Overwhelmed by Circumstances

Sometimes we can get overwhelmed by circumstances or situations or just with life in general. The pace that some of us go can produce all sorts of side effects like not sleeping properly or even not eating regularly or being withdrawn from people.

I was thinking about Job’s wife (from the Bible) who isn’t mentioned much but when she is referred to, she comes over as rather negative especially with her husband who had lost his livelihood and his health. They both lost all of their many children which must have been crushing and devastating for them. We are told that Job had prayed for each of his children each day so to have them removed in such a sudden way must have been very overwhelming. While Job was coming to terms with the turn of events, she must have been going through a lot of emotions even being angry with God (which is perfectly acceptable – but not if it lingers and turns into bitterness).

I am reminded of the verse that says in Psalm 61:2 of the Amplified Bible, “From the end of the earth will I cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed and fainting; lead me to the rock that is higher than I [yes, a rock that is too high for me].” It’s not an easy thing to do in the midst of trials and difficulties when one can make no sense of what might be happening. Why does a young mum have to die so early? Why does a child have to have a debilitating disease? Why did a job come to an end? Questions, questions, questions that often can’t be answered and yet can leave us overwhelmed.

Tears are a wonderful remedy to feelings of being overwhelmed. Somehow the dam can burst and all the heartaches can be exposed and even healed so that restoration can begin. May our children not be ashamed to cry especially when they get older and feel overwhelmed with their circumstances or even results of tests or exams. God, being the loving heavenly Father that He is, can comfort and sustain and hold us and our children so that His love permeates our whole beings. Let go and let God comes to mind – easier said than done of course – but a key to unlocking our numbness when overwhelming feelings try to get the better of us. ‘Call to Jesus’.

7 reasons for Praying

It’s often said that ‘prayer changes things’ but I’m convinced that God uses prayer to change people including and especially us who are praying.

1       It’s wonderful to know that prayer was God’s idea and came from him to us humans. He invites us to bring our simple, small and large and complicated prayers to Him who hears even our individual heartbeats. In John 15:16, Jesus said “You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.”(NLT), What an invitation! Whatever!

2      As we get close to Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit (given to every Christian) then we can get to hear God’s heartbeat as we pray. We end up praying the prayers that are on God’s heart so that He can be glorified and the answers keep coming.

3      In the same chapter of John’s gospel in v. 7, Jesus teaches about abiding in him i.e. remaining in him, resting in him. Jesus says, “if you remain in me  and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want and it will be granted.” Then he goes on to say in vv.9-11, “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow.” God loves to bless us by answering prayers.

4      Joy is the fruit of what we experience as God answers our prayers. Sometimes, we have to wait a long time for the answers but we know that they are coming as God has said he will answer and he’s the only One who doesn’t lie. We have many examples in the Bible of how God made promises and then fulfilled them as people prayed. e.g. Abraham with the birth of Isaac (see in the book o Genesis). Great politicians and leaders and indeed may make promises and then lie about them and we may lie at times but God never does. (We need to guard our hearts about even small lies as it says in Scripture that liars await a sad end – see Revelation 21:8 but there is still time to repent and Jesus is at hand to forgive us. How we need to be vigilant and alert and repent as soon as we’re aware of any such actions.)

5       Again in the next chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus speaks again very plainly and clearly in v.24, “Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.” In Luke’s gospel, we are encouraged to ask, seek and knock in prayer, persevering and never giving up (see Luke 11). This was likened to a relationship with an earthly father. Usually, we can ask our human father for something specific and we expect our request. Good fathers wouldn’t give something nasty to their children especially when they have asked for something good and wholesome. So with our heavenly Father – we can simply ask using Jesus’ name and the request will be granted in God’s timescale that can be so different from ours. So praying teaches us to be persistent.

6       So, with our children, we need to teach and encourage them to expect great things from God as they and we pray. Praying makes us expectant for God to move in any given situation or extremity.

7       Praying brings hope. “Call to me,” says God, “and I will answer you. I will tell you wonderful and marvellous things that you know nothing about.” (Jeremiah 33:3.) [Put a child’s name instead of the ‘you’ italics to make it really personal and meaningful!] So, our children can ask God for help as they do their homework; they can ask for the desires of their heart; they can ask whatever and God will step in and provide all they need so that they can go from strength to strength in learning to trust their Heavenly Father to answer them!

Soaring

Here’s a word that makes us look upwards! I immediately think of an eagle soaring through the air currents.Then, I think of the jet planes soaring above the clouds. I remember one day in London when it was a beautiful sunny day and I was admiring the plane lines in the clear blue sky. I sensed the Lord saying to me, ‘Would you prefer to be like a plane or an eagle?’ After I had thought about it, I considered that being an eagle would be best as it is living and not a load of metal! There’s hope for  growth and change with a living thing and a bird can produce offspring and develop qualities. Also, for a bird like an eagle the rides can be effortless riding on the wind currents and it is very good at training its young, even though daunting and sometimes seeming extreme. The parallel here is that we can live life to the full as God intended for us (see John 10:10); we can produce offspring — all God’s idea! (see Genesis 1:28); we can develop the fruit of the Spirit (which is based in love — see Galatians 5:22-23); we are able to learn to abide in God, ceasing from our own works and doing only what He wants (see John 15:4); and we can be bold in our approach to parenthood, gaining insight from the Biblical Scriptures (e.g. Proverbs 19:18) even if it appears old fashioned and not in the current vogue. Surely, this is more exciting that being a mere aeroplane!

In my Christian life, I’ve known times when I have felt taken on the currents of God’s love into the heavenly places that we can only dream about most of the time. I don’t pretend to have had any out of the body experiences like the apostle Paul who seemed to have gone to a different spiritual level seeing all sorts of wonderful things as in a seventh heaven or like the teller of dreams prophet, Daniel, who saw such vivid ‘pictures’ of the future but when the world seems right and God seems near, one’s spirit can soar into God’s very presence especially as one worships God Himself.

The windsailers/windsurfers must experience bird-like happenings and see the world from a bird’s eye point of view.quite literally but as Christians we, too, are called to see the world from God’s point of view. We’re told that we are seated with Christ in heavenly places (see Ephesians 2:6) and so we can look down at what is going on on earth from Christ’s perspective. God wants each of us to soar so that we are bathed in his love continually just like the sun bursts out on us especially on a cloudless sunny day.

We can also soar in prayer to tap into God’s heart for people and situations anywhere on the planet. What a privilege is ours as we come responding to God’s invitation to come to Him at anytime about anything or anyone and simply believing, so that we can receive so much.

Maybe our young children can learn about the word ‘soar’ as opposed to ‘sore’ and realise that God has wonderful things in store for them both now and for eternity as they trust the One who enables them to soar in faith anchored in God’s word, the Bible — hence our focus on God’s word in Diamond Books..

God’s Way is a Way of Peace

“How sure can we be?” … This can be a dilemma in all sorts of situations but the wonderful thing is that God is practical and can help us with decisions and even with who God is. Can I be sure of Him? Can I be sure that he won’t let me down? Can I be sure that I can tune in to His voice and not be deceived? So many questions and I could go on!

I’m very impulsive and dive into all sorts of things sometimes with little thought. However, I am learning that to ‘wait and pray and ask and wait and pray’ provides a growing certainty or growing doubt that a particular way to go or do is the right or wrong thing. This helps me to be wise.

I believe God’s way is a way of peace. He brings order into our chaos and can channel our energies into His priorities. Children need to know that God is so ordered even by looking at the creation around them and knowing the pattern of day and night, the seasons, the cycles of nature and the days, months and years that make up our lives.

Jesus, I believe, was the most ordered person ever to live on the planet. He gained his instructions as to how to order his life from His Father, God, and we can do the same. Each day is unique and we can be connected with our Creator through Jesus. The person of the Holy Spirit is given to all who love Jesus and have asked him into their lives (which is what a Christian really is) so that God’s order can flow through us, too. When children have an ordered environment and routines, they thrive and so do the rest of us!

That is why the first two sets of Bible stories for children – Diamond Books Set A on ‘Creation’ and Set B on ‘Jesus’ have been written. They are based on God’s written word to us humans and it is 100% reliable and true. That’s why I have printed on my car (together with advertising pictures of the main characters of the books) ‘The best book to read is the Bible’. Our simple books reflect the truths of this marvellous Book. Diamond Books give young children a glimpse of how ordered God is. So can we be sure of God? Just look around and see his handiwork – He paints the sky in different coloured patterns each day and there’s no counting all the sand grains on the seashore but they are all ordered in their place.So are we and each child can feel secure in knowing that for sure God loves them and for sure God has a unique plan for each life if they simply connect with their Maker to find out the details!

Why Pray?

It is often said that prayer changes things. I would like to amend this statement by saying that I think that God changes things and people as we humans pray! God invites us to pray and He provides the answers. He wants to reveal Himself as we pray. As God invites us to pray about anything and everything, so to pray for things, people, situations or problems (as examples) is well within the scope of God to answer those requests.

I have found in my experience that the more I learn to abide (resting and relaxing in who God is) the more able I am to tap into what God wants and can pray accordingly. I can pray for anything but sometimes my prayers go amiss because I’m praying from a selfish or wrong motive. However, God is so big that he can, not only meet my need,  but also can give what I want as well. God seems to delight in blessing His children in all sorts of ways.

We are called to be like children in their utter simplicity, just taking God at His word. A child can trust their parents (usually) to hear what they say and to perform their simple request/requests if deemed the right time or something that will bless the child. Likewise, our heavenly Father longs to give us so much beyond what we could ever ask or think (see the end verses of Ephesians 3) so to ask him for things is part of His plan for us humans. He can cause us to wait for His answers which develops our character and faith so that God is glorified. He wants our lives to be a reflection of His.

The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray and we have what we know as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ as a basis for prayer, given by Jesus as a means for us to learn. As we pray, we become dependent upon God so that we can rely on Him in any circumstance or happening. Psalm 91 is about what happens when we abide in God – there are lots of promises one of them being “He (i.e. any of us) will call upon me (God) and I (God) will answer him…” (verse 15). God is literally a prayer away from any one of us.

To teach children to pray is a wonderful thing. Then children can call on God anytime when they need help, especially at those times when perhaps they are not with their parents or maybe afraid or when at school needing some reassurance/assistance..Prayer is like breathing – we can’t do without it and the great God who answers through Jesus Christ.

God’s Answer

Whether we have small or big problems, God has an answer. I think He sets up situations in our lives so that we have to depend on Him. He wants our closeness of relationship more than anything else it seems and He wants us to draw near to Him continually.

I had a headache this morning and dragged myself to an early morning prayer time where my family (brothers and sisters in Christ) prayed for me. The headache did not go straight away as God wanted me to have some rest. I put peppermint on my temples and took some medication (less than the usual dose) and went to sleep on getting home. I think that this was a wake up call that I have been overdoing things. Hence, the warning in the form of a headache.

I believe God has an answer to every situation if we will but lean on Him and acknowledge that we don’t have the answers. This requires humility and discipline. We’re told to be like children in the way they trust and simply go about their lives. For them, it is easier to let Daddy God help them whereas we adults often get too proud or too busy to even realise that God is waiting in the wings to answer any request we have. “Ask and it shall be given you,” said Jesus (see Luke 11:9-10) “seek and you will find and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” and He never lied. So we can have confidence in asking God anything even our non verbal cries of our hearts.

God has one answer for the human heart that He says is desperately wicked (see Jeremiah 17:9) and that is shown in the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ on the cross, dying instead of us (which we deserved). Jesus did an exchange, giving us His immense love in the form of forgiveness instead of leaving us to wallow and receive the consequences of our wrong doing which comes about by the choices we make

Let’s give our children hope by letting them know that the God who loves us also has an answer to every situation or problem we face. He has a habit of weaving everything together for good especially for those who love Him (see Romans 8:28) so it’s worth our children knowing that to be on God’s side makes them winners!

Exposure

I don’t know about you, but I tend to get exposed when I am least expecting it. We can get exposure to the sun which can be harmful, we can get exposure to poisonous fumes or gases that equally are not good for us but sometimes we can get exposed emotionally when a circumstance triggers a deep feeling. The latter happened to me yesterday.

Having recently lost my husband (although he is far from being lost as he is in heavenly places with Jesus which must be wonderful for him) and having my dear Mum living in our home has suddenly exposed the fact that my Mike isn’t here. We usually have a carer for Mum who comes into the home regularly but since last Friday we’ve had no carer and I’ve been trying to juggle all sorts of things around. Then, I find I’m very tired – so try to sleep only to have broken nights as I’ve experienced ever since Mike went to be with the Lord. So am trying to come to terms with my exposed emotions and see how God will take me through this situation.

What about children when they go through emotional turmoil and exposure? What about Henry? Here in England, we have a radio serial (that is on most days just for 15 minutes). There has been an incident in this (the vital episode I happened to miss) where a lady has been emotionally abused by husband and she got so irate after months and months of exposure to this that she stabbed him. Little Henry, her 5 year old son, was in the house when it happened. Fortunately, in this fictional story, he has stable grandparents while his mother is  in custody and heavily pregnant (due anytime). Dear Henry may have many emotional scars and could get more when he hears more snippets of what happened let alone what he might have seen and witnessed. How do children deal with their emotional baggage when exposed to such awful situations? The hugs and understanding of close relatives can help a bit.

There is only one remedy for this that I know of and that is for children to come to their Heavenly Father and tell Him all about how they feel. They will need help to express their feelings as they so often lie dormant or can’t be expressed verbally. Just coming to One who knows and loves them can really help. How grandparents who have faith in God can help here. In Book 1 of ‘The Creation Series’ there is an illustration of children sitting in a Father’s lap. That’s how we can come to God, whether we’re adults or children.

Wrong exposure can draw us to being exposed to the love of God who can handle all our emotions and even heal the memories of them. Let’s encourage our children to come to their solid, strong Father as we run to Him, too, as without Him we can do nothing.  We can’t even untangle the memories and deep emotions we have – so let’s hand them over to the One who can manage them all. After all. we can come to Him as children!

 

Resting Place

It’s so good to have places where we know we can rest or relax but there is one place that can fit all. We were made to love God and enjoy Him forever and when that dimension of relating to God is missing then we miss out on God’s balance and provision for our lives.

We can rest in our homes, we can rest in the countryside, we can rest even while doing physical activity like walking, we can rest by having a snooze and we can rest by just stopping our usual activities. The deep rest that God gives is in our hearts as we make a place for Him. If He has first place in our lives then our resting place can be available to us at any time. We are to rest from our human labours and gain His resources to do whatever He has called us to do. Then, the pressure is off to achieve or do better than others or even to satisfy our our beings. Having a resting place in God is sufficient for us to thrive and be at peace as human beings.

Our children, more than ever before, need these quiet oases of space and peace. Sometimes, especially if introverts, children will take themselves off to their bedroom or a den (in the garden perhaps) and read or use their latest gadgets or use their computer or phone to have a resting place or even in large families to use the bathroom as a quiet spot!. However, even more so than earlier generations of children, they need to have that inner resting place by being in tune with God.  Setting time aside for God is vital for us adults but also for our children to develop the habit of getting to know God for themselves. The Bible, being the word of God, is very important for a child to read. Hence, the Bible based reading books that our project supplies. Because the visual is so important, the illustrations can speak to children, too and help them to grasp the truths that God wants to show them.

Here in the UK, the Sunday trading laws are still limited to 6 hours a day. Having a day of being in a different slower routine works wonders for the soul. God instituted a day of rest each week for our benefit not for us to get hung up about it. He loves us enough to suggest the best way to go about living our lives.

Jesus spent much time with His Father when here on earth. He had a busy schedule and literally the world to save yet he savoured the resting place to recharge and to gain the wisdom and direction He needed. He spent hours at a time, even whole nights in prayer with His Father. So with us, we need to model our lives on Him and seek this place of rest tangibly each day and within our hearts from moment to moment. Then, the  high stress levels can come down and we can be at peace with our Maker who knows how individually each of us ticks.

The Contemporary English Bible puts it  this way – it’s Jesus talking: “If you are tired from carrying heavy burdens, come to me and I will give you rest. Take the yoke I give you. Put it on you shoulders and learn from me. I am gentle and humble, and you will find rest. This yoke is easy to bear, and this burden is light.” Be blessed in His resting place!

Pray!

The most effective thing we can do is to pray – not the last resort! It doesn’t have to be long. As I was tuning into God this morning, I sensed the Holy Spirit was saying, ‘It’s not the length of prayer, but it’s the faith behind this that is vital.’ So developing our faith is very important. Which is why we are urged to read the Bible as often as we can for “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (see Romans 10:17)

Jesus himself didn’t pray long prayers (although at times he did while in the hills or in the Garden of Gethsemane when he was facing his own death – but even then it seems he was to the point!) e.g when on a boat with his disciples when a storm came, he was asleep. However, after being woken up by his panicky friends (and who wouldn’t panic with wind and water coming over the boat) he simply spoke to the wind and waves and said, “Peace! Be still.” That was sufficient for the wind and waves to stop causing trouble and do what Jesus asked.

I, personally, think that when we get to heaven (only by God’s grace and merit – not anything that we do) we will be sorry we didn’t pray more. So often we expect God to move in a certain way but He has ways of answering our arrow prayers in His own unique way, e.g a nobleman came to Jesus (see John 4) as his son was dying back at his home. The man expected Jesus to come to where his boy was ill but instead Jesus said, “Go. Your son will live” and at that precise time the boy was healed at a huge distance from where the father and Jesus were.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says ‘Pray without ceasing”. We can pray anywhere, anytime about anything whether big matters we see and hear on the news or tiny things that only me and God know about. He answers our heart’s cry and our simple words. Children can grasp this idea really well. ‘The Creation Series’ of Diamond Books actually gives children a hunger to want to know God for themselves so that they can simply pray and see God answer. Then their joy can be full as can be ours!

Help!

What do I do when I need help? Binge, cry, shout, work out a plan, share about it with a friend or simply pray. I’ve done all these things but I find that when I can stop and pray, I can then be more at peace and see the answer coming. If I dwell on a particular problem, then I get all stewed up and can’t sleep.

God’s word has something to say about getting help. Psalm 121:1-2 (Good News Bible) says a lot about where we can get help.”I look to the mountains;” the Psalmist says, “where will my help come from? My help will come from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” God is a very present help in trouble so we can turn to him at any time to gain His help and perspective in a given situation.

I think that we humans try to be so independent of God. We don’t take Him at His word when Jesus says, “without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). We think we can, but we can only produce the best when God is working through us and we let Him. As we abide and rest in  His love and power, His Spirit can guide and give us the ideas to pursue that can help us in our varying times of need. Even when in our pride we think we can do certain things, as we turn to God for help, He can do things in an even better way than we could ever have done on our own.

Jesus knew that we would need help when he returned to His Father after spending 40 days on earth following His resurrection from the dead. He told His friends that it was to their advantage that He return to heaven as then He could give us His Holy Spirit who would be with us forever and not even be limited to being in a certain place as Jesus was when on the earth. No wonder Jesus said that we would do even greater things than he had done as what He does now is multiplied by the Spirit working in every Christian and blessing others as well as blessing God – the reason we exist!

Children, particularly those that may struggle at school with various assignments, need to know that Jesus in the form of His Spirit can help them with every single task. As they learn to pray and bring even the smallest concerns to Him then God will act. Then their joy will abound as they see God not only answering their prayers by helping them in the practicals but also realising that God is indeed alive and is interested in them as individuals. How God loves us and wants the best for us!