Holding on when life hurts

When life hurts we have to hold on tight. One person’s experience is very different to another’s. At certain junctions in the journey of life we will be forced into situations that we don’t like or even question why is this happening? What have I done to deserve this? These are the questions of shock when the rug has been pulled away from us and everything we thought was secure we realise is not secure at all. I guess we can see now why Jesus said to be careful where we place our security.

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

There are no answers as to the why things happen, often just the reality of what we have to pass through and yes, it is a passing through not set up camp and remain place.  We have to hold on whilst we pass through. This holding on enables us to cope mentally, physically and emotionally. There are some other questions that we can ask to help us along the way. This is what I try do in moments when the rug is pulled from underneath.

Discover where is God in the situation and what is He saying? If we can get God’s now word to us on a situation we have something to pray each day and aim for. The temptation we will face is to overshare with lots of people who will all have a different voice and ideas. That will bring confusion. Sit with God and seek Him out to hear His voice and ideas they are far better; then apply His wisdom and word to you by simply doing what He says.

The next thing is to find who are the trusted people who I can speak to? Those who will bring wisdom, hope and encouragement. We are not meant to go through things on our own if we try we will get lost in our heads and be battered by the situation we find ourselves in.  Our relationship with God is the most vital anchor for us and then trusted people who have a genuine care and love for us.

God places us in communities for a reason. I walked into a community meeting not long ago where we sang, prayed and listened to a preacher. I loved it and thought to myself this is great! I felt a sense of overwhelming peace, joy and renewed energy came over me. It took me from a dark place that had been looking to consume and lifted me to a hopeful lighter place. Being together in Christ shifts the darkness. It’s a supernatural thing that we can’t reason with but I know it works. I reckon that’s why the writer to the Hebrews asks us to not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Community is a place called home it creates a sense of belonging and a place where we are all on the same page what the Bible calls unity.

So, let’s try not to ask the wrong questions that lead us no where but rather ask some different questions that lead us by streams of living water along the journey. Hold on to God for He alone is our rock and is unchanging in all his ways.

Temporary Setbacks

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We will have all experienced times of temporary setbacks or trials that we pass through. These times will not last but in the middle of the setback they feel so hard that we feel we may not quite have the endurance to get through to the other side. I am not sure I am out of the woods yet but can sense an opening starting to appear after a year of extreme challenge like I have not known before.

What I have noted is who has travelled this path with us and who has dropped away. It is so interesting to look back and see who has been journeyed with us. I have realised that the community that God has provided has been wider than I could have imagined and God has added new people to us in this time so where our world may have looked to have grown smaller it has in fact increased and become more diverse which is so helpful. Not everyone you know right now will walk with you as some are not assigned to our destiny. This is a perspective that helps us not to feel the pain of perceived rejection.

In the temporary setback time God will be looking to do something new and fresh to bring about the future. We are often so intent on holding on to what we have built that a setback is needed to halt us in our tracks which will then unlock growth on so many levels. We think we are fighting one battle and God is in the background working all things together for good being creative, maturing us, orchestrating new relationships, opportunities and unfolding destiny. Truly amazing what God gets up to the temporary setbacks are a blessing in disguise.

How do we get through the middle of the valley of the shadow of darkness that Psalm 23 speaks about? Well I can only share what I have done so far. I have dug deep into what God has placed within me. We don’t realise the power of Jesus inside us to do all things until we are under pressure. We sing about it, read about it and chat it through but it is something else to use it when you have no other option as everything else has been stripped away. This exert below I wrote two years ago as part of a letter sent to a prison who encourage those who were struggling. I didn’t realise at the time I would have to navigate so heavily myself.

St Paul speaks about how he has learned to be content in all things. He expands by saying he “can do all things through Christ who strengthens him.” Paul certainly went through many tough days from imprisonment (isolation from friends) to nearly drowning in a shipwreck and every challenge in-between. I think throughout this time loss has been felt more than ever. Loss of companionship, Chapel time, visits from those you love outside and so on. Each of us will be experiencing different losses unique to ourselves.

It is vital to keep a good perspective that this is a season that will end maybe as quickly as it came and it will be a memory in the past. In the middle time that we are now in the wisdom we can use to teach ourselves to be still and guard our minds from wandering. Like Paul learning to be content one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time is something to aim for by leaning into a growing awareness that God is always with us in every situation we face. Jesus himself passed though much loss he was known as a man of sorrows and he was able he lived a good life content in many ways by staying connected to God, the Father.

God is always with us. He never leaves or abandons us rather he strengthens us to go through the darker times. So, I pray for strength in your very beings as we all pass through this time. I leave you with the reflections of Paul from the book of Philippians 4:11-13. 

“11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 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. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

I have found this year I have had to walk these words out by faith. What I mean by that is I have lived out the truth of the words. As I have walked them out I have seen they work and are therefore true.  To me that means getting up each day and pushing through even when you think you can’t go on or take anymore. No one will know what I have been through inside myself as not many dare or care to ask but I have to say, I feel I have navigated the valley of darkness and know how to guide others through now despite not being quite out of the setback yet. Confidence comes as we walk through things and a knowledge that we can pass on and a deeper knowing and love of Jesus. The setbacks are temporary and they will pass. Take a look to turn and see what God is up to in the valley you are travelling through.

Where are we looking

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If there is one message I could share again and again it would be to about the importance of knowing Jesus as our first love. Without realising we can gain lots of knowledge but have no living relationship with Jesus it can lead to developing a form of religion. It begins by starting to have laws and rules in our hearts that in turn become like idols we adhere to; creating a culture of this is the way. None of this is done intentionally it just happens over a period of time when maybe we take our eyes off of knowing Jesus as our first love swiftly moving into knowing lots about Him. Distraction, busyness, unexpected life events, anything can sneak in at any time.

I have found myself revisiting one question in myself “Where am I at with Jesus? Are my eyes still on Him and knowing Him and His ways as a priority or am I so full of idols in my heart I can no longer see the Jesus I first met many years ago?” It is no negative thing to keep a check on where we are at in our heart for as the Bible says in Proverbs 4: 23 “Guard your hearts for everything you do comes out of it.” Idols come as a seed, take root and before you know it we have a massive tree that takes some digging out. They turn up in subtle forms eventually stealing from us the life God has planned. Idols can definitely cause trouble for us.

So how do we uproot the idol seeds /trees that have grown and confused our walk with God into a legalistic religious snare. We can sit with Jesus at some point in the day ask him the question “where are we at then, are there any idols I need to release from my heart?” Let the Holy Spirit gently speak to you not to condemn or accuse but rather so we are set free to keep eyes fixed on our first love, Jesus Himself. Jesus gave up his very life for us all out of love and compassion toward us not duty.

In our garden we have an apple tree with lots of really small apples on it. I was asking why they are so small and my husband explained that when you prune a tree back it is able to produce larger apples in quality but less quantity of them. Best we hack the branches back then. As Jesus explained in the book of John chapter fifteen we go through pruning so the quality is better. It is for our own benefit. So, let’s embrace removing the idols and letting Jesus have more space, the quality of our lives will only improve as will our relationships with others and all we do for the Kingdom in the season.

John 15:1-4 1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

More than we know

Christmas is here again, one thing is for sure every year it comes around. Some of us love this season whilst others of us struggle and can get overwhelmed with all the parties, gift giving and general expectations to have a great time.

The good news is that Christmas is not all about the tinsel and parties but is a deeply sacred time where we can reflect on Gods presence coming amongst us. If we can take a moment to stop and think what is the real meaning behind all the celebrations then we may engage with a sense of perspective, becoming aware of God’s love extending to us.

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
 Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this. Isaiah9:6-7

With God all things are now possible as his brings the possibility of reconciliation to himself and therefore to our relationships that we would like restored including a sense of reconciliation within ourselves.  God is the author of restoration so if we connect with Him through the gift of his son Jesus we are touching into the why we have a Christmas season; the coming of Immanuel God present with us in our lives. Then all things become possible that we long for, all we have to do is believe in Jesus and his work.

I pray that we will all take a moment over this season to stop and think about what is impossible to us and invite God to journey with us into a land where all things are possible. I invite you to reflect on the things of God who has extended his love towards us and embrace a New Year full of his goodness.

Anchored

“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.”
3 John 1:12

This scripture has been bouncing round my mind for a while now and it is my prayer that you are well in both areas knowing that one can affect the other. As we navigate the corridors of the pandemic we may notice changes that have occurred in ourselves. I certainly have and I am wondering how we will all emerge eventually out this time and what the future holds. Some things will change whilst others remain; Gods love and ways are a constant that can be an anchor for us if we feel adrift.

When life knocks us with a few punches rather than letting those circumstances push us around we can choose to tighten the attachment to the anchor and choose to live by vision and calling as these things are irrevocable “for God’s gifts and his call can never be withdraw” Romans 8:28. I have a saying that if you can keep the mission of God going then we will flow in the grace of God even in the toughest times. Over the last few years this is what I have tried to do to the best of my ability. For me this is part of my own anchoring in Christ; meeting God on the move. I notice that as I keep my focus I remain anchored and Christ centred within myself

We can all notice when we drift and that can be a frightening place to be. We can all anchor ourselves to Christ. Your own anchored to Christ may look and be different to mine as we are all wired differently and I invite you to ponder how you are anchoring up. Whatever it is please do what you need to do to keep yourself well in body and spirit.

Expansion

We are in a time in history where we have the opportunity to be a person of great influence. People are wanting to hear and experience faith, hope and love. As people of faith we have a great message to share with those around Peter reminds us, it is time to love our neighbours and be connectors as never before of who we are what we are called to “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” 1 Peter 2:9. It is the time to Be the Church and distribute the message of hope that people are desperate for. We will need to be organic in the how we do that.

We are all called to lead in life. lead ourselves, families, friends, community groups and so on. Where ever you are connected to people that is our sphere of influence. In this time of worldwide struggle, we all need strong leadership and we can look to ourselves with Christ in us for this. There is no one stronger than Jesus Himself. For some the structures that held you or you relied on are no longer there. But you yourself can rise up as Jesus did in the desert (Matthew 4) to pray, fast (when you feel led) and to live out the Bible in the real world, In many ways we been on an enforced fasting from people and going back to lots of meet ups is something I find overwhelming at the best of time. These three things prayer, fasting and scripture (God’s word) hold and change us in the times of struggle. Be the leader you would want to follow and watch others be drawn to that Jesus shaped expression that you carry.

Our default setting will want to fight against us being the leader of ourselves as by nature we are lazy and we will want to feed off of others. If we can press through this time a new strength will be seen when are eventually emerge into our new expansion where ever in the world we live. We will be different and more prepared for the next era through this season of great challenge. But for now, we can feed ourselves through our devotional lives enabling us to influence others. It is from our own overflow that we live out the goodness of God. This is not for the chosen few but for all of us who are called out of the darkness that Peter speaks about ( 1 Peter 2:9). That way we have a first-hand message on the inside of us. As we enlarge our God territory on the inside we will notice God will enlarge our sphere of influence on the outside bringing people for you and I to be connected with.

I am going to leave you with the prayer of Jabez from 1 Chronicles 4:10 Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. Be encouraged we can grow through this time and God will greatly use our lives to connect and reach others with His love and message of Hope.

Healing a broken heart

A season of brokenness and a broken heart is not a thing to be despised or intentionally look to avoid. It is rather a moment in time when God can draw close to us and us to Him to build strength and healing into our lives. The Bible shares the reality that “God is close to the broken hearted and those who are crushed in spirit” Psalm 34:18. I remember when my heart was first broken in my early twenties when my boyfriend of five years wrote me a “Dr John” letter to finish our relationship; I was devastated. My response at the time was one of extreme loss of my future dreams and hopes the result being I turned to alcohol as my comforter rather than God. I decided to go on a a journey to prove that I was good enough and attractive. A recipe for disaster. A broken heart can lead to destruction or a life fully lived.

If God doesn’t despise our brokenness then why should we? It is only societies that would say not to put your pain on display and pretend everything is ok. God however wants to use our broken seasons and there are many we will travel through. Jesus warned us of this in the when he was alive on earth “In this world you will have trouble but take heart for I have overcome the world” John 16:33. Jesus was known as a man of sorrows he put his brokenness on display before going to the cross to die for us all by weeping blood and tears about what was ahead; being separated from God his father and carrying the evil ways and thoughts of humans in his own body. The weight, pain and brokenness he must have felt. Amazingly that he overcame all of that as a human with his life laid down trusting God that all of that brokenness would pass and joy would return.

With Jesus overcoming it brings us hope that when our lives are rooted in Him we can follow His way, the way of the cross. To put all of our own brokenness and pain at the foot of the cross and leave it there. You see our faith really does make us well that is the difference between saying we have faith and walking by faith in Christ. We either give it lip service or it brings healing to our minds and bodies which the world cannot do.

One of the key things with a season of brokenness is make sure we don’t make it our home. It is good to be humble before God but brokenness of heart is something different. When our hearts are broken we will struggle to function whereas humility is acknowledging I do life on Gods terms and through His ways. When we are broken hearted we have to watch disappointment doesn’t lead to long term depression. I wish I had known some people at the time of my own broken heart who would have come around me to encourage me and speak life to be rather than the alcohol voice of no self -worth and a hopeless case that set in to be my best friend. I didn’t know at the time that I could bring all my emotions and reactions under God and be at peace with what he was working through in my life to get me to where he needed to be. With God there is always a way through broken heartedness and a letting go of our ways allows for the flow of healing and restoration. Sadly, we often fight this process.

“Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”

 Psalm 50:15

There is a power in our broken place that I didn’t discover until much later. It is the power of the journey of displaced living to discover yourself and God. Your real self I mean. Many a time we place ourselves in relationships to people, places, organisations and so on to feel like we matter and have an identity. When all the time God is trying to get our attention saying “I am over here; come and follow me” just like when Jesus called His first followers to leave their business and spend time with Him promising to show them a different way. Eventually God in His lovingness sent some people to me to draw my attention to the brokenness that I was loudly exhibiting for general display. Part of my healing from that time to realise that not all was lost. I realised I had a future and I started to pray Psalm 51 every day “Create in me a clean heart and do not take your Holy Spirit away from me.” God knows His own voice and words, He responds to that level of faith. As I began my relationship with God my real identity emerged from the place of a broken spirit and a broken and yielded heart toward God; my only hope. Hope springs up from the broken places if we can turn our gaze off the troubles to Gods voice and heart toward us. A voice of love and compassion.

When we turn our life plan from building our own empire and success to more God shaped ways such as drawing alongside others like the good Samaritan in the Bible we will find that the healing of our hearts comes through reaching out to touch people’s lives with the goodness of God that has touched ours. We begin to feel again. Feeling of compassion and empathy as we notice the brokenness of others. When we have travelled through we can see it in the eyes and voices those around us. The power of our broken heart journey is that we know the path out of that place. We know how to help others engage in the restoration process. Noticing that God has built some endurance and strength into our minds and bodies as He has rebuilt and rebooted us out of the dark place that once looked like it was about to destroy us; that power comes from the journey of deep pain.

Looking back it was my ability to surrender that broken heart to God and not keep carrying it around like a broken record. That is what lifted me to a place of power my surrender to God and His ways. It was only as I looked at the why and what happened that I realised there were deeper layers to myself and areas of vulnerability in myself to be aware of as I journey through this life. What I really learned was this. My life laid down and hidden in Christ is the safest place to be. It’s not that I am in denial of the pain, suffering and sadness that goes with a broken heart it is more that I am not alone in all of that, Jesus is right there with me and I get to follow him by doing what he did. Saying a prayer which He said just prior to His death “Father your will not mine be done.” It’s a great surrender prayer to pray. Once we have let go God can step in and start moving things on our behalf to let His glory be seen.

Expert taken from “Mending the Broken hearted” taken from an anthology which I was able to write two chapters for last year. If you would like to read more please click here.

Faith on Fire

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In these difficult days we face we are facing loss of some sort. Loss of real-life relationships, routines, work, finances, travel, freedom of movement and for some loss of loved ones. I have daily found myself with a choice each day. Is my faith going to be on fire or under fire today?

Each day I am choosing to be on fire. Even when my feelings are quite low I am consciously choosing to be on fire with God. I think it is normal to feel low with so many unknown challenges and changes but how we mentally respond is vital to our long-term wellbeing. Whatever situations we may face we can still choose to live on fire through the power of the Holy Spirit living on the inside of each one of us.  We have so much to be thankful for.

The life,  death and resurrection of Jesus happed to attain eternal life in all abundance for humanity “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life John3:16.” When we are under fire we reflect on our security and assurance in and through Jesus Christ whatever happens. That is something to be thankful for.

We don’t have to let fear determine our life. We may feel apprehensive as we go to the supermarket but apprehension is not the same as living rooted in fear. Apprehension warns us to take good practical precautions when needed but we remain at peace; the presence of God himself with us. The gift that Jesus passed on.

In Psalm 43 we see the Psalmist speaking to himself and reminding himself how to overcome the low feelings when they try and land. Put our hope in God. Remind ourselves of who He is and what He has done for us personally, see Him as your saviour and your God. It is time to get back to basics in our faith and watch is become on fire again.

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God” Psalm 43:5.
 
If you are struggling with fear there is no shame in that only please take the exit door on it today. Here is one thing I did myself a few weeks back to get back to basics and stop that fear coming on me. I felt to let God clean my heart again by speaking to God through praying a Psalm.

Psalm139: 23 -24
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”.

I then spent some time in prayer to lay down the things God showed me. I then prayed Psalm 91 over my life giving up the spirit of fear and sensed  a stillness; God’s presence  starting to fall on me. I have placed my life firmly in the hands of God Himself.  Call it a decluttering of the baggage we can pick up as we go along.

Fear can be a door way for the devil to really mess with our hearts and minds and can cripple any faith we may have. If you are feeling the pressure of the crisis we find ourselves in then go ahead you will notice the presence of God and clear thinking being restored to you. We really don’t have anything to lose now by trusting in God. Jesus left His peace with us when we believe in Him so why not access that peace and notice your faith will be on fire and not under fire.

Walk it out

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Faith is a journey to be walked through and out. It is exciting and scary all at the same time. Being transformed is not automatic when you bump into God. I have concluded that there is a process of transformation we will all go through as we walk through life with God. If our change was automatic then we would miss out on getting to know God in a personal way and it would be more like a magic show. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” Romans 10:17. Gods voice to us is for our benefit and to be life giving and growing. Transformation comes by hearing God and then doing what He says.

I was recently in a situation that I felt I couldn’t go through and didn’t know if I had the ability to cope in myself. As I lay in my bed in the middle of the night praying (asking God what to do) a small quiet inner voice said “you can if you let me lead you through.” I said thanks went to sleep peacefully and I am now working with God each to let him lead me. Every other voice or opinion is not important as I am walking it out with God now. It is a much easier ride.

Often trying to avoid discomfort at all costs we step away from painful or difficult situations in life. We avoid difficult people, places, memories that are going to push the buttons of discomfort. What we can learn from the life of first century Christians is that they embraced hardship and went about facing difficulties with a frame of mind “Being strong in Christ” and having a solider like way of being 1 Timothy 2.

It would be true to say that we don’t know what’s on the inside of us until we are challenged. There have been times when under pressure a darker side of my will pop up which never ceases to amaze me. I then take that darker unhelpful side of me to the cross and lay it down at Jesus feet in doing so I am discovering the next layer of transformation and humility.  As I surrender God can come and do His work in my body, mind and spirit. In that way God uses our life journey to bring transformation. We are people of many layers so it takes time and patience with ourselves. Difficult life situations can be turned around for good as God uses them as a pathway to heal and restore us into Christlikeness. Transformation is not automatic it requires us to walk it out and win the battle.

 

 

Battle Zone

Canva - Skylights, Spirituality, Faith, Symbol, InvocationWhilst their are many who are joyful in this Christmas season their are also many going through huge personal battles. There were many battles going on when God became flesh in the form of Jesus that first Christmas, the pains of childbirth of Immanuel (God with us) that creation would have felt. The personal battles, worries that Joseph and Mary faced.  It’s no wonder that the battles often seem more intense as we celebrate the birth of our saviour – the rumbles of history present in aftershocks.

Facing battles, we can feel lost, isolated and even question where is God when we don’t sense His presence or direction. It doesn’t mean He is not there or that we are not being led out of the battle zone. Fortunately, our faith is not based on our feelings they can rapidly change. Our faith is built on who God is. Our stance is to trust in Him and follow His leading.

All over the Bible we read about heroes of faith people who believed what God said then trusted and followed Him. Could it be that occasionally it slips our mind that there will always be battles dashed across our life span.  The heroes of faith had stories of battles and how to pass through difficult times because they had lived it out. If you are in a battle right now its producing a story that will help someone else to navigate that difficult path; it’s producing wisdom in your life.

Abraham was a person of faith. He heard God, spoke to God and listened to what He said. His faith had action.  James 2:23 -24 “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”[e] and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” Living beyond the battles takes action. Moses was another hero of faith who listened to God and responded positively to Gods voice into his life.

Any battle we encounter God has a perspective on it. We only have to chat to him through prayer and listen to His voice back. If you can’t hear then maybe the battle has overtaken and is shouting too loudly. Get to a place where you can hear Gods wisdom again. I often pray whilst I am driving. I may say something like “right I have a problem now Jesus and I don’t know what to do what’s going on?’ Strangely the ability to hear the still small voice is there. Then I push a bit more to get direction “what shall I do then?” I like to keep it simple and believe in the if I don’t ask I don’t get theory.

Faith is active and God wants to help us through the battles. Time to press in and get wisdom and direction. We are not alone God is always with us and has promised to not leave us alone as orphans. Faith is to be lived out not just a theory.

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”