All things

I’ve been doing a Bible Study on Romans 8. I’ve fallen behind in the programme, but I’m enjoying reading the chapter slowly.Verses like this one:

‘And we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose’
(Rom 8:28-NIV)

If we love God, He can work ALL things together for our good. The good,the bad & the ugly can be woven together by our Creator-God to form a masterpiece.

ALL things includes the little things, the annoying things, the huge life changing things & devastating losses. Nothing is wasted in God’s hands.

‘That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good’ (Rom 8:28-MSG)

At a women’s conference a few years ago, Ruth Hamilton spoke of multi-coloured grace for multi-coloured trials. I love that phrase taken from 1Peter 1:6 & 4:10.

Grace to match each trial.

It means that, no matter what- God’s grace is sufficient (2Cor 12:8,9) His grace always enough!

The multi-colours of God’s grace are manifested in a rainbow spectrum of ways e.g.:

*God’s written Word-the Bible, after all, ‘The Bible is the transcript of the heart of God’ (Grudem)

*Walking through creation – & sensing our Creator

*Words of encouragement from friends

*An unexplainable sense of God’s presence in the storms of life

No matter what is looming this week,

‘All you need to remember is that God will never let you down, he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit, he’ll always be there to help you come through it’
(1 Cor 10:13 MSG )

That’s His awesome, amazing, multi-coloured grace!

‘There is no problem too great that it exceeds the grace God has given’ (Elizabeth George)

God says ‘As long as there is a God in heaven, there is grace on earth, & I AM the spilling God of the uncontainable, forever-overflowing -love-grace ‘ (Ann Voskamp)

Whatever life throws, whatever lies around the corner, whatever is happening across the world, God is always there & that’s always enough.

Take your mind off your seemingly giant problems & focus on our Gigantic God.

He is Eternal
Ever-Lasting
All-powerful

Our Loving Father
Our Good Shepherd
Our Mighty God.

Blessings,

Ruth x

Gather grace, scatter grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily grace, day by day.

Just enough for now.

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

I expanded that phrase as I meditated:

Gather grace for strength
Scatter grace for light

Gather grace,scatter grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,

Ruthx

Tis the season…our souls {should} feel their worth

My favourite Christmas carol used to be ‘In the bleak mid winter’ Now it’s ‘O Holy night’ (& apparently it’s the most popular favourite carol in the UK)

It seems a shame that carols are confined to December.It’s a pity to pack them away with the decorations till next year, since there’s such deep truth contained in them:
‘O Holy Night
The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.’
(Cappeau)

I’ve sang this carol many times, but I’ve never really noticed this line before:
‘Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.’

The soul felt its worth.

Our soul is our spiritual, immortal essence, our God-made core, sealed with His image.

God formed us:
‘The Lord looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race. From his throne he observes all who live on the earth. He made their hearts, so he understands everything they do.’
(Psalms 33:13-15 NLT)

God placed eternity within us:
‘Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.’
(Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT)

At exactly the right moment, during that Holy Night,
‘when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.’
(Galatians 4:4-5 ESV)

The Christmas story is part of God’s Grand Plan, conceived in eternity past- to redeem our souls.

What is your soul worth? What lengths & depths did your Creator God go to reach you?

Our Eternal God Almighty became a helpless baby.

He left the dazzling glory of heaven to be born into squalor.

He stepped out of the realms of eternity to enter the confines of time.

He lived & bled & died…. for our souls.

As Max Lucado wrote, ‘God did something extraordinary. Stepping from the throne, he removed his robe of light & clothed himself in skin’

That same Yahweh God ‘the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it’ (Isaiah 42:5) entered our world as one of us.

The baby in the manger is God the Son:
‘He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.’
(Hebrews 1:3 ESV)

‘He came to us that we might come to Him’ wrote Deitrich Bonhoeffer

This is the good news proclaimed by angels that will cause great joy for all people (Luke2)

‘For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’
(Luke 19:10 ESV)

‘For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.’
(John 3:17 NIV)

‘For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?’
(Matthew 16:26 ESV)

‘How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?’
(Hebrews 2:3 ESV)

Billy Graham writes about our soul’s worth in ‘The Value of your Soul

He also wrote:
‘God does not change-
And neither does His love.
He loved you before you were born..
He loves you now…
And He will love you forever’

Can you feel your worth?

Can you sense this great hope?

Will you respond in worship?

‘A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

Fall on your knees
O hear the angels’ voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
(Cappeau)

Blessings,

Ruthx

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Calm for the anxious mind

‘Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far.’
(Jodi Picoult)

I know worrying doesn’t get me far , but still I sit & rock.

‘Worry pretends to be necessary, but serves no useful purpose.'(Eckhart Tolle)

That’s true too. But it’s hard NOT to worry isn’t it?

What can we do instead? When we read our Maker’s Handbook it tells us:
‘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)

Turn worries into prayers & God’s peace will displace our anxieties:
‘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)

We can bring our concerns to God:
‘Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.’
‭‭(1 Peter‬ ‭5:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

‘Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.’
‭‭(1Peter‬ ‭5:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

His love can dispel our fears {if we let Him} for:
‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.’
‭‭(1 John‬ ‭4:18‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

We have a powerful God to turn to -Who is greater than all things:
‘You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world'(1 John 4:4)

We need to focus on God rather than our problems. For:
‘Anxiety & fears are like baby tigers. The more you feed them the stronger they grow’
(Billy Graham)

We need to tune into God’s whispers rather than our insecurities:
‘When the cares of my heart are many, thy consolations cheer my soul’(Psalm 94:19-KJV)

‘Whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.’
‭‭(Proverbs‬ ‭1:33‬ ‭ESV)

‘Forget about self confidence- it’s useless –
cultivate God- confidence’
(I Cor 10 MSG)

There’s plenty to worry about – but worry doesn’t diminish any stress. We don’t have capacity to deal will anxiety- but God does:
‘For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.’
‭‭(1 John‬ ‭3:18-20‬ ‭MSG‬‬)

In this world there will always be trouble. Bad things happen to good people. We are living in a broken world where it feels like no news is good news. But no matter what,we can place our confidence in God.

‘You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.’
‭‭(Isaiah‬ ‭26:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

We can place our hope & confidence in God & thrive rather than just survive:
‘But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.’
‭‭(Jeremiah‬ ‭17:7-8‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

‘Never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf, Serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season.’
‭‭(Jeremiah‬ ‭17:7-8‬ ‭MSG‬‬)

I like that phrase- serene & calm – though often I’m the opposite. We can gain calmness by being rooted deep in Him.

Often we worry about things that haven’t happened & that might never happen. When we do, we’re just sitting on that rocking chair getting nowhere!

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

‘Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

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)

‘Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.'(Charles Spurgeon)

We have choices to make to maintain a tranquil mind:
‘Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith.’
(Henry Ward Beecher)

If you’re like me, it’s not just the tomorrows you worry about- it’s the yesterdays. Overthinking what’s already happened is futile. We need to leave it with God who understands our situations & forgives us quicker than we forgive ourselves.

Take heart:
‘The Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.’
(CS Lewis)

So, be present:
‘Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, faith looks up.’
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Keep looking up:
‘Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow;
the same Everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day.
Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace then,
and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations’
(St Francis De Sales)

‘Trust in the Lord forever, for the LORD, the LORD is the Rock Eternal’ (Isa 26:4)

Blessings,

Ruthx

My bothy

A refuge for the troubled mind

I’d completely forgotten the word bothy until we discovered Bothy Coffee this summer.

In Scotland Bothy means a small hut that walkers can shelter in eg Ernie’s Bothy in Balmoral Estate or closer to home Salt Island Bothy on Strangford Lough is accessible by canoe

I like the idea of a bothy- somewhere to shelter in the mountains or by the Lough as we discover & explore the wilderness!

I like the thought of God being like a bothy.

A refuge. A haven. A shelter.

‘The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.’
(Nahum 1:7 ESV)

‘You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.’
(Psalms 119:114 ESV)

And His Word is trustworthy:
‘This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.’
(Psalms 18:30 ESV)

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

In this bothy, our Father God is so close that we are under His shadow & we are shielded by God Himself.

A bothy is not for glamping . It’s a simple hut to protect from the elements.

And so with God our bothy. In troubled times He has promised to provide needs – not our wants.

He gives comfort rather than keeping us comfortable.

He gives shelter in the storms of life. Sometimes He calms the storm & sometimes He calms His child- tear-stained & heavy-hearted in the bothy.

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

The One who scattered the stars collects our tears. He knows our name & He knows our hearts. And He still loves us.

We can’t go back to change events that caused the storm. We can’t erase our mistakes or undo our past. But we can come to our God & find shelter in the difficult days & peace in the dark chapters.

We can share our heart as we pray to our Maker. We can trust Him at all times, through all our days.

‘On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah’
(Psalms 62:7-8 ESV)

Blessings

Ruthx

*Photo – Mountain Hut in Lauterbrunnen taken by Rob

Undo

On social media we tend to project the best version of ourselves- the edited glossy digital version with a Pinterest perfect back drop

Normally, in real life things are far from perfect. If you’re like me you manage to function professionally at work- yet unravel at home.

We get stressed & take it out on our nearest & dearest who are trying to help. We walk our proverbial dirty boots all over our homes.

In moments like these we feel that we need the ‘Undo’ button for life’s mistakes.

The Good News is:
‘your God is so big He doesn’t live in boxes but your gritty grace filled life’
(Ann Voskamp)

God is with us in the middle of the messy daily grind.

Thankfully, God is a God of second chances, of third, fourth & fifth chances. The Risen Lord who made breakfast for Peter (after he had denied him) will meet with us in our daily lives.

‘The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbour his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.’
(Psalm 103:8&9)

God loves us when we least deserve it. All we bring to the relationship is our sin. Yet,He came to seek & save us. And when we trust Him we are forever blessed by the overflowing mercy & grace of God.

‘Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”(Luke 5:31NIV) Now, that’s a slogan for  a poster in our waiting room!

Jesus continued, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32 NIV)

We all need the Great Physician’s healing touch on our lives, for according to Romans 3:23, we have all sinned. There are no exceptions.

One morning in church the sermon was based on these verses:
‘Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.’
(1 Timothy 1:15-16 NIV)

When we come to Him for forgivness, our God can undo our sins:
‘For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.’
(Psalm 103:11,12 NIV)

God’s love is deeper than our failings, flaws & shortcomings.

‘The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.’
(Tim Keller)

Ann of Green Gables said, ‘Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it’ (yet!)

Everyday is a new opportunity to experience the faithful love & inexhaustible mercy of God:

‘The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.’
(Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT)

‘Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.’
(Psalm 32:1 NIV)

Blessings,

Ruth x

Edited from original post at http://www.blessedme.co.uk

Rear view mirrors

I rarely look in a rear view mirror in our VW van. I never drive it at home or on holiday (Those who know me best know that driving or should I say parking isn’t a strong point!)

But for some reason, somewhere between Nenzing & Kitzbuhl, between tobogganing & Swarovski crystal (while Rob was driving in record breaking temperatures) I looked in the rear view mirror. In it I saw an Alpine mountain range that we’d driven by without realising it. I took the photo (above) but it doesn’t truly capture the grandeur of the scenery!

The rear-view mirror showed views that I would have otherwise missed. It gave a different perspective on the journey.

Oftentimes, we don’t realise how far we have journeyed till we look back. It’s never a good idea to dwell in the past (especially if hurt, regret & other damaging emotions live there) but looking in life’s rear view mirror can be positive & beneficial.

‘The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us, & we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, & we only know them when they are gone’
(George Eliot- Scenes of a clerical life)

Moments whizz by. Summer days go too quickly. Holidays are fading into the background behind us.

After happy times, we can look back at memories created & remember where we’ve been! As the saying goes, ‘Don’t cry because it’s over- smile because it’s happened!’

Even in challenging times, reflection brings clarity.

As teenagers await their A level results I was reminded again of that stage in my own life when things didn’t go as {I’d} planned. I ended up in Dundee- the right place for me to be, where I met great friends & my husband!

We can trace God’s grace as we look back:
“I have learned that faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”
(Philip Yancey)

Anniversary celebrations this week cause me to look in life’s rear view mirror back over two decades years of marriage. It’s a while since we’ve listened to ‘I could never promise you‘ by Don Francisco. This vintage Christian song was sung by two of our bridesmaids Sharon & Joanne on our wedding day:
‘I could never promise you on just my strength alone,
That all my life I’d care for you, and love you as my own.
I’ve never known the future, I only see today,
Words that last a lifetime would be more than I could say.
But the love inside my heart today is more than mine alone.
It never changes, it never fails, never seeks it’s own.
And by the God who gives it, and who lives in me and you
I know the words I speak today are words I’m going to do’

When I look in the rear view mirror, of a great marriage, I am reminded that we wouldn’t have got through sickness & trials, & the unexpected twists & turns of life without God. Promises & human love aren’t strong enough,but:
‘A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.’
(Ecclesiastes 4:12 NIV)

In my Bible reading today, I read how Samuel led the Israelites in victory over the Philistines. He then paused & looked back.
‘Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”’
(1 Samuel 7:12 NIV)

We may not place stones along the wayside. But we can record God’s provision in a journal! We can pause & trace His grace along this journey we call life. We can cultivate a grateful heart.

Even when we don’t like the view in reverse any better than when we were living through it, we can pour out our feelings to God. Even if the rear view mirror smashes in frustration or anger,we can give all the pieces to God.

‘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)

Whether we are traveling through green pastures, by still waters or through dark valleys, if we gaze in life’s rear view mirror long enough, we will see the goodness & love of our Shepherd-God following us.

‘Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.’
(Psalm 23:6 NIV)

‘I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side’
(Chris Tomlin)

Blessings,

Ruthx

Edited from original post at http://www.blessedme.co.uk

When life hurts

Feeling abandoned – but never alone

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 twentysomething to the big 3-0 would be even worse! It was actually a great day & I had a birthday barbecue & the sun shone!

Time has past & I have since turned 40 – & now I’m 40 till I’m 50! (It’s just a number) But no matter how bad any milestone birthday is, I am sure it 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 psychiatric hospital in Belfast.

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?” (Matt 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 (Heb 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”
(Isa 43:1-3-NIV)

The Message phrases those words this way-
“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 your God, your personal God”
(Isa 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’ (Psa 34:18 – NLT)
Like the footprints 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 I can see 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 are what give us depth and character. 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 (Rom 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 background. 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 Cor 4: 8&9 NLT)

Someone once said that 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 (Deut 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!

I wrote that poem when I was a teenager & its still true.

And so are the deep, painful truths in these verses:

‘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)

Blessings

Ruth x

PS This post originally appeared as a chapter in my book ‘It’s all about love’

Wide open spaces

I’m sure there are some of you who are already humming the Dixie Chicks song ‘Wide Open spaces’ in your head!

When I read ‘wide open spaces’ I immediately think of a walk in Glencoe, between two of the Three Sisters. The trail starts off as a steep, narrow gorge, then as you climb, suddenly & very unexpectedly, the path opens out into a large flat valley between the towering mountains.

The Bible talks about wide open spaces (that I think also follow on from steep, difficult times) I read this yesterday:
‘He stood me up on a wide-open field; I stood there saved-surprised to be loved!’ (Psalm 18:19-MSG)

God brings us from the confined claustrophobic places (our life of sin, lived our own way, without Him) out into the vastness of His grace!

Our dog Layla sometimes stays in a stable when we are out. When I get home, I let her out and take her for a walk round fields. She is usually hyper with excitement, & bounces a lot, before running in huge fast circles & figures of eight in the wide open space!

Because of Jesus, through faith, ‘We find ourselves where we always hoped we might stand- out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise’ (Rom 5:2-MSG)

Through faith in Jesus, we have unlimited access to the Most High God, the Creator of the universe!

Wow! We can look around at the wide-open space of God’s grace in which we stand!

We can feel the wind of His presence & sense the vastness of His love.

He gives us SPACE to truly live & ROOM to grow into all He created us to be. He frees us from our confined selves, & gives us the freedom of wide-open spaces.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians: ‘I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small but you are living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!’ (II Cor 6:11-13-MSG)

We can live BIG, open, spacious, gracious lives.

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

Blessings,

Ruth x

The adventure begins

Adventure– definition: ‘an unusual and exciting or daring experience.’
Synonyms: exploit,escapade,experience,
‘but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.’
‭‭(Daniel‬ ‭11:32‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

I was walking across Conway Square en route to Caffè Nero for a caffeine boost.

I glanced to my right. A t-shirt in the shop window said ‘It isn’t an adventure till something goes wrong!’

I smiled. It’s true! I smiled more as thoughts of real life examples proved its truth.

Like the time Before Children when our hired car suddenly started smoking like a dragon – in the picturesque village of Macugnaga near Monte Rosa in the Italian Alps. Right in front of their annual parade. ‘Rapido! Rapido!’ the Italian police man roared- his main concern was clearing the obstruction rather than our safety the smoking car! The parade was interrupted for a few minutes- our holiday was interrupted for a few days!

A hitch hike down the valley, a train journey to Orta followed by a 2 mile walk to the villa ended the day. Then a few days of negotiations with the hire car company!

Or the time we were travelling to Eilean Donan castle. We stopped at a picture-perfect Inn complete with a majestic stag & snow-capped mountain outside. We ordered breakfast & without any shaking or warning Ethan’s ketchup exploded over his face & the walls & curtains of the dining area.

Or last year when the aircon in our campervan broke right at the start of our summer road trip. Instead of driving south toward Italy we turned left & kept going to Copenhagen! Sometimes you have to embrace the detour!

Yeah- it’s not an adventure till something goes wrong!

When I was a student in Dundee, I used a devotional book called ‘Adventure with God’ I liked that idea- doing life as an adventure with God. Back then life was ordered & contained. Studying & time with friends. Minimal responsibility ( though I don’t think I appreciated the lightness of this) Days were bright & carefree

Steven Curtis Chapman wrote this song –The Great Adventure:
‘Saddle up your horses
We’ve got a trail to blaze
Through the wild blue yonder of God’s Amazing grace
Let’s follow our leader into the Glorious unknown
This is the life like no other
This is the great adventure’

I’ve heard him sing it in concert- it’s got a feel-good country n western vibe. I was reminded again of the song as I’m reading his biography Between heaven & the real world.And it’s a great image- trail-blazing through life in God’s amazing grace.

‘In the surety of God’s love we can let up on the reins of our everyday, and enjoy the panoramic view of his covenantal faithfulness, stretching as far as the eye can see’ (Amanda Bible Williams-She Reads Truth)

As we travel along this journey called life, God will guide us through lush green pastures & verdant valleys with pleasant vistas to the mountain tops where we gasp at the grandeur of His Grace.

But it isn’t an adventure until something goes wrong!

‘All who sail the sea of faith
Find out before too long
How quickly blue skies can grow dark
And gentle winds grow strong’
(Scott Krippayne)

During halcyon days disaster can strike.
An unexpected phonecall.
A sudden illness.
An unwanted label.
The end of a relationship.
Bad things happening to good people.
Life interrupted.

Storms can hit our life in different ways at different times- altering its course but ‘Smooth seas don’t make for skilful sailors’ (African Proverb)

In this adventure called life, God never promised to take away the storm but to be with us in it:
‘Sometimes He calms the storm
With a whispered peace be still
He can settle any sea
But it doesn’t mean He will’
(Scott Krippayne)

‘Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea— the Lord on high is mighty.’
‭‭(Psalm‬ ‭93:4‬ ‭NIV)

‘Sometimes He holds us close
And lets the wind and waves go wild
Sometimes He calms the storm
And other times He calms His child’
(Scott Krippayne)

In the dark days, in days of difficulty & lament, in this life we live as an adventure with God, we can declare:
‘This is not where we planned to be
When we started this journey
But this is where we are
And our God is in control’

Steven Curtis Chapman wrote these poignant words after his daughter Maria died in a tragic accident at their home:
‘This is not how it should be
This is not how it could be
This is how it is
And our God is in control’

No matter what, God is Sovereign. He is in control of our adventure with Him. He is with us in the trials & these may even bring us closer to Him.

Charles Spurgeon wrote “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”

Painfully challenging words.

Dave Furman has written a book entitled ‘Kiss the wave: Embracing God in your suffering’ He is a pastor in Dubai who has suffered debilitating nerve pain for years. His wife Gloria wrote this blog. Watch this short video about Dave’s story.

In our adventure with God, He is present with us in the dark chapters.
‘Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.’
(‭‭Psalms‬ ‭23:4 NLT)

‘Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.’
(John Newton)

‘God takes us where we did not intend to go to produce in us that which we could not produce on our own. It’s called uncomfortable grace.’
(Paul Tripp)

In this great adventure called life we are never alone. It might not feel OK (it might never feel ok) but He is there.

‘God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.’
‭‭(Hebrews‬ ‭13:5-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

No matter what chapter we’re in – still waters, green pastures or the valley of dark shadows He is with us.

As we trek through this adventure called life, God says:
“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 43:2-3MSG)

‘Maybe it’s here in the waiting
that you learn to get lost:
lost in the adventure of learning to know Him more
because you know that whatever happens,
He has wonderful things in store.
And even when it’s hard
It’s worth waiting for’
(Morgan Harper Nichols)

‘Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations’ (unknown)

Blessings,

Ruthx