Share Four Somethings – June

Loved, Read, Treasured and Ahead

This June, I have loved the peace and quiet on the beaches here – and at the same time I have been saddened by the reason behind it. I have felt very selfish as I have enjoyed the space, the tranquillity and the slower pace of life. Because of the Coronavirus we are now into week fifteen of lockdown in Wales, we are still to stay at home, to stay local within five miles of our home and only allowed to go out to do essential shopping or to meet one other household in an outdoor space. Whereas May would normally be the beginning of the tourist season and everything would be ramping up for a busy summer, this year the closed sign is still officially up! So this has been a unique month, we have had a lot of sunny weather, and it has at times almost felt eerily quiet, with hardly any cars and very few people. By the next government review, which is due on the 6th of July, we hope the restrictions will be lifted further and that people can start to return to visit this very beautiful part of the country – a lot of small businesses are dependent on the tourist trade for their main income!

Read!

I have read several books, and usually like to have two or three different types of book on the go at the same time. Of course, with not working at the moment, I have had more time than ever to read. So which one to share? I decided in the end to comment on this little book, by Professor John Lennox and published by thegoodbook company. It is only sixty-two pages but manages to present a clear concise view of God through the subject of suffering. It is written from the dedication onwards, “To a world in pain”, with compassion and sensitivity. The introduction states the intention of the book to offer some comfort, support and hope, which I feel it does, not only in relation to this pandemic, but also to the bigger question of suffering. The postscript acknowledges that not everyone’s questions will be answered, and that in fact the author still has many areas where he would like clarity himself, and so he finishes with a quote from Spurgeon:

“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.” C.H.Spurgeon.

It is a little book that more than deserves its place on the bookshelf, and I am sure I will pick it up and refer to it again, when those difficult ‘why God, why’ questions arise.

Birthday Cake – but no candles!

Treasured moments are always the milestones marked in old age – they become more precious as they become less certain. This month it was my Mum’s birthday – which would normally mean a lunch out, a drive and a little visit to somewhere different, a birthday treat of some sort. All not possible at the moment, but we felt really blessed, that a couple of days before her birthday the restrictions were altered to include the proviso that you could meet one other household in an outer door space close to your home. The little things, in this simplified lifestyle take on more significance – to be able to drop off some gifts in the morning and then go and visit again in the afternoon. The sun shone, it was a warm mild day and we were able to have a little stroll around the village and a good chat! I made and we shared a birthday cake, and we were thankful for just being able to be together.

Looking Ahead in Faith!

Looking ahead is still very difficult, the uncertainty of when and how, so many questions still with no definitive answers. When will I go back to work, how will I be able to do my job if social distancing measures are still in place? When will we be able to welcome family and friends into our homes again? When will we be able to meet in Church again?

I opened a website and started this blog during lockdown, a ‘redeeming of the time’ or the ‘making the most of every opportunity.’ Looking ahead, I know I want to continue with online writing, there are so many new possibilities and opportunities that I didn’t even know existed! So, among all the questions, I am placing my trust in the One who knows all the answers and believing for just one step at a time. I am moving forward into a new season, in the wide open spaces of God’s grace, where anything is possible!

This post is part of the #sharefoursomethings linkup – https://wp.me/p7bPF0-xi

Some of the other link-ups I join can be found here: https://limitless-horizon.com/about/

Still Waiting

I’ve noticed recently on social media, and in conversation, that ‘stay safe’ seems to have become a new catchphrase – as if it is in our power to keep ourselves safe from any harm. I know we all have a responsibility to take care of ourselves – to look after our bodies, to eat healthily, to exercise regularly, to sleep sufficiently – these are all good recommendations, that in the main, we try to apply to our lives. But can I really, by some act of will, choose to ‘stay safe’ – has this phrase become popular as some sort of reassurance that we are in control of what is happening?

Where I live, we were beginning to feel after nearly four months, that we were finally approaching the lifting of lockdown restrictions, we were beginning to feel safe and to want to venture out and socialise again, but there has been a peak of new cases of the coronavirus that threatens to change all that. This has created a sense of real sadness, particularly for those who are affected, but at the same time uncertainty, frustration and even anxiety for everyone – is there going to be a delay now in the lifting of the restrictions?

There is a feeling of lament, of loss, for time spent with extended family, for fellowship with the Church family, for employment, for business – how much longer do we have to wait?  So many unanswerable questions!

But whether we wait patiently or impatiently will not change the waiting time – it just impacts and affects our relationships! First our relationship with God and then our relationships with each other.

How we wait, does not change the waiting time – it changes us, either for worse or for the better!

The psalms are full of honest conversation, where the psalmist in a moment of need pours out his thoughts and feelings before God and then, slowly the answer comes, a glimmer of hope for the future. Psalm 13 is an example of this where the psalmist starts with a whole host of questions and ends with a declaration of faith:

“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for He has been good to me.” Psalm 13:5-6

There are four points that we can reflect on from this, four ways to help us to wait well. To bring us from impatience to patience, from doubt to trust, from questioning to accepting and from apprehension or fear to faith!

TRUST – a firm belief in the reliability, truth and ability of someone.

As we place our trust in God’s unfailing love our perspective starts to change. His love which is available and accessible to all, so vast that it is beyond all measure, everlasting, true, unchanging and demonstrated for us by Jesus. We begin to glimpse the bigger picture, that our Heavenly Father is God of the Universe and that He is in control of all!

REJOICE – is to feel or show great joy or delight.

As we reflect on God’s love towards us, His gift, that while we were still sinners He gave His only Son, to set us free from sin. Jesus by his death and sacrifice, reconciled us to God and has given to all who believe in Him, the promise of eternal life! The joy of our salvation and the realisation that it is the joy of the Lord which is our strength¹

PRAISE – expression of approval or admiration.

As our feelings start to change and we feel the joy of our salvation, we start to express our praise to God – as the overflow of a thankful and grateful heart. When we take our eyes off our own situation and start to focus on God’s love, and all that He has done for us, how can we stay silent! As we praise Him, from our hearts, there is a divine exchange, as we bless God, He lifts up our heads and bestows a blessing in return.

REMEMBER – bring to mind an awareness of someone or something from the past.     

It is good to remember, to reflect on what God has done for us personally. Our gratitude comes as we look back and we see God’s hand at work in our lives, our testimony, our story of God’s faithfulness, of answered prayers, of unexpected and often, undeserved blessings. Testimony is powerful to silence the doubts and fears – God does not change, what He has done before, He can do again! As we remember, our hope is stirred, and our faith is strengthened.

The safe place is always walking with the Lord, trusting in His love, rejoicing in our salvation, and praising His Name as we remember His goodness. Our future, whatever that may hold, is secure in the Lord. How do we wait well? We wait well by activating our faith!

God is too good to be unkind and He is too wise to be mistaken. And when we cannot see His hand, we must trust His heart. C.H. Spurgeon.

¹Nehemiah 8:10

Shane & Shane – “I will wait for You” – based on Psalm 130

Some of the link-ups I join can be found here: https://limitless-horizon.com/about/

Compromise

“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9

This post is part of the Five Minute Friday writing challenge, where you write for five minutes on a one word prompt – today’s word is ‘compromise’.

To compromise is to give concession in an argument or disagreement with the aim of being able to reach an agreement. This is not always easy…When my husband and I were dating we had our first argument over whether you should be willing to agree to differ – we didn’t agree!

In our relationships (we learnt) you do need the ability to compromise – family life is dependent on everyone being willing, at times, to compromise on personal preferences. We are not always going to agree on everything. We will have different views, opinions, likes and dislikes based on our character and personality. For a family unit to work together, every day, there has to be a willingness to compromise, while working to be fair and to take everyone’s views into consideration.

However we should not compromise on our integrity, on our core beliefs. There is one relationship that demands our all, our wholehearted commitment, and that is to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul and strength.

Throughout history there are those heroes of faith who stood for what they believed in, who fought for the freedom of speech, and the freedom to practice our faith that we now take for granted. We should not compromise and we should not be complacent – we need to encourage dialogue and discussion with those who have different views from our own, but also to be willing to speak out. That is the challenge, to do what is right in God’s sight, and the challenge today is very real! I pray for the strength, when needed, not to compromise but to be true to the One who gave everything for me…..

Stop – I found that a difficult topic today to try to write something meaningful in just five minutes. I am intrigued to see how everyone else has got on – time to do some reading!

Worth

That is a nice horse – what is she worth? Or oh, she must be worth something?

And whether I think the question is rude or appropriate the answer is the same –

Nothing and everything!

It depends, of course, what you are basing your valuation on.

With horses a value is placed on them, in part by their breeding and confirmation, but also by their potential, what people think they will be able to do. Whatever discipline they are looking at, racing, eventing, dressage or show jumping – the horse’s value, ultimately will be based on their performance and their results.

Now my horse had average to good breeding, good confirmation, and a lot of potential when I bought her as a youngster. And the more I trained and competed with her, her value went up but unfortunately, as with a lot of horses, due to injury and a major illness her value then went down again. I no longer compete, and she has signs of wear and tear, and an old injury to her legs. Due to her illness I can no longer insure her because the insurance company paid out, more than her worth, for her last hospital bill! Although she is fit and able for light leisure work, she is no longer fit enough for a competition career, she is getting older and is now classed as a veteran!

So what is she worth? To other people, nothing – set against the cost of keeping her, they would not see a positive return on their money.

But what is she worth to me? Everything, she is priceless! We have now had eleven years of trials, difficulties, communication issues, worry and for the main part a whole lot of pleasure and fun. We have a developed a bond of mutual trust. We have built up a relationship.

How can you place a financial worth on a relationship? It has a worth beyond what money can buy.

Relationship is everything, it brings meaning and value to life.

Thank God that our worth is not based on our performance or results, our worth does not go up or down – we are precious to God. So much so, that he was willing to send his only Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem us from our sinful lives and to restore our relationship with him.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Remember, we have a worth that is priceless!

This post is part of the Five Minute Friday link-up – where you write for five minutes on a one word prompt – today’s word was ‘worth.’

Skies Always Blue

This was the outlook on Monday morning this week, grey, cold, damp mist rolling in off the sea, with the sound of the foghorn in the distance – not the usual late spring sunshine that we had been getting so used to. We went out for a walk, but with our jackets back on as it was cold and wet, no inspiration from the sea views today! Or so I thought. By mid-morning, however, everything had changed, the mist had blown away to reveal the blue skies and sunshine that had been there all along, just hidden by the low cloud.

This reminded me of an old hymn –

God has not promised skies always blue, 
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through. 
God has not promised sun without rain, 
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

But God has promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labour, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love. 
By Annie Johnson Flint.

I learnt this ‘poem’ as a child, which sounds very worthy, but I have a confession to make, I learnt it because I was ‘bored’ sitting in Chapel. We went to Chapel on a Sunday morning, in the days when children were expected to sit quietly through the service – Sunday School was at a separate time! And one Sunday the sermon seemed to be particularly long and difficult to understand, but my Mum had these two verses on a bookmark in her Bible, and so to entertain myself I started memorizing the words – in the same way I learnt the ‘shortest psalm’. I know, I was a strange child!

But that little ‘poem’ is powerful and has stayed with me through some of the darkest and most difficult times of my life. God has not promised that we will always see blue skies, but he has promised that He will provide the strength that we need, when we need it.

There are times when our problems seem too big, the weight of worry is too heavy, and it can feel as if our heart is breaking – emotions which can so easily overwhelm us. But it is at those times of unsettling fear, that God calls us to put our trust in Him, that He is our refuge and strength.

When doubt and fear close in, we may struggle to see and feel God’s presence, but it does not change the fact that He is there – God’s word declares that He is our ever-present help in times of trouble. In the same way that we know when the cloud rolls in, the blue sky is still always there even though it is obscured from our sight.

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise – in God I trust and am not afraid.” Psalm 56:3-4

It is only in those fearful times that we learn, that with God, we need not fear.

It is only in those dark stormy times that we learn, that with God, we can find peace in the height of the storm.

It is only when the cloud closes in that we learn, that with God, there is always enough light for the next step.

As we move forward, with just enough light for that next step of faith, we learn to put our trust in God. In that place of trust, we find we need not be afraid, for with help from above, the cloud will roll away and the sun will shine again!

Some of the link-ups I join can be found here: https://limitless-horizon.com/about/

React or Act?

When you hear the news of events that are occurring in your country, does it ever make you cry with sadness, anger, or frustration? Does it make you feel powerless, that there is nothing that you can do – although of course, we all feel that someone, should do something!

Do we need to remind ourselves that when we have a strong reaction to bad news, it should always create in us one action – to take it straight to God in prayer.

Let us listen to a little bit of Nehemiah’s story¹, a man who openly admits he cried and wept on hearing some bad news. He was living in Susa, part of the dispersion of the people of Israel throughout Persia, and he had a trusted position working in the palace as a cupbearer to the king – a bit more than a waiter or a butler, as part of his job may have been to sample the king’s wine to make sure that it was safe for him to drink!  

Some years earlier some of the Israelites had been allowed to return to Jerusalem, to resettle there and to start to restore the Temple. A group of travellers now come to Susa, from Judah, with the latest news. Nehemiah seeks them out to hear how the returned exiles are getting on in Jerusalem. But the news is not good, although they had survived the long journey and had been back in Jerusalem for some years, the walls of the city have been broken down, the gates have been burned with fire and the people are in trouble and disgrace. The community is under threat, and they have no protection.

Nehemiah was so overwhelmed by this bad news that he sat down and wept. His hopes and dreams to hear that his people were safely re-established in their homeland, were dashed. The bad news brought him to his knees, to mourn and fast and pray – for some days.

I believe during that time God stirred Nehemiah’s heart to respond, inspiration came and the motivation to act, that with God’s guidance and favour there was something that could be done to help. There was something that Nehemiah could do.

Through prayer God turned Nehemiah’s despair into hope!

Nehemiah started where he was, uniquely placed in the palace as a trusted servant to the king.

He used what he had, his position, to be able to speak directly to the king.

He did what he could, prayerfully he looked for an opportunity to speak to the king, to make a request and to trust in God for the outcome.

Although Nehemiah would be asking a favour of the king, he understood that ultimately the outcome was in God’s hands and so it was God’s favour that he sought. He had to wait, about four months, for an opportunity but when the moment arrived, he was ready and spoke with wisdom.

This was not a hasty reaction, this was a prayed through, thought out action.

His request was to ask for permission to go to the city of his ancestors to supervise rebuilding work – the king not only grants his request, but provides him with letters of safe conduct and the authority to obtain the materials that would be needed.

This step of faith for Nehemiah started a chain of events that changed his whole life and propelled him into the forefront of national events. He went from obscurity, taking with him all that he had learned there, to prominence and significance.

Nehemiah’s work started with the restoration of the city walls, but progressed far beyond that, to restoring faith and trust in God, to restoring right relationships between the people, to restoring justice and to restoring purity in the temple. Structural, social, and spiritual reform – this is what God can do with prayer and the willingness of someone, to do something!

When we feel strongly about something we need to check and examine prayerfully, is our reaction care and concern for others and for the honour of God’s Name, or anger, resentment, and frustration. If it is the latter, then are those painful emotions, rooted in past hurts, which still need to be healed and forgiven? If it is the former, then prayerfully we seek God, as he stirs and challenges our hearts to respond, and to act, to work for change and restoration.

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Frances of Assisi

The necessary is always prayer, the beginning of any change.

The possible is to start where you are, to use what you have and to do what you can – to respond to God’s prompting, and to take a first step of faith.

The impossible is always what God does, we give the outcome and all glory to Him.

The someone who should do something, could be you….

¹Nehemiah Chapter 1

Some of the link-ups I join can be found here: https://limitless-horizon.com/about/

How did you do that?

How did you do that? This is the sort of question that, dependent on the emphasis, can mean many different things.

This year my husband has had his birthday during lockdown, so the usual options for birthday treats, like going out for a meal, were not an option. Instead I offered to cook his favourite foods at home – and he asked could I make a Black Forest Gateaux? Well the answer was, a not very confident, possibly. I set to work to make a fat free chocolate cake, which you then fill with cherries and cream – definitely not a healthy option – but I hoped that it tasted as nice as it looked. His reaction when he saw the cake was: ‘How did you do that?’ Now he didn’t want me to explain the details of the recipe and go through the step by step process of making, assembling and decorating the cake – it was more, what we call a backhanded compliment – ‘How did YOU do that?’

A few years ago when my sons were in their teens they often used to have friends round to the house. One day, when they were all in the lounge watching TV, from the kitchen, I heard the sound of breaking glass. When I went to investigate, I was greeted by a set of worried looking faces, and a broken glass light shade shattered all over the floor. Of course I said: ‘HOW did you do that?’ With the meaning of HOW, when you were all supposed to be watching TV, has someone broken the light fitting! Of course then there was a lengthy involved explanation of who was doing what and, they hadn’t meant for it to happen, it was just an accident….I’m sure there are many similar stories.

Both stories are about expectations – sometimes you can surprise someone in a good way, when you do something which is above or beyond what they expected. Then conversely there are those times when you are disappointed, when something happens as a consequence of behaviour which you certainly hadn’t expected.

In the same way, I have expectations of God, but frequently his timing in sending blessing and encouragement often surprises me – how he has worked things together, at just the right time to bless, to strengthen, to provide, how did you do that? Amazing God.

And I thank God, that He doesn’t have the same expectations of me, when I mess up and I make mistakes. When I confess, there is no condemnation, no question of how did you do that? Just forgiveness and full restoration. Amazing God.

This post is part of the Five Minute Friday link-up – to write for five minutes on one word, today’s prompt was ‘How’.

Start Where You Are

Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Arthur Ashe

#Our thoughts matter.

If we allow anger and rage to dominate our thoughts, those thoughts will take up residence in our hearts. “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV)

#Our hearts matter.

If we allow our feelings to control us, they will pour out of our mouths. “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Matthew 12:34b

#Our words matter.

If we speak carelessly, we have the power to inflict pain. “The tongue has the power of life and death.” Proverbs 18:21a

 #Our actions matter.

If we do nothing, we pass by on the other side….”Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40

#Our lives matter.

If we show partiality, we are not reflecting the love of our Heavenly Father, for every life matters to God. “For God does not show favouritism.” Romans 2:11

My prayer is for a spirit of peace and reconciliation, to bring healing in our land. A moving on, into a society with equal opportunities for all and the desire to work together, to form a new level of compassion, understanding and unity.

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

Speak for Justice

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

“He has shown you, O man what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

There was once a man who had a heart for justice….

We know very little about him, but what we do know is that he found himself at just the right time, in the right place, to speak up and save a man’s life. He was hundreds of miles from home, living in a foreign land and working in the court of a foreign king.

How did he come to be so far from home? Had he been a soldier, a mercenary in a foreign army and been taken captive? Was he a refugee, had he fled his home because of war, looking for a safe place and now ended up in another war zone?

We don’t know what had happened, we are not told his life story. I’m not even sure we know his name. He was called Ebed-Melek, which means the ‘king’s servant’, so was that really his name? Or was it because he was a ‘foreigner’ that no-one could be bothered to make the effort to learn his real name and so they just called him by his job title?

When we seem to be disregarded by others, remember that God sees and knows all things and to live for an audience of One.

Ebed-Melek was working in the king’s palace in Jerusalem when the city was under siege and threat from the king of Babylon. God’s word to the king through his prophet was to surrender, but this was a word that no-one in Jerusalem wanted to hear. And so there were men, officials in the court, who plotted to get rid of God’s prophet. They had him beaten and thrown into a dungeon, to silence him.

The prophet was Jeremiah. The king had temporarily intervened as he wanted a private word with Jeremiah, and so, briefly, conditions improved for him. But he could not stay silent; he was commissioned by God to bring a word of impending judgement on the city. So the men acted again, they made a move to get rid of Jeremiah once and for all, and with the king’s consent they lowered ‘the troublemaker’ into an empty cistern. Although there was no water in it, the bottom of the cistern was full of deep mud – a dark, damp, and dismal place to be.

Such a cruel and cowardly act, to leave a man to starve to death in such appalling conditions. And what do Jeremiah’s own people do when they hear, when the word gets out as to what has happened to him? Nothing, they stay silent. Instead, it is the king’s servant, a Cushite, from modern day Ethiopia, with a heart for justice, who hears what has happened and decides to respond, to do something.

He speaks up, to the king, to the one who has the authority to do something about the situation, respectfully and with wisdom, choosing his words carefully.

He speaks out, clearly stating the injustice of what has happened, in a public place, with other officials present, so that the king is accountable.

He speaks for, the one who is unable to speak for himself. He speaks for Jeremiah affirming him as God’s prophet, and clearly stating the consequences of leaving the situation as it is – Jeremiah will die.

Ebed-Melek was a man who ultimately trusted in God, even to the point of risking his own life, to speak out against injustice. There is so much that we can learn and reflect on from this story, it still has the power to speak to us today, as we encounter injustice in our communities.

Knowing when and how to speak is a great gift – our words are powerful. It is likely that we will all, at some time or other, be challenged in our daily conversations. The small injustices when someone is criticised or treated unfairly, when someone’s reputation is being attacked, is it easier to say nothing, to agree with everyone else? If, like me, you find confrontation difficult, it is a challenge – but a challenge that we need to respond to. We are called to act justly. We are called to be peacemakers.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9

In this time, wherever we are, we are called to reflect the love of our heavenly Father.

To promote peace, it is important to speak respectfully. Our attitude when we speak, either creates an opportunity for our voice to be heard, or firmly closes the mind of the listener and prevents them from hearing what we have to say.

To promote peace, it is important to speak strategically, not just grumbling or complaining to anyone who will listen, but to those who have the power to act.

We can have a voice on a local or national level with the power of our online words. We can join organisations that work for justice and support their campaigns. There are so many ways that we can use our voice, to make ourselves heard, to promote justice, to bring peace and to fulfill our calling…..

And for those who are not familiar with the story¹, Ebed-Melek saved Jeremiah’s life, he rescued him from the cistern. When Jerusalem finally fell to the Babylonians, God rewarded him and his life was spared. He had showed himself to be a true servant of the King of kings.

¹Jeremiah Chapters 38 & 39

You can find some of the link-ups I join here: https://limitless-horizon.com/about/

Stay

When I first posted this photo of my two Jack Russell Terriers on Facebook, those who know them best, straight away asked “How did you get them to stay?” Their personality is irrepressible! They are full of energy and enthusiasm for life – I’m sure ‘stay’ doesn’t come into their vocabulary. They are eleven years old now and, even with endless treat training, have mastered ’stay’ for about two seconds! Their personality is all about ‘go’ nonstop, running, jumping, and exploring – ‘stay’ is so difficult for them. So, how did I get them to stay? Well it took a great deal of effort to keep my eyes fixed on them, hold their attention, back off a little and quickly take a snap!

We all have different personalities and character traits, some things come easily, and some are far more difficult, depending on our personality type. Sometimes we learn about ourselves when we are asked to do something which wouldn’t come naturally, when we are out of our comfort zone.

In Wales we are still in lockdown with the motto ‘Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives’. Stay at home has been easy for some and for others it has been very difficult. We are now allowed to meet one other household outdoors while maintaining social distancing rules. It is twelve weeks since I was last in work, and at the moment still no sign of a return date. But this has been a season to ‘stay’ not sought, not asked for, but necessary so we have adapted and adjusted to a different way of living.

I believe that God ‘redeems the time’ – in some translations it is written as ‘making the most of every opportunity’. This season of staying where we are may have been easy because we are quite happy to sit and stay, and rather guiltily enjoyed a quiet time. Or we may have found it extremely difficult, it has taken a lot of effort, to keep our eyes fixed on God, trusting in Him. Like all seasons it will end, and the time will soon come to move on once again…

My prayer is that those who feel that they have suffered loss this spring, will with time be able to reflect on what they have gained in the Lord. The knowledge, known and felt, that He is ever present – in our staying and our going!

This post is part of the FiveMinuteFriday link-up, to write for five minutes on a word prompt – today’s word was ‘stay’.

The Secret

Do you want to know a secret?

Do you want to discover how to trade your irritability for peace, your anxiety for trust, your frustration at being constrained to release and freedom? I should imagine that most people would cautiously and maybe somewhat sceptically say, yes to those questions. Do you want to find a way to remain steadfast? A word that is not used so often now, maybe we equate it with steady, and think ‘boring’ – but it is a place of strength, of having an inner peace, security and contentment, regardless of what is happening in your situation and circumstances around you.

I have always loved the verse of scripture which talks about having ‘learned the secret of being content’.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

First the writer, the apostle Paul, acknowledges that he has experienced times of plenty and times of need, but he has learned the secret of being content regardless of his external circumstances.

Now a secret is something that is shared through intimacy – you whisper a secret, you need to get close to the person that you are sharing it with, to speak quietly in their ear. They need to be paying attention and listening carefully. A secret is not shouted out for all to hear, it is a shared confidence – and the person receiving that confidence feels privileged, that they have been trusted with that information.

The secret that Paul has learnt is that he is not controlled by external circumstances – they are, after all, beyond our control. He has learnt that God will provide him with all that he needs, with the strength for that day.

It is interesting that he states, firstly, that he has learnt the secret of contentment in times of plenty, of abundance – are you thinking surely that would be easy? I know from my own experience, however, how easy it is when things are going well to start to assume that we have control of the situation. Pride can creep in, and we can start to think we are doing fine in our own strength and then start to neglect our relationship with God.

But how quickly things can change, sometimes almost overnight, this year, more than any, is an example of how fragile life is apart from God.

And then Paul goes on to say that he has learnt the secret of contentment in times of hardship – those times of need when we are struggling to cope with life’s problems and difficulties. For some that is hard to understand, but often the trials of life draw us to God, we cling to him and depend on his every word. And that is part of the answer….

To learn the secret of contentment, we need to make space and take time for our relationship with God. Sometimes we are gifted that space and time, but often we have to stretch ourselves, we have to be creative to make that space and give up that time – but if we are seeking change we need to make room for God to move! Contentment is developed through intimacy with God, it is there that he teaches us what is in our hearts, gently revealing to us what he is refining, what needs bringing to the surface to be dealt with. It is in that intimacy that God whispers to our spirit, reminding us of his promises, of his love and faithfulness. We can treasure those words and hold them close, receiving strength for the day. It is as we learn to trust in him, to release and let go of our control, to give all our life into God’s hands that he begins to release us from those negative emotions that control us! Give to God and he always multiplies back a blessing!

In this season, I am learning the secret of contentment, making space, and taking time to hear God’s whisper to my spirit….do you want to learn to?

Born Free!

It is very true that we are all born with an innate freedom in our spirit, unconstrained, unrestricted, able to express ourselves freely! I remember my eldest son’s third birthday, he had a Batman dressing-up suit and a Batman figure among his presents, of course straight away he had to put the suit on to play. Later on, I took him out to the local park – still dressed as Batman – and I remember him running down a slope to the children’s play area, clutching the toy figure in his hand, his cape flying out behind him and shouting Baaaatmaaan!! He drew a few looks from some of the other families and particularly from older children, but he was completely oblivious, enjoying his new gifts to the full.

Somewhere along the way we become self-conscious, more concerned with what other people think – was it by his fourth or fifth birthday? Later than that I hope…..

Of course, we do need to teach and guide children to be self-aware, to consider the affect of their words and actions on other people, but it is a shame to lose some of the spontaneity and freedom.

There is a child-like simplicity that we should seek to return to when we are born-again, when we acknowledge the Lord as our Saviour, we are free to be ourselves, trusting in the love of our Heavenly Father……Dare I write a verse/poem? Well why not?

Father God I am loved by you,

I am precious in your sight.

All of my quirks and foibles,

made by you, so that’s alright……

This post is part of the Five Minute Friday link up – the prompt for today was ‘Born’

See Possibilities

Photo by Mohamed Elshawry on Pexels.com

Aksah, to me, is an inspirational woman who had the vision, and motivation, to fulfill her potential. Who, you might say?

She appears in only a couple of verses of scripture¹, but her voice is still there, speaking out to us today. She was a child of the wilderness, born during Israel’s exodus from Egypt. Part of the new generation, on the move, travelling towards the promised land. She was also Caleb’s daughter – remember him? One of the men that Moses sent to spy out the land of Canaan who came back with a good report and the faith to believe that God would give them what he had promised. You can imagine the conversations she would have with her father during their travels in the wilderness – Where are we going? Are we there yet? What is our new home going to be like? And Caleb would have filled her head with stories of the richness of the land and the size of the fruit that it produced – a land full of good things!

Now their destination has become a reality, they have arrived, and the division of the land to the different tribes and families has begun. Caleb allocates land in the Negev to his daughter Aksah, she is given an inheritance within the land. In Hebrew, the word Negev means dry and this area of land is referred to as wasteland, dry and rocky. Aksah, however, does not focus on the limitations of what she sees before her, she believes in the promises of God, and sees the possibilities. She has vision and knows that if she is to use her inheritance to its potential, she will need more than what she has been given.

Aksah sees what is needed, and she knows she will be asking for a lot, as access to water in this region is a valuable commodity, but she also knows her father. She knows that her father has her welfare at heart, that she can approach him and ask for a special favour, being sure of his love for her and that her request will be well received.

When she approaches her father, he straight away asks her “What can I do for you?” She doesn’t hesitate but boldly asks for springs of water. Caleb’s response is to give her the upper and lower springs – a double blessing!

#Vision brings the motivation to act, to try something!

On finally arriving in Canaan, and receiving her inheritance, the dry and rocky hill country of the Negev does not look like a land flowing with ‘milk and honey’. Aksah, however, believes in the promises of God, her godly heritage, and visualises what it can be – therefore she has the motivation to do something about it.

#Fear paralyses #Love Mobilises

If you are held back by fear of failure this is the time to come back to God to ask for more, more knowledge of His love, a fresh revelation of how much he loves you and fresh vision for your life.

Are you being released into the open spaces of God’s grace? Are you moving forward into a place of freedom without restriction, with a new perspective of God’s plan for your life? Are you motivated to reach out to God and ask for more to fulfil your calling?

Now may the God of peace: “equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.”  Hebrews 13:21

¹Judges 1:12-15

If you enjoy reflecting on God working in and through the lives of familiar or less well known Bible characters, then check out my ‘Books’ page – there is a chapter on the story of Askah, in Snapshots of Service, Chapter 3 – Fulfill Your Potential.

Following the Footsteps

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

As I was out walking today, I was reflecting on the painted footprints on the pavement (or sidewalk!).

In our town last year three of the small primary schools (for children age 4-11) closed and they opened one big new purpose-built school, to bring all those pupils and resources together in the one building. So about town right now, every few hundred yards when you come to a turning or a junction, there are painted footprints on the pavements. These are to keep the children on the right path from their old school to the new school building. To make sure they don’t get lost on their journey, they just have to follow the footprints!

And it just reminded me that Jesus leads, and we are to follow after him, follow in his footsteps…..

He leaves footprints, clear signs for us to follow, to make sure that we keep on going on the right path and in the right direction.

This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16

Often, we start off on the right path and then we get side-tracked, we take a detour, we take a break and get comfortable or sometimes we even begin to get a little lost. But if we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, listening for his voice, he will gently restore us. He will bring us back to where the good way is, following after him, where his yoke – being joined with him – is easy and his burden is light, the place where we can find rest for our souls.

The Holy Spirit is our guide and he does not bring confusion, but clarity – he is our conscience, and our counsellor.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21

So, if we are watching and listening carefully, we will see and hear the warning signs that we need to pay attention to –

Are we walking in our own strength? Are we serving with our own motives?

We all remember the story of Martha, a friend of Jesus, living with her brother Lazarus and her younger sister Mary in the village of Bethany¹. She was hospitable and in a generous moment, she had invited Jesus and a crowd of his disciples to their house for a meal. Now she was so busy, trying to make sure all her guests were comfortable, and prepare a meal for everyone. Mary, however, had sat herself down with the guests and was engrossed listening to all the conversation and to Jesus’ teaching.

This is where things started to go wrong – Martha lost her direction and now she was on her own path! Martha wanted to excel as a hostess and she became angry that Mary, her sister, wasn’t doing anything to help. So she came to Jesus, surely, he would see what was going on and insist that Mary helped her with the work?

Jesus, though, had a different perspective and gently told her that she was worried about many things, when she had no need to be, a simple meal would have been enough. In fact, Jesus went on to say, on this occasion Mary had made the right choice and what she had chosen would have lasting eternal value.

The warning signs for Martha, that she was straying off the Lord’s path, were her resentment and irritation with her sister. Whereas she had started out with the desire to serve the Lord, her motives had become self-centred and self-promoting.

Our level of irritability can be an indicator of where we are spiritually – more time spent in the Lord’s presence brings peace, less time brings pressure!

The Lord is gracious and reproves gently.

Our knowledge of Martha does not end there – later we read of an occasion where she leaves her guests to go looking for Jesus and has a private conversation with him². This creates an opportunity for Martha to make a statement of great faith, declaring her belief in the Lord.

Martha should be remembered, for far more than her mistake, as being a woman of great faith!

Thank you, Lord, that you are the restoration man. When we come to you and confess our impatience and our selfish motives, you restore completely. You do not hold our mistakes against us, we are forgiven, and we are able to move on!

Psalm 37:23-24 The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

¹Luke 10:38-42

²John 11:20-27

soaringwithhim.com Recharge Wednesday, marygeisen.com #TellHisStory, link-up.

If you enjoy reflecting on God working in and through the lives of familiar or less well known Bible characters, then check out my ‘Books’ page – There is more on the story of Martha and Mary, in Snapshots of Service, People Watching, Chapter 9 – Service versus Devotion.

Forward!

Everyone wants a forward going horse! One that will move forward, under saddle, with a natural energy and enthusiasm to go places.

Nobody wants a backward horse, that doesn’t want to work, that doesn’t want to do anything other than eat or stand and stare at the world going by.

I have a forward going horse, and when she was a youngster, I often thought her motto was “I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m going fast!” This created a lot of scary moments for me, as I struggled to communicate where we were going and the pace that I wanted to go at, the pace that was safe for the environment that we were in.….

You see that forward going energy and attitude still had to be channelled, to be directed with clear communication, otherwise it had the potential to be harmful to herself and to others. Slowly, with training, our communication improved, and her confidence grew. My horse had to learn, to trust that I would lead her in the right direction, that she could listen to me and I would keep her safe. I would not ask her to do anything, that was too difficult, that she could not do. And very importantly, for her well-being, that there was reward in listening and responding to my commands.

There is so much that we can learn from this analogy for our relationship with the Lord.

We run to Him, and then we learn to walk with Him!

To walk with perception, with understanding.

To walk with purpose, knowing where we are going.

To walk at the right pace, not running ahead with our own motives and in our own strength or fearfully, resisting and trailing behind.

There is so much more that I could say, but for today time is up, so I have to stop – and that is also important to know when to rest…..

This post is part of the Five Minute Friday link up, where you write for five minutes on the word prompt, today it is ‘forward’. https://fiveminutefriday.com/linkup/

Bird song and other Inspiration

Use what talents you possess;

the woods would be very silent

if no birds sang there

except those that sang best.

Henry Van Dyke.

There is so much bird song at the moment – I wake early every morning and listen to a unique choir, singing a new endless arrangement. They do not think about it, they are not inhibited, they do not hold back worrying about what other birds might think – it is the season for singing and so they sing! Their individual sounds ring out, sometimes discordant and sometimes creating a harmonious tune. To me, the beauty is in the unrestrained freedom, to make their own unique sound, to be themselves and not try to imitate anyone else. The season of singing, of bird song, is springtime – the hardships of winter are over, and the sun is appearing from behind the clouds. It is the season of new growth!

So I take inspiration from the quote and from the sound of the birds. I am embracing a new season, with more time and some space to tentatively try something new. I have always loved reading, studying scripture, writing my thoughts in a journal, with scribbles and notes everywhere! But it is only more recently that I have started ‘writing’ and trying to share in a way that is accessible to everyone.

In faith I am depositing my love for God’s word, in written form, in ‘the bank’ to see if it gains any interest.

I have taken that analogy from the story that Jesus tells, of a master and his relationship with his three servants. He entrusts them with his wealth, giving five bags, two bags and then one bag of gold to his servants, according to their ability. He then goes away and after a long time returns to see what has happened to his investment. The servant with five bags has managed to gain five more, also the servant with three bags has gained three more and both are commended by their master – what good servants. They had been faithful and productive; they had put to good use what they had been given. But the servant with the one bag of gold had buried it in the ground, he had just hidden it away. When questioned by his master, his explanation was, he knew his master was a hard man and so he was afraid to try and use what he had been given. He is condemned by his master, for his laziness, and told that at the very least he should have deposited the money in a bank where it could have gained interest.

What is so interesting to me about this story is that there is one master – but he is perceived by his servants in two completely different ways. Two of the servants are confident to try and put to good use what they have been given, they are not afraid of their master. But the servant who buried his gift in the ground, is ruled by fear!

Fear paralyses, love mobilises!

Fear paralyses us, for when we become fearful, we are afraid of making a mistake, afraid of getting it wrong and so afraid of messing up. When we become controlled by fear our default button is to do precisely nothing!

But we have been released from fear, we are dearly loved by God. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18

Love mobilises us, to try, to step out in faith, to even do something different that we have never done before and see where it takes us!

You see the master did not accept the servant’s excuse of being afraid, he challenged him about his lack of motivation. He should have done something, rather than just hiding his gift, he should at least have placed it in a bank, where it might have gained interest….

So we return to where we began –

Inspiration should gives us the motivation to try!

Each with our own unique gift – we are not responsible for the multiplication, for the result. Our responsibility is to enjoy using what we have been given, to the best of our ability, and to leave the rest to our Master. What a great place to be!

Strong, not Tough

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I don’t know about you, but for me it is a constant conflict of how to be strong and yet not become tough.

Strength is that deep unshakeable confidence in who you are and your ability to endure – to be consistent and true to yourself – through hardships and difficulties. I am not talking about physical strength, I am reflecting on spiritual – some might say mental – strength.

I want to be strong – not to be so easily influenced by outer circumstances, in particular by other people’s moods, by their anger or harsh words.

I don’t want to be tough – hard hearted and unfeeling, with no compassion or empathy for others. I want to be able to “rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.”

I want my heart to be protected from being hurt by others but I don’t want a tough hard heart that doesn’t let any ‘feelings’ penetrate. I need a filter!

I need the filter of God’s love – not allowing other people’s negativity to penetrate and embed into my heart and mind – discarding and throwing away the dross.

I need the filter of God’s word – which reveals to me his abundant, unfailing love and which will protect and keep my heart soft.

Do you know you can only really think about one thing at a time?

(I know we often multi-task and do more than one thing at a time, but conscious distinct thought, engaging with our emotions, is only possible one thought at a time.)

We are encouraged then by the apostle Paul to think about those things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. Because he understood the influence of our thoughts on our lives, that what occupies our minds sooner, or later, is demonstrated in our actions!

So to be strong, I need to store up the word of God, to treasure it in my heart and mind, so I can filter life’s experiences through the truth of my identity according to his word! With God’s help, I will continue to battle to be strong, but with a soft, kind heart…….

link up

Normal

I have just been out to the fields this morning to check the horses and all was peaceful. They remain unperturbed by national or global events, the cycle of the seasons remains unchanged, and the flow and pattern of life continues as normal.

But for people, for mankind, this season has been far from normal. We have experienced a completely new time, unique – that overused but so apt word – unprecedented, which took everyone by surprise. For many normal has been put on hold. Here in Wales, our normal is still ’stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives’ and people are getting understandably angry with those who do not conform and abide with that instruction. This is the normal that we have had to adapt to.

If your identity then is rooted in your normal, your work, travel, sport or social life, this can be so unsettling. You see normal is a measure of conformity – the accepted pattern of behaviour, that society sets. So without your normal, who are you?

A time, maybe, to reflect and re-evaluate what really matters.

When we love the Lord, even in the middle of uncertainty, our identity is rooted in who we are in him. We are being conformed to his image, that is our normal, we are secure in him, and everything that really matters is unchanged.

This post is the part of the Five Minute Friday link up –http://fiveminutefriday.com/linkup/

Enlarge!

Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. Isaiah 54:2

There are possibilities for growth for each one of us, where we are now within our own domain. Sometimes God asks us to stretch ourselves, to see that he has more available for us. It requires fresh vision and expectancy, to first see where the opportunity is and then the motivation to do something about it. Our faith is activated when we act, and that takes courage, to believe in God’s enabling grace towards us.

Pull up your tent peg, out of the ground, where it has been so securely embedded for so long. Now there may be a moment, when you’ve pulled that peg up, when there is a wobble – your tent is now not so secure. Don’t be tempted to just ram the peg back in the ground, in exactly the same place. Stretch yourself, reach out, extend, and place your peg in fresh ground! Those of us who have ever been camping, or put a tent up, know that sometimes you need to try more than one place for your peg. You start to push it in the ground and then you encounter a rock and it won’t go in any further or you are pushing it into loose soil and it is not secure. Then you need to move slightly and try again, a different position or a different angle.

Is this a time to reflect, to seek God for fresh opportunities?Then let the seed of this word settle in your heart and begin to sow expectancy within you. Do not be held back by fear of failure but be willing to step out in faith, to learn, to grow and enjoy the experience!