What ‘just happened’?

imageThree years ago I did a great deal of weeping and wailing about not having the energy for my walks in the forest.

For me this had always been a spacious place, a thin place, a place where “he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.” (Psalm 23:2-3 NIV)

So I felt robbed of more than a walk at that time.

I felt cheated out of space that “let me catch my breath” (v3 MSG), and time for Him to “restore my soul” (v3 NKJV) and “renew my strength” (v3 NLT).

But He DOES restore and renew. And as ever He “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)

I’m loving being able to walk regularly in the forest again. I not only get to enjoy the space and beauty of the surroundings but He’s also given me the opportunity to chat and pray with people I just happen meet en route.

And I’m not the only one!! Last week I was at another forest with my ‘dog walking’ small group (yes that’s right) and one of the ladies just happened to bump into two people she knew and was obedient to opportunities to pray with them both.

This morning as I walked along, I was thinking of sharing this to encourage you that you don’t just bump into people by chance!! These things don’t just happen by coincidence.

So when I turned the corner and saw a lady standing with her dog looking out across the river I knew it wasn’t by chance.

It was a coHIMcidence!!

Tess’s ‘friendly exuberance’ makes it easy to get chatting to people and I found out it was the lady’s first visit to this forest as she had just moved to N Ireland the week before and a delivery man just happened to tell her about this great place to go running!! We chatted some more and then some more and she just happened to tell me about a fall from a few years ago and the ongoing struggles that had caused. She said “I feel like I’m telling you my life story!”

It just so happens I know Someone who is passionately interested in her life story so I asked if she would mind if I prayed with her that these problems would be put right. “Not at all.” I prayed a simple prayer for healing and thanked Jesus for showing her how much he cared about her and for her that we just happened to meet.

She cried as she said “nobody has ever done anything like that for me”.  Again I said that the Father wanted to let her know how much He loved her. “Maybe that’s why I’ve come to Ireland”.

I had planned to walk a certain route in the forest this morning but halfway round I went a different route and I just happened to meet a lady whose change in route had brought her to a new place, in a new town, in a new country so Jesus could show her He is walking beside her.

Sometimes life takes us on a different route than we expect or had planned but the people and places we bump into along the way are not by chance. They are coHIMcidences for a specific purpose. His purpose. To bring His story of life into the life story of others.

So if your plans change this week and you end up going a different route, you never know what may ‘just happen‘ when you’re open to His opportunities.

I’d love to hear about your ‘coHIMcidences’.

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Seeing the bigger picture

imageI didn’t think I was going to have a post today. I felt at a total dead end. No thoughts. No words on a page. Then I happened on this photo by Gilbert Lennox Photography.

I needed to see this photo today.

I apologise if sometimes I go on too much about chronic fatigue but sometimes it is too much for me and takes up too much of my day and my life.

I am very, very grateful to be a lot further on the journey than a few years ago but at times it can be frustrating that I can’t go any faster and that often I have to stop completely.

Today is like that. The words confined to bed apply and my horizons feel very limited.

I’ve run out of fuel. I’ve had to pull over. I’m stuck in a dip on the road where I can’t see the way ahead, the way forward, the way out.

Maybe you’re there too. You want out of your situation. You want to move forward but feel unable to move at all. Your tank is empty, not just physically but emotionally and spiritually. You’re stuck in a moment and you can’t get out of it.

Take a good look at this picture.

It’s helped me see that the road doesn’t end here. It’s only beginning. There is still so much ahead. The view is vast and it focuses on what is in the foreground rather than in the background. The view ahead does not include the past.

The sea speaks to me of His love. From the mouths of babes “so deep you can’t get under it, so wide you can’t get around it, oh wonderful love”. I remember thinking this in the early days of fatigue, as I looked at this sea view. My prayer was that I would swim in the sea of His love. Shortly after this we were blessed with a week in Spain where I got to literally swim in the sea! He hears the cries of our hearts in the hard places.

The beaches are my spacious place. You have not given me into the hands of the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place. (Psalm 31:8 NIV). Verse 19 says “How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.” When we take refuge in Him in the dips on the road, in the hard places, we find His freedom. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. (Psalm 18:19 NIV).

The towns and houses speak of life lived in community. I am naturally drawn to the spacious places but I still need to do life in community. I can’t do it alone. None of us can. We need to reach out to others and allow others to reach out to us, not just when the view ahead is marvellous but especially in the hard places.

I am blessed to call this area my home so I know there is much more to the view in this photo than we first see. The panorama speaks of the abundance He has for our lives even though we can’t see it all right now, straightaway. He has so much more for us to explore. As we sing, “You’re the Lord of all Creation and still you know my heart.” The Lord of all this beautiful creation is in control of both the big picture AND the smallest details of all you’re going through.

A dear friend texted a timely reminder. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

Thank you Father for helping me to see the bigger picture again.

Who’s in the driver’s seat?

imageObsessive, compulsive and driven, I thought I had my journey all mapped out. I had dreamt about what it would be like. I’d read ‘guidebooks’ about where I wanted to go and about the journeys of others. I thought it would be great to follow the same route they had taken. I wanted to choose the security and familiarity of well worn paths. I certainly hadn’t learnt to travel light, I was carrying way too much excess baggage. I did want the journey to include some adventure but it was to be on my terms. A bit like Goldilocks, not too much, not too little, just right!!

I would never choose a coach tour but I wouldn’t fancy a mystery tour either. I would prefer to go self drive, so I can be completely in control.

But Jesus has been teaching me “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am.” (Matthew 16:24 MSG)

Chronic fatigue stopped me in my tracks.

So often it’s felt like I was going nowhere, going round in circles, even going backwards. But sometimes that is the only way forward.

God had a different journey mapped out for me and that included going off the beaten track, down paths I didn’t even know I needed to discover, so He could guide me along His right paths (Psalm 23:3).

I’ve learnt so much along the way, not only about my travelling companion and guide but about myself.

I love what Jean Williams has to say in her blog “In All Honesty
“… like many who have suffered, I wouldn’t swap what I have learned about God’s love for anything. What I used to know in theory, I now know from experience: there really is nothing he will not give us grace to face.

But of course part of me asks: what happened to the life I planned?

Here’s what happened: God had better plans for us. Harder and better ones. We run this race in the sight of others. And if we have to make Jesus known through our pain and our tears, then so be it. Because I would rather have this life with him than my carefully planned life without him.

We are all on a journey.

I have no idea what your journey looks like or where it has taken you … bereavement, divorce, debt, redundancy, unemployment, depression, ill health, empty nest or barrenness; what paths you may have chosen to take through ambition or addiction; whether you have journeyed one or several of these paths…

But what I do know … in all the valleys, battlefields, hard places, deserts and wildernesses of life, ‘God is with us (Martin Smith – ‘You are here, Emmanuel’)

“You are here in the hurricane
You carry me through the driving rain
All I need to know, is You are with me.
You are here in the desert sun
And in Your shadow’s where I belong
All I need to know, is You are with me.”

He is faithful and we can always trust Him, even when we stay too long in the places we would rather avoid or we barely get to stop in the comfortable places where we long to linger.

He is moving us out of our comfort zone for a purpose, His purposes.

Would I have chosen this journey? Probably not!

Would I have changed it? Definitely not!

I would have missed out on so much along the way.

We get to enjoy the journey more when He is in the driving seat!