Even if you’re not American…

This is the time of the year when my friends and I get together to celebrate Thanksgiving. No, I am not American. But our team began celebrating Thanksgiving years ago for the sake of our American friends, and it has become a tradition-and a joy!

We get together in a beautifully decorated house for a meal and a time of fun and celebration. Everyone brings food, generally homemade, which steams invitingly. The room is decorated with bronzed leaves, warm colours and glowing candles. We welcome each other with love and laughter.

thanksgiving

We smile at each other over the flickering candles and loaded table, and take turns to talk about the things we are thankful for. It helps you to realise how much you have.
Even if you don’t have everything you think you want, it helps you to realise how very rich you are: how very good God has been to you. It fills you with contentment, and joy.
Because, when you notice some of the things He has done for you, you begin to realise how blessed you are.
My friend and I talked the other day about gratitude: about being thankful for what you have right now. Someone in Syria, for example, would probably give anything just for somewhere safe to live… Enough food… Freedom. I have those in abundance.
Most of all, I have Christ. The deep thirst of my soul has been satisfied. When I am in need, I know where to go. He always meets me with His help. He has given me forgiveness, and eternal hope.
I was talking to someone the other day about what it would be like to earn lots of money- and I realised I’m glad I don’t (although I guess we all have so much compared to many people who struggle through this world). Actually, I feel so rich already, with the blessings He has showered upon me.
A loving family. So many caring friends. More than one church family. Life and freedom and, most of all, knowing Christ. Food and shelter and creativity… And so, so much more. I am so very, very blessed.
Sometimes, our team take time in prayer meetings to write down ten things we are thankful for. It can be big things or little things. It can be anything. There have been times when I didn’t feel like doing it- when I felt sad and it felt too hard to rejoice. But I had to write my list anyway… And it encouraged me so much. How easily I forget the things He has done for me… the things He blesses me with!
It helps me realise that I am a lot richer than I think I am.
It is so good to take a moment to stop, reflect and say ‘thank You’. To take a moment to breathe right where I am, look around and pick out something I can be grateful for.
He’s been speaking to me recently from Psalm 23. Those words: ‘I shall not want.’ (Ps 23:1b) Ever. He will always provide for His child who belongs to Christ. I have seen it the past. When I stop to look, I realise I see it now. And I will see it tomorrow, and every day after that until He calls me home.
It helps me realise that He is trustworthy for the future, too.
I don’t know if you celebrate Thanksgiving. If you don’t, I recommend it (even if, like me, you’re not American!). It’s lots of fun! But, whether you do or not, Happy Thanksgiving!
Either way, I recommend making your own list of things to be thankful for, and taking a moment to say ‘thank You’ to God.
I think it will make you smile. 🙂
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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When you feel in need of some Divine TLC…

Do you ever have times when you feel fragile and worn, and in need of some TLC?

That is exactly what God delights to provide for those who look to Him, and come to Him through Jesus.

There are many astoundingly beautiful characteristics of God. Some examples: He is holy. He is faithful. He is powerful. He is just. He is righteous. He is good.

But, sometimes, I think that my favourite characteristic of God is His tenderness. Ok, so I don’t really mean that: everything about Him is astoundingly wonderful.

But His tenderness is very precious to me.

pic-bench

The truth is that I’m very sensitive. He made me that way, and it has its benefits, but it sure makes life painful sometimes. And it also makes it so very precious when He meets me in His tenderness, and ministers in a way that is so very personal; so very intimate; so very gentle; so very kind.

Maybe you’ve seen it in your own life: something so intimate that it could only be God, because no-one else could have known how much it mattered, or could have orchestrated it in such a detailed way.

Maybe you had no idea that it was from Him.

I can think of many examples in my own life. Here are a few:

The day I was so very sad, and my friend, who didn’t know, bought me roses. I know God timed that.

The day I pulled up in my car, my mind clouded with worry, stepped out onto the street… and looked up at a rainbow I hadn’t even known was there.

The day I was crying, asking God to help me believe He loved me because He felt so far away… and along came my friend’s cat and started rubbing against my face.

The messages of encouragement that were perfectly timed. The friends who prayed just when I needed it. The little things that meant so much.

The things only God could do.

He is such a tender Father.

He is far more merciful than we could ever dream.

This is a broken world. He never intended it to be that way. He made a perfect world, with no tears. We broke it by our rebellion. And now there are all kinds of tears, and all kinds of broken dreams.

But that doesn’t mean He doesn’t care. We can’t draw simplistic conclusions about His intentions when we have His promise that He loves us so very, very much.

He holds a bottle of the tears of His child. He counts them all. That’s how much He cares.

‘You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book?’ Psalm 56:8

He cares so much that He gave His own Son to die a cruel death on a cross to buy you a way out of this mess, forever.

He knows when your heart is fragile- and His protection of it is fierce when you take refuge in Him!

‘The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit.’ Psalm 34:18

‘For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous;
With favor You will surround him as with a shield.’ Psalm 5:12

‘A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench;
He will bring forth justice for truth.’ Isaiah 42:3

I listened to a message the other day about how tender He is with the bruised reed: how gentle He is with those who are broken and helpless and at the end of themselves. It was so precious and encouraging because we all get knocked down sometimes, don’t we? And He knows. And He cares. And He is tender with those who are fragile and look to Him.

http://www.preachtheword.com/sermon/misc0075-bruisedreed.shtml

If you’ve never come to Him as Saviour, surrendering to Him as Lord, you have no idea of what you are missing out on. You have no idea of the things He has done for you, which you missed. Every breath comes from Him. Every heartbeat. Every caring hug. Every piece of chocolate. Every sunset. Every smile. And how He yearns to receive you as His own, offering you His forgiveness and eternal life when you turn from wrong and believe in Christ.

Sometimes I look around at the people living around me, seeing the sadness, the brokenness in their eyes, and yearn for them to know what He offers to us all: His forgiveness, His hope, His love, His comfort and His peace. Please let Him in. His mercy will amaze you.

And His tenderness never changes, no matter how long we have known Him… or how many tears we have cried.

He knows just how much we can take. He cares for us as a tender Father, and He never stretches us too much.

‘As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
14 For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.’ Psalm 103:13-14

My friend Carole pointed something out from Bible history once: when Jacob’s family were travelling, they only went as fast as the little ones could take. And the Lord, also, knows how much His little ones can take. He takes us patiently on a journey we can handle.

‘But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are weak, and the flocks and herds which are nursing are with me. And if the men should drive them hard one day, all the flock will die. 14 Please let my lord go on ahead before his servant. I will lead on slowly at a pace which the livestock that go before me, and the children, are able to endure, until I come to my lord in Seir.”’ Genesis 33:13

Jacob would not push the little ones too hard. And our Lord won’t, either. Actually, he carries them!

‘He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young.’ Isaiah 40:11

Sometimes I can get frustrated with the pace of the journey God takes me on. Sometimes I think He is being too slow. But what if what feels painstakingly slow is actually His tender loving care? What if He knows I can’t handle things as fast as I think I can? What if the pauses are actually just a chance for me to rebuild and catch my breath? They say even good things can cause stress. He knows us so well. Maybe He takes things slowly sometimes for a reason.

And He knows your personality perfectly, too. What if the pace is tailor-made to your design? What if it’s really His tender loving care?

There are seasons to the lives of God’s children in Christ, measured by His gracious hand. He gives His people rebuilding seasons as well as tough ones. He tenderly provides just what we need to keep going. Sometimes He breaks in with wonderful mercies and encouragements, to give us a reminder of His Father heart.

He is so very, very kind.

It’s easy to forget that. There’s a lot of suffering to life in this broken world. If you follow Jesus, there is even more suffering, because you’re going the opposite direction to everyone else. But you are also so very, very loved.

And you can rest in His Father heart when you don’t understand.

‘Who among you fears the Lord?
Who obeys the voice of His Servant?
Who walks in darkness
And has no light?
Let him trust in the name of the Lord
And rely upon his God.’ Isaiah 50:10

Come into His presence. Seek Him. Surrender. Talk to Him. Ask Him to comfort you. He is so very, very precious and so very, very kind, and He loves to bring His tender comfort, and His love.

‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.’

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

And knowing how much He cares is a great reason to trust in Him, no matter what you’re going through right now. 🙂

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Are you wondering where the world is headed?

I had a blog post pretty much planned for this week, but I decided to change it. Because it’s been a bit of a crazy day or two in the world, and there’s something I feel compelled to say.
 It started with a conversation I had recently,about where the world is heading. About how things feel a bit out of control. About how everyone’s talking about where the world is headed.
 image-sky
Maybe you’ve asked that question, too.

It sure feels a bit like the world is unstable at the moment, doesn’t it?

I don’t want to get into politics. I have my thoughts but I could be wrong! I’m no politician. But things this week have made me think.
Because, to be honest, it sometimes feels like the world is shaking… like things are getting a bit out of control.
People ask where the world is headed.
People ask what the world is coming to.
To be honest, I’m sure I know the answer, and I need to share it, because it matters very much.
Where is the world headed?
Well, to be blunt, Judgement Day.
Is that my opinion? No, it’s what Jesus said. You can take it up with Him.
Things do shake in this world, and they will. This world is on a collision course with eternity, and things will get more and more crazy until the end comes.
Deliberately.
They’re supposed to wake us up: to make us think about the future. They’re supposed to shake us up. Not in cruelty, but in love.
They’re supposed to act as a wake up call… To call us to repent. To turn from our rebellion. To turn to God for mercy and a clean slate. To surrender to Him as Lord, and receive His salvation.
Because He cares so very, very much, and He wants to rescue us before it’s too late.
‘Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.’ Revelation 1:7
‘And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, 16 and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”’ Revelation 7:15-17
That’s why we need to come to Him.
Not just a token coming for forgiveness and a free ticket to Heaven (which He offers, by the way), but surrendering to Him as Lord, following Him with everything- with your whole life. Taking up your cross and following Him, no matter how much it costs. Because He loves you. Because He gave His own life on the cross to buy your forgiveness. Because He wants to rescue you from what is coming on the world.
Before it’s too late, and you have eternal judgement to face.
Then, when you have that sorted, you don’t need to be afraid, no matter how much things shake. Instead, you are free to live at peace, living for eternal things, not to earn salvation but in peaceful gratitude for what He has given, because you are loved: because you are held in His hand.
God’s been encouraging my heart with that.
If you are His, you are secure.
If you’re on His side, you will always have His help. You will always have His grace. You will always have His provision. You know what the end will be: eternal life with Him.
‘Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ Isaiah 41:10
‘You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.’ Psalm 16:11
We don’t know all the details, but do know the end of the story.
Jesus wins.
If you’re on His side, so do you.
You don’t need to shake, no matter how things shake around you.
He will keep His little ones safe.
‘He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young.’ Isaiah 40:11
You can be still, and know He is God.
‘God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah’ Psalm 46:1-3
‘Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!’ Psalm 46:10
My heart still quakes a bit when I look at the news, but it doesn’t need to. I am His. 🙂
And you can be too!

‘Of Benjamin he said:

“The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by Him,
Who shelters him all the day long;
And he shall dwell between His shoulders.”‘ Deuteronomy 33:12

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thoughts on Autumn

What’s your view about autumn?

To be honest, I used to really dislike it. The amount of sunlight affects how I feel (like many others- maybe you, too), and the darkening descent into winter used to fill me with dread. It still does, a bit, but my attitude has also changed. My friend Jenny helped me to notice the beauty of the autumn colours. Once I began to pay attention, I began to realise that autumn is- well, stunning! I began to love things about this rich season with all its glorious, understated beauty.

It makes me realise again that God is such an incredible, all-wise Creator. He doesn’t just do things. He does them in style! Ok, so we need seasons in this world. He gave them for a reason. They’re part of a rhythm He put into our world.

“While the earth remains,
Seedtime and harvest,
Cold and heat,
Winter and summer,
And day and night
Shall not cease.” Genesis 8:22autumn-blog

He made the seasons so beautiful! Even the slow descent into winter is attractive! And winter is never the end. God is the expert at bringing new beginnings. I think spring is an object lesson in God’s ability to bring new life when you think there can be nothing left.

It’s an encouragement to trust in Him. He always does things abundantly. He loves to make them beautiful. What He does is stunningly, amazingly good. If you’re on His side through Jesus, that’s a reason to be filled with hope, no matter how dark things may be.

He does all things well. He never makes mistakes. The seasons He makes are beautiful. His ways are abundantly good. His timing is perfect. He is trustworthy.

‘To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:’ Ecclesiastes 3:1

Ok, so this is a broken world. We only see echoes of Heaven here, amidst all the brokenness. But aren’t they beautiful echoes of Heaven? If you are trusting in Jesus as Saviour and following Him as Lord (and it’s not too late to do that now), it’s a reminder of hope in His plan, not just for this life but also a reminder of the Christian’s eternal Hope, where the beauty will be unspoiled.

‘Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”’ Revelation 21:1-5a

And sometimes it’s good to just appreciate the joy of the moment; of the gifts He has given right now.

‘He has made everything beautiful in its time.’ Ecclesiastes 3:11a

I was blessed the other week by an afternoon at Castle Howard in Yorkshire. It was a mild, sunny autumn day. I walked around the rose gardens, framed with gently bronzing leaves and warmed by brightly streaming sunshine, and the beauty was breathtaking. I tried to capture it in a poem. It’s not perfect (and it’s also about October!), but I thought I’d share it. I hope it helps you enjoy autumn, too- and trust in His perfect ways. 🙂

October Moment

Glowing out, all shimmering,

October slows. The birds still sing.

All gentle whispers, softly gleams

In peaceful beauty, softening.

 

As nature cools, the final blaze

Of colour wakens, spreads with grace

Across the patient, slowing days

And ripples peaceful in the trees.

 

I breathe this moment: glowing space

Before this beauty pass away.

Still catch it while it, glorious, spills

Across the gentle, soothing fields.

 

In stunning glory, final song,

This gentle, burnished beautiful.

Just for a moment, take and hold:

Drink in this splendour growing old.

 

This something waiting, breathtaking

That gleams across this peaceful scene.

It calms and joys and wakens yet.

It softens, soothes and takes my breath.

 

And, if you listen, you can sense

This beauty’s promise: cannot end.

And though to winter’s sleep it sends,

Its lullabies breathe spring again.

 

Then let brave nature blaze to rest:

To sleep within its pregnant nest

And grateful, sated, cool and wait

And dream rich dreams of spring again.

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.