Monday, 30 September 2013

Not at the top

From a distance, mountains draw attention as they add shape, texture and definition to the landscape. Close up, they're even more impressive, and daunting if a climb is being contemplated. 

Are we adequately prepared? Have we remembered to bring all the equipment necessary for the task? Questions flood in and fear can paralyse our steps.

Similarly, mountains loom large and sudden in our lives, leaving us feeling weak-kneed with indecision, crippled by anxiety and with a heart sinking in discouragement. 

How in the world do we face up to (never mind scale) this mountain of:shame, sickness, pain, grief, hardship, loss, failure or financial pressure? It all seems so insurmountable. 

And it probably is in our own strength, which is naturally limited by weariness, weakness, doubt and fear.

These mountains cast a dark shadow over our days (and often our nights too) as they appear impenetrable and immovable. At times like this it helps to check in with our mountain-moving God and get His perspective on the situation.

Is this one we circle with endurance, no matter how long it takes? Or ask Him to remove? Or scale with His assistance? The answer can vary. It may involve all three possibilities to some extent.

I've circled, trudged weary and slow for years around a mountain of sickness and pain, my shoes full of wilderness sand that I just long to shake off.

In the past I crept slower still around a mountain of deep depression, despair and discouragement, heavily laden with guilt and shame over the emotional and sexual abuse I encountered as a child.

Sometimes the mountain ground me down. Often-times, it seemed to edge away a little into the distance. But it never disappeared completely...

....I'd love you to come on over with me and read the rest here where I am excited to be guest posting for my writer friend, Chris Morris today...


Wednesday, 25 September 2013

When the going gets tough

Wilderness wandering can suck the life right out of us.

Each step feels heavy and stiff.

We long to move on from this place. 

Where is the beautiful vista that we've been told lies ahead?

It always feels tantalisingly out of reach.

Too much life happening at once reduces us to weak-kneed walkers.

How in the world do we keep going when circumstances make us want to sink into sand, droop with defeat, expire with exhaustion and throw in the towel?

When the going gets tough, the tough get going....either to a place of darkness and despair or....back to what we know can strengthen and sustain, lift and bring life into wobbly legs and discouraged hearts.

Yet, here we are:

Weighed down with burdens we're not built to carry.

Struggling to make sense of things we cannot understand.

Losing sight of all that's good, pure and lovely.

Lost in mud and mire.

Left out and left hanging.

Made miserable beyond words.

Dejected. Despairing. Defeated.

But God...

His compassion encompasses us at all times.

He stands ready to lift the burdens from our backs.

He has arms wide open to embrace His weary child.

He sees the end from the beginning and knows breakthrough is close at hand.

He longs to pour His purpose into our plans.

He desires to support us with His strength.

He loves us beyond our comprehension and far too much to leave us struggling alone.

His grace is sufficient and always enough for every need.

His mercies are new every morning.

Knowing these things, our best course of action is to take a tough, prayerful stand of faith against the enemy, 'get going' back to resting in God's Presence, feasting on His word, being renewed, refreshed and restored by His Spirit.

My friend, you are not alone in your struggles. Don't fall for the lie that says you have no hope. 

In Christ, you have every hope of seeing change even as you walk through this trial with Him by your side.

There have been so many greatly challenging emotional, relational and physical circumstances in my life recently that I wanted nothing more than to turn my back and run away from it all. 

Hiding seemed the best option. Who in the world could face and deal with this?

Then God whispered, "Run to Me, my child. I'm your safe place always. Hide yourself in Me". 

And He was right. There is no safer place to be in the eye of the storm than resting in the safety and shelter of the eternal Rock.

I'm still in the war zone. But I have faith in God fighting on my behalf as I relinquish control, learn to let go of anxiety and fear and receive His peace and calm to enable me to keep on walking.

Our problems may not go away, but we are better equipped to deal with them.

So let's get tough on tough situations:

Take (all) Our Upsets Griefs (and concerns to) Him

I'm willing to try it. How about you?

Linking here with Tracy at Winsome Wednesday

And with Jennifer at Tell His Story

You are very welcome to join in

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Let me tell you a story

Our lives are wrapped around story. 

We live, breathe, and have our being in God's great narrative.

And it becomes clearer as we co-operate with Him in the unfolding story we are all a part of.

Each tale we tell has a beginning, middle and end.

Each story we are currently living out is ongoing, yet with great potential for change.

Today, I invite you to pull up a chair, grab a coffee and make yourself comfortable as I share some of my story with you.

As one who is nearer the tail end than the beginning, I share by way of third person narration, looking back on myself as I was as a child.

Let's begin...

Once upon a time, a little girl liked nothing better than to curl up with a good book. Spurning slumber, she sat tent-like in the bed-sheets, devouring the current favourite before her by the light of a tiny torch.

Reading in bed meant potentially disturbing her sister and maybe incurring the disapproval of parents. Reading anything much altogether, unless it was schoolwork, or comics bought to buy her silence, was frowned upon. 

Even as her mother sat at table, ash falling carelessly, book in front of her and fag in hand, ignoring her children; it was never seen as desirable behaviour to adopt.

Wasn't childhood meant to be lived out of doors? Out of sight and out of mind of the adults. What a waste of time to bury yourself in books. Best to get out and play.

Yet it meant so much. Escape. Diversion. Distraction. The world around already crowding in too close for comfort. Adult life breathing hot, whispering, secrets and lies that sent a shiver of dread down her spine and distaste souring her thoughts.

Writing was another release as she poured out her heart in poetry and prose. Here, she could be who she wanted to be, lose herself afresh in make-believe.

All too soon, life's demands caught up with her and she found herself seeking other avenues of distraction, walking unsafe pathways, down dead-ends, pleasure seeking that brought no joy, still bending herself to the will of others.

One day, when drawn deeper still down dark tunnels of despair and destruction, she encountered a man bearing a lamp. The Light-bearer approached gently. He held out a hand of warmth and welcome.

He spoke words of reassurance and offered covering - His robe of righteousness and mantle of grace in exchange for the dirty rags she was wearing.

A new sensation grew in her heart as trust began to bloom again, filling and flooding her with hope. Someone was taking notice. Someone cared.

She was grateful for the new robe and loved to bury her face in its downy softness. After a while though, she forgot she was wearing it. Her old weeds of worry, worthlessness, shame, disgrace, guilt and pain wound their sinuous way around her once more and clung tenaciously.

Hope died. Her light dimmed and she lived for many years in Shadow-lands as one naked and ashamed.

Darkness shrouded her days as they passed in a blur. She gave every appearance of being alive while dying slowly on the inside.

Yet the Light-bearer's lamp flickered briefly, reminding her that He was still present, despite seeming so far away she thought He'd left her side.

She hid. Herself, her talents, her hope  and dreams all buried deep. Her creative ability to express herself hidden away so far she forgot she had ever had it.


A Voice called her name. Faint and indistinct at first, then growing stronger. 

And she heard the Light-bearer come near, sensed the fragrance of His presence changing the very air she breathed, filling her lungs with a sweet perfume to cancel out the stale odours she'd been inhaling for so long.

He spoke:"Let them fall. Those old clothes don't fit who you are anymore as a child of the King. All those years when you felt lost, out of place, sad and alone, I was with you. All that time when you wished you had a different life, different family, I had already bought you into Mine and given you new life. Now, take My hand and walk with Me into the future I have planned".

Her throat constricted. She gasped and cried. And as she put her small hand in His she felt alive once more. More alive than she had felt for years.

Perhaps she could resume reading His book and find comfort and reassurance there? 

Maybe she could begin to create, to write again? Let words pour forth as water. Or was it a discarded dream, never to return?

As if reading her mind, He bent low, took her chin in His hand with utmost tenderness, and said, "My beloved. You will write. You will pour out your heart once more. You will tell of your journey through the dark places and the Light waiting to guide you home. And in the telling you will help lead others back here too."

Then He wrote this upon her mind and heart:

"I love you. I always have and I always will. You are safe with Me" and He signed it, 'Jesus'.

**Note:It's been a period of great challenge physically and emotionally in my life recently that has brought up painful issues from the past. I didn't think I could join in with this week's #Letter to link-up which has the prompt:'Letter to my younger self' (over at Melanie's place this time) until God gifted me with a different way of writing it.

It has been an encouraging affirmation to me of God's overwhelming love and care. And my hope and prayer is that it will have blessed you too as you read it.

If you only take one thing from this post, please remember - Jesus loves you very much. He really does.

Friday, 13 September 2013

When the encouragers need encouragement

When we're in a season of challenge, it can be hard to see the growth that's taking place under the surface.

Winters of discontent, discouragement, depression and despair leave us feeling barren, lifeless and empty.

It's particularly hard when giving encouragement to others is our default mode. 

And we wonder how we can sit weighed down when we want to rise free to bless, not stir around in the mess and mire of our own little world.

My heart and soul sit heavy as stone while I type these words. Maybe you're there too?

So close to being petrified as rock, immovable from the shifting sands beneath our feet.

It feels like there's not a single part of life escaping the onslaught, a battering, a bruising, a crushing and refining.

When all that can be shaken is being shaken, what next?

Do we rock with it, dig toes in deep resisting, fight our corner, cling to familiar, holler and cry, hide in the corner, or something else?

I've tried them all and I'm finding the only safe place to be in the eye of this storm is in the shelter of Christ the Rock. Yes, even as it rages around us we can be held fast.

When God is digging deep into everything we hold dear, then we have to dig deeper still into His mercy and grace.

We need to find a way to rejoice. Not in the circumstances themselves, but in His keeping power throughout it all, His covering, His equipping to be strong while faith stretches long and tight.

When all crashes around our ears, we can seek to speak out faith-filled words such as, "yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Saviour" ~ Habakkuk 3:18

Even when there seems precious little to be glad for or rejoice about, we can rejoice that the joy of the Lord is our strength always.

And be thankful that the things we feel are tearing us apart are also:breaking off our selfishness, rooting out our stubborn resistance, revealing our fallenness and unwise behaviour,showing us how far we've moved away from God, giving us opportunity to hear His voice calling out in the wilderness, and making us dependent on Him as He uses everything we go through to shape us into becoming more like Christ.

Somehow, this is where we are encouraged and strengthened to move forward again. Encouraged too by sharing with others, receiving prayer, support and blessing to keep us going through the trials and help lift us out of the pit again.

In time, as we begin to turn away from our manifold problems and turn to the One who is sovereign over all, we can eventually reach a point where we recognise, "The Lord God is my strength, my personal bravery and my invincible army. He makes my feet like hinds' feet and will make me to walk {not to stand in terror, but to walk} and make {spiritual} progress upon my high places {of trouble, suffering, or responsibility}." ~ Habakkuk 3:19

As a woman who leans more naturally to seeing (or at least wanting to see) the positive through the pain and pressures of life, and prefers to encourage others than need it herself, I am also learning a necessary humbling lesson of allowing others to minister to me too when I am struggling.

Somehow, we lessen the impact of the body of Christ building up and supporting one another if we cling too stubbornly to our independence. When one suffers we all suffer to one degree or another and are strengthened by helping each other to keep on keeping on.

And it's a sign of strength, not weakness, to admit we need help. It's one step nearer to receiving it too.

I have some insight into why this is a particularly challenging time for me as I face physical, emotional and relational problems; and I know that much of it has no quick-fix solution. Sometimes we don't see why we go through things and enlightenment may not come but we may simply need to trust God's way with us.

Despite not knowing everything, I am truly thankful for God's sustaining power in my weakness and the way He speaks comfort, healing and reassurance through the love in action of those who care and support me.

My hope and prayer is that you recognise where you are situated and act accordingly.

May the weak be encouraged by the strong and neither of us feel alone or unsupported.

If you can, encourage and strengthen others. 

If you need to, lean harder upon God and allow others to minister to you. 


Joining here with the Missional Women Faith-filled Friday blog link-up.

You are very welcome and warmly invited to join in as we share issues of life and faith to encourage one another.


Friday, 6 September 2013

Nothing muted here

It's been one of those weeks when thoughts don't flow freely and thinking feels more like a mud-dredging effort to mine for a few scattered gems than an easy, relaxed, effortless activity.

Life with M.E often brings brain fog and muddled (muddied) thinking as well as problems with focus and concentration.

Strangely, when words sit heavy for me and hard to find, it seems that poetry rises faster with more fluency than prose.

So this week's Five Minute Friday writing challenge lends itself well to verse, for better or worse!

Today's prompt is:'Red'


Red Offering

You want me to wear red
that shout-out-loud, 'look at me'
noisy hot breath 
of anger and danger
can't I wear something 
more muted instead?

Red is...poured out, bleeding offering
on a cross of shame and suffering
death pooling, injury, wounding,
scarring, revealing scarlet thread
signalling loss and pain

And yet...there's a vibrancy 
a glow, shining brightness about it all
love's token of a heart aflame
grace revealing in Jesus name

a warming, birth of hope rising
with each petal falling 
from head, hands and feet
as offering for us all
to pass on to those we meet

Shout it is good
don't fade into crowd
be proud to take a stand
and a share of the sorrow 
and shame He bore
so you can bear the weight
of Love He brings to everything

with forgiveness threads spooling
onto ground weeping red
it's a cause to rejoice
for us all


Linking here with Lisa-Jo Baker for Five Minute Friday where we write freely on a given topic, from the heart, as it comes, with no worry about perfection.

You are very welcome and warmly invited to join in.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

When the miracle doesn't look like one

Sometimes we fail to see anticipated answers to our prayers.

Days, weeks, months, years, and even decades can pass without so much as a smidgen of the change we are seeking.

Things can actually get worse.

More challenges, problems, trials and tribulations occur and we wonder where God is in all of this. 

Can't He see, hear or understand how desperate we are?

What if God answered but the answer doesn't look or feel as we think it should?

I've been praying (and been prayed for) for physical healing for many years now.

What has happened? Some brief respite and remissions have occurred but none of them were sustained nor led to a deeper, more lasting change for the good.

Rather, a general decline has taken place, leading to a worsening in symptoms over the last five years as I've become more housebound and incapacitated. Has God failed to answers those prayers?

I thought that He didn't want me to be healed for some reason, or I wasn't ready to receive it. Perhaps healing was being delayed for a more optimal time of God's choosing.

Only our heavenly Father loves us too much to take any pleasure in prolonging suffering. His greatest desire is for us to be healed and made whole and healing is rarely a one-off event; His healing work takes us on a journey toward complete healing and wholeness in every area of our lives.

Time is needed for real, lasting alteration. Our healing journey will encompass every facet of  our lives, character, personality and calling. No two people will have the same path to travel.

I'm not the same person I used to be. A deep inner work of transformation is still going on in me and in you as we are made to be more like Jesus, changed from glory to glory, little by little. And it can feel like everything we are and know is being painfully pulled in a new direction as we rail against or resist being renewed in God's way.

What if the healing I seek looks more like: teaching me to be teachable, adaptable and receptive, changing my perceptions, defensive walls coming down, altering my outlook and world view? Isn't this still God at work?

It also looks like:deeper emotional healing, a restored marriage, strengthening of faith, hope, courage to tell my story, growing commitment to Christ, drawing me to a closer walk with Him, new priorities, new relationships and friendships, new outlets and opportunities, new kingdom-calling. All gifts of grace, all aspects of wholeness, all treasures mined in dark places, all to be recognised and thankful for.

On the outside, seeing my physical body weakening with M.E and other chronic health problems, it doesn't look good at all. But on the inside, with eyes open to see, I know my soul is being cleansed and healed, my spirit is flourishing in His Presence, and I am changing as He sees fit.

God works holistically with us. His desire is to make us like His Son and He's continually working in us for that purpose. Though the paradox of the 'now but not yet Kingdom' we are in is that complete healing in this lifetime is not a given. 

It is painfully easy to look for the negative and see only darkness, struggle and stress. It's not a good place to be in. When our focus is on what God has already done and is doing, rather than on what He hasn't, then we can learn to live with peace and thankfulness in the midst of our current circumstances, instead of contending with discouragement, frustration and impatience.

God may be saying these words to you too, "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland" ~ Isaiah 43:18-19

My friend, I am a wilderness and valley dweller too. You are not alone. It's a dry, dusty, bleak and barren spot to be in. As we allow the rivers of grace to wash and refresh us each day, as we lean on His mercy and rely on His love to sustain us in our weary pilgrimage, the journey will not seem so arduous.

Rest your head on God's shoulders; let Him carry you and bear every load that weighs heavy. He knows how hard it has been and may still be. 

Believe that He is at work on your behalf and much goes on in the spiritual realms that earthly eyes cannot see. Reach out. Take His hand and walk with Him into the days He has planned to give you hope and a future. 

One day all will be revealed. One day, all pain, suffering, sickness and struggle will cease. For now, it is good to try to live out our lives with eyes open to the multiplicity of miracles and grace that are already being poured out on us day by day.

Your miracle answer to prayer may look very different than you envisaged; I know that mine is. My circumstances haven't changed, physical healing hasn't come yet, but I am being given grace to live with and to rise above my circumstances  - and that's no less a miracle in my eyes.


Kutless have a wonderful song called 'Even If' that speaks about trusting in God's goodness despite what we are going through. You can click here to hear the song.