Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Praising my Saviour {all the day long}

I know that after a weekend, the devil will often try and get in and discourage us. Your days may be a challenge. Life may seem mundane. Trials and temptations to doubt God's never-failing goodness may come in like a flood.

Notoriously, Mondays are just not seen as a great day. (I even started this on Monday and am only finishing it today!)

But, as I opened God's word, to the Psalm that I was to read, before I had even hit the new working week,  I was given a reminder to boost me on my way. The challenge to cultivate gratitude has been a wonderful way to keep my eyes lifted to praise, and this Psalm reinforced that.

My eye particularly caught a phrase that was repeated several times. I read it, and my heart filled with song!

"Let my mouth be filled with thy praise and with thy honour 
all the day"

"My mouth shall shew forth thy righteousness and thy salvation 
all the day"

"My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed. 
My tongue also shall talk of thy righteousness 
all the day long: "

What a challenge to read that the Psalmist spoke and praised aloud what great things God was and had done, ALL THE DAY LONG.

He didn't say,

"I'm not much of a morning person, so don't expect me to be filled with much praise first thing in the day"

Nor did he say,

"I can only praise God and acknowledge his goodness when things are going well" (In fact, the Psalm refers to things not going particularly well AT ALL!)

He didn't even say,

"Well, I'm feeling a bit down, so I will praise Him when I feel better".

He didn't utter the words,

"I'm just plain tired by the evening, so you won't find me in the mood to give thanks and praise in the evenings. Life is hard."



It's not an option. We need to take matters that arise into our own hands, and conscientiously praise.

Sometimes it's hard. Sometimes we need to flip our thoughts around. Sometimes we fail.

But, praise, we must!

With so much to thank God for - with our salvation - Jesus is MINE - with blessing upon blessing - with so much that God preserves us from BECAUSE we seem to have hard times - praise, all the day.

The hymn that sprang into my head, of course, was "Blessed Assurance".

IN the last verse are these words

"Perfect submission, all is at rest
I in my Savour am happy and blest;"

Isn't this what it all hinges upon. We are in our Saviour - one with the Lord, through Jesus Christ, and so we are happy and blessed abundantly. THIS is our son of praise. THIS is why we sing "all the day long".

"This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Saviour all the day long"

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

SATs {spiritual assessment test}

I was chatting with a friend last week about how we home educate our children. We were bemoaning the numerous tests that seem to be required in mainstream education. It seems that from a younger and younger age there is immense pressure to meet certain standards to be classified as "the norm", get onto the next level of learning, get into the "best" school, or certainly to be "not a failure". I've know of mums to have children come home from school in tears because they haven't done as well as they perceive they need to.

I'm not for having tests at every turn. It can put far to much pressure on a child, needlessly. However, tests can be a useful tool for a parent/teacher, just to identify areas that need more work, in order to HELP a child. If you don't know where they are struggling - if THEY don't know where they need to improve - then they won't make such effective progress,

Our conversation turned towards ourselves as parents. We were bemoaning our weaknesses - realising that many of our struggles in raising our children stem from the fact that we, ourselves, are far from perfect. I know, for example, that I have a tendency to be irritable when I am tired. I snap at the children. I don't use gentle words. I answer them too hastily, before thinking about a reply. I overuse sarcasm. I sigh and shout too much. Tiredness is, for sure, one of my worst enemies.

An interesting observation was then made by my friend and I.

Schools have SATs - we also have SATs.

Spiritually, WE are tested! We have "spiritual assessment tests". It should come as no surprise, because we are told to EXPECT times of testing and trial.

"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:"
I Peter 4:12

God looks on us and says "You need to get the opportunity to put into practice what you KNOW you need to work on".

You too?

If you are a Christian, seeking to walk the Christian pathway, you WILL be tested.

I'm going through that kind of time right now.

I am EXHAUSTED. I have a baby cutting 5 teeth at once, who wakens every two hours through the night. Paired with the fact that he is also pretty high maintenance in the daytime, I am beat.

THAT is giving me plenty of opportunity to have my patience put to the test.

When those impatient words come bubbling up, I need to choose to breathe before I speak.

When I am tempted to be irritable instead of gentle, I need to pause and give a kind answer.

"Testing" is pretty much like "trials". We refer to going through "trials", but what does that MEAN?

I was pondering what we mean by trials in a non-spiritual realm.

Maybe someone gets a new job and they will be taken on "on a trial basis". That means that the employer will get to see them at work and then decide if they will keep them on in the job. They are being tested to see if they are "up to the job".

Then there is someone being "put on trial" in a court of law. That refers to evidence being brought to decide on someone's guilt or innocence. Is there adequate proof that they are guilty or innocent?

I often think more of trials being "hard" times, but, really, spiritually they can be just like those other two examples.

The Lord allows us to go through certain circumstances to see if we are living up to the standards He expects of us. Are we "doing the job" of living the Christian life how He desires us to? According to His standards, laid out in His Word?

In another sense, we are "on trial". If others around us look on at our life, weighing up our actions to what they expect of a Christian - do we prove ourselves to be what we claim to be, or are we guilty of walking in ways that are not pleasing to God. Others are ALWAYS watching...

THESE are the kind of trials we often walk through. Proving ourselves to be who we ought to be, whilst facing challenges that test us.

We all have different areas that need to be tested - each trial individual to each person. What is a trial to me, may not be a trial to you. God tests us all according to the life He has given us.

But, do you know the most blessed part of it all?

I frequently have a maths-hating daughter bemoaning why she has to do certain areas of working WITHOUT a calculator. (I totally get her questioning, but that's irrelevant...) She has the trial of doing maths, and doesn't even have anything to make it easier.

When we go through trials and testing, we have the LORD with us. He is there like a mentor, or a defence lawyer - walking beside us each step of the way; defending us and upholding us through the trial.

We have the support of His Word, the guidance of His truth, the presence of His spirit. He loves us, cherishes us, shows us mercy and grace, and abundant kindness. There is simply no better helper that we could wish for.

Every promise of God's Word is ours to claim as we go through these times of testing.

Better still, we can fall down on our knees, like Job, and WORSHIP Him in the trial. Put the crown firmly on the head of the King who is wise and knows best, and praise Him in the storm. Thank Him, and find joy in the hard, because we CAN give thanks in all circumstances - even the trying ones.

So, as I continue to walk through my month of gratitude, I thank God for my trials. Even though I am physically exhausted, I am spiritually rejoicing. I have this wonderful opportunity to demonstrate to my children that I can be joyful and full or praise, even when I am tired and the baby is grumpy. I'm not entirely sure that I am anywhere near being an A star student, but I am getting through, learning and leaning - all with the assurance that I will "some forth as gold". One day, I will be a "gold star" student, when I am made perfect in my Saviour and am fully glorified in heaven. What a day THAT will be, when my "school days" are over, and my labours and trials are over. Haste the day!


The winner of the journal was entry "53" - Jodie Wilt!
The winner of the book was entry "56" - Lynn Pascoe!

Congratulations, ladies, and I will get those to you once I have your mailing addresses - look out for an email from me.

For the rest of you, I HIGHLY recommend the book, if you can buy yourself a copy. I am finding it to be challenging, as well as a great blessing. You can get it on Amazon, in a variety of formats.

(this post contains affiliate links)

Monday, 3 October 2016

CULTIVATING gratitude {how do I grow a grateful heart?}

I thought it would be a good idea to share with you some of my journey to "Cultivate gratitude" as I go through this month - just to share what the Lord is showing ME.

I think it's a wonderful thing that although we can all read the same portion of scripture, the same book, or hear the same sermon,God applies it to each one of us as He sees we need it.

As a parent, I would guess, like me, you seek to nurture your children as individuals? You can see that they each have their own God-given personalities. Equally, they have their own traits and qualities that require training and discipline to help weed out. It's a joy to see the little people (or big ones!) that they are. It's a heartache, often, to have to deal with the not-so-pleasant aspects of disobedience, attitude or other aspects of their sinful nature.

It's no different for our Heavenly Father. Well, it is. He is infinitely more patient, kind, and good than I can ever be as a parent. Yet, His desire is still to treat us as individuals that He created us to be. Each having our own struggles that the Lord has to guide us through, and our own sinful desires that He has to point out to us.

When we spend time getting to know our Heavenly Father, by reading what He wants us to know, we will each see how we need to be moulded and shaped to be more like our Saviour.

One of the first lessons that the Lord has laid on my heart is in the title of the challenge.

CULTIVATING gratitude.

As you may know, if you have been reading my blog for a while, I love learning lessons from my garden. It struck me, today, that "cultivating" is something that I haven't been doing in my garden so much this year.

"to promote or improve the growth of (a plant, crop, etc.) 
by labour and attention."

I simply haven't spent as much labour and attention on my garden this year and as a result there are parts that look neglected. It's evident, to even the untrained eye, that my garden could look better. There are weeds. There are pieces of edging that aren't where they should be. The mint has overrun a border. There are plants that need to be cut back and tidied up. 

Some signs of sporadic effort are evident. A few shrubs that have been cut back, on a whim, when I was fed up with lack of sunlight to a border one day. As a result, that border is doing much better. There are some pretty, newly-planted cyclamen, brightening a previously dull border and adding colour to the plants dying back in the chill of autumn. When work IS done it is equally evident.

It struck me that my life is the same. If I CULTIVATE gratitude - if I put in work and pay attention to living it out  - then others will see it. We're not doing it to receive praise, or accolade - no, quite the contrary. We should desire to be grateful, first and foremost, to give glory to GOD! As was the consideration in yesterday's devotional from "Choosing Gratitude", our praise and worship - our THANKFULNESS - should ultimately be towards our God and Saviour. He has done SO much for us, that we cannot be anything BUT grateful. Every. Single. Day. But, as a RESULT of our praise and thanks to God, others should see our lives to be one that is filled with gratitude. One that is quick to see the ways in which we can choose joy over negativity. A heart filled with thanks, despite our trying circumstances. But ONLY if we cultivate it.

We need to pull up the weeds of discontent and plant the beautiful flowers of thankfulness. We need to cut back the deadness of  grumbling and complaint so that the blooms of gratitude are seen instead. 

Gratitude is not our default attitude. It's far easier to fall into negativity and complaint than it is to be grateful, if it's not something we are used to doing. It only becomes our "default" if we work at it. 

My all-time favourite example of cultivating an attitude of gratitude, is from "The Hiding Place", by Corrie Ten Boom. I don't know if you are familiar with her life-story, but Corrie, and her sister Betsie, were imprisoned during WWII for helping the Jews. During their incarceration, they come to one barracks that is completely flea-ridden. As challenging as the whole experience had already been, this about sent Corrie to insanity. HOW could they get through such a trial??

Betsie discovered what they needed.

"'"Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus." That's it, Corrie! That's His answer. "Give thanks in all circumstances!" That's what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!'

"I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room…"

They thought hard, then they came up with things for which they could be thankful. They were together. They  had a Bible. They even managed to give thanks for the heaving crowds of prisoners, because they could share the gospel with them. But then, Betsie thanked God for the fleas.

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

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

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

FLEAS, guys. They thanked God for FLEAS! 

But, do you know what? BECAUSE of the fleas, the guards NEVER came in those barracks! They had free reign to read their Bible and to share God's Word with their fellow prisoners! Those fleas gave them opportunity to extend God's love to those who were equally suffering around them.

THAT, my friends, is the kind of hard, messy gratitude that I want to cultivate in my own heart and that can be seen in my life. I want others to be blessed by my ability to say "thank you, Lord", in ALL situations. No matter how easy it would be to say "WHY, Lord?"

I have bulbs that I spotted on a good deal in Costco. The images on the packet were those of great beauty! I LOVE anemones, and I can't wait to see them next spring. 

At least, once I have actually PLANTED them, I hope to see them flowering. 

Yup, they are SITTING IN MY SHED. Until I plant them in the prepared soil - until I put them in the ground, where they will draw up water and nutrients from the soil, and GROW - I won't see any beautiful flowers at all. 

That's us. We need to actually plant the seed of gratitude in our hearts. We need to put into action the way we need to live, in order to be the fruitful Christian that God desires of us.

In the letter to the Colossians, in chapter 3, Paul reminds the believers of a frtuiful life that God desires of them. He lists the attributes that we should "put on".

Mercy.  Kindness. Humility.  Meekness. Longsuffering. 
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another. Love. Peace. 

The list ends like this...

"and be ye thankful."

To crown off all the other things we should be, we ought to be THANKFUL. 

That's what God wants from us. Gratitude. Thankfulness for the life that HE has made new, and transformed to the image of His Son. 

As we carry on through the month of October, let's CULTIVATE gratitude in our hearts and lives and live a life that wee seek to intentionally "be thankful".

*** Don't forget about the give-away, which ends at midnight GMT, TONIGHT!  Head over to this post to enter! 

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Choosing Gratitude {and a GIVEAWAY}

It's been a busy day here, but I want to quickly share about something that you may wish to hop on board with.

I have been reading through the Psalms, along with the lovely Candace Crabtree,  from His Mercy is New. We read a Psalm a day and find ways we can pray those words for ourselves. It's a wonderful exercise in making God's Word our own, and making it applicable to the situation we are in right now. The relevancy of so many of the Psalms is staggering!  It's been such a blessing to go through the Psalms in this way, and find the truths that are contained in them.

Well, Candace is starting a 30 days of Gratitude challenge. She will be posting videos on her FB page and sharing about it on her IG account +Candace Crabtree  It's all about cultivating an attitude of thankfulness and gratitude -  and which one of us doesn't need that in our lives? We don't just need it in an accidental sort of way, we need to be intentional about CHOOSING to be grateful, no matter our circumstances.

Candace will be using Nancy Leigh DeMoss's book, "Choosing Gratitude". It's not essential to have it, but I am sure it will be a book that you will be glad you purchased. It's available in print and on Kindle, as well as an Audiobook! There are other books she will be referring to, but she shares about them on her videos. Hop over to her post today for more information.

I have some new journals all ready to start recording the things I am grateful for.  I plan to also use Ann Voskamp's "Joy Dare" resources to journal my gratitude journey. She has OODLES of beautiful printables, which you can have free access to by subscribing. (Details on the post here) I've always intended to take part in her "Joy Dare", so this seems like the perfect time to jump in. She gives three prompts for each day, to help you think of things to give thanks for. Some will come to mind quickly, others may require some thought, but all will result in gratitude.

We all have SO much to be thankful for. SO much. As we have been learning about so many countries around the world where they face persecution, poverty and illness on a regular basis, I have reminded the children JUST how blessed we are, and we take it for granted.

Also, I am going to be starting back with Heidi St John's scripture writing challenge. She shares a few verses every day for you to read, meditate upon, then write out. The act of writing something out will aid you in remembering it, and we can all benefit from having scripture engraved on our hearts in any way we can. You can find out more about that on Heidi's IG account, her FB page, or on her website.

Whatever you do, make sure you try and get into God's Word when you can!

I can't wait to get started on my "Choosing Gratitude", and also hope to have my 13 year old daughter, Beth, joining me on this journey. I may get her to do a guest post on the way through, to share about what she is learning.

I will share what I have been journaling, as I go along - on IG, FB and on here. I can tell this is going to be just wonderful, and my heart if filled with joy just thinking about it.

We have our Harvest Supper at Church tonight, so I hope to spend some time this evening on these challenges. I can't wait!


To kick start this season of gratitude, what better way than to give someone another reason to BE grateful?? I haven't had a give-away for ages, so I would love to share some joy with others!

I am going to give-away a couple of things! There are two items, and you can enter to win either of them.

Firstly, I have a large Moleskine Journal that I have hand lettered and painted. These journals are ruled, with 80 pages (16 detachable), so just a nice size for a month of journaling gratitude. I have hand lettered it with silver sharpie, and used shimmering paints for the flowers. It's really pretty, and it was going to be for myself, but I thought it would be much nicer to give it away (and fits right in with studying the trait of "generosity" with my children this week). I can always decorate another for myself, which would be such a chore... aherm.

 I am also going to give away a copy of the book that we are using during the challenge - Choosing Gratitude, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

You can enter to win either of these below. This is open to anyone, as I am happy to send the journal abroad. I'm all for sharing the love as far and wide as need be.

The give-away is only until Monday evening, so if this is a book you would like to have to join in with the challenge, you can get it as soon as possible! So, you have until midnight GMT on the third of October to enter (remember that is FIVE hours ahead of EST, and 8 ahead of Pacific). Share, share, share so people know, and maybe you will be the winner!

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