Share Four Somethings September

Loved – September

It often happens here that in August the weather breaks and can be wet’n windy and unpredictable, but it seems once the children go back to school, at the beginning of September the wind drops and the sun comes out again. I love September, there is a tranquil feeling, almost a pause, the busyness of summer, with lots of tourists around is over, and the winter storms are yet to arrive. The days are shorter but there is still light in the evenings, the temperature is cooler but not cold, inviting you to do all those ‘must do before winter comes’ outdoor chores and plans.

I have been on the beach again with my horse because it was deserted. I have walked again with friends in the popular tourist places, because there is now no-one else around. I have planted some daffodil bulbs before the ground gets too hard, trimmed some of the shrubs back, and cut the grass, hopefully, for the last time this year! The last hardy summer flowers are still bravely blooming, like us, making the most of the sunshine while it lasts!

Share Four Somethings - September
Share Four Somethings – September

ReadBonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

The big read for the last month or two has been this biography. It covers so much ground, making it a comprehensive and compelling read – I have made so many notes of great quotes which I am sure I will be using in the future! It gives insight into the background of the political climate in Germany in the early twentieth century. Also detail of the religious and spiritual climate, attempting to explain the stance that the church took in the 1930’s, how it became complicit in the actions of the Nazi party against the Jewish people. And of course the story of one man’s voice, who followed his conscience and took a stand, paying the ultimate price – a truly inspiring read.

Share Four Somethings - September
Share Four Somethings September
Share Four Somethings September
Share Four Somethings, September

The full unabridged version, all 608 pages: Available from Amazon

Or the shorter abridged version 256 pages: Available from Amazon


TreasuredCommunity

This is definitely one thing I have learnt this year, that being part of a community is important to me. How we negotiate the changes and restrictions and find new ways of connecting is a challenge – and probably different for all of us. I miss, in person fellowship, sharing and reading from God’s word together but we do have ‘online church’ and I have also found new resources, I am listening to podcasts, with lots of great teaching. I miss, corporate worship, singing together, but I have listened to, and sang along with, lots of new songs on youtube. I have joined online writing groups and found help, advice, support, encouragement and opportunities – I have found more community online than I had thought possible. So while trying to keep and develop different ways with the ‘in person’ connections, I am also embracing the newly discovered digital world!

AheadA Desk!

Well this is so difficult, because neither of the things I posted about in August have happened! This year is proving to be more and more one of change and I am slowly realising, like many others, that the changes are lasting longer and working deeper than we first thought. There are so many things that are out of my control but thank God I have the peace and assurance that come from knowing that I can place my trust in Him.

I am looking ahead to developing and doing more writing online and I have made a commitment to that by ordering a desk and a new ‘office’ chair to go with it. This means I will have to de-clutter an area in the house to create a workspace for myself – this is a new season which I am enjoying, it brings many challenges but it is also a delight!

Share Four Somethings - September
Share Four Somethings September

This post is part of the Share Four Somethings link-up.

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Your Statutes are my Heritage Forever

Your statutes are my heritage forever.
Your statutes are my heritage forever

This is our hope – our hope for today and our hope for the future!

Our heritage is not dependent on our family ancestry, on who we are or what we have done or where we come from, but rooted in accepting Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. Our background, our past life, our social status, our education, our wealth, none of these things carry any weight, they are all temporal. We are adopted into the family of God, by accepting the gift of salvation! I am a child of God, by the grace of God.

Our inheritance is a place in the new creation, which does not perish, spoil or fade for it is the gift of eternal life. This is the hope that we have, the forgiveness of our sins and our acceptance by God. This hope is kept in heaven for us, a place prepared by Jesus by His righteousness.

When a law is on or reaches the statute book, it has been formally approved and written down and can be used in a law court. God’s word, His statutes are the title deed, the covenant promise, which guarantees my place in heaven!

Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.

Psalm 119:36-37

His word is totally reliable, dependable, steadfast, true, and unchanging – I can rely on God’s word, as it never fails. His word has proved to be my rock and the foundation of my life, when everything else becomes unsure and uncertain, God’s word remains constant and true.

Psalm 119 is known as the psalm which celebrates the love for God’s ‘word’. This psalm is not declaring a love for the law, just as rules to be kept and obeyed, but as the revelation of God’s grace. It is in His word that we learn of God’s character, it is through His word that we come to know and love Him. His word is His creative power, bringing light and life, drawing us into a relationship with Him. His word is God’s covenant of grace flowing towards us, and all that we have to do is to choose to believe, to accept the promises of His word.

God’s word, His statutes, ‘are the joy of my heart’ because they are the foundation of my life now and they are my hope for the future!

This post is written as part of the Five Minute Friday writing community one word prompt, where we write for five minutes on one word. Today’s word is ‘Your’.

Some of the other link ups I join can be found here.

Daily Devotional Books

Although I love studying the Word of God for myself, I also enjoy using a daily devotional book, sometimes having a different theme or topic to follow is very refreshing. I am sharing these devotionals with you as they are all ones that I have enjoyed reading. If you are starting to think about gifts…. these would make great presents!

The Beauty Within by Rosalyn Derges – ‘Discover your God-given worth, A reflective journal.’

This book consists of 42 different ‘sessions’ spelled out in the dedication ‘for women who have a desire to grow in the likeness of Jesus and discover how beautiful they are.’ The individual themes are each about three pages – although there is space in each one, for you to write your own thoughts and comments. They all start with a scripture verse for the day and spaced through the book there are some longer reflections from the author called ‘pause and consider’. It is very much a reflective journal and you do need to set aside time to get the most out of the book. It will make a lovely gift for someone or a great daily devotional tool if you want to treat yourself!

Daily devotional book - The Beauty Within, Rosalyn Derges.
Daily devotional Book – The Beauty Within, Rosalyn Derges

Hardback book, available from Amazon UK, Amazon US

Bible Delight – Heartbeat of the Word of God: Psalm 119 for the Bible teacher and Bible hearer by Christopher Ash

This commentary on Psalm 119 is broken down into twenty two sections, making it ideal as a devotional daily reader. The author states that many people dip into Psalm 119 for ‘golden nuggets’ but it is meant to be read in its entirety, in fact it is meant to be sung! The writer identifies eight ‘word’ words in the psalm, although different translations may record variations on these: Instruction, Testimonies, Precepts, Statutes, Commandments, Judgements, Word, and Promise. These are covenant words: “and covenant is the wallpaper of the psalm; it lies behind every verse.” He refers to these words as two-way words with the first direction being grace – that these are words that create and sustain relationship. There are two questions for personal response at the end of each section, this is a great devotional for developing a love for God’s word and the psalms in particular.

Daily devotional book - Psalm 119, Christopher Ash.
Daily devotional Book – Psalm 119, Christopher Ash

Paperback book, available from Amazon UK, Amazon US

Soul Fuel – A Daily Devotional by Bear Grylls

Bear Grylls is probably best known for his TV programmes as a survival expert and an all-round adventure ‘hero’ but there is so much more than that. In this book he shares some stories of his own life and the foundation of who he is, built and developed through his faith in God. There are 360 separate entries grouped around themes, from where it all started, through hope, purpose, relationships, forgiveness, and more, until finishing with risk. Each theme starts with a page which is more of his story and then moves into the daily reflections which are all accompanied by a scripture verse or verses.

The style and image of the book is designed to appeal to boys and men, but the reflections themselves are suitable for all. This would be a great daily reader for families of boys or for any young men who are searching for answers regarding faith or the busy man who wants a short daily reading to challenge and reflect on at the start of the day.

Daily devotional Book, Soul Fuel, Bear Grylls.
Daily devotional Book, Soul Fuel, Bear Grylls

Hardback book, available from Amazon UK, Amazon US

And finally…..

Light for the Shadows, A-Z Pocketful of Promises by Sharon Hazel

This is a little booklet that I started writing seven years ago and finished in spring this year. The how and why it took so long, is explained in the prologue and epilogue of the book. I go into a little more detail about Light for the Shadows here and there is a link for a free download of the scriptures as memory cards. The book has an A-Z of encouraging scripture verses with a short reflection for each letter and is ideal as a short reflective daily reader. Available from Amazon

Daily devotional book - Light for the Shadows, Sharon Hazel
Daily devotional books

Some of the link-ups I join can be found here.

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Is Church More than Tea and Biscuits?

One of my earliest memories of church is pre-school, so I must have only been three or four years old. It was afternoon and I was in a small upstairs room at ‘The Sisterhood’ meeting with my Mum. She was playing the piano and I was sitting on the front row on a hard wooden chair for the longest time ever…Maybe I dozed because I don’t remember if Mum came back to sit next to me, or who spoke or what else happened in the meeting, until it had finished. I came to life again when the tea and biscuits were going round! The lady who was offering the biscuits made her way to me, “Would I like a biscuit, did I want the chocolate one?” Well, this was a plate of mixed biscuits, but in the middle of the plate there was one big chocolate biscuit – and of course I wanted the chocolate one! I just remember feeling favoured, that she had been so kind to offer to me, the smallest, most insignificant person there, what was so obviously the best choice!

It is strange how certain memories stay with you. By that simple act, I learnt a lesson that day about ‘church,’ of love and kindness and preferring someone else – of having the mindset of Christ Jesus. I didn’t fully understand at the time, but it made an impact because of the way it made me feel.

Is church more than tea and biscuits?
Is church more than tea and biscuits?

Some of the problems with church quite simply are that sometimes we can be like that plate of mixed biscuits, maybe we all want to be the big chocolate one, the one who stands out! Or actually we don’t want to be in a plate of mixed biscuits at all, we want everyone else to be a custard cream, or a pink wafer, just like us….

“The church we want becomes the enemy of the church we have” Eugene Peterson

Church life, in the community of other believers, often among the tea and biscuit moments, is where we grow up in Christ, it is where we learn and where we mature – hopefully!

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.

Philippians 2:3-5

This post is written as part of the Five Minute Friday writing prompt – to write for five minutes on one word. This week’s word is ‘Church.’

Some of the other link-ups I join can be found here

Featured Image Photo by Matt Bottsford on Unsplash

Is true encouragement investing in the lives of others?

True encouragement is anything that we do to help, and spur each other on, in our journey of faith. Kind and thoughtful words can be a blessing but to have a lasting effect, our words and our actions need to point to the Lord. Sometimes it is simply the practical things that we can do for each other, that have an impact.

What does the phrase ‘investing in the lives of others’ mean to you?

The definition of invest, is to put money or time into something or someone with the hope and expectation that there will be a profitable return.

God’s ways, though, are so different. His word teaches us that we are to give and serve others without expecting anything in return.

True encouragement invests in the lives of others!
True encouragement invests in the lives of others!

Our attitude, in all that we do, should be that we are serving the Lord, and to give without expectation of return, to place the outcome of our service in His hands. I believe, though, when we are serving in that way, God who is gracious and kind blesses us in His way and perfect timing.

Keep company with God, get in on the best. Open up before God, keep nothing back; he’ll do whatever needs to be done: He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day and stamp you with approval at high noon.

Psalm 37: 4-6 MSG

In the last couple of posts we have been following the story of Barnabas from his introduction in Acts 4 as the ‘son of encouragment’ who demonstrated that true encouragement flows with generosity, to a couple of years later in Acts 9 where he is willing to take a risk and show true encouragement when he reaches out in friendship to Saul.

Now in Acts 11 we’ve moved on 4-5 years. The gospel has spread out from Jerusalem, due to the persecution of the church many believers have left the city. In the towns where they settled, they shared the gospel. Some men from Cyprus and Cyrene went to Antioch, at that time a Greek city, and they began to share their faith with the locals there – this was significant, because these people were Gentiles. A great number of people believed and turned to the Lord – and they were being blessed. The news of what was happening travels back to the church in Jerusalem – and the leaders there wanted to know more!

Barnabas had a good reputation among the church in Jerusalem and when they needed to send someone to investigate, someone without prejudice, who would be able to view the situation impartially, they turn to him. He was willing to travel, and to put himself out to serve the leaders in this way.

Antioch was approximately 300 miles North of Jerusalem and whether you enjoy travelling now or not, it was a whole different undertaking in the first century. Would you be prepared to walk that far? The average walking rate was 20 miles a day – so Barnabas could get to Antioch in about 15 days…

When Barnabas arrived in Antioch and saw what God was doing, he was glad for the people there and encouraged them in the faith “to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts”.  This is the only time in scripture that we have a quote of Barnabas speaking ‘encouraging words’ –  words of true encouragement which point people to the Lord!

Barnabas realised that there was a need for teaching in this new ‘church’ and he remembered Saul, who loved to preach the gospel. Saul had left Jerusalem about five years earlier, for his own safety, and gone back to his hometown of Tarsus. And so Barnabas is willing to travel further, back on the road to Tarsus to find Saul and bring him to Antioch. Barnabas did not look for self-promotion, but looked at how the need in this new fellowship of believers could be best met. He considered others above himself.

Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Philippians 2:3-4 MSG

Barnabas was willing to invest in the lives of others – to put in time and effort to encourage the new believers in Antioch, but also to ‘remember’ Saul – who would be ideally suited for this new work, as God had chosen him to be a ‘light to the Gentiles’.

If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else – Booker T Washington

It was here in Antioch, as Barnabas and Saul co-worked together, for over a year, that they experienced a real time of peace and blessing. The new church was hospitable towards them and they taught a substantial crowd – a time of stability and friendship. Barnabas was blessed for his willingness to serve faithfully, in whatever task came next!

Investing in the lives of others
Investing in the lives of others!

God reveals His plans to us one step at a time. “We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it.” Proverbs 16:9 MSG

When Barnabas took a risk five years previously to reach out to Saul and offer him friendship, he had no idea of the significance. When he set off for Antioch, to report on what was happening there, he had no idea of where it would lead. He willingly invested in the lives of others and at the same time God was investing His plans and purposes in him. As he served God faithfully in what was before him, God broadened his service, new opportunities came his way, and his ministry also grew.

The move to Antioch would be significant for both Barnabas and Saul – later on it would be from here that their ministry would develop further, and they would be sent out together, as missionaries to Cyprus….

Some of the link-ups I join can be found here

Could I, Would I, Should I Do This?

Could I? Would I? Should I?

This post is written as part of the Five Minute Friday writing prompt – to write for five minutes on one word. This week’s word is ‘Could.’

Could you? Questions your capability.

Would you? Questions your willingness.

Should you? Questions obligation or correctness…

Could, would and should, do they all have to be an affirmative before we respond and take on any new task? Life is full of choices, some big and some small, but they all take our most precious commodity, limited and un-replaceable time!

Of course it is all about priorities and because I have been reflecting on how we walk recently – choose to walk in love and freedom – my prayer is Lord, help me to walk in step with the Spirit and so to make wise choices.

To know that when God prompts us to do something, we do not have to rely on our own capability, that in fact we can step out confidently in faith, God will equip and enable us to do what He call us to do.

To know that God looks for the willing, for the fully committed, not for the most highly skilled or capable person but for those who will say, ‘Here am I’

To know what is right in God’s sight, to know our duty, and to be obedient to the guidance and direction of His word.

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

Galatians 5:10

Now I have some time available this afternoon, it is a cool, grey very windy day here, what could I, would I, should I do? My family have asked me to make some ginger biscuits…well that one is an easy choice!

Some of the other link-ups I join can be found here

Is Encouragement Important in Friendship?

Friendships are formed when we are willing to give our time and attention to another person and encouragement is all about giving! It is a gift that we can develop to help build relationships, in our churches, workplace, and social groups. Are we prepared to reach out and make others welcome? What about those whom we don’t always agree with, or those who may have offended or hurt us in some way, or even those who are very different to us?

A friend may be waiting behind a stranger's face  - Maya Angelou
“A friend may be waiting behind a stranger’s face”
Quote by Maya Angelou

One definition of encourage, by the Cambridge English dictionary, is ‘to make someone more likely to do something, and to make something more likely to happen.’ Would you act as an intermediary, would you be willing to reach out and offer the hand of friendship to someone no-one else wanted to associate with? If it was someone who had very publicly been outspoken, with opposing views to your own?

Encouragement in action, bridges the gap, spans the divide and draws people together.

I love the fact that in the early church there is an example for us of a man who had a heart for encouragement and who was willing to take a risk to reach out and draw the outsider in – that man of course was Barnabas. The same person who in ‘Is encouragement more than just kind words’ demonstrated true generosity, through financial giving, in response to the needs of others!

A couple of years later, we can read an account in Acts 9:26-30 of Saul returning to Jerusalem, sometime after his conversion, when he had to flee for his life from Damascus. The believers in Jerusalem did not seem to be aware of his dramatic turnaround, from being a persecutor of Christians to a follower of Jesus, and they were wary and suspicious of him, understandably so! This was the same Saul who had tried to destroy the church, who had arrested Christians, forcibly dragged them from their homes and put them in prison.

Saul tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him.

Barnabas however brought Saul to the apostles. He acted as an intermediary, he did not have to, he chose to. Then he acted as a spokesman for Saul, he told his story so that he was accepted. Barnabas was generous this time in forgiveness and, more than that, in friendship. He was willing to take a risk and reach out to Saul.

He believed in Saul’s story, when everyone else was still afraid of him.

Barnabas gave freely of his time and risked his own reputation to champion Saul, a man who was disliked and feared. He made the introductions and a former enemy became accepted as a friend.

Three ways how Barnabas’ act of friendship was also a practical act of encouragement:

  1. To encourage Saul, that it would be possible to leave his past behind, that God’s love and forgiveness were real and evidenced within the church.
  2. To encourage unity in the church, even when it involves costly and sacrificial love.
  3. To encourage faith in the church and among the people of Jerusalem – what a witness and testimony of the forgiveness of God and reconciliation at work.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Colossians 3:13-14

Remember at this time the church in Jerusalem was predominantly Jewish – the ministry of reconciliation that God was calling them to was only just beginning, there was a further work of welcoming the outsiders in, still to be accomplished – praise God!

Sometimes a situation needs an intermediary, someone to act and do something. Barnabas bridged the gap between the former persecutor of the church and the believers in Jerusalem. Fear was replaced with forgiveness and more than that, with friendship, with new bonds of unity, being one in Spirit, faith and purpose.

True encouragement forges bonds of friendship!

Encouragement is an important part of any friendship, especially when it is demonstrated by our actions! By being willing to be the intermediary Barnabas became a true friend to Saul, which would become significant later.

We can all develop the gift of encouragement. We may have to be more creative in how we can encourage each other in these particular times but after all ‘meeting together’ doesn’t just happen in a church building… If we choose to make ourselves Available by being open to the prompting of the Spirit and we have the right Attitude in that we are willing to make it happen, there will be Access an opportunity to offer friendship – to share God’s love in a despairing and increasingly needy world.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Hebrews 10:24
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds….

Some of the link-ups I join can be found here

Is Encouragement More Than Just Kind Words?

If we are honest, we all like kind and encouraging words, and sometimes that is enough – a kind word can lift someone up and make a difference, even change their day for the better. But there are also times when words alone are not enough to encourage or make a difference, there is a need for practical help and we may be just the one who is able to give it!

In the early church the apostles recognised the gift of encouragement in Joseph of Cyprus. He was a Levite who had converted to be a follower of Jesus Christ, who was living in Jerusalem and a member of the early church. This man was such an example of someone with the gift of encouragement that the apostles changed his name, I suppose we would say they gave him a ‘nickname’, a name that they felt described him perfectly – Barnabas which means ‘son of encouragement’.

At this time in the early church, we are told that no-one was in need as ‘the believers shared all that they had.’ There was such unity among them that those who had land or property sold what they had and brought the money to the apostles to be shared out to those in need. Barnabas sold a field that he owned and brought all the money to the apostles laying it at their feet. This was a symbolic act of reverence, showing his respect for their authority and his trust in them, to act fairly and to care for those in need.

Is encouragement more than just kind words? "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had." Acts 4:32
Is encouragement more than just kind words?

His gift was also a declaration of faith and trust in God to provide for all his needs in the future. The field may well have been his financial security, set aside for his old age as his pension pot! He showed his full commitment to God by what he did. His love and trust in God were greater than his love of money and possessions.

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Hebrews 13:5

This wholehearted giving and trust in God, is something to reflect on and learn from. To keep our lives free of ‘the love of money’ may be more of a challenge today as society has become so much more materialistic. And the balance of being a good steward and planning and preparing, when the future is becoming more uncertain, means that many are having to make difficult adjustments. God, however, does not change, He is still the One who provides for all our needs!

Whether we have a natural gifting as an encourager or not, we can all be challenged to develop the gift of encouragement. This story of Barnabas’ generosity in Acts 4, is a testimony about the gift of giving and giving generously, but it is also our introduction to the character of Barnabas. I do not think it is coincidental that the one who is held up as an example of being a great encourager, by his actions, teaches us about giving!

  • True encouragement is a practical action, which always has a cost.
  • True encouragement overflows, into all the other gifts – prophecy, service, teaching, giving, leading, and even mercy.
  • True encouragement is all about giving generously. In fact –

True encouragement flows with generosity!

Barnabas responded to a need that he saw right in front of him, and revealed what was in his heart – obedience, generosity and trust in God. Today, because of the media, we are often bombarded with ‘need’ and the danger is that we can become hardhearted, and we can switch off to responding. But God may touch our hearts and test us in that way, to give to a local cause, a need that develops in our own community, or even further afield. It might not be a grand gesture that is needed, just a regular commitment, to stretch ourselves and give over and above what we might feel is required of us, so that we bless and encourage someone else’s ministry….

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:19-21

God will not ask us to give what we have not got, only what we already have in our hand, and as we prove faithful in small ways God will open further opportunities for us!

Three ways how Barnabas’ act of generosity was also a practical act of encouragement:

  1. Barnabas encouraged the apostles by his obedience to their teaching.
  2. His generous giving encouraged those who were in need.
  3. The practical outworking of God’s love encouraged the unity among all the believers – “let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)

Barnabas did not start out as an evangelist or a missionary – but that was what he became! He started with a servant heart, willing to respond to the immediate need before him, and he went on from strength to strength. At each step he showed his obedience and his willingness, to serve the Lord by encouraging others, and God blessed him and multiplied his ministry.

“Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.”

Ecclesiastes 11:1

To hold onto the things of this world lightly is a challenge for us all – are we willing to be good stewards, faithful with God’s blessings, to pass on and share what we have received? Are we willing to really encourage, to help, assist and lift others up, even if it is at great cost, risk, or inconvenience to ourselves?

Join with me, in making this prayer personal, that we might be gracious and become bringers of encouragement in the truest sense, to those that God places in our path… May our Lord Jesus who loves us so much, and by His grace gives us hope for the future, encourage our hearts and strengthen us in every good deed and word – all for God’s praise and glory! Amen.

Some of the link-ups I join can be found here

Choose To Walk in Love and Freedom

Choose to walk in love, in the wide place - this is the way, walk in it, in the promises of God.
Choose to Walk in Love in the Wide Place!

My husband has recently recovered from a broken foot and has started walking again, by which I mean going out for longer walks rather than just hobbling around the house. We are blessed that we can go for a hike straight from home, on country lanes and open cliff paths along the coast. Yesterday, on quite a warm day he decided he was going to do an eight mile, three hour, walk over the mountain – it is more of a hill really, but still quite hard work. I did have a valid reason why I could not go with him, but to be honest I did not really feel like doing that long a walk. It got me thinking about walking though and our motivation for doing it – I quite easily identified four different types of walkers, although there may be many more!

  1. Necessary – walking is not a conscious choice; it is not something I choose to do, it is just part of life.
  2. Exercise – I am counting my daily steps as part of my health and fitness programme, so I walk whenever I can to reach my target.
  3. Purposeful hiker – I love a challenge and going somewhere new. I prepare well, I know my exact route, the length and time it will take and make sure that I am equipped with everything I need.
  4. Pleasure or leisure stroller – I enjoy walking with friends when I have the time – it is more about the company, than where we are going.

I am more of a four, and my husband is definitely a two – he has one of those watches that tell your heart rate, the distance you’ve walked, the time it’s taken and even how many calories burned! Maybe you recognise yourself as one of those walking types?

In scripture walking is frequently used as an image to represent our behaviour, as believers, in our relationship with God. We recognise that we are on a journey of faith, our salvation is not static, we keep seeking, and we keep on following the Lord. Without taking the analogy too far, we need aspects of all four of those ‘walking’ images in our response to God, and his call on our life.

Choose To Walk in Love

Necessary – It is essential that we walk with the Lord throughout our day, that he is not assigned to just a part of our day or week but that we abide in him. Jesus taught that the only way for us to be fruitful, the only way to thrive is by remaining in him, and the way that we do that is through obeying his commands. And his command is that we love one another, that we walk in the way of love, even as he did.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Ephesians 4:32-5:2

Choose to Walk in the Word

Exercise – We also need spiritual discipline, to set in place those practices for maintaining a healthy heart, so that we can keep in step with the Spirit. Our desire for a relationship with the Lord does not come from head knowledge alone, but from receiving and responding to the word and allowing it to penetrate our heart. To be able to walk well, we need to train and develop a spiritually healthy heart, as it does not come naturally, our emotions can so easily deceive us. It requires giving the time to read the word, pray over the word, meditate and reflect on the word, so that it permeates your very being!

Purpose driven – To walk in the way of the word requires godly determination. There can be challenges along the way, which take us out of our comfort zone, to places that we never thought we would visit. This is when we need to know the truth of the word, and be listening to God’s voice and not our feelings. We may have a plan, but the exact route is known by God, and we place our confidence in his word, rather than our feelings, which will prevent us from straying off the path and losing our way.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Psalm 119:105

Choose to Walk in the Wide Place.

God’s word is where he reveals to us his character, and so we seek to know him through his word. It is there that we find our assurance of his love and grace towards us, our identity and security, that enables us to walk in freedom, in the wide place. This is not always an easy journey, we may be called to love sacrificially, there may be trials that will test our fitness and endurance but we have the promise of God’s grace, given in answer to prayer, to uphold and enable us to stay on the path.

“I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts.”

Psalm 119:45 ESV

Pleasure – To walk with God is our delight, the desire of our heart and the joy of our soul. Our walk with God, should always be about the privilege of the experience. Spending time in the presence of God, listening for his voice, seeing and being amazed at the wonders of his love – and being able to share that with others, along the way!

Walk in the good way -  in the way of love, in the word of God  and in the wide open space of  his grace!
Choose to walk in the good way – in the way of love and freedom

Walk in the good way – in the way of love, in the word of God and in the wide open space of his grace!

Wide Open Spaces by The Sound of Wales

Some other link-ups I join can be found here

When to be Loud!

The most common use of the word loud is for a high or strong volume of sound, but that is not the only application. We also use loud to describe some colours, the ones that we think are bold, brash and vibrant. In a similar way we may say someone has a loud personality, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are always noisy, but that they are flamboyant, attracting attention, and very noticeable.

From the tone of my writing you may have gathered that I am more naturally a quiet, reflective person – particularly first thing in the morning!

When to be loud!
When to be loud!

I’m on the same page as the writer of this proverb – in the morning I prefer peace and quiet while I have my first cup of coffee, there is an invisible ‘do not disturb’ sign on my forehead. Just because I am up and functioning, does not mean that I am fully awake, it takes time before I am able to engage and start responding….

We all have our own personality type which are equally valued and accepted in God’s sight. He made each one of us uniquely, and just as in His creation we see the loud and flamboyant, the small and exquisite, the ordinary but essential, and each has their value and their place….

I am trying to embrace the loud, it doesn’t come naturally, so for me, it is easier at some times and places, than at others!

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. Psalm 98:4

If I am going to be loud, then more than anything else, let me be loud today in praising the Lord! Will you join me?

This post is part of the Five Minute Friday writing community link-up, where we write for five minutes on a one word prompt. Today’s word is ‘loud’.

Some of the other link-ups I join can be found here

Enlargement

Enlargement – See Possibilities, Not Restrictions.

In the New Testament there are two different Greek words for the ‘word’ of God, one is ‘logos’ and the other is ‘rhema’. The word ‘logos’ is used as the constant written word of God, which if we are willing and open to receive, will speak to us, in some way, every time we read the Scriptures. The rhema word is a Greek word which literally means ‘an utterance’ or ‘something said’ so the rhema word is understood to be ‘God’s word spoken to you’ at this present moment. This can be when a particular word of Scripture speaks specifically into your situation, when reading or praying, it is received as being pertinent to your circumstance and speaking to you personally – bringing encouragement or even a challenge!

The understanding then is that the ‘logos’ word, speaks to us in a more general sense on a daily basis but that on occasion we can receive a ‘rhema’ word. Some people may make no distinction between the ‘rhema’ or ‘logos’ word, accepting that God’s word is powerful whenever it is known (knowledge) and received (felt or experienced).

From my own experience, I believe that sometimes you can be reading a familiar passage of Scripture, something that you may have read many times before, and suddenly it appears to have a real personal significance, and you apply the truth directly to your life and situation. I know that there are a couple of memorable times, when I have had this experience. The first time it was a word of instruction, of comfort and hope, a verse to hold onto through a dark and difficult time in my life. The second time it was a verse that challenged me to change my perspective and have a different view of my circumstances and situation – it was in fact to see that there was a new beginning ahead for me, full of possibilities!

If you’d like to read more, clink on the link to read my guest post on Anchored Voices. Their current theme is ‘How this verse changed me’ and the post I have written is called ‘A New Beginning’. I hope you will join me there….

Some of the link-ups I join can be found here.

Share Four Somethings August

Something Loved –

Well I did mention briefly last time that we were hoping that my eldest son would be able to come over from Northern Ireland for a visit, and he did! Only for a few days, but it was good to be able to spend time together. We didn’t do anything in particular, lots of sitting around chatting and having ‘favourite’ meals, a BBQ lunch of freshly caught mackerel, a roast dinner on Sunday, and plenty of home baking! The weather was mainly dry and sunny which really helps with visiting other family members in an outdoor space. Then, all too quickly, it was time to take him back to the port for the ferry – hoping and praying that now the non-essential travel restriction has been lifted it won’t be so long before we meet up again!

Something Read –

Bible Delight Heartbeat of the Word of God, Psalm 119 – CHRISTOPHER ASH

I have really enjoyed reading this commentary on Psalm 119 – it is broken down into twenty two sections, making it ideal as a daily reader. The author states that many people dip into Psalm 119 for ‘golden nuggets’ and I must admit that I have been guilty of doing so, some of my favourite scriptures come from this psalm. It has been a long time since I read it through from beginning to end. The writer identifies eight ‘word’ words in the psalm, although different translations may record variations on these: Instruction, Testimonies, Precepts, Statutes, Commandments, Judgements, Word, and Promise. These are covenant words: “And Covenant is the wallpaper of the psalm; it lies behind every verse.” He refers to these words as two-way words and the first direction is grace – that these are words that create and sustain relationship. I thoroughly enjoyed going through this study – the book could also be used for a small group, and there are two questions for reflection/discussion at the end of each section. Available from Amazon

Pile of Books, The Bible for Everyone –
John Goldingay & Tom Wright.

I am reading my way through a number of different books, but I haven’t finished them yet – so maybe more on those next time…. I am also trying ‘The Bible for Everyone’ a new translation – at the moment I am reading it alongside my favourite NIV Study Bible and comparing the two.

Something Treasured –

Psalm 16:6

I love the beauty of the countryside here in Wales, the quality of the light on the coast, the beautiful beaches and the backdrop of the mountains. I love all of the seasons, for different reasons, August is the month for blackberry picking, they grow wild in the hedgerows, and it is a common site to see families out with their containers collecting – a time of purple stained fingers and scratched hands! Our family’s favourite is blackberry and apple crumble pudding and I have recently discovered a blackberry crumble topped cake – ice cream is optional!

Blackberry Crumble Cake
Mia – Knabstrupper Mare

And I love in this ‘summer’ weather relaxing by meandering along the country lanes on horseback – a different pace of life and a great way to view the countryside.

Something Ahead –

Looking forward to the return of Church life and also returning to work….

Our Church has met outdoors in a small group, but difficult with our unpredictable weather – the last few days we have caught Storm Ellen, so although mild, it has been very wet and windy! Hoping and praying, that we will get back in the building soon, and that we will be able to restart our Ladies group, among other things! I co-lead the Ladies group and we had been having a breakfast meeting, and studying a book together, so in the near future, we could forgo the breakfast and be solely a ‘bookgroup’. We had started a study on ‘Catching Contentment’ – following Liz Carter’s study guide, highly recommend this book Amazon UK Amazon US

Catching Contentment Liz Carter

It could generate some interesting conversations in how we have applied contentment to the last few months!

I will also be returning to work in September, after being off for six months, due to the Covid pandemic. Of course things will have changed, where I work, the way that I work and even who I work with is going to be different – one colleague has decided to retire and will not return at all. But I am looking forward to going back as it is another step into our new normal and I feel that it is time to embrace the changes and move on!

This post is part of the Share Four Somethings link-up.

Some of the other link ups I join can be found here

Anyone interesting in reading more about Mia – my Knabstrupper (Danish Warmblood Spotted Horse) check out these posts, Forward and Worth. I am sure she will continue to make occasional appearances in my writing!

I participate in the Amazon Associates Programme, designed to provide a means for my site to earn advertising fees. If you click on the link to go directly to Amazon (as above) and you decide to buy any of these books, I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Mercy

Mercy is a love that knows no boundaries.

In June our national newspapers all showed one particular picture taken at a Black Lives Matter event, which had descended from a peaceful protest into a violent riot between opposition groups and the police. The picture was of a black man carrying over his shoulder an injured white man, getting him out of trouble, to a safe place where he could be treated and cared for. The papers chased up this story, for among all the anger and violence it gave ‘a glimmer of hope’. A modern day good Samaritan.

In Luke’s gospel an expert on the law, questioned Jesus regarding what should be done to inherit eternal life. Jesus answered by asking him what was written in the law, and the man’s reply was:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbour as yourself.” 

Luke 10:27

Jesus confirmed that he had given the right answer, but then the expert pushed the question further and asked, who is my neighbour? In reply Jesus told the story of a man – a Jewish man – travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On this lonely road the man was attacked, robbed, beaten and left for dead. But there were other people also travelling on the same road and the ones who would have been expected to stop and help him passed by on the other side. The person least likely to help, was a Samaritan – people whom the Jews looked down on and despised – and yet he was the one who stopped and put himself out to help, with considerable effort and personal expense!

Jesus then asked the expert on the law: “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The man answers “The one who had mercy on him” Jesus replies “Go and do likewise”

For a long time I understood mercy to mean forgiveness and the withholding of a justly deserved punishment, but in this story, Jesus teaches that it is all that, but it is also much more than that….

Mercy is a love that knows no boundaries.

A love that reaches out, even with a small act of compassion, to those with whom one might strongly disagree, and has a powerful impact on all those who witness it!

Can we imagine the power to bring change, if we could be more merciful to one another?

This post is part of the Five Minute Friday writing community link-up, where we write for five minutes on a one word prompt. Today’s word is ‘mercy’.

Some of the other link-ups I join can be found here

Right

Quote from Philippians 4:8

This post is part of the Five Minute Friday writing community link-up where we write for five minutes on a one word prompt. Today’s word is ‘right’.

This verse immediately came to mind:

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 of praiseworthy – think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

We tend to think that ‘positive’ thinking and ‘mindfulness’ are something new, that they are twenty first century concepts, but that is not the case. The importance of our thought life has been recognised from the wisdom of Solomon onward and this verse is taken out of a letter by the apostle Paul to the Church in Philippi. Paul, himself, was a prisoner in Rome at the time that he wrote this letter. The city of Philippi was a prosperous Roman colony but the new Christian Church was experiencing a time of opposition and even persecution. When you look at some of the themes of the letter, you begin to understand that actually they were going through some tough times. In the final chapter of the letter Paul writes to rejoice in the Lord, not to be anxious about anything and then ‘finally’ he encourages and exhorts the people to concentrate their thoughts on what is right. Paul understood the influence of our thought’s – what we allow to occupy our minds, will eventually affect what we say and what we do!

Sometimes we have to make a choice, if we are to rejoice in the Lord, we need to remember His love, faithfulness and promises to us, which will bring joy and strength to our spirits. If we are not to be anxious about anything, we need to bring our anxieties to God in prayer – and then leave them with Him, believing that He hears and care for us, and that we can receive His peace. If we want to live a life that is morally and spiritually pleasing to God, then we need to think on what is right! The right here is what is just, what is righteous in God’s sight, not other people’s – that is what we need to think on and put into practice…

A lie doesn’t become truth, wrong doesn’t become right, and evil doesn’t become good, just because it’s accepted by a majority. (Booker T. Washington)

And stop….

Some of the other link-ups I join can be found here.

Faith Comes by Hearing

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

My son is visiting from Northern Ireland this week, which is a real blessing, as we don’t see enough of him. It is his birthday at the end of the month, so I have a gift ready so he can take it back with him. Although he might be pleased to receive a gift, the only way for him to be really blessed is for him to open it and to make good use of what we have given him. There will be a card with some money inside, so that he can choose to spend it on what he really needs! What a waste it would be if he took the gift, and put it away somewhere without ever opening it!

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. We first receive the gift of faith, when we hear and respond to the word of God, but that is just the beginning of our journey.

We have all been given a gift or gifts, and a measure of faith distributed by God, to enable us to fulfill the role that we have been called to in the body of Christ, according to the grace given to us. (Romans 12:3-8)

Consider the story of the widow of Zarephath – a woman who responded to the word of God with obedience, and by faith used the gift that she had been given. In 1 Kings chapter 17 God directs Elijah to a town called Zarephath, during a time of drought, and He directs a widow there to provide for him. This woman has endured a season of great difficulty, she has a young son to look after and because of the drought the country has been hit by famine. By the time she meets with Elijah she is collecting fuel to cook the small amount of food that she has left – this is going to be their last meal.

Yet her heart is still soft, and she responds with obedience to the word of God spoken by Elijah. She recognises him as a man of God, and when she hears the word of God through His prophet, she responds – not just with words but with obedience. She was listening well…. Listening Skills

“And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.”

2 John 1:6

She is willing to take the little she has and offer a meal first to Elijah, and then by faith to believe that there will still be enough for her and her son.

It should be easy to give and to share out of our surplus, but how much harder is it to share out of our own portion, when we are called to give sacrificially…

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

She only has a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug, such a small amount, but the word of God for her at this time is to believe in His supernatural provision. What she has will be sufficient, her supplies will not run out, until the drought has ended.

Her jar and jug would be made of pottery, not glass, so she would not be able to see what was in there – but each day she was to trust in God that when she put her hand in the jar there would be enough flour and when she went to pour from the jug there would be enough oil! Truly walking in faith, and daily depending on God, to exercise her gift of hospitality.

Our faith is strengthened and grows in use, it does not grow in storage!

Faith is not a feeling, it is taking God at his word.

We can be honest with God about our feelings, but despite how we are feeling, take him at His word. When we do and put our trust in God, he provides not just for our physical needs, but also for our emotional and spiritual needs. Fear is replaced by faith as we start to step out and use the gifts that He has given us.

“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

2 Timothy 1:6-7
  • Faith is received by hearing and responding to the Word of God.
  • Faith is choosing to obey and trust in God, even through the difficult and desperate times.
  • Faith is being willing to use the gift that we have been given in the service of God.
  • Faith is sacrificial giving – with a generous spirit.
  • Faith is confidence in God – in His goodness and faithfulness to us.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10:23

Prayer: Lord help me in faith, to choose to take you at your word. Help me to trust in you in those times when I can’t see the way forward. Release me from the restrictions of fear into the abundance of your grace and the freedom of your love. Help me to be willing to respond to the needs of others, and to use the gifts that you have given, for your praise and glory. Amen.

Some other link-ups I join can be found here.

Progress

Wales Pixabay Free Images

This article is written for the Five Minute Friday writing community link-up, where we write for five minutes on a one word prompt. Today’s word is ‘progress’.

Start…

When you walk in the mountains you keep your eyes fixed ahead, on where you are going, but uphill is hard work, so occasionally you stop and turn round to look back on how far you have come and that encourages you to press on! The hardest mountain walk I have done was a ridge walk, and the reason it was so tough was because you lost sight of your destination! There would be a peak in front of you and after a lot of effort and hard work you got to the top of the peak, but that was not the summit, you went down again, dropping maybe 1,000ft and then back up another hill, hoping that the top of that peak was going to be the summit, but no it wasn’t, down and then up again…..

Progress can only be measured in relation to your destination.

To progress on our journey of faith, we need to keep our eyes fixed on our destination, that one day we will be with the Lord and then we will be like Him. Right now we are a work in progress – the work that God is doing within our hearts and lives, and although some may say that is invisible, there will be an outer working, which over time slowly becomes visible as we are changed.

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

1 John 3:2

We are all on a journey through life, some may be on a straight hill walk and making steady progress, others may be enduring the ridge walk. Whatever the path, to progress on this spiritual journey we need to participate in God’s grace. We cannot take control, it is not possible to do it alone, the only way to receive our strength is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

Hebrews 12: 1b-2a

and Stop….

I’ve added a beautiful version of an old song….

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

Thrive Where You are Planted

During the summer months the roadside grass verges, and even the lower slopes of the mountains, are full of these bright orange to red flowers. They add a beautiful splash of colour and thrive among the brambles, gorse, and heather. I planted some in my garden, confident that they would grow well, and I was surprised to find out that they are not native to Wales!

Crocosmia Monbretia is a flowering plant from the iris family, Iridaceae. It is native to the grasslands of southern and eastern Africa, ranging from South Africa to the Sudan. (Wikipedia)

How did these flowers, which originate in Africa, end up thriving in Wales? I do not have the answer to that – but the evidence is all around that they are blooming in a totally different climate!

“Truly charity has no limit; for the love of God has been poured into our hearts by His Spirit dwelling in each one of us, calling us to a life of devotion and inviting us to bloom in the garden where He has planted and directing us to radiate the beauty and spread the fragrance of His Providence.”

Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva (1567-1622)

What beautiful words, unchanged by time in their relevance, and the powerful truth that they declare:

  • ‘Truly charity has no limit’ An unusual phrase to apply to ourselves but the truth is we are in desperate need of God’s charity, we are ‘poor in spirit’, we need a Saviour for there is nothing that we can do to save ourselves.
  • When we recognise our desperate need of God, then we are ready to receive the gift of His grace and for the love of God to be poured into our hearts as we receive the Holy Spirit.
  • God then calls us to a life of devotion – chosen to love because He first loved us.
  • God invites us to bloom where He has planted us – not to survive but to thrive, to demonstrate His abundance.
  • God directs us to shine for Him and to be a sweet aroma – revealing His provision and making His presence known to those around us.

I believe that God has placed us where we are intentionally, you are where you are not by chance, but for a reason. There may be times when God directs and move us to another place or location – but wherever God places us, that is the place where we can choose to bloom and thrive in Him!

We can flourish when we are willing to trust in God wherever He has placed us:

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8

In this season, where there are many changes to negotiate and many uncertainties to be faced, we can be secure when we remain steadfast in the Lord. When our roots go deep, to sustain us with His ‘living water’ so that we are secure and strong even when difficult testing times come.

Life may be insecure, and change may be unsettling, but we can be secure in God in His intentional plan and purpose for our lives.

Even when circumstances take away and remove all our choices, and dictate where we are to live and what our future is going to be? That is a challenging thought and one we would not want to face, but when everything else is stripped away what remains is our foundation.

Daniel is our inspirational example of thriving where you are planted, that is, being the fullness of who God created you to be, regardless of the situation that you find yourself in.

In Daniel chapter one, we find the story of a young man whose country and city had been defeated in battle and he had been taken as a prisoner to a foreign land. Daniel was part of the first deportation of ‘the nobles and members of the royal family’ from Jerusalem to Babylon. The victorious king Nebuchadnezzar had claimed, as spoils of war, the treasures from the Temple, and the most educated and able of the young people to serve him in his kingdom.

Daniel may well have expected to be a leader, a successful man in Jerusalem, his own city, free to worship at the Temple, the place of God’s presence, making his own decisions and choices for his life. Instead he is in Babylon, having lost his freedom, he is now to be trained in a different culture, language, and tradition for three years, to prepare him to serve a foreign king – his enemy. He has even been given a new name – everything had been taken from him, nothing remained.

Nothing remained of all that Daniel had externally, but Daniel had integrity, a love and faith in God that remained as his foundation. A testing time came, potentially as an issue of faith which could compromise his beliefs, and God gave Daniel the wisdom to make right choices. As Daniel stood this test and proved God’s faithfulness, God then blessed him with knowledge and understanding, of all kinds of literature and learning, with the ability to understand visions and dreams, which brought advancement.

What does Daniel teach us about thriving where we are planted? What lessons can we learn regarding keeping our integrity and staying true to who we are, wherever we are placed?

  • Not to compromise with the truth of our identity – which is rooted in the love of God.
  • Not to compare ourselves with others – either with those who we think are in a better place, or with those around us who are making different choices to our own, but to be secure in God’s love for us, revealed through His word.
  • Not to complain about our circumstances – there is power in our words – but to keep a thankful and grateful heart, by praising God for who He is. Grumbling and complaining show a lack of trust in the goodness of God and will prevent us from thriving in Him – our roots will become twisted, and knotted, stopping the ‘living water’ from flowing, and we will become stunted and unable to grow…

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.

Philippians 2:14-16

We can ask God for wisdom – which He has promised to give freely to any that ask – so that we make wise choices to thrive where He has placed us, rooted in His love, revealed through His word.

Rather than the environment changing us, let us become atmosphere changers and bring the sweet aroma of God’s presence to wherever we are – all for His praise and glory!

Thriving and blooming!

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

3 Good Reads for Summer!

There is nothing more relaxing than being on holiday, and sitting in the sun with something good to read! It could well be that this year the first two are not an option – but wherever you find yourself, create a little space to escape with a great book. These three stories are all inspirational, of overcoming in impossibly difficult circumstances. They tell of those who in the middle of a civil war, extreme poverty, injustice and severe opposition, testify to God’s faithfulness and miraculous answer’s to prayer.

The Night The Angels Came – Chrissie Chapman

This story is set in Burundi, a small country in Africa, and is primarily a story of faith, of one woman responding to the need in front of her, of doing what she can and then seeing God do the impossible. Chrissie is a qualified midwife, who initially goes out to Burundi to open a maternity clinic and dispensary in a rural area of the country. After only three years, the government is overthrown, a coup is declared, and the country descends into civil war, which has a devastating effect on the poverty-stricken population. Chrissie finds herself responding to the overwhelming need around her by providing a home for abandoned babies.

“We are called to be extraordinary and because of Jesus we can walk in the fullness of the life He has called us to live and be the people He has called us to be.” Chrissie Chapman.

Out of the bleakness of abandonment and loss of hope, comes CRIB (Children Rescued In Burundi) a powerful testimony of God’s faithfulness to those who are willing to step out and live the gospel. Emotionally moving and at the same time spiritually powerful, as the truth of God’s word is ‘experienced, embraced and lived in’.

Recommended as an inspiring read. Available from Amazon click on the link to see more.

God’s Hostage – Andrew Brunson with Craig Borlase

Andrew Brunson is an American Pastor who, along with his wife and family, worked for over twenty-one years in Turkey as missionaries. By 2016 his children are young adults and back in the USA while he and his wife had just applied for permanent resident status in Turkey. Then, without any prior warning, he was arrested by the Turkish police on charges of espionage relating to an attempted military coup. He was eventually charged with an attempt to overthrow the government, for which the mandatory sentence is life imprisonment with solitary confinement. He is held in jail for 735 days, during which time he descends into a state of anxiety and distress. In the book he is open about sharing his confusion and anguish, his struggle, to come to terms with what was happening. You are drawn along the story concerned for how he will survive this imprisonment! The epilogue is a wonderful testimony of those lessons that we learn in times of severe difficulties – that God’s faithfulness, loyalty and love are never under question – it is our faithfulness, trust and love that are being tested. Andrew states that he had to learn to stand in the dark, to persevere apart from his feelings, perceptions, and circumstances.

“Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and lean on his God.”

Isaiah 50:10

Recommended as an engrossing read. Available from Amazon

Defying Jihad – Esther Ahmad with Craig Borlase

This is a story of a young girl growing up in Pakistan, in a Muslim household. When extremists start to influence her father, the affect is felt by the whole family. At the age of eighteen Esther volunteers for Jihad – to kill for radical Islam, to bless her own family, and earn the love of her own father.

“If you truly love Allah, you will die for him.
Your death will mean much reward for you and your family in heaven.
Only death will prove your love.”

Two nights before she was due to leave to be trained as a Jihadi, she had a dream which changed her life for ever – and the outcome is that she converts to Christianity. Leaving Islam means the threat of a death sentence, and led by her father, she is challenged to a series of public debates against the Muslim clerics – if Esther loses the debate, she must renounce her faith.

This book is a powerful testimony of God’s grace and faithfulness in a time of great difficulty and trial. Eventually Esther was able to escape from Pakistan to a new life, first in Malaysia and then in the USA, free to worship God.

“I love the way we Christians can engage with and debate about the Bible – it is strong enough to withstand our questions. And searching for truth is exactly what we are encouraged to do.” Esther Ahmed

Recommended as a gripping read. Available from Amazon

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Respect

This post is written as part of the Five Minute Friday writing community link-up – we all write for five minutes on a one word prompt. Today’s word is ‘respect’.

One of the ways that we show respect to another person is by being willing to listen to what they have to say!

Listening Skills is this weeks post – if you want to read more, click on the link….

Being willing to listen to someone else, with a different viewpoint, with which you may not agree – shows that you value their opinion and are willing to listen to their voice.

We are called to show respect to one another:

Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour the emperor.

1 Peter 2:17

Respect to everyone – because every human being bears the image of God. We acknowledge that even in the family of believers there are differences, in culture, tradition, education, social status but – we respect and love one another, seeing the grace of God at work in all our lives.

We do not get to choose our spiritual family, any more than we get to choose our natural family, each one is chosen and valued by God. We grow into maturity as we learn to love the family of believers, not just our preferred friends, but seeing each one as a friend of God.

We give God the respect and honour due to Him, as our Creator and the author of our Salvation – all that we are is a gift from God. That respect is not just an outward show, but is only a reality when it is demonstrated in our lives.

We are called to honour those in government, and to pray for those who have been placed in authority over us, whether we agree with their politics or not…. When Peter wrote this verse to ‘honour the emperor’ the country was ruled by the godless, brutal emperor Nero – not someone whom it would have been easy to honour or respect….

To show proper respect to everyone is a challenge – and may even be a counter culture in this day and age, but when we accept that challenge our lives become a witness to God’s grace at work within us – all for His praise and glory!

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Listening Skills

The Importance of Listening Well.

It is interesting to reflect how we are all a product of our time, culture, and traditions, and so particularly in matters of faith we need to be listening well, maybe now more than ever.

There is a difference between hearing and listening – hearing is one of our senses, we hear without even having to think about it, but to listen we need to engage our minds. When we are listening, we need an open and receptive mind which enables us to respond to what we have heard.

I am sure we are all familiar with the parable that Jesus told of the wise and foolish builders – the wise man built his house by digging down and laying a good foundation on rock whereas the foolish man built his house on sand, a shaky, shifting base, which was no foundation at all. Jesus likened the wise builder to the person who hears His words and puts them into practice and the foolish man to the one who hears Jesus’ words but does not put them into practice. Both builders heard the word of God – but only one listened and applied the word to his life.

Jesus makes the same point, but with further application, with the parable of the sower. The sower sows indiscriminately, and it is only the seed that falls on good soil that produces a good crop. After Jesus had finished telling the story He calls out “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” Now I’m sure the majority of the crowd heard what Jesus said, but not many were listening, he goes on to explain to his disciples that the good soil is the one who hears the word, retains it and perseveres. And then he switches to the image of a lamp on a stand and warns his disciples to “consider carefully how you listen.”

The disciples were to listen carefully, not just for themselves but for others that they – as the lamp on a stand – would minister to. They would share and bring the light of revelation to others from what they received themselves.

“whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.”

Luke 8:18

So how do we make sure that we are listening well?

Avoid Passive Listening

This is when we appear to be listening but are not paying much attention to the message. Although someone is speaking directly to us, our minds are full of our own thoughts. Often it is only afterwards that we realise we have missed something important. Sometimes we are passive listeners because we think we already know what is being said and so we do not have to pay attention because we already have it all worked out.

But surely, Jesus’ disciples would be attentive and would be listening to what He said?

Peter was often the spokesman for the disciples, the one who would speak up and confidently answer any questions – and he was the first one to recognise and voice that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Jesus blessed him for this insight that he had received.

Shortly after Jesus began to teach the disciples what the fulfillment of His ministry would be – that He would suffer and die, but after three days He would rise again. “He spoke plainly about this”. But Peter took Jesus aside and began to disagree with Him – then Jesus responded by saying to Peter “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

How did Peter go from being so right to so wrong in such a short time?

Peter’s mind was full of his own thoughts – he thought he knew how things would work out, that Jesus would fit his image of the Messiah. His view was steeped in his own Jewish culture and tradition that Messiah would be the ideal king, anointed by God, who would rescue his people from their enemies and re-establish the nation.

Jesus would predict his death a second and a third time and speak clearly to his disciples that his ministry would be fulfilled in Jerusalem – but when it came to that time, they were unprepared. Their own expectations had blocked their ability to receive and understand what Jesus had been saying.

They had heard the words, but they had not been listening – it is so easy to fall into that trap, and more than ever it is something we need to be on our guard against.

“For a time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

2 Timothy 4:3

Listen Actively

Attentive. To listen well we need to be concentrating on what is being said and to give it our full attention – without any distractions.

Receptive. *To come with an open mind – that is with a teachable spirit, receptive and willing to learn. Be prepared to listen from the beginning to the end, with a non-judgemental attitude and not jump to conclusions.

Active. Engage with the message – make notes and where appropriate ask questions to clarify understanding, not to side-track or to detour off the topic.

Responsive. God’s word is powerful when it stirs a response in our hearts, but more than just an emotional response, when we are affected and changed by what we hear. Then, as we put into practice what we have heard, we build our lives on a sure foundation!

The question is are we open to what God is saying, if it challenges our view, and our comfort? There are many voices clamouring for our attention and some of our attitudes have been wrong, there may be uncomfortable truths to be faced.

Are we willing to examine our views again, to come with an open mind and expand our thinking?

Are we listening well – will we be able to hear, and respond, to what God is saying to this generation?

Prayer – Lord help us to be cleansed of selfish ambition and with humility to value each other, not looking to our own interests but willing to look to the interests of others. In our relationships with one another, our prayer is to co-work with your grace, that we might develop the mindset of Jesus – loving each other, even with a sacrificial love. Amen.

*This is a great resource, a little booklet of about eighty pages, which examines how to prepare our hearts and minds before approaching God’s word. Nine heart postures to adopt – prayerfully, humbly, desperately, studiously, obediently, joyfully, expectantly, communally and Christocentrically – so that we are able to listen and respond!

Before You Open Your Bible by Matt Smethurst

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