Sunday, 28 December 2014


As the bustle and busyness of Christmas begins to fade and I reflect on the many kindnesses and gifts, I read something poignant from a single mother: " what I wanted most at Christmas time was not a tree full of presents. I wanted to find a way to make what we had be the only thing we really needed. I knew that no one knew how to help. Maybe this was the hardest part of those weeks of Advent — knowing that everyone knew where I was at while we all pretended I didn’t know that everyone knew."

Yes. What I want most, all the time, not just at Christmas, is not presents or things... I want to  find a way to make what I have be the only thing I really need.

I WANT TO BE CONTENT. And while I am not - or so I believe - like the people in Ecclesiastes who are never satisfied with what they own, I recognise that there is always a small part of me which is not actually content.

The Bible teaches how to be content. Proverbs (19:23) says: "The reverent, worshipful fear of the Lord leads to life, and he who has it rests satisfied; he cannot be visited with (actual) evil and is untouched by trouble, without fear of danger."

I want to be like David, who says in Psalm 131: "I am not conceited, Lord,
and I don’t waste my time on impossible schemes.

But I have learned to feel safe and satisfied,
just like a young child on its mother’s lap.

People of Israel, God's people,
you must trust the Lord now and forever.

Wait, Israel, for God. Wait with hope. Hope now; hope always!

John prepared the way for Jesus to work in people's hearts by telling them to be content with what they have without greedily trying to get more.

As Paul says: "I have learned to be satisfied with whatever I have.  I know what it is to be poor or to have plenty, and I have lived under all kinds of conditions. I know what it means to be full or to be hungry, to have too much or too little. Christ gives me the strength to face anything. "

We don't need any more. "Godliness with contentment is great gain: A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough."

Hebrews 13:5 says: "Let your character or moral disposition be free from love of money (including greed, avarice, lust, and craving for earthly possessions) and be satisfied with your present (circumstances and with what you have); for He (God)Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. (I will) not, (I will) not, (I will) not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let (you) down (relax My hold on you)! Assuredly not!

Be satisfied with your present circumstances. This is my prayer this year. To be satisfied with my circumstances, to be content in not knowing what the future holds for me, where I might be living this time next year, what I might be doing, where I might feel 'at home'  - and to be dissatisfied with my spiritual condition. Living in the tension of the kingdom come now and the not yet. Knowing that my present earthly circumstances are just fleeting in the light of eternity, and being content with where I am and what I am doing today. This hour. This minute.


Friday, 26 December 2014

Wishing: to see the glory of God

This woman in the ancestry of Jesus is not even named. Bathsheba, 'Uriah's wife'. Mother of Solomon, through an adulterous affair with David.

Bathsheba. So many questions.

Was she innocent, unaware she could be overlooked as she took a bath?
Compliant, unwilling to offend the king by refusing to come to him?
Protective, bizarrely, of her husband Uriah, afraid that she might be putting him in even more danger by refusing?

Or was she scheming and ambitious, hoping to secure the king's favour?
Bored by marriage to a good and faithful man?
Simply vain, aware that her beauty attracted attention, craving adulation, feeding her vanity by bathing where she could be seen from the king's palace?

Her father, Eliam, was one of David's mighty men. Did she consider that she merited special treatment because of this? That her rightful place was in the palace?

And then she was pregnant. Unable to assign parentage to her husband, she tells David that he is the father.

So how did she feel the morning after, knowing she had committed adultery - the penalty for which was death by stoning? How did she feel when David arranged for her husband Uriah to come home from serving his country to sleep with her, so their adultery could be covered up? And then, when that failed, David had Uriah put in a position where he was certain to die?

We know that she was careful to observe the outward rites and rituals, in 'purifying' herself of her uncleanness that same day.
We know that she mourned her husband.
We know that she then became David's wife as soon as the mourning period was over. She gave birth to a son, who later died.
We know that David still stood by her, was still in love with her, because when he comforted her, she then had another son. Solomon, which means 'peace'.
We know that she had three other sons, one of whom was called Nathan. Named, perhaps, after the prophet who confronted David with his sin?
We know that, later, she manipulated and schemed to ensure that her son Solomon inherited the throne, despite the claim of other sons. She was cunning enough that, when Adonijah came to her to ask for his father David's concubine - tantamount to announcing that he would take his father's place - she pretended to acquiesce to his request. As soon as Solomon heard it, Adonijah's fate was sealed and he was killed. One more building block in providing a secure foundation for Solomon's kingship.

I don't like Bathsheba.
Yet...she is one of Jesus' ancestors and this was in God's will. The Lord had named Solomon 'Jedidiah' which means 'loved by the Lord'. The Lord had sent Nathan the prophet to tell Bathsheba that Solomon's elder brother Adonijah had styled himself as king, enabling her to put a stop to it.

Matthew Henry comments: "Giving way to sin hardens the heart, and provokes the departure of the Holy Spirit. Robbing a man of his reason, is worse than robbing him of his money; and drawing him into sin, is worse than drawing him into any wordly trouble whatever."

I see Bathsheba as a selfish, sinful woman who was nevertheless used by God for the purposes of His kingdom.

How am I any different? Am I willing to be used by God, in spite of my own selfishness and sinfulness?

Friday, 19 December 2014

Anna, who lived in the temple...

Anna. A prophetess who lived in the temple. Words of wisdom from Joy at Love God Greatly.

"These verses really get me. I am in awe of Anna. I want her to be my mentor, but since I don’t have a time travel machine just yet, I will have to settle for her life speaking to me via these verses. There isn’t much similar between me and Anna. She was advanced in years, a widow, and had copious amounts of free time to spend fasting and praying in the temple. I, on the other hand, am nearing middle age, still have my husband, a mama to 6, living in Uganda. I have very little free time, and quiet moments are scarce to non-existent. 
So it’s here that I’m tempted to send sweet Anna on her merry way and assume that her life has nothing to do with mine. BUT. She is a woman caught up in the Grand Story of the Redemption. She couldn’t get enough. It flowed out of her life. She spoke of it to all. And this is beautiful to me. I find this irresistible. Oh, how I want this to be true of me!
What if I took her situation, her devotion, her commitment to giving thanks and talking about redemption and translated it into my everyday? What would it look like?
What if I make my home a temple and spend my days worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day? 
Can I take my moments, the ones filled with laundry and trying to convince a teenage boy of the benefits of showers, and turn these mundane moments into acts of worship? Can I? Can I turn my words to thankfulness to God and speak of His redemption to all?
What would this look like? Here are some thoughts on how to start:
  • Turn my eyes upon Jesus. Bask in His redemption. Gaze at His glory.There is no substitute and no checklist. The Gospel is where it starts and ends.
  • Turn down the noise and to be quiet. {Getting up early, afternoon quiet time for the whole house, turning down TV watching in the evening, turning off the Internet}
  • Turn from my idols. Rinse, Repent, Repeat. Daily, hourly, minutely {!}, I find myself running to idols in my heart. Things that tempt me away from gazing. I have to continually return to the Lord and repent and ask the Holy Spirit to help me turn from these things. {Internet, appearance, pride, reputation, to name just a few.}
  • Turn up the message I need to hear. {Turning on the worship music, turning my eyes to Scripture, turning to those people in my life that challenge my heart to follow the Lord}
  • Turn each mundane moment into an act of worship, no matter how small, from cooking to cleaning, showering to scrubbing.
  • Turn my words into words of praise and thankfulness, declaring the redemption to all. 
Let’s take these moments, in our days leading up to Christmas, to turn our homes into temples. Thank you, Anna, for leading us on the road. The Road to Jesus. The Road to Christmas. "

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Ruth and Anna. Wanting: to serve and glorify

Ruth. (As a digression, my first encounter with the name Ruth was in Swallows and Amazons, where the character Nancy was actually called Ruth but had been renamed by her uncle as Nancy, because Nancy was an Amazon and a pirate - and pirates are ruthless...).

Her name means friend, companion. She was a true friend to - of all unlikely people - her mother-in-law, Naomi.

Naomi (whose name means 'pleasantness'), together with her husband Elimelech (whose name means 'My God is King') was from Bethlehem - the town which was to become known as the city of (King) David. There was famine in Israel, so Elimelech took his wife and two sons to Moab, where they settled. (It has been suggested that understanding the meaning of the names in the book of Ruth point to the book being an allegory for God's saving grace towards us. Read more here.)

Moab became home.

But then Elimelech - Naomi's strength and protector - died. Naomi was left with her two sons Mahlon and Kilion, whose very names mean sickly and failing or unsuccessful. The sons married: not Hebrew girls, as Naomi might have preferred, but Moabite women.

Perhaps, initially, this was acceptable to Naomi. She was, after all, far from home though there must have been other Hebrew refugees, fleeing from famine. But ten years went by, with no children appearing in either marriage. No grandchildren to gladden Naomi's heart and bring meaning to her widowhood.

Then her sons, living up to their names, took ill and died.

She was alone in a foreign land.

This was now too much for Naomi. Hearing that famine in Israel had ended, she decided to leave and go back home.

Life was not turning out for Naomi as she would have hoped. Losing her husband was bad enough, but now her sons too? Yet she didn't just stay and sink into decline, but made a proactive decision to return to where she came from.

One of many lessons Naomi teaches: not just to stay and wallow in depressing thoughts when disaster and misfortune arrive in life, but to be proactive and return to where I come from. To the place where I have history, connections, where I am known. To return to Jesus, where I can be at home because I am totally known, loved and accepted.

Naomi teaches me courage, too. Because, after only a short while on the journey to Bethlehem, Naomi tells her daughters-in-law to leave her to go on alone:
 “Go back. Go home and live with your mothers. And may God treat you as graciously as you treated your deceased husbands and me. May God give each of you a new home and a new husband!”

She kissed them and they cried openly.

They didn't want to leave her, but she insisted, even though she would be making the journey alone.

"But Naomi was firm: “Go back, my dear daughters. Why would you come with me? Do you suppose I still have sons in my womb who can become your future husbands? Go back, dear daughters—on your way, please! I’m too old to get a husband. Why, even if I said, ‘There’s still hope!’ and this very night got a man and had sons, can you imagine being satisfied to wait until they were grown? Would you wait that long to get married again? No, dear daughters; this is a bitter pill for me to swallow—more bitter for me than for you. God has dealt me a hard blow.”
Again they cried openly. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye;"

But this story is not so much about Naomi, but about Ruth: "but Ruth embraced her and held on."

Ruth's devotion. Ruth's faithfulness. Ruth's love.

"Naomi said, “Look, your sister-in-law is going back home to live with her own people and gods; go with her.”
But Ruth said, “Don’t force me to leave you; don’t make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I’ll die, and that’s where I’ll be buried, so help me God—not even death itself is going to come between us!”
When Naomi saw that Ruth had her heart set on going with her, she gave in. And so the two of them traveled on together to Bethlehem."

And then they settled there. The bitter woman and her foreign daughter-in-law - which must, in itself, have been strange: for what girl would not prefer to stay with her own mother?

And so we see Ruth's humility, going out almost as a beggar to gather grain for bread; then expressing humble thanks to Boaz.
And we see the beginning of this romantic love story:
"It so happened that Naomi had a relative by marriage, a man prominent and rich, connected with Elimelech’s family. His name was Boaz.

One day Ruth, the Moabite foreigner, said to Naomi, “I’m going to work; I’m going out to glean among the sheaves, following after some harvester who will treat me kindly.”

Naomi said, “Go ahead, dear daughter.”

And so she set out. She went and started gleaning in a field, following in the wake of the harvesters. Eventually she ended up in the part of the field owned by Boaz, her father-in-law Elimelech’s relative. A little later Boaz came out from Bethlehem, greeting his harvesters, “God be with you!” They replied, “And Godbless you!”

Boaz asked his young servant who was foreman over the farm hands, “Who is this young woman? Where did she come from?”

The foreman said, “Why, that’s the Moabite girl, the one who came with Naomi from the country of Moab. She asked permission. ‘Let me glean,’ she said, ‘and gather among the sheaves following after your harvesters.’ She’s been at it steady ever since, from early morning until now, without so much as a break.”

Then Boaz spoke to Ruth: “Listen, my daughter. From now on don’t go to any other field to glean—stay right here in this one. And stay close to my young women. Watch where they are harvesting and follow them. And don’t worry about a thing; I’ve given orders to my servants not to harass you. When you get thirsty, feel free to go and drink from the water buckets that the servants have filled.”

10 She dropped to her knees, then bowed her face to the ground. “How does this happen that you should pick me out and treat me so kindly—me, a foreigner?”

Boaz answered her, “I’ve heard all about you—heard about the way you treated your mother-in-law after the death of her husband, and how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth and have come to live among a bunch of total strangers. God reward you well for what you’ve done—and with a generous bonus besides from God, to whom you’ve come seeking protection under his wings.”

She said, “Oh sir, such grace, such kindness—I don’t deserve it. You’ve touched my heart, treated me like one of your own. And I don’t even belong here!”

At the lunch break, Boaz said to her, “Come over here; eat some bread. Dip it in the wine.”

So she joined the harvesters. Boaz passed the roasted grain to her. She ate her fill and even had some left over.

When she got up to go back to work, Boaz ordered his servants: “Let her glean where there’s still plenty of grain on the ground—make it easy for her. Better yet, pull some of the good stuff out and leave it for her to glean. Give her special treatment.”
Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. When she threshed out what she had gathered, she ended up with nearly a full sack of barley! She gathered up her gleanings, went back to town, and showed her mother-in-law the results of her day’s work; she also gave her the leftovers from her lunch.

Naomi asked her, “So where did you glean today? Whose field? God bless whoever it was who took such good care of you!”

Ruth told her mother-in-law, “The man with whom I worked today? His name is Boaz.”
Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “Why, God bless that man! God hasn’t quite walked out on us after all! He still loves us, in bad times as well as good!”

Naomi went on, “That man, Ruth, is one of our circle of covenant redeemers, a close relative of ours!”

Ruth the Moabitess said, “Well, listen to this: He also told me, ‘Stick with my workers until my harvesting is finished.’”

Naomi said to Ruth, “That’s wonderful, dear daughter! Do that! You’ll be safe in the company of his young women; no danger now of being raped in some stranger’s field.”

So Ruth did it—she stuck close to Boaz’s young women, gleaning in the fields daily until both the barley and wheat harvesting were finished. And she continued living with her mother-in-law.
Did Ruth dream of this kind man, who had offered her protection and looked after her? Did she go gladly to spend those days in back-breaking labour, in the hope of glimpsing her benefactor? Did she secretly study him, memorising his features to treasure inside her heart?
One day her mother-in-law Naomi said to Ruth, “My dear daughter, isn’t it about time I arranged a good home for you so you can have a happy life? And isn’t Boaz our close relative, the one with whose young women you’ve been working? Maybe it’s time to make our move. Tonight is the night of Boaz’s barley harvest at the threshing floor.

“Take a bath. Put on some perfume. Get all dressed up and go to the threshing floor. But don’t let him know you’re there until the party is well under way and he’s had plenty of food and drink. When you see him slipping off to sleep, watch where he lies down and then go there. Lie at his feet to let him know that you are available to him for marriage. Then wait and see what he says. He’ll tell you what to do.”

Ruth said, “If you say so, I’ll do it, just as you’ve told me.”
She went down to the threshing floor and put her mother-in-law’s plan into action.

And was she glad? Resigned? Needful of a husband - any husband? Was she sure of his heart, because she had seen him watching her when he thought no one was looking, and she knew him for his integrity and compassion? Or was she afraid: afraid of making herself vulnerable, afraid of the shame she risked, afraid of others' scorn and enmity? And, perhaps, even afraid that he would, under the influence of alcohol, betray her trust and take yoof her? A tiny voice inside her which would say: "He's due some payment for his kindness... you are, after all, a widow and no young maiden."

She was a foreigner, a poor widow, subsisting on the generosity of others.

Boaz had a good time, eating and drinking his fill—he felt great. Then he went off to get some sleep, lying down at the end of a stack of barley. Ruth quietly followed; she lay down to signal her availability for marriage.

In the middle of the night the man was suddenly startled and sat up. Surprise! This woman asleep at his feet!

He said, “And who are you?”
She said, “I am Ruth, your maiden; take me under your protecting wing. You’re my close relative, you know, in the circle of covenant redeemers—you do have the right to marry me.”

He said, “God bless you, my dear daughter! What a splendid expression of love! And when you could have had your pick of any of the young men around. And now, my dear daughter, don’t you worry about a thing; I’ll do all you could want or ask. Everybody in town knows what a courageous woman you are—a real prize! You’re right, I am a close relative to you, but there is one even closer than I am. So stay the rest of the night. In the morning, if he wants to exercise his customary rights and responsibilities as the closest covenant redeemer, he’ll have his chance; but if he isn’t interested, as God lives, I’ll do it. Now go back to sleep until morning.”

Ruth slept at his feet until dawn, but she got up while it was still dark and wouldn’t be recognized. Then Boaz said to himself, “No one must know that Ruth came to the threshing floor.”

So Boaz said, “Bring the shawl you’re wearing and spread it out.”

She spread it out and he poured it full of barley, six measures, and put it on her shoulders. Then she went back to town.

When she came to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “And how did things go, my dear daughter?”

Ruth told her everything that the man had done for her, adding, “And he gave me all this barley besides—six quarts! He told me, ‘You can’t go back empty-handed to your mother-in-law!’”

Naomi said, “Sit back and relax, my dear daughter, until we find out how things turn out; that man isn’t going to fool around. Mark my words, he’s going to get everything wrapped up today.”


Focus: a digression from Ruth

Reading in Advent about Ruth in the story of Jesus, I stop short at verse 6 in the first chapter.
When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there.

Yesterday, I didn't notice that the Lord had ended the famine and blessed his people with food. How often do I neglect to see Him at work in my life and in the lives of others?

Psalm 35 reminds that God does indeed come to our aid against our enemies: against those who wish us harm or gloat over our misfortune.

Keep focused on HIM.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Breakfast in Advent

As I make gingerbread men people, I am reminded of the women whose stories are part of The Big Story. The God Story. The Jesus Story.

I shape hair for the head, and I think of a woman who covered her face so she could not be recognised: Tamar. Tamar, who was Judah's daughter-in-law. Judah, the son of Jacob who had merely sold his brother Joseph into slavery, rather than acquiesce to his killing by the jealous brothers. Tamar, widowed once, rejected by the second brother who should have married her. Tamar, so desperate for children, that she covered her face and disguised herself as a prostitute, enticing her father in law to sleep with her and so ensure that she would not be killed and that her child would be born.
That child was Perez, in Jesus' family tree as a son of Judah.

Are as desperate for God as Tamar was for a child? Are we more desperate for things other than God? How can we do this, when busyness crowds our lives?

The hands of Rahab, letting down a scarlet cord from her window as a sign that she and her household were to be spared by the invading Israelites. Rahab, who risked disgrace, alienation and death to save two foreign men who had visited her brothel. Rahab, who recognised God at work in the Israelites and wanted to be part of that.

How do we recognise God at work? What do we risk, if we 'join in with what God is doing' as Rowan Williams (former Archbishop of Canterbury) has said?

The feet of Boaz, Ruth's husband. Ruth, who risked scorn, humiliation and disgrace to throw herself at a man's feet, tantamount to begging him to marry her. " Boaz had a good time, eating and drinking his fill—he felt great. Then he went off to get some sleep, lying down at the end of a stack of barley. Ruth quietly followed; she lay down to signal her availability for marriage."

The body of Christ. All working together in unison. "The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.

You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything."

And I think of the parts of the body to be careful of. The tongue, which can be so divisive. The eyes, which can be haughty. The hands, which should not lie idle. The feet, ready to take the good news of the Gospel to wherever God wants them to go.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Advent:Being Willing

Rahab and Mary. Willing: Social outcasts. #willingsocialoutcasts

Rahab. Great great grandmother of David. Not a Hebrew, but a foreigner.  Rahab, who became immortalised in the stories of Jewish history for saving the spies who were scoping out Jericho before the attack. "Rahab the prostitute ... was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road." Rahab, who James considered a great example of showing her faith by her actions, as did the author of the book Hebrews: "By an act of faith, Rahab, the Jericho harlot, welcomed the spies and escaped the destruction that came on those who refused to trust God."

And then, right at the end of the family history - HIS story - we find Mary: "Joseph, the husband of Mary,and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah."

And I think of words I read in Woman Alive magazine recently, in a study by Anne Le Tissier: "We are called to be faithful stewards of all that God has given us, making each day count...consider your mindset, your desires, your deeds, your lifestyle, your use of time, money, talents and resources. Where is your focus, who or what is the treasure of your heart, what is your goal in life, how does your lifestyle compare with Christ's, and what are you doing with the life He gave you?'

What am I doing, indeed? She says: "Whatever our role, if we seek daily to express God's loving care, then we shall be rewarded." 

What did Rahab and Mary do, before they chose obedience to God? Two opposites.  Rahab hardly lived a righteous life - she was a prostitute. But then, as she heard the rumours of this strange nomadic people who were taking the country with supernatural power, she recognised that this power was of God.

This changed her life. Ultimately, saved her life, yet she faced huge dangers before that would happen. She hid two foreign spies at great personal risk to herself and her family; lied; risked alienation and death, then bet her life that this people would indeed, with God's power, invade and defeat the city in which she lived.

And then she had her reward, as she asked: "Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you." And so she - and all her family - were saved from death.

Mary, the opposite. Mary, "Beautiful inside and out!". Mary, who had lived a quiet life, growing up a good girl, about to be married to a good man. Mary, who only needed the news of Elizabeth's unexpected pregnancy to convince her of her own future. Mary, who didn't then doubt God's word.

YET. Yet....with this unexpected pregnancy, Mary faced alienation from her family and community, exile and shame, prostitution her only hope of supporting herself; At worst,, she faced a mob lynching, pelting her with stones until she died. (As Anne Atkins, in December 11th's Thought for the Day says.) 'A woman of extraordinary learning, championing the rights of the poor...' What a role model!

Mary, magnificent in her praises. I never realised she was a prophet, but prophesy is exactly what she and Elizabeth did:
"I’m bursting with God-news; I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten, (From now on all generations will call me blessed.)
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now."

And Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking out as soon as she heard Mary's voice in greeting: "You’re so blessed among women,
and the babe in your womb, also blessed!

And why am I so blessed that
the mother of my Lord visits me?
The moment the sound of your
greeting entered my ears,
The babe in my womb
skipped like a lamb for sheer joy.
Blessed woman, who believed what God said, BELIEVED EVERY WORD WOULD COME TRUE"

Humble Mary, who accepted shame and disgrace, believing God, in faith.

What did Rahab and Mary have in common? They were both WILLING. Willing to be obedient. Willing to embrace the unexpected. Willing to give up control of their lives, as Whitney talks about so well:

"But God doesn’t call the qualified.
I already know it, so why do I so often need reminded? I’m frustrated in my own lack of faith that in the unexpected, God knows better than me. Listen, He always knows better than me.
But Mary.
Mary’s young, trusting hands were unclasped. She wasn’t paralyzed by fear when Gabriel told her she’d give birth to the Messiah. Oh, in human terms, it was shocking, unexpected, surprising, unplanned news to be sure.
But she didn’t hesitate.
She didn’t fall to the ground in a weeping, doubting mess.
She didn’t ask a million questions or raise her voice in anger, and she definitely didn’t fire back with, “Lord I can’t do this.”
No, she accepted her calling and lifted her humble voice in praise – not because she was confident in her abilities – but because she KNEW the One who had called her.
When the unexpected comes, we have two choices: we can either become paralyzed, or we can praise.
But listen, God always, always knows better than me....
Unexpected roads can paralyze, or cause us to praise.
The great thing? You don’t need confidence in your ability to walk your unexpected road well. You just need to KNOW the One who calls you – and then with unclasped hands – place your full confidence in Him.
"God doesn’t call the qualified, but He qualifies the called."
Embracing the unexpected on {The Road to Christmas} sounds a whole lot like this:
“I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” ~ Luke 1:38
Can you say it?
Father I praise You, because the unexpected road is also a road that leads to unmerited grace. You are worthy… have your way in me."
Giving control of my life over to God. Ah, there's the thing...

Monday, 1 December 2014

Advent begins

Waiting: overcoming shame...

In these first days of our Advent season, I read of the origins of Jesus Christ, of how he was
"David’s son, Abraham’s son:Abraham had Isaac, Isaac had Jacob, Jacob had Judah and his brothers, Judah had Perez and Zerah (the mother was Tamar), Perez had Hezron, Hezron had Aram..."

All the way down to "Joseph, Mary’s husband, the Mary who gave birth to Jesus, the Jesus who was called Christ."

All the way down to Joseph. Who was not Jesus' father.

So, as scholars pored the genealogies, the generations upon generations, looking at David's progeny, did it ever cross their minds that the coming King would not be kingly, as they imagined? Did they look at abilities and prowess, at connection and dedication, wondering who would be that King to succeed their own king David?

Did any of them ever have an inkling?

As I consider Jesus's 'noble' birth, traced all the way back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, I see something less savoury in Jacob's sons. Judah.

Judah, who collaborated and connived with his brothers to eliminate his younger brother Joseph.
Judah, who wanted his brother dead and gone from the family.
Judah, who, even so, set great store by family and sold his brother rather than killing him.
Judah, who set great store by family and sold his brother into the living death of slavery.
Judah, who set great store by family, and wanted his widowed daughter-in-law to sleep with her brother-in-law and so have children 'for' his dead son.
Judah, who slept with a prostitute - or so he thought. Was he married? Was it only this one time? I wouldn't think so. The woman was covered with a veil, disguised, so he could hardly have been overwhelmed by her beauty.
Judah, who slept with his own widowed daughter-in-law, Tamar, after neglecting to provide another husband for her.
Judah, the man who wouldn't even pay for his favours directly, but got a friend to do it for him.
Judah, the callous and judgemental, who wanted his pregnant daughter-in-law burned to death for her adultery.
Judah, who fathered twins with Tamar, the second of whom was born first and who took the kingly line down to Jesus.

And what of Tamar? A woman given first to one man, then, when he died, his brother. A woman who took desperate measures to become a mother. A cunning woman, who engineered sex with her father-in-law so that her child/children would remain in the family. A clever woman who, in this way, protected herself from punishment and death.

God took the jealous, the callous, the harsh, the immoral, the judgemental Judah and included him in Jesus' ancestors.
God took the broken, the powerless, the rejected, the neglected, the shamed, the desperate Tamar and included her in Jesus' ancestors.

And this was not all. We are influenced by genes and upbringing, influenced (but not defined) by our ancestry. We read, in great men's obituaries, of wonderfully gifted and great ancestors whose inheritance has helped shape their progeny. When we look at the genealogy of Jesus, he turns this upside down.  Jesus' family story shouts of immorality, depravity, selfishness and shame.

Jesse, who ignored and neglected his best son, David.
David - wonderful man of God, yet a murderer and adulterer also.
Solomon - a wise yet licentious king who squandered his inheritance on good living and left a divided kingdom as his legacy.
Jehoiachin (Jeconiah), who was king of Israel for only three months before he was deposed by King Nebuchadnezzar, captured and taken in abject slavery like an animal, to a foreign country. He ended his days there, 'freed' from prison only after 37 years, spending the rest of his life under the king's eye.

The rest of the list in Matthew 1, regardless of whether kings are included,  shouts of obscurity.

Jesus brings us morality, righteous living, unselfishness and GRACE.

God INCLUDES us, in our shame and disgrace, in his glorious family. Perhaps, this Christmas, it is time to give ourselves a gift.  The gift of giving ourselves "a life no longer controlled by the shame of the past.", 
Jesus has redeemed us, given us great worth and value. We can accept that gift in accepting freedom for ourselves.

One such woman who did this was Elizabeth. She is the first woman we read about in Luke's account of the birth of Jesus. She derived great honour from HER ancestry - she was descended from one of Aaron's daughters - yet she was childless. Barren. This was the ultimate disgrace. Childlessness was considered a curse from God for guilt and wrongdoing, a punishment for unfaithfulness. Luke tells us that Elizabeth could never conceive and could not have children. Surely Elizabeth should have been a bitter, angry woman who cursed her fate, always craving for that which she could not have.

Yet she was not. Elizabeth and Zechariah, a temple priest, (also descended from the priestly line) lived "honorably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God."

The name Zechariah means "he who remembers Jehovah,” or, perhaps, “he whom Jehovah remembers,” Elisabeth means "my god is my oath" or "devoted to God".

Indeed. These wonderful, godly people were to become parents of John the Baptist, he in turn so devoted to God that he became a prophet, living of God's sustenance in the desert, prophesying and preaching repentance to prepare the heart of God's people for the coming Messiah. The contrast of these quiet, good lives in the midst of corrupt, evil times - 'the time of Herod' - shines out. History has shown how pivotal they were; but it would not have felt like that to them. They could not have dreamed, in the middle of their humdrum daily devotion, of the events that would come. Least of all a miraculous - because it was, indeed, a miracle that Elisabeth became pregnant - conception.

Advent. Christmas.

Looking forward, in Advent to studying God's word about the coming of his son. There is an inspirational blog with links to other great devotional studies, including one based on Handel's Messiah, but I am beginning with the Love God Greatly plan: 

Love God Greatly Reading plan

Week One ~ Tamar & Elizabeth: Waiting: Overcoming Shame

Matthew 1:1, 3
Genesis 38:1-30
Genesis 38:13-15, 26-27
Luke 1:5-25, 57-58
Luke 1:6-7, 24-25

Week Two ~ Rahab & Mary - Willing: Social Outcasts

Matthew 1:5a, 16
Joshua 2
Joshua 6:17, 22-23, 25
Luke 1:26-56
Luke 1:34-38

Week Three ~ Ruth Anna - Wanting: to Serve and Glorify

Matthew 1:5b
Ruth 1, 2
Ruth 4:11-13
Ruth 3, 4
Luke 2:36-38
Week Four ~ Bathsheba & the Word - Wishing: to see the Glory of God

Matthew 1:6
2 Samuel 11, 12:24-25
2 Samuel 11:2-5, 26-27
John 1:1-17
John 1:1, 14

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Thanksgiving: underpins everything

Hebrews 12:28 says, in the NIV:"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,"
In the King James version , it is: "let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:"
As for The Message: "Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God himself is Fire!"

Thankfulness leads to grace and WORSHIP.  And so: "Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father EVERY STEP OF THE WAY." Colossians 3:16

And I thank God for my lovely, faithful small group of ten years. TEN YEARS! Ten years of knowing each other intimately, sharing deepest joys, struggles and longings. Ten years of faithfulness.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Thanksgiving: more than a holiday

Sometimes, struggling, it's tempting to ask 'Why me, God?'

But it's better to ask 'Why NOT me, God?' Because "thanksgiving is more than just a holiday, but a crucial spiritual discipline that we must cultivate daily. Our selfish sinful nature takes an open-ended question like “Why me?” but only asks it as a means to question God and to count all that we lack in life. But thanksgiving stands as a bulwark against this tendency. Gratitude brings balance to our lives, reminding us to always look for blessings, even when we find ourselves in what we think is a barren wasteland. And as we give thanks, we inevitably come to the realization that we are undeservedly, richly, and bewilderingly blessed."

Thanksgiving: thoughts today, the American holiday

I have followed Bonnie Gray - the Faith Barista - for several years and enjoy her writing, particularly in her book Spiritual Whitespace.

Today she has blessed me with her thoughts on being thankful, which is also published in Relevant magazine.

Here are 10 ways to redefine gratitude.

And it's not just about 'be thankful because it could be worse'. Cold comfort, at times:
"Here are 10 Ways God Redefines Gratitude
I'm thankful ..
1. I can be in need, so I can go on a new journey to find comfort. “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13).
2. I can feel sadness, so I don't have to live separated from my heart. I can cry and feel afraid because God loves all parts of my story. “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book”( Psalm 56:8).
3. I don't have to want suffering, but I can choose to embrace it. Because God doesn't see it as shameful. "Do not be afraid. I have reclaimed you. I have called you by name; you are mine”( Psalm 43:1).
4. I can fall apart, because Jesus carries me when I’ve gone as far as I can go. “Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you”( Isaiah 46:4).
5. For God's promises: I’ll never abandon you. I’m never going to leave you. “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in” (Psalm 27:10).
6. I can finally stop to look at my wounds and investigate how they got there.
7. I'm learning to say no in ways I've never dared—to say yes to me and yes to God.
8. I can remember the dreams I've given up, so I can ask God if any can be made new again.
9. I can ask God, "Is it too late?" and still doubt, because God is faithful even when I'm not. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” ( 2 Timothy 2:13).
10. I am finding new friends who understand that both sadness and joy can co-exist, who aren't trying to fix me. Friends who trust that love is greater than any resolution, who can be honest about their own stories.
We can go on because beautiful things can be found among the devastation of letting go. We can be broken and real, because Jesus still chooses you and me.
If God’s brought you on a journey through a season of brokenness, step out to give thanks. Not because you’re strong. Not because everything is picture perfect. But because you are loved."


I find this really useful. Struggling with a MAJOR decision - yes, really - I have been waking at night, fearful, and trying to remember to thank God in my fearfulness. Not with a 'cold comfort' idea but because being thankful turns my heart from fear to gratitude.

 And, while thinking of decision making, I noticed another little article on the same page in Relevant entitled "When Risking it All for God Means Staying Where You Are Why 'taking a risk for God' often means opening our eyes to confront the uncomfortable realities right where we are....
So how do you know whether taking a risk for God means staying or going? In my experience, it helps to consider a few things:

1. Scripture: Is leaving it all behind detrimental to the things God holds precious—marriage, promises, responsibility, etc? Or is fear ALONE keeping you where you are?

2. History: Did you just take a risk to go somewhere or do something new last week? Are you running away from something or someone?

3. Wise Counsel: What are trusted mentors, teachers, elders, your spouse or best friend saying to you? Has God revealed to them that the risk He wants you to take is to go, or to stay?

4. Peace: Can you have peace where you are or is there peace that comes with making a change? Has God revealed to you any hidden motives? Are you assured that you are already loved and that doing something “risky for God” is not going to make Him love you more?

As I’m reading Scripture, I see countless stories of men and women whose biggest challenge is not stepping out to go and follow God but continuing to follow Him. The biggest risk is often continuing to live in a God-honoring way, day in and day out, when it doesn’t feel like much of an adventure. It seems that many of us are in the same boat—where Jesus might be calling us to step out and walk on water, but He also might want us to just keep paddling.

So...step out of the boat: or keep on paddling? That is a very big question indeed.


I'm reposting a lovely post from Amy Carroll from Proverbs 31 Ministries: A Cornucopia of contentment.

 "“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.” Philippians 4:12 (NIV)

My grandparents were farmers on the plains of Kansas where the houses were separated by acres of wheat, so time with friends and neighbors was precious. One evening, a neighboring family came over for a meal at my grandma’s house.

My dad and aunt, still elementary-aged, played with the other kids until it was time to scoot up to the table ladened with food from the farm and garden — steaming vegetables, savory meat and sweet fruit pies. Home-cooked goodness passed around until every plate had mounds of food. A happy silence fell while everyone chewed. Suddenly, little Mary Jane, one of the neighbor’s daughters, piped up saying, “This steak is tough.” Her ever-vigilant mother cheerfully replied with just a hint of threat, “And that’s the way we like it. Isn’t it, Mary Jane?” We never have a gathering of our extended family when that quote isn’t evoked. Inevitably, someone will begin to complain and somebody else will say, “And that’s the way we like it. Isn’t it, Mary Jane?” No matter when it’s said or who says it, the whole group explodes in laughter. Maybe you have to be there to think it’s as funny as we do, but I’ll bet your family has a way to remind everyone to be thankful, too.

Just like our family, you find a way to rejoice through the awkward, difficult moments. As the holiday season starts, we try to focus on the blessings of life, yet the circumstances of life remain imperfect. The turkey is raw, or somebody’s mad. There’s not enough money to pay all the bills, or a loved one is missing from the table. You’re still longing for a baby, or your resume hasn’t landed on the right desk yet. No matter what the circumstance, big or small, there’s always something that makes life seem a little tougher than it should be.

Life was hard for Paul as he wrote our key verse from prison. Even so, he calls us to be content in need, when we feel the ache of lack, and in plenty, when self-sufficiency and the quest for more seem to invade. What was Paul’s secret weapon that led to contentment through tough times?

Gratitude. Eight times through the book of Philippians Paul uses the word “rejoice.” Gratitude is seeking out and finding joy no matter our circumstances. Can we do it alone? No. Even super-Apostle Paul follows today’s key verse with, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13, NIV-1984). It’s difficult to be thankful in imperfect circumstances, but Jesus enables us through His power. Jesus gives us spiritual abundance even when there’s lack in our reality.

As cornucopias, a symbol of abundance, fill the Pinterest boards and fall displays in the stores, memories of my grandma’s garden come rushing back. The harvest from her garden that later filled her table didn’t look like the perfect produce department in my local grocery store. Pumpkins from her garden were flat on one side, and the cabbage was often laced with insect holes. Fruit had bruises and vegetables showed signs of too much or too little rain.

Life is like that too, yet an imperfect life can be a cornucopia of contentment when it’s viewed through the lens of thankfulness. A harvest of contentment springs from the soil of gratitude. Even the flawed fruits of harvest in our lives can be nourishing if we’ll choose gratitude, joy and contentment.

As we face the great joys and sure disappointments of the holiday season, I encourage all of us with these words from Paul, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, NIV). Lord, even though our lives are imperfect, we pray You would give us strength to be thankful for Your faithful provision and abundance. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY: I Timothy 6:6, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (NIV) Colossians 2: 6-7, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

REFLECT AND RESPOND: Make a list of things in your life for which you are grateful. On a second piece of paper, make another list of circumstances that are currently difficult. Putting one hand on each list, pray for God’s strength in the hard places and for focus on the blessings He gives. Rejoice in a moment of contentment!

See more at:

Monday, 24 November 2014

Everywhere I look...thanking God in everything

Everywhere I turn, I am reminded to be thankful:
Every more I make, I make in you, Jesus...everywhere I look I see your face.

And I am thankful.

Today, I am reminded of Betsie Ten Boom, Corrie Ten Boom's sister, who knew the secret of being thankful. I read The Hiding Place many years ago, but this incident has remained in my heart and inspired me over the long years.

Betsie and Corrie had been transferred to Ravensbruck concentration camp, having been arrested for helping to hid Jews fleeing the Nazis in Holland.

"In the feeble light I turned the pages. “Here it is: Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all…” It seemed written expressly to Ravensbrük.

“Go on,” said Betsie. “That wasn’t all.”

“Oh yes: …Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.”

“That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. Give thanks in all circumstances! That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!” I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.

“Such as?” I said.

“Such as being assigned here together.”

I bit my lip. “Oh yes, Lord Jesus!”

“Such as what you’re holding in your hands.” I looked down at the Bible.

“Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all these women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.”

“Yes,” said Betsie, “Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!”

She looked at me expectantly. “Corrie!” she prodded.

“Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed suffocating crowds.”

“Thank You,” Betsie went on serenely, “for the fleas and for–”

The fleas! This was too much. “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”

“Give thanks in all circumstances,” she quoted. It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”

And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.

Days later, the sisters learned how they had been blessed by the fleas.

There on the Lagerstrasse we were under rigid surveillance, guards in their warm wool capes marching constantly up and down. It was the same in the center room of the barracks: half a dozen guards or camp police always present. Yet in the large dormitory room there was almost no supervision at all. We did not understand it.

One evening I got back to the barracks late from a wood-gathering foray outside the walls. A light snow lay on the ground and it was hard to find the sticks and twigs with which a small stove was kept going in each room. Betsie was waiting for me, as always, so that we could wait through the food line together. Her eyes were twinkling.

“You’re looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,” I told her.

“You know, we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,” she said. “Well–I’ve found out.”

That afternoon, she said, there’d been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it.

“But she wouldn’t,” said Betsie. “She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?”

Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: “Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, ‘That place is crawling with fleas!’”

My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie’s bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for."
from The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.

The truth of Ephesians 5:20 "always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Still thankful...

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Colossians 2:6-7 NIV
My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.

Yes, but how?
Speak out my thanks. Act out of gratitude. Smile, laugh, express joy.
Because of peace: Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)

Bible verses of the day today and yesterday....

Seasoned with salt

Colossians 4:6

Let your conversation be always full of grace,seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (NIV) or, as The Message puts it:

Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don't miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.

Link here

Seeking God

I have had several threads speaking to me over the past few weeks. One has been on the theme of being strong and courageous; the other, on seeking God above all else.

At Love God Greatly, I read:

We live in challenging days. Like Esther thousands of years ago in ancient Persia, our world at times can feel like it is spinning out of control…and that evil is winning. But take heart my sweet friends, and cling to the assurance we find in Deuteronomy 31:6…

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

God is always with us.

He will never leave us nor forsake us.

We are called to be strong and courageous, which tells me that there will be times in our lives when we have to choose either a life of faith or of fear.

But take heart, God will accomplish what He has started. Philippians 1:6 reminds us of this truth:

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

And though this life can be hard, disappointing and at times heartbreaking, we cling to the truth that we find in Romans 8:28:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Gratitude - a study at breakfast

Photo: Lord, help me to lead with gratitude today...

#LoveGodGreatly #GratitudeRevolutionPhotogratitude post

So, how does gratitude work out? According to, the word thank appears 133 times in the Bible; thanks appears 100 times; 'thanks to' 76; 'thankful' 6 times - mostly in the Epistles; 'thanksgiving' 30; and 'thankfulness' 3.

Interesting that the verb 'thank' is much more common than the nouns 'thanksgiving'  and 'thankfulness'.   Why?

Could it be that, although it is good to be thankful or to have thankfulness, it is better to do thanks? Perhaps it is in the action of thanking that we become thankful and gain an attitude of thankfulness.

How can we do this? It is easy to be thankful for a present we really like, but what about those we really wish we'd never been given? Those that we deem inappropriate or useless, wanting to deliver them straight to a charity shop or jumble sale, but feel ungrateful if we do so? Can we thank God in the bad as well as the good? Do we feel ungrateful for our rejection of his present of circumstances to shape our character, as Paul says in Romans 5:
"We can rejoice when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient.  
This patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady." (Romans 5:3 - 5)

We can, often, thank God for good coming out of bad - perhaps after the event? But thank God while we are IN the bad?

What does the Bible say? 
Over and over again, the Bible says that God is good and His love endures for ever. 

A friend of Jonny's has just written, dealing with his mother's recent brain injury from a horrific traffic accident: "I hear people say things like "God is good" when they get a pay rise or when someone they know is healed or even when they find a parking space in a busy car park. It's true then but it's also true when everything around looks terrible. God is always good. He isn't good because he meets our wants and desires or even our needs. He is ALWAYS good. I don't always understand, or even like what is happening but in all this, He has been my strength and my comfort. He has been the assurance of a better day. Maybe in this life, who knows. But if it's not in this life I know, not hope, not guess or wonder, I KNOW that one day mum will be healed and whole. There is a day coming where there is no more sadness, no more tears, no pain, no suffering. I'm believing for that day. I know I will follow Jesus into that life and my mother will too one day, because I know we both follow Jesus, I can be sure of this."

Our response: should be like David's, when he had brought the Ark of the Covenant into the tent David had set up for it: "They brought the Chest of God and placed it right in the center of the tent that David had pitched for it; then they worshiped by presenting burnt offerings and peace offerings to God. When David had completed the offerings of worship, he blessed the people in the name of God. Then he passed around to every one there, men and women alike, a loaf of bread, a slice of barbecue, and a raisin cake.

Then David assigned some of the Levites to the Chest of God to lead worship—to intercede, give thanks, and praise the God of Israel. Asaph was in charge..and from then on, as well as David, Asaph wrote many of the Psalms.

What do we notice about thanks in these psalms?
Psalm 9:1
[ Psalm 9 ] [ For the director of music. To the tune of “The Death of the Son.” A psalm of David. ] I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
Thanking God is sincere and open: we openly share what God has done because we are so grateful.

Psalm 35:18
I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise you.
Thanking God is public: we don't do it in secret, but with many others. Thankfulness encourages thankfulness in others.

Psalm 69:30
I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.
Psalm 95:2
Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.
We can sing our thanks. Thanking God brings him glory.

Psalm 100:4
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.

And we encourage each other to do this together. We thank God for each other, for this encouragement. Ephesians 1:15 - 19 says:"That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for youevery time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks."

Thanksgiving leads to encouragement and intercession: "But I do more than thank. I askask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!"Than

Thankfulness turns us to consider others' needs. It turns us to want to help. It turns us to prayer - not for ourselves, but for others.

So how do we 'remember' to thank God?

Remember WHY we thank Him, then do it!
  • Study what God has done for us. Find verses in the Bible which talk about thanking God.
  • Write/print these verses to go into a 'gratitude jar or box'.
  • Start a gratitude journal: take time at the end of every day to find things to be thankful for: perhaps start with three things.
  • Keep a notebook to jot down what you are thankful for at odd times throughout the day.
In this season of Thanksgiving, I come across mention after mention about thankfulness. One in particular, about gratitude, has inspired me. The key note: always be grateful.

I like the word grateful. It is more than thankful. Thankful is being grateful and appreciative, conscious of benefits received; grateful is 'warmly appreciative and thankful of kindness and benefits received'.

Gretchen Saffles, in her post The Mystery of Gratitude, says: "Thanksgiving is at the core of the Bible. It is an overflow of our response to the gospel. In Philippians 4:11-12, Paul explains to the church of Philippi that he had learned the secret of contentment. He had faced hunger as well as abundance, danger as well as safety, and need as well as satisfaction. Through every circumstance that he had faced, one thing remained the same – Christ’s love for Him. Paul was truly grateful. His eyes had seen the glory of Jesus through His death and resurrection on the cross and he was never the same. Paul’s secret to contentment in every situation was a heart of thanksgiving that trumped even the most dismal of circumstances.

Gratitude is a way we worship the Lord everyday. Psalm 69:30 tells us “I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” We make much of Christ when we give Him praise, even through suffering, trial, and need. Gratitude changes us and it also changes our vision. Instead of seeing life through the temporary sight of a human, we can see through the holy lens of the gospel. And that, my friends, is the secret. ...Gratitude shields us from bitterness, emptiness, and worthlessness. It gives us life when an illness hits us, it gives us hope when the world betrays us, and it gives us peace when our surroundings fall around us.
The mystery of gratitude is this: Christ gave up His life so that we might truly live. And that is enough to keep us singing, praising, and dancing until we get to be with Him one day! The more we sink our hearts deeply into that truth, the more the praises will keep rising and the songs keep flowing, no matter the circumstance. "

Nancy Leigh de Moss: “Thanksgiving really should be thanksliving—a way of life—day in, day out, morning, noon, and night—continually, forever giving thanks to the Lord.”

Sunday, 16 November 2014

The Christian life, according to Paul's faith sandwich

Reading in Romans 5: summarising the first eight verses.  A faith sandwich.
We believe in God and have peace with him because Jesus died.
When we experience the trials of life, we can see the good coming out of the bad because they develop character in us, which helps us trust God more. When we do this, we feel God's love for us: because we believe in God and have peace with him because Jesus died.

"When God accepts us because we have faith in his promises, we can have real peace with him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.
We can become all that God has had in mind for us to be.

We can rejoice when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient.

This patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. 
Then we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. "
We can rely on our past experience of God's faithfulness to sustain us in the present and carry us into the future.

"Christ came at just the right time, when we were utterly helpless, with no way of escape, and died for us sinners who had no use for him. Even if we were good, we really wouldn’t expect anyone to die for us, though, of course, that might be barely possible. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
We had faith in God and his promises, but it was Christ's death which gave us peace and reconciliation with God."  Summarised from The Living Bible.

Saturday, 15 November 2014


Wonderful post on suffering here.

On truth.

On "For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers and sisters, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead (2 Cor 1:8,9,)

On expectation. And waiting.

And Bob reposts this from Christianity Today:

"But the real question is why not me? God had never promised that I would sidestep suffering, that my wife would forever remain healthy, or that I would succeed as a pastor. In fact, Jesus repeatedly calls upon the disciples to count the cost of following him, to recognize that they will be hated by others, to bear crosses, and even die to self. Moreover, many others have lived far better lives than I and have still experienced tremendous difficulty. Just ask Jesus, or the apostle Paul, or Corrie ten Boom, or Martin Luther King Jr. If such faithful servants of Christ could suffer so profoundly, why not me? "

Worth reading the whole article.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Keeping our eyes on The Main Thing

Privileged to be part of some wonderful answers to prayer recently, privileged to be praying with some awe-inspiring people, seeing God working in lives here on earth.

And still: our friend Bob says:
"This reminded me of something God taught us 14 years ago during leukemia: We don’t listen to any other percentages that 100%:
• 100% God can heal no matter what the prognosis.
• 100% we go to heaven when God says no matter how healthy we are
• 100% surrendered to God
• Now I have another, 100% in the charity of God!

When they buried the blind preacher, George Matheson, his grave was lined with red roses. I think perhaps it comes from the lyrics in this hymn:

1. O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee,
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

2. O Light that followest all my way
I yield my flickering torch to Thee,
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in Thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

3. O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee,
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

4. O cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee,
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red,
Life that shall endless be."

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Sick of me...

This was interesting: Lisa Whittle's blog post today.

Sick of me.

She says:  "I am sick of being afraid. I am sick of being hot and cold for God, depending on my circumstance. I am sick of wrestling with the same things I’ve wrestled with for most of my life. 

I want to be well. I want to be productive and joyful. I want to be useful for the Kingdom, valuable to my family, and have something to show of my time on earth. When I meet God one day, I want to say with open hands, Here’s what I did with the life You gave me. "

Me too.  I want to SENSE God with me every day, inspiring me, guiding me, moulding me... I want to be sick of me and well with God..."