Monthly Archives: September 2014

New every morning…

There is P1010160a song which I learnt so long ago that I can’t remember, which is a straight quote from the book of Lamentations – chapter 3 v 22&23. It is simple, and yet also profound.. a statement of faith in our awesome God. When I am enjoying times of peace in life, of personal ease from pain or trouble and my loved ones are happy, this song comes easily. But when I am in trouble, when all around is bewildering in the depth and complexity of despair and destruction it presents, these words remain a reassuring statement of faith.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.”

These words were written by the prophet Jeremiah – not known for his frivolous approach to life, but rather as one who writhed in agony under the message he brought, and the pain he witnessed. Jeremiah saw dreadful things happening to the people of Israel and Judah, and he himself suffered in ways most of us will never know. Yet still he asserts the loving faithfulness of God. Did he know the words which the tormented soul of Job uttered after utter disaster had come upon him?- “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2, v10).

Were these men deluded? How can we assert the goodness of God in the face of pain, evil and darkness? The story of Job concludes with a stupendous encounter between the stubbornly faithful but despairing Job, and His great God, whom he refused to curse, yet struggled to praise in his pain. God never answers the questions which the poor man has poured out, but as if drawing back a curtain on the wonders of creation, challenges Job to think about how very very limited he is in relation to the limitless creator of the universe.

Time and again, I think believers find themselves here, utterly overwhelmed by the realities of our God in creation – its complexity, diversity, delicate balances and vast scale. We say with Job,” I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know…. therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42, v3 & 4).

When I am in the darkness, I call to mind this picture, and remember that I am but dust, unable to comprehend God, or to see the truth as He can. I call to mind the cross, and remember that this great God did not remain remote from our suffering, but entered into it, more fully than I can ever understand, and that there our sorrows and griefs were laid upon him too. Jesus accepted pain and suffering from God, trusting that this was the right and only way to bring salvation, that even in this, God was faithful and his mercy would endure.

Let this example of trust in the steadfast love of the Lord be an encouragement in our own darkness, and as we pray for others in their distresses. And when we feel that we are walking again in pleasant places, we can sing the song with particular joy, knowing from experience that our God is faithful and reliable.

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In loving arms

Sometimes, the child within  me becomes very tired and frightened, the effort of being brave and strong for others, of being patient and kind, giving without expecting anything in return, becomes too much. I want to run away and hide, to find that place where as a little one, I used to feel safe, and protected, a place to rest.

Yesterday, I saw a painting of a woman sitting with a child in her lap, a solid toddler, with heavy eyes and lolling head who was ready for sleep. The sense of heaviness in the child’s position really caught  my attention, and brought back those times when my own children would rest in my arms. When a little one is  tired and feels utterly secure, there is a particular kind of rest that comes to them, as every ounce of weight is relaxed into the arms that hold it. They stop holding themselves, and give the entire burden to the loving, surrounding presence.

And so I realised again, how blessed I am, because even as a grown woman, I have such a place of security to rest in. The God of heaven is my refuge, and not merely in the sense of a defence against danger, but also this loving, warm resting place. He knows my heart, and sees how like that tired child I am. There are many passages in the bible which talk about His care for His people, this one is particularly lovely:-

“In His love and mercy He redeemed them; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old”

Isaiah 63,9

These are the arms which surround us, which are bearing us even when we think we are alone with our burdens. As I struggle to bear the sorrows of those around me, or to find wisdom for a difficult decision, or feel grief for my own disappointments, my God is holding me. Will I let myself relax into that embrace, instead of sitting rigidly upright, tense and braced?

The apostle Peter writes to encourage early believers, and in turn also those of us come lately to the faith, telling them to “Cast all your anxiety on him“… and why can they do this? “Because he cares for you” (1Peter 5,7). Today, I choose to let go, to trust that the one who bears me, can bear my burdens also.

Today, let us take God at His word, and find rest for our souls as we are carried peacefully in His unfailing and intimately personal love for us.P1010432

On Friday morning..

Thank you Lord, that in the uncertainty which we face today, we have so much that is unchanging.

If you are willing, then on Friday morning, the sun will rise and give us light and warmth: there will be air for us to breathe and work for us to do.

On Friday morning, we will have enough food to eat, clothes to wear, and clean water to cleanse our bodies and to quench our thirst.

On Friday morning, we will face the future in the confidence of children of God, who is above all powers, and directs all the affairs of men according to his will. Nothing can take away our security in him, or undo the salvation he has worked on our behalf. Our identity is unshakeable.

On Friday morning, we will have people around us who have no idea that they are beloved, that their souls matter to God, and no idea that in a personal relationship with Christ Jesus, they can find a life better than they ever imagined! Our calling is unaltered.

Oh Father, you see our tremblings and understand our fears. May we bring them to you on Friday morning, and in our weakness, may the strength and glory which is your unchanging love for us, be made evident, as we face the future in confidence because we face it as believers in Jesus. For His sake, let it be so.

 

A daily dose..

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“Be joyful always;

pray continually;

give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5, 16-18

The author of these words, Paul, was not given to asking other believers to do things he had not done himself, so we must assume that he practiced joyful, prayerful thanksgiving – in all circumstances. This included experiences of shipwreck, stoning, imprisonment and beating, unfair trials, slander, and exhausting journeys. He does not say give thanks “for” all circumstances, although he might well have done, since elsewhere he writes of how “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8 v 28). It is a staggering thing to say to someone, especially those to whom he is writing in this letter, a tiny, new, and beleaguered church. We feel ourselves protesting, ” but how unreasonable can you be Paul?!”

And yet, and yet… perhaps the key is in the final few words, where Paul reminds us that we are “in Christ Jesus”. When I begin to consider who I am “in Christ”, I find a new perspective on the realities of life. No matter what is troubling my peace, or destroying my plans, I am absolutely secure in my place as a beloved daughter of the King of Kings. No matter what other people say about my status and achievements (or the lack of them), or about the ways in which I may have failed them, I am able to hold my head high because I matter enough to be died for.

So, if God is working in all things for my good, and it is His will that I practice giving thanks in all circumstances, then that must be the best way for me to approach all of life – the way in which God will transform me more and more into the likeness of my Saviour, His son. This business of giving thanks, is one of the key ways in which I can co-operate with this process of transformation.

There are many who do not claim to be believers who testify to the power of gratitude in their lives, although I struggle to know to whom they express their thanks. For me, as a believer, one of my greatest joys is knowing the One to whom I express my appreciation, and my pleasure in the gifts so freely given.

I have been greatly helped in understanding this by the writer Ann Voskamp, in her book ‘One thousand gifts, a dare to live fully right where you are‘,(Zondervan, 2010), which I thoroughly recommend. I can testify to the power of thanksgiving, to taking note of the ways in which every day I receive God’s love for me personally. It is often the beauty of the natural world that catches my breath, or a piece of music, what is it for you? Perhaps seeing a parent loving and laughing with a child, or the genuine bond between friends sharing time together.

Whatever it is, I hope that in the week ahead, you find yourself often giving thanks, for in so doing, you will be prayerfully expressing joy in God’s presence, and fulfilling God’s good purpose for you!

A loud song!

Still waters

Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel!

Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem!

The Lord has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy…

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.

He will take great delight in you,

He will quiet you with his love,

He will rejoice over you with singing.

Zephaniah ch 3, v 14,15&17

The bible is full of songs and singing, and in most cases it is God’s people singing of and to him, in praise or lament, triumph and occasionally despair. I love to sing, I know that music is a gift which can bless both the maker and receiver of it, and that in lifting my voice I do a good thing. But here, God is described as singing over me, making music, making beauty, over me!

This soul, stumbling through her days, seeing her own weaknesses and faults, and weary of letting others down; this is one in whom God takes great delight. If only I could imprint this in the front of my mind, to carry it with me everywhere I go, like a shield against the wounds and struggles of life. When I feel useless and insignificant, this word tells me that God rejoices over me – not merely tolerating my presence, but like a lover, delighting in me, in who I am.

What kind of love is this?! Beyond our understanding, outshining our human loves as the sun blasts away all recollection of candlelight, enduring and unyielding, utterly to be relied upon. This love is what our souls need to rest in, where there is no need to strive or disguise our flaws in order to be accepted.

The One who loves like this is mighty to save; it is He who has turned back our enemy and taken away our punishment, so that we can be forever quiet and at peace – resting – in his love. He has done it,all for love of us. All praise and glory to his name, and may you find songs of gladness and thanksgiving on your lips through the days ahead.