Friday, 27 January 2017

Wounded by Others

Dear Friends,

I don't know about you, but I often find that the wounds that hurt the most, last the longest and go the deepest are made by the words spoken to me. I may not have any physical scars but I do bear some invisible scars.

Some of these scars have actually been caused unintentionally because of a person's misunderstanding or their insensitivity. They have not been intentional. They have not set out to deliberately upset me. I know that. Yet the pain from these wounds is still real. It still hurts.

Sometimes they are caused by those closest to us. Sometimes they are a repeated wound - when the person continues to cause pain with their words. It makes it very hard for these wounds to heal when a person continues to hurt us in a similar way.

It's important for me to forgive the person who has hurt me. Perhaps more for my sake than for theirs. Recently, email devotionals and sermons at church have all been about forgiveness. Forgiveness is a great concept and one I completely agree with and believe in. Until it becomes necessary for me to offer someone forgiveness. Then it becomes hard! I've been reminded of when Peter asked Jesus how often he should forgive someone for the same offence committed against him. 

"Then Peter came to him and asked, 'Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?' 22 'No, not seven times,' Jesus replied, 'but seventy times seven!'" Matthew 18:21-22 (NLT)

That's a lot of times!  But isn't this what God offers me and you time and again?

I was talking with my sister some time back about an incident in which I'd been hurt by the words spoken to me. She stopped me and told me, in love, that I was getting visibly angry as I relayed it to her. She wasn't judging me. She was just making me aware of my emotions. She was right! I was right back in that moment, feeling wounded, hurt, upset, angry. I was holding on to those feelings. It was clear to me that I needed to release those emotions, not in an unhealthy way, but by handing them over to God and asking for his help to forgive the person who had caused me such pain.

Over time I've had to keep going back to God to ask for his help to forgive. And he has helped. He has given me the strength to forgive. So that I can be in their company and can show them love rather than holding on to to the bitterness and pain.

However, there are still times when something is said or done by them, and I remember the pain they caused me in the past. And it does still hurt. The scars themselves may have faded over time. They may not be so raw and red. But I also know there's still more healing God needs to do in my life because, like I said, the pain is still there and it rises to the surface every now and again.

What do I do when the pain resurfaces?

I could wallow in my wound. I could replay over and over in my mind the scene and the words spoken. But replaying it actually means I am reliving the pain and when I do the hurt is intensified. I could try to justify the way I feel and tell myself it's only natural that I feel this way as the wounded party. I could tell anyone willing to listen to me all about the offence committed against me. Trust me, I've been there and I've behaved in that way. But none of these things were helpful and none brought healing to my life. I could try to ignore the pain completely and pretend I'm O.K. but eventually I would have to deal with the emotions surrounding the pain.

Instead, I'm learning to deal with it by taking my pain and hurt to God. Only he can heal me of my pain. Only he fully understands my pain. He knows what it is to be wounded. Jesus bears the wounds of my sin and yours on his own body. He was wounded on the cross that we might know healing, peace and love.

"But he was hurt because of us; he suffered so. Our wrongdoing wounded and crushed him. He endured the breaking that made us whole.  The injuries he suffered became our healing." Isaiah 53:5 (VOICE)


Jesus bears the scars of his suffering. They are a visible sign of just how much he loves you and me.


So yes, Jesus understands my pain. He has experienced pain first-hand. When I go to him with my pain, I let that pain go, I leave it with him.  In place of my pain I receive his comfort, his love and his peace.


I'm learning that there will still be many more times when I need to go to him with my pain. The moment I am reminded of my wounds and the moment I feel that old hurt and pain resurface I can choose to do one of two things. I can choose to allow it to bring me down, to make me miserable. Or I can choose to take it and leave it with God.


I choose to go to him with my pain as many times as may be necessary. I know my Saviour will not turn me away, or get fed up with my lack of progress. He will hold out his nail scarred hands to embrace me and he will say "Come to me. Cry your tears. Release your pain. Just rest in my arms."  


To Think About:
What wounds and scars do you bear as a result of the things others have done or said to you?

Are there any wounds that are still causing you pain? What have you done in the past with your pain? Is there anything you could do differently?

What difference does it make to your life when you take your pain to God rather than holding on to it?

Vicki

Friday, 20 January 2017

Exercising Faith


Dear Friends,

What do you do when God calls you to something? Do you trust him? Are you obedient? Often when he calls us he does so to take us out of our comfort zone. Often it's beyond our own abilities. He does this to strengthen our faith and dependence on him. But what is our response?


This week I was sent an email which was giving me the opportunity to be involved in something short term. To follow through on this I needed to fill out a form online and press 'Send'. Initially I felt a wave of excitement. I'd been praying for God's direction and what he wanted me to do. Was this it? But then the fear set in. I can't put myself forward for this. I'm not equipped for this. I don't have the skills. I can't do it. It's too much for me. Others are better than me. Ever had those thoughts and feelings?


Yet, I sensed God wanted me to do this.  


I receive a daily email from Bible Study Tools giving me their verse for the day. Whilst I read their email I was thinking about what I should do. The verse they quoted was Isaiah 41:10 "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (NIV)


The message seemed clear.  


I have a Bible Promises App on my phone. It gives all kinds of promises for all kinds of situations. It also gives a verse for the day.  "What if it's the same verse?" I thought to myself. "What are the chances of that? It doesn't usually happen. But what if?  I wonder..." So I opened the app. Which verse hit me between the eyes? Yep, you guessed it!  Isaiah 41:10.


O - K - God.  You've got my attention!


So I made a decision. I would take a step of faith. I would fill out the form and keep praying to God for his will. This opportunity may or may not be what God wants for me. But what he does want for me is a willingness to step out in faith, to show obedience to him and ultimately to trust him. So I'm stepping out and whether the door opens or shuts, I have acted in faith. There's a great verse in Revelation which I hold on to whenever I'm praying about God's direction and will for my life: "This is the message from the one who is holy and true, the one who has the key of David. What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open." Revelation 3:8 (NLT) If God opens a door for me then I know I can go through it. But, if he closes a door, I know I must not try to force it open myself.


And after all, 'TRUST' is the word I've chosen for 2017 and my verse for the year is Proverbs 3:5-6. (See my first blog of the year.)


Even if nothing comes from the opportunity, the experience will not have been wasted. I will have exercised faith and will have a great promise verse to cling to.

Let's return to the verse quoted above from Isaiah.  What is it God wants me to know? What does he want you to know? Let's break it down and see.


"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10


1. Do not fear - now as I mentioned above I was fearful. What is it that is making you fearful? God knows me, inside out. He knows when I'm afraid and what causes my fear. Yet he tells me: Do not fear. What helps me to overcome my fear? Knowing the promise of his presence, "for I am with you".


2. Do not be dismayed - Merriam-Webster's definition of dismayed is this: "to cause to lose courage or resolution (as because of alarm or fear)".  So God says to you and me that we are not to lose our courage or our resolution to do that which he has called us to do. We are not to give up. We are to persevere. Why? Because God says "I am your God." He says, "Not only am I with you, I am also for you. I am God of this situation and I am Sovereign."


3. I will strengthen you - what a promise for me and you to hold on to! I know my weaknesses and I know my limitations as a result of my migraines and M.E. I can depend on God in my weakness. I know I can do nothing on my own. But God promises you and me his strength when we do what he's asking of us. He promises to give us his supernatural strength. With him we are able to do more than we even imagined. 


4. I will help you - oh, how I need his help. I need him to enable me. To equip me with his wisdom, his knowledge, his insight, his love, his grace etc.  I need his help and I'm not too proud to ask for it. I need his help if I'm to do anything for him. And when I accept his help, he is glorified.


5. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand - this is a gesture of love towards us on God's part. When He holds me by his hand he gives me the confidence and assurance I need to walk his path. Not only does he hold my hand, he is also holding me up.  He is supporting me, encouraging me when I feel like giving up, lifting me up when I am discouraged. 


To Think About:

What are your thoughts and feelings when God asks you to do something that seems beyond you and takes you outside of your comfort zone?

What comfort or help do you find in Isaiah 41:10? There is so much God wants to say to you in that one verse, more than I've just shared. Will you listen to him?


Are you praying for God to open a door which he himself has shut? Or has he opened a door and is asking you to walk through it? Will you accept and trust that he knows best?


Vicki

P.S. After I had finished drafting this blog post I received an email in response to the form I had filled in. It was an email welcoming me to the Word Writers Team.  "The Word Writers Team is a group of women who love God’s Word and love to share His Word with others in both online and offline places. The members of this team are ambassadors for Word Writers, specifically for the newest study on the book of James."

I'm excited about being a part of the Word Writers team for the upcoming study on James! I'd love to have you join me. http://wordwriters.us/james/

Friday, 13 January 2017

Colouring as an Aid to Quiet the Mind

Dear Friends,


Many young children enjoy drawing and colouring. As a child I used to enjoy colouring books, but as I grew older these books were laid aside. As I grew up life got busier with schooling, and other things became more important. 

As adults, we have many responsibilities which claim our time and attention - taking care of the home, marriage, children, work, church life etc. We are busy all the time. Rushing from one thing to the next, almost without taking a breath. We even try to multi- task in an attempt to fit it all in. Life can get quite stressful as we try to juggle what needs to be done. Not only are we busy in our bodies, our minds are also often just as busy, filled with worries, concerns, anxieties, fears, lists of things we need to do etc.

In recent years adult colouring books have become more and more popular. Some claim there are health benefits to them, that colouring helps us to de-stress, relax, unwind, calm our minds and reduce our anxiety.

The Bible Society have produced a "Bringing the Bible to Life Colouring Calendar 2017". The calendar has been designed by the artist, Emma Skerrat. Each month there is a new Bible verse to colour.  

I've decided to give colouring a try - why not bring the enjoyment of colouring back into my life? So, this year I'm using the Bible Society's calendar.  This month I've coloured the first verse "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."  Genesis 1:1. (I've included a picture of it.) I'm using this time I've set aside, not just to colour but to also use it to enjoy being with God. I am intentional about having a quiet place by removing as many distractions as I can. My mind is quieter whilst I colour.  It is easier to let go of all the unnecessary thoughts, worries, anxieties etc that have filled my mind during the day. Whilst I colour I meditate on the verse I'm colouring and use it as a time to talk with God. Another time I may try having some instrumental Christian music playing in the background. 

Being a calendar, the verse is then on display for me to see for the month. I've placed it somewhere I know my attention will be drawn to it and so help to keep it in my mind. 

I have found it to be relaxing. My mind has been more at peace as I've let go of those things which clamour in my mind for attention, and focused instead on colouring, on God and his Word. This may not work for you, but I have found it an enjoyable and helpful exercise.

If you are particularly creative, within your own quiet time reading God's Word, you might like to ask God to draw your attention to one particular verse, from which you then create your own artwork. As you draw you can meditate on God and what he is saying to you. Journalling Bibles are now available with wider margins on each page specifically for this purpose. You can also find plenty of advice, examples and suggestions online if you are interested. 

We were made by a creative God. We see evidence of his creativeness all around us. I believe he has given us all, in varying degrees, the ability to be creative.

I am trying colouring (as I've said, I'm just in my first month) as a different way to connect with God and have time with him.  It's a way of slowing myself down - both physically and mentally.

I believe that stillness and quietness of mind is an important spiritual discipline to develop. God knows how valuable this is to our well-being. 

Below are just a few verses on this:

"Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him." Psalm 62:5 (NLT)

"Let my soul be at rest again, for the Lord has been good to me." Psalm 116:7 (NLT)

"Be still in the presence of the Lordand wait patiently for him to act." Psalm 37:7 (NLT)

I think the Bible Society may still have some calendars available if you are interested in giving it a try for yourself or you can search online and download free printables of Bible verses to colour.

To Think About:
Set aside some time this coming week to be quiet before God and colour a bible verse ( or create your own artwork based on a favourite Bible verse.

If colouring is not for you, why not try another activity (one which enables you to still your mind) so  you can use the time to meditate on a Bible verse.  It may be painting an Airfix model, knitting, card making, taking a walk or something else.

Vicki

Friday, 6 January 2017

God's Direction for 2017

Dear Friends,


As is my usual practice for a new year, I am investing in January as the month to seek God's direction for my life in 2017.

If you have read my previous blogs written at the start of a new year, you will know that I have chosen a verse which is important for me for that particular year. And last year I focused on a word which was relevant for the year ahead. 

I've noticed, from reading various American devotionals and blogs, that the idea of choosing one particular word has become more and more popular. (You can find more information from Mike Ashcraft: myoneword.org and Rachel Wojo: scripturedoodle.com).

This year, as I've spent time alone with God, I've sensed him leading me towards the word "TRUST"

I was reading Genesis 15 one morning and the verse that stood out to me was 15:6 "And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith." (NLT)  The original Hebrew word for 'believe' is 'aman'.  My study bible told me that "This verb denotes trust. It often involves the active decision to believe in the veracity or trustworthiness of an idea or person but can also signify an ongoing state of belief and the action associated with that faith. The word is often used to refer to faith in God and his promises."

So, I've chosen "TRUST" as my word because this year I am making an active decision to believe in the trustworthiness of my God and his promises for me. I choose to trust God and act accordingly.

As I said, I've sensed God leading me towards the word "TRUST", and not least because I have been given two books for Christmas which are about this very thing. The first book is 
'If you want to walk on water you've got to get out of the boat' by John Ortberg and the second one is, 'Take hold of the faith you long for' by Sharon Jaynes.

I now have my word and I also have my verse for the year. I actually wrote about this verse in my very first blog on 25th April 2013. You could say it is also my life verse. It has been important to me since I was eleven years old. God has drawn my attention to it twice this past week, hence why I have chosen to concentrate on it this year.

The verse is Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.(or will direct your paths)" (NIV)

I am so aware of how much I need God's direction for this coming year and how I need to trust him as I move forward in the direction he wants me to take. I'm spending more time in January to ask him what he wants me to do. I have my own ideas, but I can so often get carried away with them without first asking God what he thinks about them. I need his help to distinguish between what is a 'good idea' and what is a 'God idea'. My 'good idea' is not necessarily a 'God idea'.This means trusting him, not relying or depending on my human, limited understanding, and submitting my will to his. 

As I move into a new year I need not fear if I am actively trusting God every step of the way.

To Think About:
Will you spend some time alone with God during this month to seek his will for you for 2017?

Is there a particular word he is drawing your attention to?  Why do you think that might be?

Is there a particular verse he wants you to focus on in 2017?  You may know now why it's going to be important to you, or it may be as you get further into the year you realise its significance.

I would love to hear from you what your 2017 word and/or verse is.  Feel free to comment at the end of this blog post.

Vicki