymn:
‘Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tow’r:
Raise Thou me heav’nward, O Pow’r of my pow’r.’

Amen!

Blessings,


Ruthx

The last photo

I wish I could post the last photo-but it was only allowed to be taken if I promised not to. I wasn’t allowed to take a photo of their first day back at school in the Autumn, but we made an agreement back then that I could take a photo of their last day at school together (before both finished for study leave & one leaves school forever)

I nearly forgot- but realised just in time that Friday was that last day. My teenagers dutifully stood side by side on the front step- as they have done many times before wearing their school uniforms. The moment was digitally recorded & I promised again that there would be no sharenting.

This significant event almost passed without acknowledgement.

As we walked along Knockinelder Beach that evening, we talked about how parents mark their childrens’ firsts

*First tooth

*First steps

*First shoes

*First word

*First birthday with cake & candle

*First day at school

*First wobbly ride on the bike sans stabilisers

We applaud these first milestones & the happy memories that coincide.

But the lasts go unrecognised.

There was a day when I picked up & carried my children for the final time and then never lifted them up again.And I have no recollection of that moment.

Or of other finales:

*The last bed time story

*The last pair of Doodle shoes or red check summer dress

*The last McFlurry between school pickups

The lasts sweep by because we don’t grasp the significance of the moment.

Of course the lasts & firsts are part of life & as our children grow there’s different firsts to celebrate eg first time driving

I don’t cope well with change & can get sentimental about the cute memories of the past (yet I’m very proud of the two teenagers that I’m blessed to call mine!)

It’s grounding to know that God is beyond all of our firsts & lasts. He is Alpha & Omega. He is the Ancient of Days- present from before He created time.

He is before & after all:
‘From life’s first cry to final breath’
(Getty)

We read the anchoring words of Psalm 90 in church last Sunday:

‘Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.’
‭‭(Psalms‬ ‭90:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

Our life is like a droplet in the oceans of eternity.

God can help us to make the most of our time, to redeem it & make it count.

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

Carpe Diem- Seize the day!

Blessings,

Ruthx

PS You might also like Memos to myself & Captured Time

Shine!

On these short days before Christmas,the early darkness accentuates the light:

*Twinkling Starlight
*Mellow Moonlight
*Flickering Candlelight
*Sparkling Christmas lights
*Shining Car lights
*Beaming Torch light
*Glowing Firelight

Light also beams through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. Light dispelling darkness is a bright theme shining in God’s epic story.

‘In the beginning,at the dawn of time, God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light’ (Genesis 1:3 NIV)

And,at the setting of time, in the eternal city of God,’the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. (Revelation 21:23 NLT)

These words are an echo of Isaiah’s prophecy written hundreds of years before:
‘The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end. ‘(Isaiah 60:19, 20 NIV)

Life-Giving Loving Light is the essence of our God:
‘You’re a fountain of cascading light, and you open our eyes to light. (Psalm 36:9 MSG)

God’s gifts of grace & blessings on our lives are also portrayed as light:’Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.’
(James 1:16 MSG)

In between today & 25th Dec we will be reminded by mini wise men in nativity plays that bright starlight led VIPs from the East to the manger- to worship the Jesus, the Light of the world.

Yet, as we step into December our social calendars fill up, & the pace of daily life speeds up to keep up with our schedule, we can fail to appreciate the difference that this Light sent from Heaven has made in our hearts, our home & our world.

Even we who are Christians {followers of the Life-Giving Light} can be tainted by our postmodern world’s mangled view of Christmas. We can fail to grasp the enormity of the truth that this Baby beamed from the translucent Light of Heaven was born to defeat & dispel darkness.

‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.'(John 1:5 NLT)

In the opening chapter of Dr Luke’s Gospel, Zechariah burst into song after months of silence. He concluded:
‘Through the heartfelt mercies of our God, God’s Sunrise will break in upon us, Shining on those in the darkness, those sitting in the shadow of death, Then showing us the way, one foot at a time, down the path of peace. (Luke 1:78&79 MSG)

Three decades later, Jesus proclaimed, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NIV)

He said, ‘I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.’ (John 12:46 NLT)

If we trust in Jesus, the Ultimate Source of light, we become light-bearers in this dark world for Him:
Jesus said,“Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” (John 12:36 NIV)

‘For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.’ (Ephesians 5:8-11 NIV)

Paul urged Jesus’ followers (like us) to ‘Shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life’ (Philippians 2:15-NIV) & ‘Carry the light-giving message into the universe’
(Phil 2:15-The Message)

Jesus the Light of the world said,“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world.” (Matthew 5:14 MSG)

For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.’
(2 Corinthians 4:6, 7 NLT)

If we have trusted Him as the only True Light to shine &redeem the darkness of sin in our lives, then the all powerful Life-Giving, Loving Light of God’s Spirit lives at the core of our messy lives!

We need to shine in the darkness & walk in the light! This means spending ourselves, to illuminate the darkness:
‘If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.’ (Isaiah 58:10 NIV)

Light gives way to light. It only takes one candle to dispel the deep darkness of a cavern.

‘We are only the lightbulbs, & our job is just to remain screwed in!’ (Desmond Tutu)

‘So, Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.’
(Isaiah 60:1, 2 NIV)

Blessings,

Ruth x

Just three words

I used to love listening to ‘Just three words’ on Radio 2 drive time. Listeners texted snippets of their news into the radio station in just three words. eg:

School Play Tonight

Broken finger ouch!

Yummy Birthday Cake

Peppermint tea please

Brand new puppy

Homework’s all done

Although the above three words are about relatively minor life events, it got me thinking about the power of words. Just three words:

God is love

If you ever land in Dublin airport, you’ll see those words on a steeple as you walk out of the terminal. The Bible declared it first in 1 John‬ ‭4:8‬: ‘God is love.’ The essence of God is love. At the heart of God there’s love- true love.

God loves you

I read this on a handmade wooden sign hung on a tree between Ballywalter & Ballyhalbert last week. And it’s true. We may feel unlovely or unloveable but we are never unloved. We are loved by the One who knows us best- our Creator God.

‘Knowing God is love is not the same as knowing God loves you’ (Ann Voskamp)

‘You are loved. Rest in your God-breathed worth’(Sarah Bessey)

God so loved

‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’
(‭‭John‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

God so loved that He gave. He gave His One & Only Son.

Love came down

God,
whose very essence is love,
sent His Love down to our little planet &
wrapped Love in flesh & swaddling clothes.
Love walked earth’s dusty, well-trod paths.
Love grew and gave.
Love brought hope to the hurting,
total healing to the sick,
sunsets and rainbows to the blind,
walking & leaping to the lame.

Love gave,
and kept on giving
to a world dying to know true Heaven-sent Love.

When Love’s God-appointed Day arrived,
Love gave Himself for us-
Love nailed to a cross,
yet held there by Love-
that we, the unlovely,
would know that we are truly, deeply loved by God.

But,
even brutal crucifixion could not kill Love,
for, Love rose with the sunrise in the garden,
and returned to heaven in a cloud.

Now Love dwells in the hearts of those who believe in faith

God’s love speaks

God tells of His love in His Word- the Bible.

He has given us everything we need for life & godliness- His great & precious promises. (2 Peter 1:3&4)

‘Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.’
(2 Timothy 3:17 MSG)

Grounded in love

We can be secure in God’s love ‘rooted and grounded in love’ (Eph 3:17) & begin to grasp its vast dimensions.

Love makes everything grow! (Including us!)

Impacted by love

‘If we were all to live as how we are loved – everything would change’
(Sarah Bessey)

Love one another

‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.’
‭‭(John‬ ‭13:34‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

‘Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out’
‭‭(Hebrews‬ ‭10:24MSG‬‬)

‘Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.’
(1 Peter‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

I Corinthians 13:4 reminds us:

Love is patient

Love is kind

True love is more than words, for:

Love’s a verb

‘Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.’
‭‭(1 John‬ ‭3:18‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

I’ve been listening to audiobooks by Bob Goff. The titles speak volumes Love Does & Everybody, Always about becoming love.

Love lives here

This is the title of Bob’s wife Maria’s book, about love at home.She wrote:
‘We all don’t need to do big things, but we can do equally important things.’

Love builds up
(1 Cor 8:1)

Love never fails
(1 Cor 13:8)

Love never ends

I watched the new purple gliders ‘glide’ through Ballyhackamore as I took my morning caffeine.

Just up the road at Stormont Presbyterian they’d created an acronym on their purple billboard:

God’s Love Is Deep Everlasting Redeeming

There’s great truth & forgiveness in the redeeming, never-ending, eternal love of God.

‘So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.’
‭‭(1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

Always remember- no matter what else you’re thinking on this journey called life:

You are loved

Blessings,

Ruthx

Start well

There are two types of people on this planet- those who are morning people, & those who are not! You either rise & shine or slumber & snooze. In the past I was definitely an owl rather than a lark..

So, I was intrigued to read:
‘The first hour is the rudder of the day.’
(Henry Ward Beecher)

I was also fascinated by the number of times the Gospel writers record that Jesus got up early to spend time with His Father e.g. Mark records, ‘Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.’
(Mark 1:35 NIV)

The challenge of course is that if Jesus, God the Son found it necessary to begin the day with His Father,how much more do we as mere mortals, & saved sinners need to begin our days with God?

I do believe I should begin my day with God but as I said initially I’m not naturally a morning person. I struggle with getting up early enough & hit snooze repeatedly in a dozy state.

I’ll sadly admit, I’ve only managed to start my day with God consistently for two periods in my life. The first time was at university in Dundee when I chose to get up early on a Monday morning to attend the DUCU prayer meeting. The last time was for several months after the New Horizons conference, triggered by pledging to pray for Iraq at 6:45am. But after a trip away from home I defaulted back to my old ways.

I am now trying to reform this habit. I believe its an important habit for me to re-establish.

‘Habits are the invisible architecture of daily life.’
(Gretchen Rubin-Better than Before)

I was challenged by these two clarion calls from yesteryear:

‘Let God’s voice be the first we hear in the morning’ ( M’Cheyne)

‘Do not have your concert first, and then tune your instrument afterwards. Begin the day with the Word of God and prayer, and get first of all into harmony with Him.’
(Hudson Taylor)

The tasks & tempo of life vary with what season of life we are in. But whatever stage of life you are at, it will always be challenging to create the time you need to start well each day.

‘The constant sensory input from all sides is gently addictive-we become used to being entertained and diverted, and it is difficult to carve out the spaces and silence necessary for serious and thoughtful reading of scripture’

This was written by DA Carson in 1998 in the preface of his book For the love of God.This was written before Twitter, Facebook & iPhones. How much more input bombards us now!

The fact that I often chose to begin my day with Facebook rather than communing with the King of the Universe is a sign of how broken I am. I am truly grateful that God Isn’t Finished With Me Yet!

Our lives need to be infused with God’s Word.

Our souls need His truth as an anchor.

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

There really is no substitute for time alone with God.

This past week I have been reading about Moses’ relationship with God:
‘The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.’
(Exodus 33:11)

‘When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.’
(Exodus 34:29)

Our faces may not visibly glow after time with God, but the positive after-effects will radiate out to affect our daily lives.

‘Let’s remember to exchange whispers with God before shouts with the world this morning. Let’s take a moment to pause. Get into God’s Word and let it get into us. Before the craziness of another day begins, before checking our phone for text messages, before logging onto our computer…let’s soak in the life-giving truth of God’s Word’
(Lysa TerKeurst-The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands)

I love that idea-whispers with God before shouts with the world.

‘When I begin the day with God’s word, with silence, with a grounding sense of his love for me, then I find it’s easier to bring those things with me throughout the day, and it’s harder for me to locate them if I didn’t pause with them at the start. So let’s begin together. Let’s savor this day’
(Shauna Niequist)

To truly savour each day we need to nourish our souls with unhurried uninterrupted time with God. We must be intentional in removing distractions & creating soul space so we can hear the still small voice of God.

This quiet time is not an empty ritual but a relationship- one to One with God. He sees our hearts & knows our true attitude. Yet He still loves us & desires to spend time with us, that we might know Him.

Starting well requires discipline- from the moment we chose to go to bed & the time we chose to set alarm for.

Some simple steps to starting well:

•Get to bed early
•Set the alarm at a time that allows enough time
•Don’t hit snooze
•Get organized- keep a Bible & whatever else you need in one place
•Read the Bible before you read anything else
•Talk to God before anyone else
•Keep your phone in another room during Quiet Time

If we are intentional with our time with God, He has promised that He will meet with us:
‘Draw near to God & He will draw near to you (James 4:8)

‘This is always the realest, hardest, truest thing — the exhaling relief:you can always have as much of God as you want.’
(Ann Voskamp)

‘Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.’
(Psalm 143:8 ESV)

Blessings,

Ruthx

This was originally posted at http://www.blessedme.co.uk & I’m still working on my morning routine!

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 the strength & ability to stand today & forever. Now & always.

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

Blessings,

Ruth x

Twinkle

I’ve been thinking about this verse recently:

‘For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’ (2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV)

Let the amazing truth of this verse sink in:

God the Creator of light,
the Father of lights ( James1:17)
who spoke light into being
has sent His Son to be the Light of the world (John 8:12)
But also, He has shone His light into our hearts
that we might reflect Him.

The light-creating power of God is within us!

The God who created light, the sun, the moon & the stars has shone His light into us! The God who created the stars wants us to shine like them!

‘Shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life’
(Phil 2:15,16 NIV)

I asked Google, ‘What makes stars shine?’ The astro-physics baffled me, but basically it’s enormous energy from within!

So, if we are shining like the stars, it’s the light creating power of God is within us! It’s not really us that shines-it’s Him through us!

A few verses later Paul writes:
‘But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.’ ( 2 Corinthians 4:7 ESV)

It’s the powerful Light of the world in us that makes us shine! We can’t all be supernovas or shooting stars, lighting up the entire night sky in a blaze of glory! But we are to twinkle where we are at.

The old hymn simply states:

‘Jesus bids us shine…
You in your small corner
And I in mine’

It doesn’t matter much where your small corner to shine is located- whether it’s in an office, a hospital, a classroom, a shopping centre, a youth centre, or even & especially at home.

Jesus bids us shine.

We don’t need to compare ourselves to the superstar next door. We don’t need to wish (upon a star!) that we were in a different part of the sky-maybe closer to the Plough, or the North Star-where our twinkling might be admired by many more. For the God who determines the number of stars & calls them by name (Psalm 147:4, Isa 40:26), sees us shining where we are at. We always have the audience of One-the only One whose opinion matters

You are where you are at, not by mistake, or mishap-but by design, the ultimate Grand Design. Just as the stars shine in specific places in the night sky to form constellations, God has specifically placed us where He has chosen in time & space:

‘From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; & He determined the times set for them & the exact places they should live. God did this so that men would seek Him & perhaps reach out for Him & find Him, though He is not far from each one of us’ (Acts 17:26,27)

God has placed you where you are at, at this moment, for such a time as this, to shine. Your location & position in life is unique.

‘You are where you are for such a time as this- not to make an impression but to make a difference’ (Ann Voskamp)

What difference can we make?

The difference between darkness & light, night & day- all the difference in this world, & the next!

‘Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night’ Philippians 2:14-16 (MSG)

Jesus said: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
(Matthew‬ ‭5:14-16‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

‘You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world’ (Matt 5:14 MSG)

We are to be a rainbow of multicolour against the blackness of our sin-ravaged world.

So, ‘Don’t shine so others can see you. Shine so that through you others can see Him’ (C S Lewis)

Blessings,

Ruthx

Captured time

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

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

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

We’ve just celebrated the moment that split history in two.

‘The hinge of history is on the door of a Bethlehem stable’
(Ralph W Sockman)

I love how this poem puts it:

BC:AD

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

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

(U.A. Fanthorpe)

This was God ordained Kairos moment:

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

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

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

Our Unchanging God transcends time:

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

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

And He is at work in time

‘He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.’
(Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:11‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

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

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

Indeed. Selah- Pause.Stop.Think.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As we pause & reflect on the Eve of 2018, we can trust the One who has been there already & holds it altogether:

‘I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied, “Go out into the darkness,
and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light,
and safer than a known way.”
(Minnie Haskins)

Blessings,
Ruth x

The ultimate gift

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

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

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

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

While we endeavour to give great gifts, God is the ultimate Gift-Giver:

‘Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.’
(James 1:17 NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God’
(John 1:12 NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,

Ruthx

Neither merry nor bright

For the myriad of hurting hearts this Christmas.

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

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

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

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

I’ve stared into eyes brimming with tears for as long as I could bear –

Hearing the deafening silence that trails behind grief.
Sensing the ongoing heartbreak & unimaginable loss.
Feeling the palpable pain of an aching void left behind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God came down to be where we are.

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

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

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

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

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

When you listen for the still small voice of God,

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

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

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

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

During His time on earth, he was familiar with sorrow. He knew the reality of grief & loss. The shortest verse in the Bible simply states,

‘Jesus wept'(John 11:35)

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

He knows us. He loves us, & He cares deeply about us. The One who scattered the stars at creation’s dawn is also a Collector of tears:

‘You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.’
(Psalms 56:8 NLT)

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

He says ‘Come to Me’

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

He’s waiting for you – to come to Him

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

He’s asking, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)

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

God is with us:

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

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

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

Blessings,

Ruthx