Lightness

Days feel heavy at the moment- the weight of the COVID pandemic has wrapped itself around our globe. Daily life remains altered as summer fades into autumn.Anxiety weighs us down. So do old regrets, failures & mistakes.

There’s an old song entitled ‘I am a new creation’ that talks of standing in God’s grace & having ‘a lightness in my spirit’:

‘A joy that knows no limit, 
a lightness in my spirit 
here in the grace of God I stand.’
(Dave Bilborough)

The lightness begins with our relationship with God through faith:
‘Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.’
(Rom 5:1-2)

How can lightness dispel heaviness?

We need to ‘Preach the Gospel to yourself’ We can leave the heaviness of sin with God for ‘as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.’
(Psalms 103:12 NIV)

‘God’s faithfulness is greater than your worst mistake, greatest regret or biggest blunder’
(Jennifer Rothschild)

We can look beyond our problems to God-He is Majestic & Magnificent -Lord over all yet Abba Father.

And God doesn’t want us to carry heavy burdens. We’ll feel lighter if we leave them with Him:
‘Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.’
(Psalms 55:22 NIV)

We can feel lighter by turning worries into prayers:
‘Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.’
(Philippians 4:6-7 NLT)

We can choose joy -This is much more than thinking happy thoughts

We can switch fear for trust
For,’perfect love drives out fear’
(1John 4:18 NIV)

When we trust God, we know this truth:
‘The truest thing about you is that you are the one whom Jesus truly loves.
(Sam Allberry)

And this brings lightness in our spirit.

Blessings,

Ruth x

Today I choose

Today may feel the same as every other day. These lockdown days blur into one another.

Today is Sunday-a time to pause & reflect. For this is the day the Lord has made & given to us as a gift.

Each day consists of many choices- seemingly insignificant. Yet when strung together they create patterns of our everyday life.

So, Today I choose gratitude

There is always something to be grateful for. Even in the middle of a pandemic, we can have an attitude of gratitude. We can list the everyday blessings that we are grateful for.

Today I choose Love

Love is patient. Love is kind

Love is from God, for God is love.

‘God loves you simply because He has chosen to. He loves you when you don’t feel lovely. he loves you when no-one else does. No matter what’
(Max Lucado)

Love is not static or stagnant, as these words remind us:

‘Love doesn’t just sit there,
like a stone,
it has to be made,
Like bread;
remade all the time,
made new’
(Ursula K Le Guin)

Today I choose joy- deeper than happiness & independent of circumstances.

In days like today,
‘The joy of the Lord is your strength.’
(Nehemiah 8:10 NIV)

‘Rejoice in hope’
(Rom 12:12)

‘Teach us to begin again with joy’
(Emily P Freeman)

All we are sure of is today- not tomorrow.

‘So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.’
(Matthew 6:34 NLT)

There’s talk about these days being a ‘new normal’ A poster outside a local church in Greyabbey asks ‘Will you let God be part of your new normal?’

Today I choose to let God be part of my day.

Today I choose to follow God- even though I falter & waver along the way.

‘This is the one great truth: The only thing that is certain is uncertainty – and the certainty of God.’ (Ann Voskamp)

God is faithful- today & everyday. Always & forever.

Today, what will you choose?

Blessings,

Ruthx

Bright & beautiful promises

Planet Earth has been more difficult to inhabit in recent months- in an unprecedentedly unprecedented way!

It’s easier than ever to worry. There’s plenty to feel down about. Life feels like it won’t ever be the same again.

Thankfully in these shifting times God has given us everything we need:

‘We have everything we need to live a life that pleases God. It was all given to us by God’s own power, when we learned he had invited us to share in his wonderful goodness.’
(2 Peter 1:3CEV)

‘And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises.’
(2 Peter 1:4 NLT)

God’s Word contains ‘great & precious promises’ God’s promises are like an anchor in stormy days, light for dark days & an encouragement to keep us going all our days.

Throughout lockdown I have been gathering God’s promises (Maybe you have too) And I’m grateful that ‘His every promise is enough for every step I take’ (Getty)

I read this promise to Moses:
‘The Lord replied, “I will personally go with you, and I will give you rest-everything will be fine for you.”’
(Exodus 33:14 NLT)

These verses were in Chris Tiegreen’s devotional book:
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”
(Isaiah 41:10 NLT)

“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”
(Isaiah 41:13 NIV)

I like this alternative version of this verse:

‘That’s right.
Because I, your GOD,
have a firm grip on you
and I’m not letting go.
I’m telling you,
Don’t panic.
I’m right here to help you.’
(Isaiah 41:13 MSG)

I found these words of Jesus on a little card:
‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’
(John 14:27 NIV)

This verse was on the corner of the Spectator newspaper:
‘You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord GOD is the eternal Rock.’
(Isaiah 26:3-4 NLT)

These words were written on a greetings card in my Bible:
“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)

These verses were mentioned in a podcast:
‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.’
(Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT)

I read this verse last week;
‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’
(Jeremiah 29:13 NIV)

These days may feel like a monotonous grey or even stormy black but,
‘The future is as bright as the promises of God’
(Adoniram Judson)

I’m grateful for God’s unchanging words today & always.

Blessings,

Ruthx

Nurturing the exhausted mind

‘When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight.
(John O’Donahue- To Bless the space between us)

Maybe you’re feeling exhausted with stressed & strains of day to day life under the threat of COVID. There may be underlying issues that you’ve been carrying.You’re at the end of yourself & can’t take anymore.

The prophet Elijah had just defeated the prophets of Baal, yet he became afraid & ran for his life. He sat under a broom tree praying he might die (I Kings 18&19) He fell asleep,then an angel from God gave him some food. Strengthened by sleep & food he travelled for 40days then heard the still, small voice of God.

We can become exhausted like Elijah. Sometimes what we need too is simply food & a good rest, then some time with God to nourish our souls.

And God is always closer than you think:
‘God is everywhere, in all places &
there is no spot where we cannot draw near to Him &
hear Him speaking to our heart:
with a little love,
just a very little,
we shall not find it hard’
(Brother Lawrence-Practice the Presence of God)

The most important thing is to come to our God, to hear His voice. 

He says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28- NIV). 

Jesus said:
“Are you tired?
Worn out?
Burned out on religion?
Come to me.
Get away with me
and you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest.”
(Matthew 11:28MSG)

The next two verses in the Message say this:
“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”. 

We need to slow down (even during lockdown) get rid of distractions & clear away the clutter in our minds.Sometimes we’ve got to leave what is good and choose what is better – quality time with God. 

Life goes better if we speak to Him before we speak to others. If our relationship with Him is first priority, all other relationships go more smoothly. Time with God is always the best option especially when we’re exhausted.Without Him we’re just running on empty, getting stressed out and heading for burn out.

Each day God wants to guide us to make full use of limited time-not so we’ll get dizzy with to-do lists-but so His priorities will be ours and we’ll achieve what he wants – things that’ll last.

When life seems busiest, we often need to stop and simply draw aside and come to our Heavenly Father, who knows what we really need. And sometimes our deepest need is to simply be still, to care for our soul and to find rest in God alone
(Psalm 62:1)

The Psalms are punctuated by the word ‘Selah’, or ‘Interlude’ as the Message translates it. We need to punctuate our life with interludes, quiet pauses with God.

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

In the middle of busy days, God give me quiet moments- 
To pause and pray.
In the hectic busyness of life, help me to be still.
To cease striving. To calm down.
To catch my breath.
To forget about what’s going on all around, cramming in on my mind.

Help me to be still, and know that You are God. 

That You are in control:
• when things are all right
• when things are all wrong
• when the pressure feels high 
• when life tumbles down.

Even then and even now help me to be still and focus on You, rather than my problems.

Amen

Blessings,

Ruthx

PS Four verses for the exhausted mind:

‘Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.’
(Psalms 91:1 NIV)

‘The Lord said, “I will go with you and give you peace.”’
(Exodus 33:14 CEV)

‘You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord GOD is the eternal Rock.’
(Isaiah 26:3-4 NLT)

Jesus said:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
(John 14:27 NIV)

Stilling the unquiet mind

‘In rebuilding a broken world, we will have the chance to choose a less hurried life’
(Alan Lightman)

Apparently we think at least 60000 thoughts per day. That’s 2500 an hour. That’s a lot of thoughts!

Our mind is seldom quiet & 80% of our thoughts are negative. Worries for today. Anxieties about our future. About Coronavirus. Regrets. Insecurities. Things we should do. Things we shouldn’t do. Legitimate concerns.Worst case scenarios.Things we have no control over.

If only it was as simple as thinking happy thoughts as Ronald Dahl optimistically suggested. If only we could quieten our mind & rebuild a better life post-COVID.

We need to still ourselves & our minds.

‘Lives that are busy & always on the move do have a tendency to be shallow & scattered. Those who wish for something more substantial,for something deeper & more focused, must give themselves the time & space to reflect’
(Tony Horsfall)

We need to quieten our mind to hear God.

‘If we want to get better at hearing the One who speaks “in a still small voice”, we must befriend silence. If we are to host the One who says, “Be still and know that I am God”, we must ourselves become more present. We expect his voice to boom like thunder, but mostly he whispers.’
(Pete Greig)

We need to get away from incessant mental chatter.

‘Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.’
(Psalm 46:10 MSG)

‘Living reflectively provides opportunities during our day for a closer look at things,at people, at ourselves & at God.The faster the pace of life, though, the more we will miss those opportunities.’
(Ken Gire)

We can quieten our souls through prayer & reading God’s Words in the Bible.

‘Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,’
(1 Peter 2:2 NIV)

This will hush our minds & bring deep contentment:

‘I’ve kept my feet on the ground, I’ve cultivated a quiet heart. Like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content.’
(Psalm 131:2 MSG)

The great & precious promises of God calm our heart & mind.

These promises have settled my unquiet mind. May they calm your unsettled mind too:

‘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 NIV)

“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!’
(Ephesians 3:20-21 MSG)

‘The Lord said, “I will go with you and give you peace.”’
(Exodus 33:14 CEV)

‘For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.’
(Isaiah 41:13 NIV)

Blessings,

Ruthx

Settling the anxious mind

Even though we trust & believe God, we can still feel restless with thoughts tossing to & fro. At anytime & worries can be bubbling just beneath the surface.

Especially in days like these. Anxiety brings worst case scenarios to the front of our mind. Internal conversations with ourselves can lead to symptoms of stress. Spinning & spiralling thoughts. We get so wound up that sleep eludes us.

‘Many of us find our thoughts circling around problematic circumstances or people. For others of us, anxiety has become the soundtrack of our day, we hardly notice it playing in the background of every scene.’
(Jennie Allen)

But we can stop in the middle of our random, haphazard thoughts to pause & pray.

We need to ‘help create space for your soul to breathe so that you can discern your next right thing in love as we live together in Christ’s kingdom and bring the world along.’(Emily P Freeman)

At the start of each lectio365 devotional we pray these words:
‘As I enter prayer now, I pause to be still; to breathe slowly; to re-centre my scattered senses upon the presence of God.’

‘In stillness we cease our activity; in silence we stop our talking’ (Tony Horsfall)

When we are still we can hear God’s gentle whisper:
‘What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand.’
(Getty& Townend)

Read the verses below slowly. Hold space for silence.

Repeat allowing the truth to soak in. Write out,print out or underline the verses.

‘Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.’
(Psalms 42:11 NIV)

‘When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.’
(Psalms 94:19 NIV)

‘Don’t fret or worry.
Instead of worrying, pray.
Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.
Before you know it,
a sense of God’s wholeness,
everything coming together for good,
will come and settle you down.
It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.’
(Philippians 4:6-7 MSG)

When God renews our mind, His presence & peace displaces worry.

Draw near to God & He will draw near to you. (James 4:8)

Repeat- re-read those verses again

Reflect & Respond

‘Living reflectively provides opportunities during our day for a closer look at things,at people, at ourselves & at God.The faster the pace of life, though, the more we will miss those opportunities.’
(Ken Gire)

Reframe the words of the verses into prayer.

‘The truth is that the God who is creator & sovereign over the universe & the God who conquered sin & death is the same God who wants to be with you in your pain, doubt, shame & other circumstances’
(Jennie Allen)

In these days of distancing & shielding, God is still our Shield:
‘But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.’
(Psalms 3:3 NLT)

So, ‘Don’t try to handle your anxiety. Bring your anxiety into the presence of Christ’
(Emily P Freeman)

Blessings,

Ruth x

Gathering our scattered mind

The mind has a mind of its own.’

In days like these, our thoughts are scattered like dandelion dust in the spring breeze.That’s why we need to gather our scattered mind. Gathering our wavering & wandering thoughts is part of mindfulness.

How can we gather our wondering thoughts & have a deeply grounded faith?

How can we be well-balanced & stable when we can feel just the opposite? As someone said ‘As emotionally stable as an IKEA table!’

We need to look beyond ourselves to our Maker.

In these days of pandemic, lockdowns & other unprecedented things leading to anxious thoughts,we need to remind ourselves:
‘You are the one in whom Christ delights & dwells & you live in the strong & unshakeable kingdom of God’
(James Bryan Smith)

God is our anchor in these troubled times.

He will keep us grounded in these stormy seas in 2020. So, instead of trying to cope, ‘let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.’
(Ephesians 4:23 NLT)

Renew means to give fresh life & strength to. So,
‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.’
(Romans 12:2 NIV)

We can pray & ask:
‘Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds;
Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us-
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time
That will echo down through eternity.’
(Getty/Townend)

I’ve been very blessed by recently discovering Lectio365 . This is a daily audio devotional with contemplative prayer & reading designed to recentre our thoughts on God.

At the start of each lectio365 devotional we pray these words:
‘As I enter prayer now, I pause to be still; to breathe slowly; to re-centre my scattered senses upon the presence of God.’

We can pause & be still before God in the posture of prayer. Breathe short prayers from the heart to centre our mind on God

We usually have so much inner noise & mental chatter that we need to ask God to quieten us. To settle our minds & still our souls.

We can pause & pray:
‘Be still,
and know that
I AM God!’
(Psalms 46:10 NLT)

We can notice how we are really doing & name these feelings to God.

We may be anxious, angry, down, disappointed & we can tell God & be real with Him. With His help we can untwist tangled negative thoughts.

Read some verses quietly & slowly. Read them again throughout today. Reflect & respond.Perhaps print some out or mark them in your Bible to return to or memorise

Read these verses about our day to day life- even during lockdown:
‘So here’s what I want you to do,
God helping you:
Take your everyday, ordinary life-
your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life-
and place it before God as an offering’
(Romans 12:1MSG)

Read this verse again since it follows on immediately after:
‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.’
(Romans 12:2 NIV)

Read & reflect.Reframe the words into a prayer:
‘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.’
(Matt 6:34MSG)

‘And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’
(Philippians 4:7 NIV)

Then God’s peace will guard your mind,so Jesus said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.”
(John 14:1 NLT)

Read a Psalm-maybe a familiar one.Listen to Emily P Freeman read & reflect on Psalm 23.

God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
You find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
You let me catch my breath
And send me in the right direction’
(Psalm 23:1-3-The Message) 

Remain grounded & steady as you gather your distracting, scattered thoughts.

‘You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted’
(Colossians 1:23 MSG)

Blessings,

Ruth x

Keep Walking….

‘Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, Lord.’
(Psalms 89:15 NLT)

My kids still tease me about how triggered I became when a visiting speaker preached about ‘Plodding On’ Plodding rather than running the race! Plodding rather than walking or jogging.

Some Bible verses do compare life to running eg:
‘Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.’
(1 Corinthians 9:24 ESV)

But no one can run all the time. Right?Even ultra runners walk. But when does a run turn into a jog? Or a walk turn into a plod?

Walking with God has been a theme since the start.

In the very beginning before the fall, God walked in the Garden of Eden with Adam & Eve. A few chapters later, when sin had entangled the world God created with love, we read of Enoch ‘walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him.’
(Genesis 5:24 NLT)

In the next chapter we read that Noah ‘walked in close fellowship with God.’
(Genesis 6:9 NLT)

Later in the book of Genesis, Jacob also referred to God walking with His people:
‘And he blessed Joseph and 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)

In this journey of life,the ultimate ultra run, it’s all about pace- God’s pace rather than ours!

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

Living freely & lightly. The unforced rhythms of grace.

Grace determines the pace of life:
‘By grace I am redeemed
By grace I am restored
And now I freely walk
Into the arms of Christ my Lord’
(Cityalight)

‘And by grace we’ll stand on Your promises,
And by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us.’
(Getty/Townend)

But we have a choice:
‘Thus says the Lord:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.”
But they said, “We will not walk in it.”
(Jer 6:16)

Jesus invites us to walk through life with Him. It is our decision whether we accept this invitation to draw near.

If we follow Jesus things won’t always be easy.
‘Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.’ (1John2:6)

Jesus’ brother John wrote:
‘I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.’
(3 John 1:4 NIV)

The words of the old hymn ‘O For a closer walk with God’ can be the prayer of our heart :
‘So shall my walk be close with God,
Calm and serene my frame;’
(Cowper)

I love those soothing words- calm & serene rather than flustered & frazzled!

When Jesus was on earth, he walked many dusty paths with His disciples. He also walked on water to through the storm when they were frightened:

‘But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”’
(Matthew 14:27 ESV)

In life we walk through green pastures & past still waters but even through dark valleys we need not be anxious.For Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”‘
‭‭(John‬ ‭8:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

He will guide as we walk:
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
‭‭(Psalm‬ ‭119:105‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

Even if times are tough & we’re just plodding,He is with us:

‘For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”‘
(Isaiah‬ ‭41:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

“Because I, your GOD, have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go. I’m telling you, ‘Don’t panic. I’m right here to help you.”
‭‭(Isaiah‬ ‭41:11-13‬ ‭MSG‬‬)

We cannot change life’s pace or Gods timing but we are in the grip of God’s grace.

So what does God want us to do?
‘He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?’
(Micah 6:8)

‘If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.’
‭‭(Galatians‬ ‭5:25‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

‘For all the peoples walk,
each in the name of its god,
but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God
forever and ever.’
(Micah 4:5)

‘The best thing I can do for my family is to walk with God.’
(Cynthia Heald)

‘May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you [filling your heart with the spiritual well-being and serenity experienced by those who walk closely with God].’
(Jude 1:2 AMP)

Blessings,

Ruthx

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