Friday, 31 March 2017

God Moments In Your Day

Dear Friends,



My friend and I had arranged to meet up for a coffee one morning this week. We chose the cafe which is attached to a local hospice where patients receive palliative care. The cafe is open to anyone and the profits go directly to the care of the patients. My friend and I enjoy meeting up there. It has a lovely atmosphere, it's bright, relaxing and peaceful.



We had planned to catch up on each others' lives and also to share what we had been learning from our personal study on the book of James. Usually we sit towards the back of the cafe area, but today we had chosen to sit near the entrance and enjoy the warm sunny day. We had not been seated for long when a lady, who we hadn't seen for a very long time, walked in. I assumed she was there to meet someone. But she stopped near us and asked if she could join us. Naturally, we said she was very welcome to.



As we chatted together, this lady shared that she was just having a coffee before going on to visit someone else. She hadn't been inside this building for some time. The last time being when her husband was under the hospice's care just before he died. You can imagine how hard it must have been for her to walk in alone for the first time since his passing. She didn't stay long, but thanked us for letting her join us. My friend and I then still had time to share what we had planned all along but had thought we would have to forego for the sake of this lady.



I'm sharing this with you because I believe this was a "God moment" in our day. We both felt that God had orchestrated events so that we were in the right place at the right time. So that we could be an answer to prayer for this lady. So we could help her through what must have been quite difficult and so she didn't have to face it alone. 



We're told in Psalms that The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Psalm 37:23 (NLT)



If we had chosen a different time to be there we would have missed her. If we had chosen our usual place to sit we probably wouldn't have seen each other. If she had chosen to come on another day we wouldn't have been there for her. As far as I was concerned, this was God directing our steps and taking delight in the detail of each of our lives.



I believe that not only were we able to be a blessing to her that morning but we too were blessed by the experience because we had been available for God to use us in some small way. 



The following verse is a great way to pray at the beginning of a new day as we seek to make ourselves available to God: 



Let me know Your ways, O LordTeach me Your paths. Psalm 25:4 (AMP)



We need to ask God for his direction because as it says in the Bible: 



The very steps we take come from God;  otherwise how would we know where we’re going? Proverbs 20:24 (MSG)



When you and I live surrendered lives to God, when we make ourselves available for his purposes, when we allow him to direct our ways, then I believe we can regularly experience these God moments in our day.



Paul writes about daily offering ourselves to God in Romans 12. I really like how the Message paraphrases Romans 12:1-2. When we do what Paul is teaching here we will daily experience those God moments.



So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:1-2 (MSG)



Sometimes we miss these God moments because we are just too busy or too focused on our plans for the day.  I think we also miss them because we are looking our for what we would describe as big, out of the ordinary, God moments. 



Yes, I believe that God does big, unimaginable things in our life, but I also believe he is continually working in the small, everyday moments. Moments such as allowing someone to join you at your table in a cafe, or driving a neighbour to their hospital appointment, or listening to a work colleague about their worries and concerns, or babysitting for a young married couple so they can enjoy a night out or looking after your child when they're poorly with the flu. And many other seemingly insignificant events which God has orchestrated so that we can be a blessing to someone and in turn be blessed by God.



How much more meaningful will our day be if we enter it with the attitude that we are surrendering ourselves to God and his will for our life. How much more purposeful our lives will be if we are looking out for those small but significant God moments.



It will lead us in to a deeper, closer relationship with our God as we look for him in our day to day activities. What a joy we can experience as we partner with him to do his will here on earth.



To Think About:

Look back over your day. Do you recognise any God moments?


What do you think you need to do so you can see these God moments in your life?


Have you submitted your life to God and asked him to direct your ways? If you have, what difference does this make in your life?


Vicki



If  what you read was of interest to you, then you may like to know that my book "Dear Friend...52 Weekly Devotions to Encourage, Challenge and Inspire" is available to buy from Amazon. (It's content is material adapted from previous blog posts.) To learn more, click on the link below:



https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1517787955/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1487243591&sr=1-1&keywords=Vicki+Cottingham

Friday, 24 March 2017

Encouragement for Mums

Dear Friends,


Next month my son, Josh, turns nineteen and a few months after that my daughter, Jess, turns sixteen. Where does the time go? 

Being a Mum can be one of the most rewarding things in life, but it's also one of the hardest too. So I'd like today to offer you mums some encouragement. The kind of encouragement I know I'm also in need of.

God has called you to be a mother to the child/children he has placed in your care. He knew exactly who they would need and he chose you. We are told in Psalm 127:3 that "Children are a gift from the Lord;" (NLT).

Remember that God never calls us to something without equipping us for it. The writer to the Hebrews says "may he [God] equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen." Hebrews 13:21 (NLT). When I ask God for his help in raising my children he will enable me to be the best mum I can be. I don't need to struggle alone.

Stop comparing yourself with other mums. I often find myself doing this. I look at what great mums my sister and my sister-in-law are and I wish I could be more like them. I know it's not healthy to compare myself with others. Instead I need to remind myself that God made me to be me, not to be like anyone else and he made me to be the mother of my children. I really like the Message paraphrase of Galatians 6:4-5 "Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life."

The only one we should be comparing ourselves with is Jesus Christ. Our aim should be to become more like Christ. He is the perfect role model and God the Father is our perfect role model for how to be a great parent. "Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God." Ephesians 5:1-2 (NLT)

Accept that there will be times when you make mistakes. You and I are not perfect, so there will be times when we get it wrong. Don't hold on to the guilt you feel regarding your past failures. I've been down that path many times and it's taken me to dark places and has paralysed me so that I have felt unable to parent in the present. Seek God's forgiveness (and the forgiveness of your children when necessary) and learn to forgive yourself. Remind yourself of the truth in God's Word. Truths such as "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1 (NLT)

There have been times when I've worried that a mistake I've made as a mum will leave lasting damage on my children. I've worried I may have done something so terrible it will affect them for the rest of their lives. That it will be something they never get over. That they will be permanently scarred by it.

However, the Bible says: "Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours]." Philippians 4:6-7 (AMP)

These verses teach us that rather than worrying we should bring everything - our concerns, our fears, our anxieties, - to God in prayer. As soon as I realise my worry has returned I can immediately take it to God in prayer. When I do this, in place of my worries, I receive his peace for the situation.

I believe God is sovereign and greater than my mistakes. Because I love God, I believe he can take any experience I have had, any that my children have had as a result of my parenting (whether for good or bad) and use if for good. We read in Romans 8:28 "And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose." (AMP) 

Finally mums, I just want to say to you, keep doing what you are doing. No one can love your children the way you do. Be the mother God has called you to be. Rely on him and his enabling power, not on yourself and your own limited strengths, abilities and energy. And surround yourself with other mums so you can support and encourage one another.

To Think About:
Regularly ask God to help you to be the Mum he has called you to be.

Who do you compare yourself with? How does it affect your own parenting? How does God give us the perfect role model as a parent?

What do you find yourself worrying about? Does worrying about it make it any better? What can you do instead?

Do you have a support group of mums around you? How do you/can you support and encourage each other?

If you have found this devotional helpful, please consider sharing it with other mums you know.

Vicki

If  what you read was of interest to you, then you may like to know that my book "Dear Friend...52 Weekly Devotions to Encourage, Challenge and Inspire" is available to buy from Amazon. (It's content is material adapted from previous blog posts.) To learn more, click on the link below:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1517787955/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1487243591&sr=1-1&keywords=Vicki+Cottingham

Friday, 10 March 2017

When You Feel Overwhelmed

Dear Friends,

(Today’s blog is based on a message I preached on Sunday 26th February, if you are interested in listening to the whole message then please click on the following link:http://www.gatewaychristianchurch.org.uk/podcasts.htm

During the last few months of 2016 and into this new year I’d been feeling really overwhelmed. I was struggling. The thought of having to do anything – whether at home or with church - was just too much. I felt like I was drowning under the too heavy weight I was trying to carry. I felt inundated with “stuff” and unable to cope.

I felt much like that camel in the story “The Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back”. That poor camel was overloaded with straw which his owner had placed on him. But, the owner, not satisfied, decided to add one last piece of straw. It was just too much for the camel and he collapsed with a broken back.

Of course, it wasn’t just one piece of straw that broke the camel’s back, but that last piece did contribute to it and proved to be just too much when added to his original load.

Is that how you’re feeling today? Are you overwhelmed by life? What’s causing you to feel this way? Is it a build-up of seemingly small things, which put together have become too much to bear? Or is it something major that’s recently happened in your life? Illness – yours or someone close to you, marriage breakdown, financial worries, rebellious teenagers, caring for an elderly parent, pressures at school, college, work etc.?

What can we do when we’re feeling overwhelmed?

1.    Pray
Seems obvious, doesn’t it? But how often is this a last resort? How much time do I first spend on worrying over my problems? How often do I try to fix things first? Try to gain control over the situation? Only for things to get progressively worse, not better.

Let’s take a moment to look at the example of David:

O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer!
From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed.
Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me. Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings! Psalm 61:1-4 (NLT)

I cry out to the Lord; I plead for the Lord’s mercy.
I pour out my complaints before him and tell him all my troubles.
When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn… Psalm 142:1-3 (NLT)

We can be totally honest with God. We can ask him to be our rock, our security, when nothing else around us feels secure or stabile. We can tell him we are just not capable of making a decision at the moment and we need his guidance and direction.

Prayer is to be a two-way conversation – yes, we pour out our hearts to God. We tell him exactly how we are feeling. But we also listen for his response, knowing he has the answer. I find he often speaks his answer to me through his Word, the Bible, so I need to be reading it regularly and make room for him to speak and help me.

2.    Talk
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT)

Share with someone close to you that you are struggling and feeling overwhelmed: your spouse, a parent, a sibling you are close to, a good friend etc. Share even if it’s painful – be honest and don’t pretend!

Sometimes just having someone who is willing to make the time to listen can make a difference in how you are feeling. They may not be able to do anything practically to ease the load but it can make it feel more manageable just by voicing what’s happening.

3.    Rest
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NLT)

We need our sleep and this will help us when we are overwhelmed and stressed. Sleep helps to keep us focused, improves our ability to make better decisions, improves our memory, and results in us making less mistakes. 

My illness has taught me much about the body’s need for rest. So, make time for rest breaks during the day. Take time to sit quietly with a cup of tea, for example. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you should be busy every spare moment of the day. We need a healthy balance of work, rest and play.

4.    Take Stock
Take some time to review and reflect on your present situation to see if you need to make any changes or adjustments.

Learn to take one day at a time: Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. Matthew 6:34 (MSG)

Learn to delegate: if we are going to function to the best of our ability and not feel overwhelmed then we need to learn to delegate.

Learn to say “No!” Don’t agree to something just because you have been asked, or because you don’t want to offend the person asking, or you’re afraid of what they’ll think of you. If you already feel too busy, then say no, don’t add to your busyness. 

Learn to say “Yes” to the things God wants you to do. Then you can go forward in his strength, knowing he will enable you and equip you.

Learn to let it go: consider all the things you are doing. Are you trying to do more than what God has called you to do? Do you need to let something go?

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
6 A time to gain,
    And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
    And a time to throw away; Ecclesiastes 3:1, 6 (NKJV)

5.    Have Fun!
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.  Proverbs 17:22 (NLT)

Have fun. Do something you enjoy. When we’re feeling stressed, pressured, overwhelmed, this area of our life often gets pushed out. But I believe it’s important, and especially when we are feeling overwhelmed with life, to take some time out. 

Having fun apparently is a natural stress reliever. Having fun relieves tension and reduces anxiety. When did you laugh last? Really laugh?

What is fun for you? Reading a book, watching a comedy with friends, a sport, a hobby etc.

Putting the five things mentioned above into practice are helping me to manage better when I’m starting to feel overwhelmed.

I really believe we will be less likely to feel overwhelmed if these five things are a permanent fixture in our lives.

To Think About:
What do you think God is saying to you regarding each of these points?

Which of the five points would make the most difference to your life?

What changes, if any, do you need to make?

Vicki

If  what you read was of interest to you, then you may like to know that my book "Dear Friend...52 Weekly Devotions to Encourage, Challenge and Inspire" is available to buy from Amazon. (It's content is material adapted from previous blog posts.) To learn more, click on the link below:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1517787955/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1487243591&sr=1-1&keywords=Vicki+Cottingham