Those 4 little words …

imageWhether your offspring is 7, 14, or 21, there can be few words sweeter than those 4 little words  … “I’m tidying my bedroom!”  Especially when they are offered spontaneously with no prompting or coercion!! And it’s even more satisfying, and stunning, to hear “I’m giving it all a good clear out”. Such wonderful words made their way to my ears today 🙂

Yet, judging by the state of our landing after Andy lifted multiple boxes and bags out of the hotpress to check the boiler, I need to be saying those words too!!! But that’s a job for another day, I’m already a day late writing this blog!!

I do have tidying and clearing out things on my mind. My daughter, Leigh-Ann, is getting married in just over 2 weeks and I have a mother of the bride nesting thing going on (in my head more so than in my house!). Why do I feel the need to clean the inside of the microwave and oven for a wedding?!?!

Wedding or no wedding there always comes a time to de-clutter hotpresses and microwaves, but much more importantly our hearts and minds. And not just on a sporadic basis but regularly.

I am soo excited about the wedding but sometimes I feel like the butterflies in my garden have moved into my tummy! A wedding requires much planning in advance but it can also provide an opportunity to worry in advance. I am naturally tempted to do this anyway but the pending nuptials are taking this temptation to a whole new level 😦

I’m having to do a daily, if not hourly, de-clutter of thoughts that do not need to be in my head right at this minute. I remember some good advice about that …

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)

Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you. (Isaiah 41:10 MSG)

I am with you.

When Moses asked God, “Suppose I go to the People of Israel and I tell them, ‘The God of your fathers sent me to you’; and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What do I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I-AM-WHO-I-AM. Tell the People of Israel, ‘I-AM sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14 MSG)

That same I AM is with me and with you. I AM is in the present tense and God is always present for us.

So we need to give our entire attention to what God is doing right now, and not get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. (Matthew 6:34 MSG)

When we get to tomorrow or the next day, or next week or month, I AM will be present then too.

I AM will be there …
to help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (Matthew 6:34 MSG)
to give you strength
to help you
to hold you steady
to keep a firm grip on you. (Isaiah 41:10 MSG)

As Jesus said, Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? (Matthew 6:27 NIV)

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

Pile your troubles on GOD’s shoulders— he’ll carry your load, he’ll help you out. (Psalm 55:22 MSG)

You never have to de-clutter alone, I AM is always there to help.

Remember those 4 little words I AM WITH YOU 🙂

 

* Disclaimer – to protect Zoe’s privacy and dignity, this is NOT a photo of her room 🙂

 

 

 

Apply frequently

imageTwo years of doing Encounter on the streets, in cafés and shops, has taught me that people do like to talk. Before I would have been a bit slower to initiate conversations with people I had just met (let alone people I just walked up to!) because I was reluctant to encroach on anyone’s personal space.

I’ve learned it’s not that people don’t want to talk to others they’ve just met or they have nothing to say. I think they have so much to say, so many situations going on in their lives, that they are just wondering does anyone care enough to listen. They are desperate for help and hope.

Last weekend I met a lovely lady at the hairdressers. As we chatted she asked me the old chestnut “What do you do?” I explained I’d had been off work for a couple of years with chronic fatigue and she told me she had been off work for a few months too. Now I knew the real reason for our chat! After she explained why, I asked if I could pray for her. She was so touched by God’s presence, tears rolled down her cheeks as she felt how He cared about her circumstances.

Last night I met another lady who had also gone through very difficult circumstances. In her own words she said “every day is a major disappointment”.

Our circumstances can scar us or shape us.

The choice is OURS.

We can focus on the scars of those circumstances until that is all we see. Remember being told as a child “poking at them only makes them worse?!” Then every day we deal with the disappointment that they are still there, and still very raw.

OR our own vulnerability can be shaped positively if we allow it to create empathy for the vulnerability of others. And as we turn it round for good, that can only bring good for us too.

Instead of every day being an opportunity for more and more disappointment, we can see every day as an opportunity for His-appointments!

I’ve just completed the 5 day ‘positivity/thankfulness challenge’ on Facebook.

For me thankfulness is not a new challenge or a one off task, it is ongoing, something I need to do and try to do every day. Like a soothing balm, it ought to be applied frequently, several times a day!!

I gently encouraged this lady to give thanks for one good thing that had happened that day. At first it was a struggle because it was like doing a complete U-turn. But she did!! And then she started to give thanks for other things and for other people too. Once she got started, she couldn’t stop.

Instead of drowning in disappointment, she had opened a floodgate to His faithfulness.

An attitude of gratitude is a simple tool but a powerful weapon!!

I am only one, but still I am one

imageLast week’s blog was a perfect title for our wee escape to Dunfanaghy. The ‘view ahead’ there is always amazing! We first went there when I was expecting Leigh-Ann and 25 years later the scenery still takes my breath away!

Psalm 18:19 reads, “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me”. Dunfanaghy is one of my ‘spacious’ places. I’m so grateful for space to rest and be restored, to enjoy great views and great walks, good food (too much judging by scales this morning!) and good books 🙂

My first read this time was ‘I am Malala’, the story of Malala Yousafzai from the Swat Valley in Pakistan. When the Taliban took control of her area and demanded that schools for girls should be closed, Malala refused to be intimidated. She continued to attend school and spoke up for the right of girls to be educated.

At the age of 15 she was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school and was not expected to survive but miraculously she did. The gunman failed to kill Malala or her cause.

The gunman’s plan was to silence Malala for good but ironically it has only made her voice louder and her words more powerful and she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest. The Taliban wanted to deny Malala the right to leave her home but ironically their action has given Malala a world wide platform. On her 16th birthday she addressed the United Nations in New York and she has become the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize. And all because she refused to keep quiet about what she believed in.

Malala’s father instilled a belief in her in the power of one person’s voice to change the world and our Heavenly Father has the same belief for us.

Our circumstances may not be as extreme as Malala’s but so often the enemy wants to silence our voices too.

We have a choice. Do we decide to shut up or speak up?

Malala’s attention was not focused on the words she needed to say but on the situation she needed to speak out about.

And God invites us to do the same and to focus on Him “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” (Luke 12:11-12 NIV)

And so you will bear testimony to me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. (Luke 21:13-15 NIV)

Maybe you feel like Moses. Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (Exodus 4:10-12 NIV)

I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. (Psalm 81:10)

Like Moses we don’t have to be eloquent, we just have to ‘Now go’.

As we step up to speak up, He promises to fill us up. He will give us the words and help us speak. He is not looking for great orators but for obedience.

I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything; but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. Helen Keller

Malala Day, as announced by the United Nations to mark the birthday of Malala Yousafzai, is being observed globally today, 14 July. “My birthday wish this year is that we all raise our voices for those under oppression, to show our own power and courage is stronger than their campaign of fear,” says Malala.

Let’s raise our voices against oppression. We can and will make a difference.

 

 

The view ahead

 

imageI woke from my ‘siesta’ this afternoon to see blue sky with fluffy white clouds from my bedroom window at the front of the house. At the same time I could hear rain starting to fall on the bathroom window at the back. I turned over to see if I was imagining this but the view from the bathroom window was very different – totally grey and threatening to downpour!

These contrasting views reminded me of a drive along the beautiful North Coast on my way to a small group retreat. Up ahead the sun was shining and the sky was bright blue showing the scenery off to perfection. But the rear view mirror painted a different picture. The sky was threateningly black rather than terrifically blue.

I realised that if I’d focused on the dark clouds of the rear view, I would have missed out on the beauty of the blue sky ahead.

Plus I would have crashed!! We need to keep our eyes on the way ahead!

We can avoid emotional crashes too if we choose not to focus on the dark clouds of the past but look towards the blue sky of the road up ahead. We need to keep moving forward rather than going back over old ground.

Paul writes about “Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead” in Philippians 3:13 (NLT).

The Message reads I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. (Philippians 3:12-14 MSG)

I love these verses. I’m claiming them as a ‘disclaimer’ for these lines I write each week … By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this. I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. I’ve got my eye on Jesus and I’m not turning back!

My prayer is that simply sharing the journey I’m on will be an encouragement to “press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Philippians 3:14 NLT)

As I write this the grey skies and downpours are giving way to a bluer sunset sky arched in a rainbow.

A rainbow of His promise.

Promising that the pain of your past doesn’t have to scar your future.

Promising you can know His hope for your present.

Promising His faithfulness, His hope and His love will paint a different picture.

Keep your eyes on the way ahead!! You don’t want to miss His view.

God I look to You, I won’t be overwhelmed
Give me vision to see things like You do
God I look to, You’re where my help comes from
Give me wisdom; You know just what to do
Jenn Johnson/Ian Mcintosh Bethel Music Publishing 2010

 

 

Exceeding abundantly more

imageSince I last wrote ‘His love is immense, marvellous, incredible, unfailing, faithful, forever and nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:39 NLT), I’ve been pondering on more adjectives I associate with His great love … EXTRAVAGANT, BOUNDLESS, GENEROUS, CONSTANT, LAVISH, ENDLESS, UNCONTAINABLE, OVERFLOWING. I’m sure there are others coming to your mind just now to describe the character and attributes of our Heavenly Father and they all speak of ABUNDANCE not mediocrity or paucity.

Such reflection compels us to repent of our natural tendency to limit our expectation or acceptance of the abundance of His inheritance, and encourages us to cry out “Open the eyes of our hearts Lord” and declare we are hungry and desperate for so much more of Him.

Unlike Mr Bumble’s response, “this Oliver Twist ‘Please Sir, may I have some more?’ attitude is one God delights in and one we need to incorporate in our own lives, to avail ourselves of all that Christ purchased for us with His blood.” (Simon Ponsonby)

He gives the Spirit without measure (John 3:34). Not just enough, more than enough! “With God we get not only more than we deserve, but more than we expect.”(Simon Ponsonby)

Remember Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana when He turned the water into wine and the master of the banquet remarksd “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” (John 2:10 NIV).

Or when He fed the 5000 … Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children! (Matthew 14:19-21 NLT). More than enough for more than 5000!!

And as we read last week, Jesus spoke to them: “Good morning! Did you catch anything for breakfast?” They answered, “No.” He said, “Throw the net off the right side of the boat and see what happens.” They did what he said. (John 21:5, 6 MSG). He just wanted some fish to cook them breakfast but they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it. (John 21:6 NLT)

Jesus constantly demonstrates His Father’s generosity, His extravagance. He is the God of surplus, of more than enough. He is the all sufficient one. He is El Shaddai.

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that’ll in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV) or as the New Living Translation puts it “plenty left over to share with others”. (2 Corinthians 9:8 NLT). More left overs, more than enough.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, (Ephesians 3:20 NIV). Modern and older translations of this verse both emphasise this MOREGod can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! (Ephesians 3:20 MSG). He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us (Ephesians 3:20 KJV).

He is not just the God of abundance but of exceeding abundance.

He wants you to have more of Him. As Simon Ponsonby asks: IF GOD WERE TO APPEAR TO YOU TONIGHT WHAT WOULD YOU ASK HIM FOR?