Saturday, 31 January 2015

Learning to Manage Depression

Dear Friends, 

It wasn't until after I had sought God on what to share this week, that I discovered it was also Mental Health Awareness Week.  I've suffered with depression for many years, but I'm learning ways to manage it better.  I say learning rather than learnt, as there are still times when I sink into the deep, dark pit and I can find my thoughts spiralling downwards.

The bible makes it clear that our mind is a battlefield.  Our thinking affects the way we feel and also determines our behaviour.  As Christians we seek to surrender ourselves to God. "If people’s ·thinking is controlled by [or outlook/mind is set on] the sinful self [sinful nature; flesh], ·there is [the result is] death. But if their thinking is controlled by [or outlook/mind is set on] the Spirit, there is [the result is] life and peace." Romans 8:6 (EXB)  The conflict is between our old way of thinking as opposed to our new way of thinking and believing the truth.  The conflict is between wanting to do what pleases God as opposed to pleasing our old nature.

I want to share with you some of the tools that help me to manage my depression.  If you suffer with your mental health then these may be helpful for you.  Or if you know someone else who is suffering please pass this on if you think it would help them.  Some of my suggestions are also helpful in winning the battlefield of the mind.

1. I need God - will power alone is not enough. I'm not strong enough to combat my mental illness, but God is more than able.  It is his Holy Spirit who gives me the power I need.  I need him on a daily, moment by moment basis. 

2. Talking Therapy - be honest with those you have a good relationship with. It's not helpful to open our hearts to anyone and everyone, but we can talk with those who we know really care.  I can choose to bottle up my problems and worries.  But when I do this, rather than dealing with them in a healthy way, they start to become stronger, bigger and more overwhelming.  My thoughts then become more and more negative.  However, I do believe that there is healing available when I choose to share and be honest. My friend may feel they've got nothing they can say to make a difference, but often they don't need to give any answers.  The help they give is by giving me their time, allowing me to talk and listening to me.

If you don't feel you have anyone in your life who can talk with, then talk to one of your church leaders who can help by listening or will be able to put you in contact with someone who can help.

If you are not in a church, then your GP will be able to refer you to a counsellor or some other medical professional.

3. Gratitude - I'll be honest with you, I've struggled with this.  My Mum suggested at the end of the day I find something to thank God for.  My natural response was I'm just too miserable, it's impossible, I don't feel like it.  What do I have to thank God for?  But the truth is I can express gratitude even when I don't feel particularly thankful.  There is always something I can say thank you to God for, for example, his love, his forgiveness, his presence etc.  I think this is what Paul meant when he said "in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV)  Notice we are to give thanks in everything, not for everything, there's a big difference between the two!

4. Continue your regular quiet time with God. There have been times when I've read the Bible but it just doesn't seem to mean anything to me. Times when I've persevered in reading it even when I haven't really wanted to. Times when I've felt like I'm just going through the motions.  But even in those times I still believe it's good to read the Bible and that's why I've made it a regular habit.  Our physical bodies need nourishment.  I may not be able to tell you what I had for dinner 7 days ago, but I know I did eat and that it was good for my body.  Likewise, I may not remember what I read 7 days ago, but I do know that it was good for my spiritual nourishment.  I know that it is feeding my soul and my mind even though I may not feel like it is at the time.  This is what David says about God's Word in Psalm 110:25-31 "25 My earthly life cleaves to the dust; revive and stimulate me according to Your word! 26 I have declared my ways and opened my griefs to You, and You listened to me; teach me Your statutes. 27 Make me understand the way of Your precepts; so shall I meditate on and talk of Your wondrous works. 28 My life dissolves and weeps itself away for heaviness; raise me up and strengthen me according to [the promises of] Your word. 29 Remove from me the way of falsehood and unfaithfulness [to You], and graciously impart Your law to me. 30 I have chosen the way of truth and faithfulness; Your ordinances have I set before me. 31 I cleave to Your testimonies; O Lord, put me not to shame!" (AMP)

5. Mediate on God's Word. When I'm depressed I find that my mind dwells on unhelpful thoughts and I can easily give in to the belief that there is no way out of this black hole I find myself in.  But I can choose to think on God and his truth instead. The bible tells us what to do with God's Word: "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds;" Deuteronomy 11:18" (NIV) It may be by meditating on a familiar verse which has comforted me in the past.  It can be specific verses which replace the lie my mind has been dwelling on, with the truth.  It may be truths I know about God, but put in my own words, rather than memorised from the Bible word for word, such as God loves me, God is with me, I'm not alone or God is greater than my fears. I've replayed unhealthy thought patterns over and over in my mind until they have become what I believe is true, and if someone was to tell me differently I would not be able to change my thinking.  What I need is for my mind to be renewed by God. So the more I meditate on God's word, the more I choose to think these new thoughts, to think on God's truth, the stronger they will become and the more I will be able to believe them.  They can, with practice, become more powerful than the depression and anxiety which at times grips my mind. 

5. Listen to worship CDs - this helps me to focus on God rather than on my unhealthy thought patterns and they lift my spirit.  I listen to them whenever I can, for example, while driving my car, or dusting the living room.  Even if I'm low when I begin listening, I usually find myself singing along very soon.  When I can't sing, I can at least concentrate on the truth of the lyrics.  When I realise my mind  is begin to wander back into my old way of thinking, I can re-focus back on the music and the lyrics.  The Psalmist says in Psalm 42:5-6 "Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad?  I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Saviour and my God! Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you". (NLT)

6. Be kind to yourself - make time to regularly do something you enjoy.  For me nothing beats a good novel.  I've also recently taken up crocheting, and this gives me a good sense of achievement when I accomplish a small project.  I know that won't appeal to everyone and may be very far from your idea of fun, but do find something that works for you.

7. Learn to say no - if something is just too overwhelming for you at the moment, or if someone is asking you to do more than you cope with, then say no.  (Trust me, I know how hard this is, but it is in everyone's interests if you can say no.)

8. Some of us also need medical help from our GP. When I first realised I was ill with depression, I was very good at hiding it from others.  I don't know why I couldn't be honest. Maybe I felt like a failure and that I should be strong enough to cope.  But, overtime I realised just how it was also affecting those closest to me.  I was not the only one suffering from my depression and it was not fair on them.  So, with the help of my husband, I made an appointment with my GP and was given antidepressants.  They help to stabilise my mood and kept me on an even keel most of the time.  They enable me to think more clearly so that I can do the things I've mentioned above.

So much of what I've shared today comes down to the choices you and I make.  I can choose to continue as I have been, in my old way of thinking, allowing my mind to dwell on unhealthy thought patterns or I can choose to change, to move forward with the help of the Holy Spirit, to let God renew my mind and replace how I thought in the past with new thinking, with healthy thought patterns.  Only I can make the decision for myself to keep trusting in God, to keep being honest with him and others, to keep reading his word and "fixing our (my) eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)

To Think About:
Are you aware of the battle that goes on in your mind?

Which of the above suggestions would help you develop healthy thought patterns? 

How will you put these into practice?


Saturday, 24 January 2015

Life Can Feel Like a Maze

Dear Friends,

As a child I enjoyed visiting castles and old English homes with my family.  I particularly liked it if there was a maze on the grounds.  It was fun to pair off and see who was going to reach the centre first.  Of course it always meant taking some wrong turns, coming against a dead end, not being sure whether to go right or left and sometimes re-tracing our steps, but we always got there in the end. 

One of Jason's uncles owns a farm and he has planted and pruned willow trees in an area of seven acres of land.  He did this to create a maze.  But there is something unique about his maze, which you are not aware of it when on the ground.  A different perspective is needed.  From an aerial view you realise that the maze is actually created so that you can read from above the words taken from John 14:6a "Jesus told him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life.'" (NLT) 

Life can sometimes feel like a maze. There are times when we don't know which direction we should take.  If we rely on our own understanding we usually find we have taken the wrong path.  We always need God's guidance and direction if we are to take the right path for our life. If I want to know God's path for my life then I need to seek his will and be obedient to him.  It's no good me asking God which direction to go in and then turn round to him and say, actually, I've decided I don't like that path, this one looks much better to me, I think I'll go this way instead!  Proverbs 3:6 says "Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take." (NLT)

It can be confusing at times when we are faced with more than one direction to take.  At these times I find I really need to stop and take the time to seek God.  I ask him to make it clear to me which one he wants me to take.

Sometimes the path can be difficult. Times when it's not so smooth underfoot.  When the path is bumpy. They are the times when our circumstances are difficult and the problem before us appears insurmountable.  When we feel like we can't keep going.  Or we feel like turning back.  When we can't understand why this is happening to us. That it doesn't seem to make sense. We feel like God has deserted us, that he's left us alone to deal with it.  That he doesn't really care about what we are facing.  We can become frustrated, even feeling like God has caused this.

It's at these times when we need to be careful of relying too heavily on our feelings.  We cannot always trust our feelings to give an accurate representation of how things are.  At these times we need to rely on what we know to be true about God and the truth of his word.  You see, God is truth and therefore we can trust everything he says.  He will never lie to us.  He will never say something he does not mean.  So, for example, when I feel as though God has deserted me, I need to remind myself of what is the truth.  The truth is that God, in all the time I've known him, has never once left me alone.  Therefore I can fully rely on him to be with me in my current situation. And the truth of his word is this: "Be strong and brave... because the Lord your God will go with you. He will not leave you or forget you." Deuteronomy 31:6 (NCV)

The truth of the matter is that we only have a limited perspective.  We see things from our point of view, from below, and in the here and now. Whereas God sees the whole picture, his is an eternal perspective.  From above he knows the whole story and he knows just what we need to experience on our journey.  He allows us to face difficulties for a particular reason.  We can't see our whole journey mapped out clearly before us so each day we need to exercise our faith in God.  We grow our trust in him by taking that daily step of faith which says "I don't know the journey you want me to take, I can't see it all before me.  But I know that you know the way God and I'm deliberately putting my trust in you to lead me.  I'm choosing to rely on your wisdom, rather than my understanding."  In Proverbs 3:5 we read "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding." (NLT)

I am so thankful to have the gift of God's presence with me as I walk the path before me. I'm so grateful that I don't need to walk it alone.  I'm so glad that the path I take doesn't depend on me getting it right, on me deciding which direction to take, but depends on me trusting God to take me the right way. There is no need to fear where the path will lead, where it will go in the future, or what circumstances I have to face, because God is with me.  His spirit living in me gives me the confidence to continue this journey. 

Take heart, dear friend, whatever the path is that God has set before you, he is with you.  You are never alone.  You can commit to follow him from this day on, for every day of your life, and you can be assured that he will be with you to the very end.

To Think About:
If you were to think about your life as a maze how would you describe where you are right now in that maze?

How does it make a difference to your life when you know that your limited perspective is different to God's perspective?

How could you encourage a friend who's path in their maze feels as though it has come to a dead end or who's path is bumpy and difficult, or who doesn't know whether to go one way or another?


Friday, 16 January 2015

What's Holding You Back?

Dear Friends,

Along my journey with God there have been times when I've felt that there is something holding me back from his calling on my life.  Do you ever feel like that, or am I the only one?

Breaking what is holding you back
There can be various things in my life that work to hold me back from fulfilling God's plan for me.  Sometimes I can be the cause, something in me which is holding me back from moving forward. Sometimes it may be because I'm listening to others rather than listening to God. Sometimes it can be connected to my circumstances and at other times it's the devil.  He doesn't mind it when I'm a lethargic Christian, when I'm all talk and no action because I'm no threat then.  But the moment you and I say yes to God and begin to do something for God, that's when the devil gets worried.  The last thing he wants is Christians who are active for God, who are obedient to God's word and who are influencing others for God.  That's when he gets involved and will do whatever is in his means to stop us and hold us back from living out God's plan for us.

I find it helpful to look at what is holding me back and consider what I can do to remedy this.  Let's look at some of these things together:

1. My fears can hold me back.  They tell me I'm not capable of accomplishing what God has set before me, they tell me the task is too big, that it will be a failure.  When I focus on these fears, which can begin as small concerns, they become bigger, seemingly insurmountable fears.  I need to break the power of these fears by replacing them with truths from God's word.  I need his word rooted in my heart.  I need to remember that I cannot accomplish anything on my own "But with God everything is possible." Matthew 19:26b (NLT)  In 1 Corinthians 1:26-27 it says "26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong."  (NIV)  God has deliberately chosen ordinary people like you and me, so that his power and strength will be evident in our weakness and limitations.

2. My doubts can hold me back.  Over time I can begin to doubt that I really heard from God what I thought I did.  If I focus on these doubts I begin to believe that I got it wrong or I made a mistake in thinking God would chose me for a purpose.  When these doubts surface I need to break any hold they have over me by taking them to God and asking him to remind me and reassure me that he has called me and that I did heard him correctly the first time.  He replaces my doubt with confidence in him and in his word. "Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God." 2 Corinthians 3:4-5 (NIV)  This is one of the reasons I keep a journal of what I hear from God, so that when doubts come I can refer back to what he has said to me and remind myself of it.  This helps to break the power that my doubts can have over me. 

3.  Listening to other people can hold me back.  The things they say can stop me from walking the path God has set before me.  What they say can often make more sense from a human point of view than what God has said.  I can begin to think they know better than me and that I ought to listen to them.  It can be hard to go against the crowd, to stand out and be different.  This is where I need to rely on my faith in God and keep a close relationship with him so that I don't waiver.  You can just hear the confidence in Paul's voice as he writes to Timothy: "I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return." 2 Timothy 1:12b (NLT)  I also really like it in the Amplified Version: "I know (perceive, have knowledge of, and am acquainted with) Him Whom I have believed (adhered to and trusted in and relied on), and I am [positively] persuaded that He is able to guard and keep that which has been entrusted to me and which I have committed [to Him] until that day."

4. The devil will use everything he can to hold me back.  In Matthew 4:1-11 you can read the account of how the devil tried to stop Jesus from doing God's will by placing various temptations in his path.  Jesus resisted the devil by the power of God's word.  

In Matthew 16 the devil again tried to stop Jesus from doing the will of God.  Jesus explained to his disciples that he would suffer much, and that he would be killed on a cross but that three days later he would be raised to life.  Jesus recognised that the devil was speaking through Peter when 22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Matthew 16:22-23 (NIV)

We need to recognise the devil's schemes and "Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour." 1 Peter 5:8 (NLT) 

We also need to remember that we too can resist and overcome the devil because of God living in us.  In 1 John 4:4 we read "But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world." (NLT)

Jesus purposely followed God's will and let nothing hold him back from accomplishing God's will.  So when we realise that there is something trying to keep us from living for God, let's deal with the issue and follow Christ's example.  Then we can move forward with our hearts set on doing God's will.

To Think About:
What is holding you back from doing what God has called you to?

How can you deal with this?  How can you overcome what is holding you back so that you can continue on your journey?


Friday, 9 January 2015

Using God's Word to Pray

Dear Friends,

I'm changing the way I pray when I have my morning quiet times with God.  In the past I've found that sometimes my prayers can become similar to a shopping list, asking God for one thing after another. Sometimes they've been very repetitive,  and I've found myself just going through the motions, rather than really thinking about what I'm praying.

So, I've begun to use God's word more in my prayers with him. One of the things I've done is look up some of the prayers that have been spoken and recorded in the bible. 

I am choosing to pray God's word for specific people in my life as I feel led by God.  For example, for my husband, my children, other relatives, and friends.  The following verse is a prayer I can pray for a friend when they are facing a difficult time.  "Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all." 2 Thessalonians 3:16 (NLT)   It could be prayed in the following way: "Lord of peace would you please give (insert friend's name) your peace at all times and in every situation.  Lord be with him/her.  Amen."  The prayer in Philippians 1:9-11 may be one that I would pray for one of my children or another young relation: "I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. 11 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God." (NLT) For example, I can pray:  "Lord, I ask that (insert name) love for you will overflow more and more, and that they will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.  May he/she understand what really matters, so that they will live pure and blameless lives until Christ's return.  May they always be filled with the fruit of their salvation - the righteous character produced in their life by Jesus Christ - for this will bring much glory and praise to God.  Amen."  Again, I will be led by God as to how regularly and how long I continue a particular prayer for someone, it may be for a week, a season, a year, or more.

God recently brought back to my memory a devotional I had read in which the writer spoke about praying with God as she read his word.  She explained that before and during her reading she would ask God to bring to her attention someone or something to pray for, then instead of waiting till she had finished reading, she would stop and pray as she felt God leading, and then she would continue reading.  At the time I read this devotional I thought this was such a good idea, but did nothing about it.  Now, however, as I mentioned, God reminded me of it and I am learning to put into practice this method of praying God's word.  For example, I am reading the book of Acts and in Acts 4 I read how Peter and John had to stand before the religious leaders and had the courage to withstand opposition and speak the truth.  In 4:31 I read "After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness." (NLT)  During these verses God reminded me of how fellow Christian brothers and sisters today are suffering persecution because they have chosen to follow God, and I felt led to stop and pray for them that God would fill them with his Holy Spirit and give them the courage they need in the midst of such extreme pain and suffering.

Our quiet times and prayers are not supposed to be one-way communications, they are not to be all about me, and what I have to say, expecting God to listen, giving no thought to the fact that God actually has something to communicate to me. It is God's intention that our conversations with him are two-way as we pray and read and meditate on his word.   He wants you and I to enjoy the blessing of sharing with him.  For it to be a time in which both God and I both have the space to speak and listen to each other.  I'm really looking forward to seeing how God will develop my prayer life as he teaches more about how to pray using his word.

Our prayer life will be so much more powerful and effective if we focus on God and hear what he would have us pray about.  When we pray using his Word we can trust and believe that our prayers are in line with his will, and it is these kinds of prayer that God answers.  It says in 1 John 5:14 "And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him." (NLT)

To Think About:
Search out some of the written prayers in the bible.  Here are a few to get you started: Numbers 6:24-26; Ephesians 3:16-19; 2 Corinthians 13:14.  When you have had time to read some are there any particular prayers which you would like to pray for certain people in your life? Why not write them out and keep them in a place where you will be reminded to pray.

Consider other ways you can pray using God's word.

Has this changed your view of prayer?


Friday, 2 January 2015

Personal Reflection Helps Me To Move Forward

Dear Friends,

At the beginning of a new year I find it helpful to reflect on the previous year, to remember what God has done in me, for me and through me over the past year. The Psalmist says in Psalms 143:5 "I remember the days of old. I ponder all your great works and think about what you have done." (NLT)  As I reflect, I consider the lessons I have learnt, begin to understand what changes need to be made, see the progress I've made, recognise achievements and learn from my mistakes, all with the aim of preparing me for the year ahead.

It's vital that I spend this time of reflection with God beside me, so that I don't focus too much on mistakes and where I may have gone wrong, which can lead me to become negative in my outlook and feel a complete failure who's let God and everyone else down, but neither do I want to look at any successes and strengths that are revealed and become convinced that it's all about me and what I can do, and ignore that anything I have done is all because of God in the first place.  Paul tells us in Romans 12:3 "Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us." (NLT)   Reflecting over the year with God keeps my perspective, my attitude and outlook as they should be, and he helps me to see things more clearly.

Reflection helps to give direction to the year ahead. Without reflection we may just continue what we do and how we do it without giving much thought to why we are doing it or if there may be a more effective way of doing it.  It's good to take the time to stop and reflect, not so that we keep living in the past but so that we can then address what, if anything, needs changing, what needs to be left behind, what God is calling us to continue with so we can then move on with purpose.  Paul writes about his purpose and forward thinking in Philippians 3:12-14, and his is a great example for us.  The JB Phillips paraphrase puts it this way: "Yet, my brothers, I do not consider myself to have “arrived”, spiritually, nor do I consider myself already perfect. But I keep going on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ grasped me. My brothers, I do not consider myself to have fully grasped it even now. But I do concentrate on this: I leave the past behind and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal—my reward the honour of being called by God in Christ."

Some lessons I have learned as a result of my reflections with God:

1. This past year has reaffirmed for me the value and importance of relationships, first and foremost my relationship with God, then with family and friends, and with others.

2. God has answered prayers.  Sometimes he's answered my prayers almost as soon as I've prayed them, but other times it's needed more persistence in my praying before I've seen an answer.  When we know we are praying something which is in line with his will, we can have confidence that he will answer what we are asking for, so we learn to persevere when it doesn't happen as soon as we might like, believing for it to happen in his time.  

3. God has shown me that rather than taking on something new just because I want to or think it's right, is not the best or wisest way to make a decision.  Rather, instead of rushing into a decision, I need to stop and seek God, and ask him for his guidance and direction before I respond.  I can then be confident that the response I give is the right one based on his will for my life, and not based on my own feelings, ideas or any other reason, other than because this is what God says to do. 

4. I am constantly learning to trust God, to rely on him, to live the life that pleases him, rather than doing things to please others, to find my self-worth and value in him rather than trying to get it from others.  I suspect this is something that will continue through this year too.  I find that I so quickly and so easily fall back into old thought and old behaviour patterns so I need to daily set my focus on God.

5. There were two goals I set for 2014, goals which I believed would be accomplished by the end of the year.  Although progress has been made in both these goals, neither are yet fulfilled, so I knew I needed to reflect on and evaluate these. I still believe that both these goals were ones that God had given me, therefore they are goals which need to be taken on into the coming year.  It can be too easy to think that we should give up, to think we may have got it wrong if we have not fulfilled what we had expected to.  But if we really believe that we are doing what God wants us to do then we are called to persevere in them.  I think I was probably unrealistic in my time scale for them and that they are actually long term goals.  There are times when I can be impatient for something to happen, I can visualise the outcome but tend to not consider the steps needed to bring about that outcome.  I have seen that my time management could be improved, so that I make the most of the time I have while living a balanced life between my various responsibilities as a wife, mother, member of a church, my goals, times allotted to rest and times for relaxation.  If I'm trying to do too much, more than what God has assigned to me, that can be another reason why I may not be as far along with these goals as I'd hoped, which takes me back to my 4th lesson learned.

Having had time to reflect over the year, I feel ready and eager to move into the new year, focused on God and his leading.  

I like to have a particular verse which means something to me for each year.  Last year was Proverbs 16:3.  This year God has drawn my attention to Judges 6:14 “Go with the strength you have,... I am sending you!”  And in verse 16 God tells him "I will be with you." (NLT) This was God's call to Gideon, to take on the role of Israel's Judge.  You can read his story in Judges 6-8.  These verses remind me that it is God who gives purpose to my life, I am to be obedient to his call, even though I may not have much strength, I am to go with what I have, stepping out with the faith God has given me, knowing that he is the one who goes with me, empowering and enabling me to do his will.

As beneficial as this time of yearly reflection has been, I wonder that I don't do it more often. Perhaps again it comes down to my time management and making the time to review and assess not just once a year, but also monthly, maybe getting to the point where I spend a few minutes of reflection on a weekly basis too. 

Regular, personal review and reflection will help keep us focused on the things God has planned for us, it helps us to keep on track, helps us to make adjustments as we move forward and gives encouragement by helping us to recognise the progress we make.

May God bless you as you move forward through 2015 under his guidance and direction.

To Think About:
Why not make the time to reflect over your past year.  Can you see how God has been with you, working in you, for you and through you?  What has he taught you?  How can a time of reflection help give you direction for the coming year?  What  do you believe is/are the specific goal/goals God has given you for this year?

Is there a particular verse or bible passage that God is drawing your attention to for this year? (Ask him to reveal it to you over this week or month of January.)