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

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

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

The boundless love of God

Readings – Psalm 8, Eph 3:14-21

When I was a student in Dundee, I used to go for ‘stargazing stomps’ down to Magdelene Green to clear my head. On many crisp, clear nights, I would stop and gaze at God’s handiwork. It was awesome to look up and see the star-studded night sky.

The heavenly splendour that stirred the shepherd David so long ago, gripped me. Yet, looking at the vast universe made me feel incredibly small. I was just one little speck on planet earth, which itself was only part of just one solar system. As David wrote :

‘ I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, 

Your handmade sky-jewellery,

Moon and stars mounted in their settings.

Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, 

Why do you bother with us?

Why take a second look our way?’

(Psalm 8:3-4 – The Message) 

In this day and age, as we strive to feel significant in the crowd, as we struggle with feelings of low self-esteem, we too may wonder why God bothers with us.

But any thoughts of insignificance should vanish when we consider our status. For though just part of creation, we are children of the Creator! His hands that set the stars in space, that flung the planets into orbit are holding us, and moulding us and keeping us in place! Wow! We should be overwhelmed by the present reality of God!

This Creator God is our very own God. He not only bothers with us, He loves us – He really, really loves us, with a deep, unfathomable agape love. We have been ‘loved with everlasting love, led by grace that love to know’ as the hymn says. 

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

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

God’s love is boundless. We will never fully grasp or understand it.  It goes beyond our dimensions. It just can’t be measured.

It is so wide that it encompasses the whole world.

It is so long that it can reach us just where we are, when we need to feel loved the most.

Its height is higher than our highs and its depths are deeper than our downers!

It is like a waterfall, deep and never ending from before time began to eternity!

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

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

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

‘God can do anything you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, His Spirit deeply and gently within us’ (Eph 3:17- 20 – The Message)

‘How high and how wide

How deep and how long

How sweet and how strong

Is Your love

How lavish Your grace

How faithful Your ways

How great is Your love O Lord!’

Blessings,

Ruth x

 

*Edited from ‘It’s all about love’

Broken & blessed

These days may feel like dark days in our families & our community. In our nation & across the globe.

There’s too much bad news to bear. A global pandemic. Unwanted diagnosis. Unexpected death.

Politics are in disarray. God’s laws are disregarded. There is no absolute truth (we’re told)

We can look around & sigh. And conclude:
‘The world is broken. I am broken. And my need is dire.’
(Rebecca Reynolds)

‘We are all broken-that’s how the light gets in’ according to Hemingway. And how we need the Great Light of the world to shine!

As children of God, we live in tension & contrast.

We are made in the image of God- yet struggle with our flaws & failings.

The Darkness seems deep yet flickers of light break through.

There’s toil & trouble yet {thankfully} the hope of glory.

Evil feels like it’s crouching nearby, ever ready to pounce on Goodness.

Our earth is a groaning planet-earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, war.

At a personal level, day to day life rarely feels smooth or predictable . While we have many blessings there’s usually something to taint our happiness.Even bright sunny days can be overcast by boulders carried in our hearts.

Rick Warren has spoken of how his wife Kay was diagnosed with breast cancer at the same that his book ‘The purpose driven life’ was becoming a bestseller.

I listened to an audio-version of Rick’s wife’s book ‘Choose joy for happiness isn’t enough’Her words feel even more poignant since the tragic news that their son committed suicide. In the book, Kay describes joy & sorrow like parallel tracks on the railway of life.

Lisa Harper wrote:
‘Delight and despair absolutely coexist. They ebb and flow like the tides. Circumstances may prompt one to rise to the occasion and eclipse the other for a while.’

I too am convinced that joy & sorrow, love & suffering, peace & pain are inextricably linked –but in an even more intricate way than parallel tracks or tides on the shore.

Perhaps, they are intertwined like the twisting double stranded helix molecule of DNA – the blue print of life itself. Just as DNA is held together by hydrogen bonds, the twists & turns in life are stabilised by intricate bonds of the love & mercy, grace & goodness of God.

Just now, in this moment of time, our lives may seem like a tangled mess- but with the eye of faith, we can choose to see that even the troubles & trials, stresses & strains, the bitter & sweet are part of the intricate plans of the perfect infinite wisdom of our God.

Our God created the cosmos, designed our souls & planned our destinies. Yet He carries our burdens and collects our tears:

‘You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in your book?’
(Psalms 56:8NASB)

‘You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, Each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book.’
(Psalm 56:8 MSG)

We have to choose to see the unseen-to trace the invisible fingerprints of God in our lives, as He weaves His thread of blessings through the twisting helix of life. He alone can weave all things together for our good (Romans 8:28) into the plans He has for us (Jeremiah 29:11)

Even when things don’t seem to make sense, & everything seems random & chaotic , we can praise Him where we are at ‘in the storm- even when our hearts are torn’ (Casting crowns) 

God brings blessing to our dark days. And often, the greatest blessings is the gift of God Himself. The gift of knowing He is there- with us. And that knowing God is better than knowing why bad things happen.

As Laura Story wrote:
‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise’

I listened to that song on repeat during days of dreadful diagnoses & life threatening surgery in our family & pondered:

What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

God’s tender mercies & gentle blessings come even {maybe especially} when everything feels broken:

God said:
“And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness— secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.”
(Isaiah 45:3 NLT)

Our God gives:
Treasures in the darkness
Calm in chaos
Peace in the storm
Hope in our dark days
His presence forever
And ever!

{Amen}

Blessings,

Ruthx

Death is dead!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He came to bring:

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

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

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

These are great words to ponder & cherish.

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

Jesus ‘always lives’:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,

Ruth x

A perfect mess

I know what I should do.

I know what God wants me to do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forgiven.

Forgotten.

Forever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,

Ruth x

Closer than you think

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s all about choices.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,

Ruth x

Bright beginnings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rejoice in the hope of bright beginnings.

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

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

(Psalm 51:10 MSG)

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

Blessings,

Ruth x