Is it just me, or do you find that your mind easily wanders?
A perfect example, was when I sat down to start writing this, only to remember I needed to send out some text messages before the day was done, and half an hour later, I now begin….
More seriously though, how easily does not only our mind wander in the moment, but the more life I live, I realise how powerful my thought life is, and how easy it can be for my thoughts to wander off course.
There are a lot of places our thoughts can go, and one of my many go to’s can be that of “worry”. It could be as simple as worrying about a trip to the dentist, or as complex as worrying about a diagnosis you’ve been given. It could be worry about how a relational issue is going to be solved, or worrying about how you are going to meet your bills this month.
I don’t know about you, but in this fast-paced life we live, with opportunity to be bombarded at any moment with news of another traumatic incident, I need some good tools under my belt to know how to deal with worry. One of my favourite passages of Scripture is found in Philippians:
Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ.
Could it really be that simple? Is it even possible? I mean, Paul tells us not to worry about ANYTHING….
So if he is serious about this, how can I put this into practice in my everyday life; when I am overwhelmed and can’t see a way out?
For me, in this season of my life, as a Mum (or Mom now that I’m living in America), as a wife, as a volunteer pastor alongside my husband, my go to worry can be, “Am I doing enough?” If I let my thoughts go down that path long enough, I find myself in a place of discontent, and a little bit paralysed if I’m honest. It can at times, feel like, where do I even begin? Who needs my time?
I am so grateful for a God who meets me in my mess, and reminds me, that He is with me. This passage in Philippians gives me confidence that I don’t have to tackle my situations alone, or worry my way down a path that leads me nowhere good. He invites me to “Tell him every detail of my life”. I think we can get good at giving people the glossy version of how we’re doing and sometimes that can roll over into our relationship with God. Can I remind you, and myself (haha), that God is not afraid of your emotions, or your disappointments, or your lack of faith in the moment. He instead invites us to lay it out with vulnerability before Him, nothing left unsaid… and He makes this incredible promise in return:
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The “peace of God” is available to each one of us, and it is something that no earthly thing can replicate. It literally is a peace that “transcends human understanding”.
2 Thessalonians 3:16 says,
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.
What if we I took God at His word, and trusted that not only is He with us, but that we can experience this “peace”, no matter where we find ourselves? If we believed that there really is no place that His peace can’t find us?
What are you going through today that you need the peace of God to invade?
My prayer for you is that you would allow God into those spaces and places of your life, those worries that feel so overwhelming, and let His peace meet you right where you are at. He doesn’t promise to always change what we are walking through, but He does promise His peace in the middle of it, and when we discover that peace, our thoughts are refocused in the light of who our God is.
I could see the whispers of fog wrapping themselves around the trees outside my bedroom window and it captured the emotion of how this season feels for me. Of how I'm not quite sure of what comes next but aware that there is beauty in the midst of the fog; in the midst of this somewhat ambiguous time in my life.
You see, as I've been journeying through my season of letting go - a season that has lasted longer and touched more areas of my life than I ever envisaged that it would - I've become aware that the satisfied life isn't always found where you expected it to be. That Scripture is full of people whom God called to step away from what they had planned and built for themselves to step into what was unknown and wouldn't always be fully realised in their own lifetime.
Men like Abraham who left his homeland - left the familiar and comfortable - to say yes to an undisclosed destination.
Women like Jesus' mother Mary whose surrendered yes took her down unexpected and sometimes lonely and painful paths.
People like the disciples who had trained in various professions and left it all behind to follow Jesus.
And so many more for whom the path looked different to what they had anticipated.
We have the benefit of knowing the end of their stories - of knowing that they stayed the course to possess what was promised even if they did take some detours along the way. But they must have had their in-between times and seasons like we all do. The days, weeks, months and even years where they didn't quite know how it was all going to turn out. Where the fog wrapped around their hearts and minds and tried to obscure their vision.
But here's the thing that I've learnt about fog; you don't have to be able to see everything that lies ahead to keep moving forward. You just need enough light to illuminate where you currently are.
Now this truth is not always easy for me to accept. I like to have things all planned out. To know the end-goal and exactly how we're going to get there. But life's not that simple - the journey is not always linear like we think it should be - and I doubt it was for the ancients either.
God offers to be the light that illuminates our path just as He has for those who have gone before us. For His presence to be a light within us and without. I've discovered that when knowing Him and not my own agenda becomes the goal, that the fog around me begins to clear and the beauty of who He is and how He loves me, shines bright. As David wrote:
For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness.
All our worrying, all our striving and efforts to clear the path for ourselves will not bring clarity in the fog because clarity comes from intimacy. Only trust, only relationship with the One who sees all; with the One for whom the darkness is as light (Psalm 139:12) can cause the fog around our hearts and minds to clear.
Later that day, the sun shone bright. All trace of the morning fog had lifted and I was reminded that there will come a day when we see clearly; when we know and understand in full because we see Him face to face (1 Cor, 13:12). Our revelation, our knowing continually grows and deepens as we know Him more, but none of us can know fully this side of eternity. For now, we only see in part and the journey of faith is to keep saying yes. To keep trusting in who He is, allowing His goodness, His love to be the light for where we find ourselves; to be the light that leads us forward.
How can you let Him shine His light for you today?
Lucas hides himself behind the couch cushions and peeks out - first one side, then the next. Each time laughing in delight as I ask, "Where's Lucas?" and then exclaim, "There he is!" when he pops his head out from his 'hiding place'...
The weekend had left me somewhat fragile and raw. It was one of those times in life where the new and the old collide; where you find yourself celebrating new beginnings while at the same time mourning the end of a chapter in your story. Joy and grief mingle in the paradox of life that both the beautiful and the painful can be happening simultaneously in us and around us.
There would have been a time in my life where I might have tried to suppress the conflicting or what one might think of as 'negative' emotions that such seasons can evoke. A time where I wouldn't have been fully present; where I would have forced myself to just get on with things and tried to hide the depth of what I was feeling.
But nothing about us - no thought, no action, no word, no feeling - is ever really hidden from God. Like Lucas' games of peek-a-boo, God knows exactly where we are at.
In Psalm 139 David writes:
...You have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.
There is no need to conceal our lives from God; nothing gained from trying to put on a face and pretend that we are something that we are not because God already knows everything there is to know about us. But more than that He already knows, He wants us to be open with Him because He wants to be with us. He wants to celebrate our achievements and cry with us in our pain; He wants to be our friend when we are lonely and to hold us when we're hurting. He wants to cheer us on and build us up; to speak truth where we have believed lies and to listen to our story. He wants us to know that we are understood. That He'll stick with us.
David knew that just as he could not hide from God, he also could not run from Him.
I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.
His presence never leaves us. There is no where we can go - no height or depth - that He will not go with us. His love hems us in. And no matter how hard we try to run from our circumstances and from Him, He runs towards us.
We might hide but He always seeks. And like Lucas' joy in being 'found' by me, God wants us to know the delight of being found by Him. Of being known by Him.
Whether traversing heights or depths, I am no longer afraid to let God find me. Because when I let Him be with me, I get the gift of Him. He brings His light and beauty to each and every season and chapter of my life, illuminating the treasure to be found there. God's thoughts towards me - how He feels about me and His perspective on what I'm facing - have become like precious jewels to me.
Rather than hiding from Him, God invites us to hide in Him. To allow Him to be the safe place where we pour out our hurting and our rejoicing hearts; where we share our fears and our faith-filled expectations; where we bring both our weaknesses and our strengths.
Where have you been hiding? Allow Him to find you there.
Live today with purpose,
If you haven't already figured it out, I'm a words girl! I love nothing more than getting lost in a good book, having a long conversation with a friend or having the opportunity to use my words to inspire and equip others. Words are my gift, but I am also well aware that my words have the potential to be my greatest downfall. Because sometimes I just say far too much!
Compounding this excess of words, is my tendency to be an external verbal processor - which is why God's word to me this year that in quietness and trust is your strength, is such a challenge. When I encounter obstacles, quietness is not my natural response - its not that you're likely to find me complaining and wallowing in self-pity, but I will talk and talk and then talk some more about my problem and how I think I can fix my problem. But the more I talk, the bigger my problem feels - and this preoccupation with trying to solve everything myself often fills me with fear about how things will turn out. Before I know it, words of impossibility, of negativity, of criticism and defeat are coming out of my mouth.
In this current season when I am tempted to open my mouth to speak about the challenges I face, I can sense the Holy Spirit saying, "just shush Aimee!"
Last week we looked at God's strategy that He gave the Israelites in Isaiah 30:15 saying,
“In returning [to Me] and rest you shall be saved, In quietness and confident trust is your strength.”
God puts the four aspects of His battle strategy into two groups – repentance and rest bring us salvation; quietness and trust bring us strength. The words for rest and for quietness have similar connotations in the original Hebrew. Rest meant rest, quietness, a quiet attitude; quietness – to be quiet, tranquil, at peace, lie still, to show or display quietness.
In other words the ability to be quiet is an essential part of experiencing God’s saving power and strength in our circumstances. But we will only have the ability to ‘just shush’ if we have reached that place of, as the amplified puts it, ‘confidently trusting’ God; we will only be able to display quietness when we know the One that we wait on.
Isaiah gives God two names in this verse:
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says...
Our God is THE Sovereign Lord – that means that He possesses all power and authority; He He is on His throne and we can trust Him to rule and reign in our lives and circumstances. He is also the Holy One – He is sacred, and perfect, not a single flaw to be found in Him.
And if those two names were not enough to fill me with the confidence to wait quietly before Him, as I have meditated on the verses that follow on from v. 15 I have learnt that He also:
Longs to be gracious
That He rises to show compassion
That He is a God of justice
That He blesses those who wait on Him
That He is gracious when we cry for help
That He hears and He answers
That He guides
The more I give my attention to who He is, the quieter and stronger I become.
Life gives us equal opportunities to choose fear or to choose worship. I can spend my time and energy - my words - on the obstacles that I face, or I can view them as an opportunity to turn my heart to worship; to open my mouth in praise.
When we slow down from everything that feels so pressing and turn our attention back to Him; when we close our mouths, just shush, and consciously choose a posture of quiet, of trusting worship – that’s when the real quiet enters our souls and we find rest in Him.
Live today with purpose
It's another busy week in the Walker household as we prepare for our eldest, Dave's daughter, to move in for a season while she studies. The last eight months have seen us go from a household of four, to five, and now six - and I should mention our couch is in regular use by extended family who have moved out of town, but are frequently 'in town' needing a place to crash! We joke that we should just hang a sign over the door saying 'Walker Inn' - I've taken to saying that there's been Full House, Fuller House so why don't we pitch for The Fullest House!
All this change means I'm busy making room - cleaning, clearing, reconfiguring sleeping arrangements (I think Lucas is quite happy to be moving in with mum!), ensuring that things are ready for when Des arrives this weekend. All of this 'making room' has coincided with Easter and it's had me thinking about how Jesus makes room for us.
How He makes room in His heart for our struggles
How He and the Father make room for us in their Home
When His heart and mind should have been preoccupied with His own imminent suffering, Jesus, ever-aware of the struggles His disciples faced spoke these words,
"Don’t worry or surrender to your fear. For you’ve believed in God, now trust and believe in Me also."
The disciples were experiencing betrayal - someone they loved and trusted disappointing them; they were on the precipice of grief as they tried to wrap their heads around the fact that Jesus had just told them He wouldn't be with them much longer, and Peter - Peter was having to come to terms with his own shortcomings as Jesus told him that that very night he would deny Him not once, but three times! Disappointment, grief, failure - sound familiar?
In the midst of His own troubles, Jesus made room in His heart for His followers and spoke words of comfort and truth to them. He assured them that just as they had spent their lives trusting the Father who they had not seen, that they would still be able to trust Him - even when they could no longer see Him.
And He speaks the same words of comfort to us now, makes room in His heart for our struggles and whispers - trust Me, I'm still with you. And not only that, I've prepared a place for you!
"There is more than enough room in My Father's home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?"
As Jesus went to the Cross He was preparing the way; removing every last obstacle and making it possible for us to occupy our room in the Father's house. How blessed are we that God brings us into His home, welcomes us as family! And unlike our little house - which is well and truly at capacity - the Father does not run out of room or resources. He has more than enough room for us all!
Jesus laid down His very life to make room for us. The question now is will we make room for Him?
When troubles come will we make room for trust?
When we're struggling to know the way forward will we make room for His Spirit to teach us?
When we feel afraid will we make room for His peace?
"But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
Whatever troubles you face today, Jesus cares about them. And He doesn't want you to face them alone - He wants you to stick close to Him; to experience His comfort and peace.
He's made room for us to do this journey with Him.
Live today with purpose,
If you want to hear more about how Jesus comforts us in our troubles, have a listen to my recent message, 'Comforted' here.
One of our kids can struggle to get to sleep - when she climbs into bed at night it's as though a switch gets flicked on in her brain and all the things that she hasn't had time to really think about during the day come rushing to the forefront of her mind. Sometimes this is a gift - like me, she can get some of her most inspired ideas lying awake in her bed. But more often than not as the frustration of sleeplessness kicks in, her mind turns to worry. Events that have happened in the day get stuck on replay - each time becoming a little bigger, a little harder, a little scarier in her mind. And as a result, well tomorrow, tomorrow becomes unimaginable - full of impossibilities.
Jesus knew that we can all have this tendency to project beyond where we are into what is yet to come. And while some of us envisage tomorrow as dreamers and visionaries, for most we tend to amplify our challenges and look forward armed with our worst-case scenarios. And without intending to, as Corrie Ten Boom once said, we rob today of its strength. In Matthew 6 Jesus tells us:
What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way He works fuss over these things, but you know God... steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions... 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.
Now both this passage and its parallel in Luke's gospel are set in the context of Jesus addressing not just the love of money and things, but the spirit of striving to get, to accumulate and to be self-sufficient. When we believe that everything depends on us and on our finite resources and abilities, worry is the inevitable result. But our experience is meant to be different because we know God.
Three times in Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus commands us 'do not worry' - He is literally telling us to not be anxious or troubled with cares. And each of these commands is followed with a truth that will set us free from the burden of worry.
The first truth is this - we are valuable to our Father.
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
I love my kids so much - they are beyond precious to me and I go to great lengths to make sure they are cared for. It's no accident that in this passage Jesus constantly refers to God as your Father. There were so many names He could have chosen - He could have even said my Father - but He wanted us to remember that the relationship is a personal one, and that we're not just valuable as His creation - we're valuable because we're part of His family! Just like my kids know they can rely on me, we can relax knowing our Father loves us deeply and wants the best for us.
Then Jesus reminds us that our Father knows what we need.
So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them.
Luke's account of this conversation adds that the Father has been pleased to give us the Kingdom. It is the Father's pleasure to provide what we need, to make His Kingdom resources available to us. When I find myself filled with worry and anxiety I know that I have allowed myself to lose sight of the Father's heart.
I love how the amplified Bible often translates faith in God - it describes it as the leaning of your whole personality on Him in complete trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness. If life has taught me anything it is this - I can have absolute confidence in my Heavenly Father. I may not always have enough or feel adequate for the tasks before me, but He is always enough. His resources are not limited; His heart is never stingy towards me and in His perfect wisdom He knows just what I need and when I need it.
My recent maternity leave has been an adventure in trusting the Father - in the natural we did not have the resources for me to be off work for as long as I have been. But I have been set free from the burden of worry in this season as I have learnt the secret of what Jesus is teaching in this passage - pursue the Father first, look to the Father first, trust the Father first, because then you don't just get what you need, you get the treasures of His Kingdom too - you get righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit! (Rom 14:17).
And finally, in case we hadn't grasped the importance of this command, Jesus tells us one more time - do not worry, live in the present where I am.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
God is with us in the present and He will be with us in our tomorrow so we don't need to worry about it in advance. He will provide and give us the grace we need along the way as we need it.
So if you must hit the replay button late at night, let it get stuck on what God is doing right now -celebrate it, give thanks for it and rest in His goodness. As you do, He will become bigger and tomorrow will be filled with His possibilities.
Live today with purpose,
As I write this the Summer holidays are [finally] drawing to a close. Now don't get me wrong, I love the extra time with my kids, the older they get the more I appreciate the chance to go slow with them. But I have one big problem with the looong Summer break, and that's this - the quest for quiet in the school holidays results in far too many nights of what I term 'adult rebellion.' By this I mean I stay up MUCH later than I should in a desperate attempt to enjoy a few moments of quiet and personal space. More often than not I regret this lapse in judgment the next day, but by the time the last one falls asleep I find myself doing it again! I have to wonder if it was a mum in desperate search of quiet that came up with our saying 'silence is golden!'
Quiet has been defined as the absence of noise and bustle; silence or calm. More than I long for the quiet at the end of the day, I long for a quiet soul. I want to be at rest, experiencing peace - His peace - no matter what noise might be happening around me.
I don't know how your 2016 has begun - perhaps you have come in to this new year with it all mapped out, your i's dotted and your t's crossed so-to-speak. Or maybe, just maybe, like me you have started the year with uncertainties and blank spaces that you are waiting for God to come and fill. In this season of my life, God has been teaching me afresh the importance of how I wait - reminding me to keep a posture of trust at all times.
We often associate great faith with the ability to do great things - with taking risks and 'stepping out' - but great faith also exists in places of quiet, in the ability to be still and wait. Sometimes the true extent of our faith, of our trust in God is evidenced by our capacity to cease and be silent long enough to hear what God is saying; to be still long enough to let Him show us His goodness and His power.
In Isaiah 30, God spoke to the Israelites at a point in time when they had been busy making their own plans. They were looking for strength outside of Him and they had chosen to partner with Egypt in the hope that her military strength would save them from all their troubles. And God says to them:
We all have our Egypt - the things that vye for our attention; the scenarios and plans that we put our hope in. But God wants to be our source of salvation, our place of strength, the One who brings rest to our souls. And these verses tell me that if I want this to be my reality that I need to stop racing ahead and turn myself around to come back and keep in step with Him; that I need to be quiet (that's not easy for this words girl!) and wait with a posture of confident expectation and trust. Unfortunately, I can tend to be like the Israelites running off on swift horses' and doing things on my own terms - or at least my mind does anyway! My mind races ahead and before I know it I have lost my quiet soul, exchanging it for worry and anxiety as I try and figure things out within my limitations.
Quietness and trust in my experience requires a continual choice to withdraw from this worry and anxiety; to deliberately and consciously retreat from fighting my own battles. It can be a daily, if not moment by moment choice to surrender and be still.
But I have discovered that I can wait quietly when I know the One I wait with.
We can wait quietly when we know God's heart is one of grace, of compassion, of justice.
We can wait quietly when we know that He not only hears but answers.
We can wait quietly when hearing Him, hearing His voice has become our priority.
Most of us are waiting for something and God wants us to know that that waiting doesn't need to be filled with worry or striving. No it can be filled with quiet, with confident hope and rest because of who He is.
Even after the Israelites had run off on their swift horses His heart was still for them. And even when we've raced on ahead of Him, his heart is still for us.
Therefore the Lord waits [expectantly] and longs to be gracious to you. And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed (happy, fortunate) are all those who wait for Him [since He will never fail them].
The heart of God is excited, expectant for the opportunity to show us His goodness! He will not fail us - so whatever it is that you are waiting on as this new year unfolds, I pray that you will join me in adopting a posture of quietness and confidence so that His strength can become our strength.
Live today with purpose,
One of my favourite pass-times as a kid was writing. I used to make my own books and write poetry on our old type-writer. Thankfully both my writing and technology have come a long way!
It is my prayer that these posts from both myself and guest contributors encourage you to embrace the season that you are in and to live it with purpose for God's glory.
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