Tuesday, 30 April 2013

When Trials Come - Keith and Kristyn Getty

Hi Everyone!!!

Yet again, I must say how blessed I am to have the friends that the Lord has given me: people who are so quick to build me up in my faith and point me back to the Lord when I am feeling down or things don't go my way.Thank you all my friends!!! :D

Today, a friend sent me the link to this tune. While not really my kind of music (I am such an old-fashioned girl at heart, I love the old hymns and classical music: contemporary music often grinds on my ears!!!) I felt that the lyrics certianly were helpful at giving us a good perspective on suffering. Remember: God is faithful, and He WILL complete the work in us that He has begun, even if that means He calls us to endure suffering while in this life.

When Trials Come - Keith and Kristyn Getty

When trials come no longer fear
For in the pain our God draws near
To fire a faith worth more than gold
And there His faithfulness is told
And there His faithfulness is told

Within the night I know Your peace
The breath of God brings strength to me
And new each morning mercy flows
As treasures of the darkness grow
As treasures of the darkness grow

I turn to Wisdom not my own
For every battle You have known
My confidence will rest in You
Your love endures Your ways are good
Your love endures Your ways are good

When I am weary with the cost
I see the triumph of the cross
So in it's shadow I shall run
Till You complete the work begun
Till You complete the work begun

One day all things will be made new
I'll see the hope You called me to
And in your kingdom paved with gold
I'll praise your faithfulness of old
I'll praise your faithfulness of old

Lyrics from <a href="http://www.elyrics.net">eLyrics.net</a>

God bless and may your focus be on Christ this week, whatever hardships you may face! 

PS As an aside, I recently listened to two amazing sermons on Jonah which incorpared suffering and our response to it. If you have the time, I highly recommend you listen to them!

Jonah - Running into God
Jonah - Running from God

From,


Monday, 29 April 2013

But What About Him?

Here is another amazing excerpt from Joni Eareckson Tada's book, Glorious Intruder. I pray that it may challenge you today as much as it challenged me!

...There is an innocent-looking trap awaiting each person who suffers. The trap isn't a body of water. It's an attitude. The temptation to compare yourselves with others who seem to have it easier than you.

Take a few dives into this destructive frame of mind, and you're liable to end up paralyzed - by self-pity. Haunted by a bitter, restless spirit. Robbed of hope, contentment, and joy. 

I'm not sure what was worse during the early years of my life in a wheelchair, the paralysis of my body or the paralyzing effects of my self-pity. I couldn't even visit a shopping mall because all I could do was ot compare myself with the young women walking by...Even watching my best friends model an outfit for me made my face flush with envy. 

Back then, I never considered such self-pity to be the terrible offense to God that it actually is. In view of my circumstances, I figured God would 'understand' a little self-indulgence.

That assumption changed when I encountered a story in John, chapter 21. 

Jesus had just told Peter to expect a martyr's death years in the future. That was hard enough for the apostle to swallow, but what made it even harder was Jesus' silence about John. Even though John was standing there listening to it all, Jesus never spoke a word about the fate awaiting him. Peter sized up the situation and judged that John was getting the better deal. 

Wait a minute, here! Peter probably thought. Wasn't John the one who got to sit next to Jesus at the supper? Wasn't John the one who seemed especially buddy-buddy with the Master? And now is Christ really about to let John off with an easy out on some sunny Mediterranian isle?

It was too much for Peter to keep inside. 'What about him?' he blurted, pointing to John. 

The Lord's answer must have shocked Peter. He might have been expecting some kind of reassurance. Something like, 'Don't worry, Peter. I'll be with you through whatever. Everything's going to be all right.'

Instead, Jesus delivered a stern rebuke. He allowed no room for indulgence. . . no temporary luxuary of a 'poor me' attitude. 

'Look', He said in essence, 'If it's My will that John lives until I come again, what's that to you? What I have planned for John is none of your business.'

Rather harsh words for Jesus to use with a man facing martyrdom, wouldn't you think? Was the Lord right in being so stern? Didn't Peter, arguing for 'equal rights' have good reason to doubt the goodness of God's plan? 

That passage taught me a lesson as I weighed its implications. Jesus will deal harshly with self-pity because He knows it only magnifies a man or woman's misery. Comparing my situation with others and demanding euqal rights is no better than doubting the goodness of God's plan for me - and ultimately, the goodness of God Himself.

Are you paralyzed? Maybe not in body, but in attitude? You don't have to choose the murky, hazardous waters of self-pity. Let me post a sign that might save your life for His service: DANGER! DON'T DIVE HERE!

***

I know that I, for one, am so, so guilty of indulging in self-pity when going through a difficult time. But let me encourage you (and myself!) to remember that the Lord has His hand in what is going on, and that He wants us to be more focussed on serving Him and using the trials He has given us for His glory than wasting them complaining and comparing ourselves to others. Help me Father, and anyone else who struggles with this, I pray!!!

From,



Sunday, 28 April 2013

Some verses....

Today has been one of those days where you want to pull the covers back over your head and pretend it never existed, to start again tomorrow. But I can tell you that the Lord has really used today, as He always does - He doesn't waste any opportunities to draw me closer to Him, even when that involves suffering!

I thought I'd share some verses with you which have either been shared with me by friends at various points today or I remembered when feeling downhearted. My prayer is that the Lord would use these verses to build you up in the hard times!
"I have said these things to you that in me  you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." ~ John 16:33
In this verse, the Lord reminds us that in Him is found real, true peace. And I can tell you from experience that it is so true - we MUST have our contentment founded upon the Lord or else our circumstances dictate whether we are happy or sad. Sure, we will still be saddened when undergoing trials, but if our hope is founded on the Lord, we can have a deep seated peace that even the hardest of trials cannot move. Thank you so much Lord for giving me that peace today when I needed it so much!
"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." ~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
I remembered this verse today and I am so glad that the Lord prompted my remembrence of it!!! It is hard for us to regard any trials, no matter how small as a "slight momentary affliction" - this is made all the more harder when a trial we face is actually serious! But we need to bear in mind that the Lord is ALWAYS in control and ALWAYS working things out for His glory and our good. I so look forward to the day when I will finally be face to face with the Lord and I will finally be able to see how indeed, every event in my life, good and bad, was there for a reason. 

And what an amazing Psalm this is!!! My friends suggested that I read it (I can never thank the Lord enough for the friends He has given me) and it really helped me to get a better perspective on suffering.

Psalm 27: The Lord Is My Light and My Salvation (of David)

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.
One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.
For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.
And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the Lord will take me in.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.
13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord." ~ Psalm 27
A lot of the trials I face will not be nearly so hard as those David faced, and so the fact that he was able to pen those words regardless made it all the more amazing! I particularly found verse 5 helpful: surely the Lord is always there for us to take refuge in Him.

So I hope that helped you all! Please pray for me, that I would continue to serve Him and be filled with joy regardless of my circumstances!

God bless!


Sunday, 21 April 2013

Some Quotes

Some quotes that I found recently that are worth thinking about...all images curteousy of Pinterest.





































God bless and have a good week!




Saturday, 20 April 2013

From a Friend

I have such amazing friends! In my email inbox this morning was this email from one of my friends, which I thought I would share with you all as it helped me a lot. :)

Today when I opened a little devotional booklet in our house, I read the article for April 19,  which was helpful and relevant to me.  I would like to share it with you.

Strengthened Through Suffering
     Church services often end with a benediction.  A common one is taken from Peter's concluding remarks in his first epistle: "May the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you" (1 Peter 5:10).  Sometimes omitted in the benediction is the phrase "after you have suffered a while."  Why?  Perhaps because it is not pleasant to speak of suffering.
     It should not surprise us, however, when suffering comes our way.  The apostle Paul, who knew well what it was to suffer, wrote: "All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12).
     If we live a life of submission to God (1 Peter 5:6) and resisting the devil (v.9) we can expect to be maligned, misunderstood, and even taken advantage of.  But the apostle Peter says that there is a purpose for such suffering.  It is to "restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast" (v 10 NIV)
     God's path for our Christian growth often leads through difficulties, but they fortify us to withstand life's future storms.  May God help us to be faithful as we seek to boldly live a life that honors Him.
God comforts those who mourn.  God is with you.
Here is a beautiful verse that God assures us that He is always with us:

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you."  ~ Isaiah 43:2

Thank you, my friend! This is worth a read too: http://mymorningti.blogspot.co.nz/2013/04/throwback-flood.html

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Faith in the Midst of Trials

I read this post this morning and it really made me think. While I didn't agree entirely with everything it said, it certianly challenged me to think about suffering in another light.

http://www.be-lovedblog.com/2013/04/15/i-asked-for-faith/

Here is an amazing quote from it:
"...The temptation is to base our evaluation of God off our life's circumstances...But the truth is nothing can seperate us from His love...God can and will use every life event to draw us closer to Him."
This blog post showed clearly how God often answers prayer in unexpected ways, often involving hardships and trials, but that ultimately if we are His they will end up drawing us closer to Him. So trust Him - He knows what He is doing!

I also read this blog post recently which I also recommend you read: http://www.weusedtobeyou.com/do-you-trust-me/#.UW_MwspMka8
"...nothing, absolutely nothing, happens to us that God does not allow. He is always in complete control. He knows, He cares, and He loves us no matter what."
So I just thought I'd leave you with those reminders tonight. I hope to blog a bit more comprehensive articles but hopefully that gives you food for thought in the meantime while I finish writing some posts! :) 



Tuesday, 16 April 2013

From Now On

I've finally finished copying relevant posts on "suffering" from Violets and Daisies onto this blog. So from now on, look forward to seeing new material on here! I already have so many neat ideas and I can't wait to share with you all what I have been learning recently! Oh, and I'd appreciate your feedback regarding the blog design and any improvements I should make to it as I'm still fixing things up. :)

God bless!


Sunday, 14 April 2013

What Can You Bear?

(First posted on Violets and Daisies on Friday, 12 April, 2013)

I have been getting so much out of Joni Eareckson Tada's book Glorious Intruder that I thought I would share a section I read today that really gave me a different perspective on suffering. My prayer is that it will help you too!
Over the years, many people have asked me, "How do you do it, Joni? How do you cope with your paralysis? How can you bear it?" I've wondered the same thing of others. Every time I look at someone who is totally blind or deaf, I think, How in the world can they do it? ....

Suffering, and our ability to stand up strong in it, is relative. in 1 Corinthians 10:13, Paul assures us that our Lord will never tempt or test us beyond what we can bear. The apostle further reminds us that God's grace willl never be in short supply. "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:8).
Through God's grace, Vicky and others like her have been able to bear up under a severe paralysis. But God has not chosen that level of limitation for me. Yes, I am paralyzed, but only to the degree that I can, with His grace, live a joyful and meaningful life.

Not everyone can be trusted with suffering. Not everyone can endure a fiery ordeal. So the Master scrutinizes the jewels and carefully selects those which can bear the refining, the branches which can stand the knife. It is given for some to preach, for others to work, for others to give, and for still others to suffer. 

Where do you fit on that scale? Perhaps you're not paralyzied. You may not be deaf or blind or carry the seeds of cancer in your body. God know that you are not the one to handle - even with all of His resources of grace - that kind of suffering. 

But he has selected you to handle that particular, unique, individual set of circumstances in your own life. Your singleness. Your marriage. Your sterility. Your prision term. Your finances. Your job. Your unemploymnet. Your background. Your physical appearence, abilities, and educational opportunities. 

Whatever you would call "suffering" in your own life, God has allowed it. Even purposed it. 

Don't you dare think you can't handle it! First Corinthians 10:13 promises that you can not only handle it, but glorify God in it.

So don't be looking at the man with cerebral palsy, thinking, How does he manage? Don't be looking at the saintly wife who exhibits a submissive and quiet heart in an abusive family situation and think, I could never do that. Don't shake your head when you see a mom or dad with a Downs Syndrome child and say, No way I could face that.

Most likely you couldn't. Which is precisely why God hasn't asked you to. Instead, take time to seriously consider how you will remain joyful and obedient within your own particular, unique, individual situation. Accept your circumstances as a gift from His hand. Dare to thank Him for them. 

Not everyone could be trusted with what you're wrestling with today, but you have been so trusted. Find meaning and joy as you draw on His resources ... and persevere.

The grace is God's. The choice is yours.

Wow! Challenging, isn't it? The first thing I do when I undergo trials in my life is complain or begin to feel sorry for myself - I really need to change my perspective and see my trials as a God-given opportunity to serve Him and demonstrate His glory. Father help me I pray!





When Times are Hard

(First posted on Violets and Daisies on Monday, 8 April, 2013)

I've had a very difficult day, but the Lord has seriously been at work even in the hard times! He really brought His word to bear upon my life today, and I thought I would share these verses for reading when "times are hard" as these all came to mind throughout the day, and it is my prayer that they will really help you too. I'll let them speak for themselves. :)
  • "...do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." ~ Philippians 4:6-7
  • “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." ~ Matthew 5:4
  • "I can do all things through him who strengthens me." ~ Philippians 4:13
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  • "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing .  . . Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. . .  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change..." ~ James 1:2-18
  • "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." ~ Matthew 11:28
  • "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” ~ Matthew 28: 20
  • "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven... a time to weep, and a time to laugh..." ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1,4
My friends have also been building me up in prayer and by giving me these verses today, which really helped me! It's great to have such godly friends like the ones I have - I can never be thankful enough for them!
  • "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us and eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." ~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
  • "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." ~ John 16:33
  • "You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock." ~ Isaiah 26:3,4
  • "...fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." ~ Isaiah 41:10
  • "Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven." ~ Psalm 107: 28-30
If you are having a hard time at the moment, I encourage you to rest in the Lord, pray and search the scriptures. Allow Him to use the trials to shape you and conform you to His ways. It is hard, and certianly not pleasant at the time but in the end it is worth it!

Dealing with Depression

(First posted on Violets and Daisies on Monday, 18 March, 2013)

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I have a confession to make, dear readers, that I find hard to blog about as it is something that is quite personal to me but that I feel I need to write about today. I'm sure that Daisy could also testify to the fact that often what we blog about is more for our own sake than our readers! It is at times when you struggle most with something that reminding yourself of some hard truths is most needed.
A warning before I begin: I am only a young Christian girl who struggles in this area - to a lesser extent than many, but also more so than others. I am by no means an expert in this field and please, please, please do look beyond this post to the Bible and other reliable sources if you are dealing with depression, particularly if you are dealing with a more serious kind. This is purely written from my heart and own experiences, and is mostly as a reminder to myself when I am struggling with it.So please feel free to correct me if you feel I am wrong on any point!
That said, I will begin!
Violet's List of What-To-Do When Depressed (From A Christian Perspective)
(Not necessairly in order of importance!)

Sin
The first question you need to ask when you feel depressed is one relating to sin. Over the years as I have struggled with mood swings (extremely happy to extremely sad within moments) the one consistant pattern I have noticed is connected to sin. Usually it is the times when I am consciously or unconciously rebelling against God and His Word that I feel most down. Which really should not be surprising when you come to think of it! Ever since we rebelled against God in the garden of Eden, we have been promised that life will not be easy and that it will be fraught with trials. 
"Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you 'You shall not eat of it', cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust and to dust you shall return." ~ Genesis 3:17-19
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Quite often, our depression is due to the fact that we want to be in control of some area in our lives rather than surrendering it to God, and when we can no longer handle the problem, rather than clinging to Christ, we return to ourselves for a solution and, not surprisingly, often find no solution at all in that! We really do need to put our lives under God's control!
What I am not saying is that if you are depressed you are sinning, but that you need to examine yourself regardless and use this time to let the Lord show you what may be causing these depressive tendencies. And bear in mind that depression itself can be a form of sin if you allow it to grow and consume you and lead you away from the Lord. (A quick note here too: we can also become depressed when we are suffering trials, even when they seem to be a conseqence of the sins of others not ourselves. This could be a whole post on its own, but I believe the key there is forgiveness; asking the Lord to help you forgive those who have wronged you).

So...to sum up in a nutshell: first look at your life and ask is there some area that I am not surrendering to the Lord's provision and control? And if I've been wronged by others, am I willing to forgive rather than becoming bogged down in negativity?

Grace
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While part of depression may be due to sin that we haven't dealt with in our lives, another part of it that is just as deadly is our understanding and belief in God's grace. Too, too often I have become focussed on the negative in life because I simply refuse to accept that such a great and just God can, has and will forgive me for past, present and future sins. And while it is true that we must examine our lives and see where we are not following the Lord as we should, that is only the first half of it. If we only looked at the sin in our lives, we would be depressed for sure: in fact, I'd be worried if you weren't! This is where it is so important to be a true Christian and to understand that in and of ourselves we can't stop sinning - but that Christ has already paid the penalty that we deserved! Of course, we should strive for godliness and holiness in our lives to please and glorify Him, but we should never let frustration over our inability to deal with sin lead to depression. Rather, we need to turn everything over to Him, and ask Him to help us overcome it. For,
"...the disciples ...were greatly astonished saying, 'Who then can be saved?' But Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible but with God all things are possible." ~ Matthew 19:25,26
We need to cling to the cross and realize that in and of ourselves we can't deal with sin but that through God's mercy and grace we can follow Him.
Church
The next thing you need to do if you struggle with depression is be involved in a church! Getting involved in the lives of other believers, while it may be hard initally, can be really rewarding as it helps us to stay accountable as well as be encouraged by fellow brothers and sisters. I can recall countless instances where if it were not for getting together at church and being convicted by the Holy Spirit and the witness and testimony of my brothers and sisters, I would have been even more tempted to wallow in my own sorrows. It also helps you to see outside of your own situation as you see the struggles others are going through, many times worse than your own, and are able to uplift them in prayer (more on that next).
Serve
This is closely linked to church, but can also be applied in a more general sense whether it be in your local community, home or workplace. Basically, when you begin to feel the stormclouds gathering, that is the time to become proactive and fully immersed in serving others. When you see a need, meet it! You will be so surprised, as I have been, as to how much this lifts the focus off yourself and onto other people and their needs and how quickly you come to realise that actually, you are not the only person on the planet who suffers and has bad things happen! After all just think of Job! Things could always be worse.
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 One suggestion that has really helped me is serving the elderly in rest homes by visiting to them and maybe playing some music for them, if that is your gift. To see these people who may no longer have the full function of their bodies or in some cases even their memories is really humbling and helps you to quickly see how much you do have.
Read the Bible
It should go without saying that reading the Bible is imperative if you are struggling with depression. At times, it may seem like you get nothing out of it, or it just goes over your head, but I can tell you from experience that establishing a good habit and discipline of Bible reading is really helpful! When you are down, one of the first things you often want to get rid of is Bible readings as it either convicts you, showing your inadequacies, or it is a way you feel you can "punish" God for whatever trial He is calling you to endure that is making you depressed. Either way, if you have already established a habit of reading the Bible and persist in it no matter how down you feel, you will be amazed at how much it helps. 
Pray - particularly for others
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Pray, pray, pray! It cannot be emphasised enough! One of my serious regrets when I am down is that I often try to "deal with it" myself. This is the wrong, wrong, wrong approach! When we are down is when we need to cling to Christ the most and cry out in dependence upon Him, just as the Psalmists so often did:
"O Lord, God of my salvation; I cry out day and night before you. Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry! For my soul is full of troubles..." ~ Psalm 88:1-3
Also use the time to serve others in another capacity: by praying for them! I am convinced that part of our problem with depression is that we become so wrapped up in our little worries and concerns, no matter how big or small they may be, that we lose focus entirely of what others are going through currently. Some recent examples of this in my own life from just today is that my parents were speaking to some other parents about some recent struggles of one kind and another they'd had - only to find that these parents had experienced the exact same thing! In this way, we were all able to see that our struggles are actually not as unique as we might think they are. In a similar instance, I was talking to an older lady at my church, complaining about someone had wronged me etc. etc. and she showed me how she had been wronged in much worse ways in the past, which really shed some light on the issue and helped me to see that really, things weren't that bad and why was I complaining?
Furthermore, hearing information about the persecuted church around the globe and praying for them can quickly pull you out of your own despairs by turning your heart towards thankfulness to God for what He has given you and what He spares you from currently.
Have an accountability partner!
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One of the best things to do if you struggle with depression is to find a strong Christian, preferably who doesn't struggle in this area, to be your accountability partner (thank you Daisy for being mine)! Be brutally honest with them as to where you are at spiritually, emotionally, mentally and so on and ask them to be brutally honest with you in return. They can then tell you when they think you are being inconsistent in your walk with Christ, can warn you when they think you are headed for the slippery slope of self-pity, can help you out of it, can encourage you when you are on track...their helpfulness is endless! Of course, you must make sure your accountability partner does have some degree of spiritual maturity and is reliable, and preferably does not struggle in the same areas that you do as otherwise you may just lead each other down a bad path! And also, never ever follow an accountability partner's advice if it contradicts scripture. After all, they are human and sinners like you and will make mistakes and give wrong advice from time to time! So be careful in what advice you follow, but do make sure you have someone keeping you in check.
And lastly...
Fill your mind with things above
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So you are overwhelemed with troubles, guilt over sin and so on which is making you feel depressed and your emotions go up and down? A solution is don't think about yourself so much: rather think about God! Fill your mind so much with things above that the problems of today pale in significance and God's glory seems all the more greater. There are many ways this can be done, below are some suggestions of things that have helped me.
Verses round the house - especially if you, like me, are no good at memorizing verses! Blue-tack them in places (I highly recommend a bedside table!) where you will see them throughout the day and be reminded of some truth from God's word (see this post for more on that).
Listen to (uplifting!) music - it is amazing how much putting a lighthearted tune can help you to feel happier. And even better: try listening to a hymn or other Christian song with powerful lyrics that help you to think about Him. A good starting point is my favourite hymn, When Peace Like a River, which has really helped to soothe my soul and reassure me of God's goodness in times when I feel down. Reading the history behind it really helps to make the hymn all the more amazing! Seriously, I don't think anything I'll ever experience will be as bad as what they had to go through!
Read (good) books and/or blog posts etc. - never take what is written by others as the ultimate truth (only the Bible is that!) and so be willing to critique what you read, but I can assure you that reading will help! Particularly try and read biographies or autobiographies about fellow Christians who have struggled but overcome trials of various kinds - I recommend The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom and Joni by Joni Eareckson-Tada which were both influential in helping me through difficulties.
Well, this has ended up being a much longer post than I ever intended it to be, but I hope it has helped you in some small measure and has not come across as too "preachy". :P It's rather late now so I'll leave it at that, but God bless you all and remember that He is always with you no matter how bad things get! :) (James 1:2-18)

A Little Request...

(First posted on Violets and Daisies on Tuesday, 12th of March, 2013)

I must apologise to you all for not posting in a while. I really don't have any excuse for it except that I have been suffering from "writer's block" and have been a bit busier as the year gets going. 
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For once, I really don't have much to say to you my dear readers or even to share. In fact, what I have is more like a request for you: please pray for me! I, like everyone else, am a sinner who gets things wrong on a daily basis and as this is a sinful world too, we all go through bad times in our lives. So please pray that however much I struggle with sin and however bad the trials are that the Lord calls me to go through, that I would remain steadfast in Him.
One thing that  I have found particularly helpful over the last year or two is blue-tacking little verses and quotes onto my bedside table. This means that the last thing I see before going off to sleep is some little encouragement or reminder from the Lord. Here are a few of the ones that have really helped me:
  •  My faourite - the one that has helped me so much over the past year - is a little card that says "Sleep well...everything is under control. - God" and then includes a quote from Psalm 3:5: "I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the Lord sustains me." Seriously, this is what I need to be reminded of every day and it helps me to go to sleep each night with the assurance that nothing will happen or has happened that is not under God's control.Therefore, I don't need to worry! (Something I do all the time).
  • Another card I have is from Daisy and is Romans 8:28 - "For we know that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord ... to those who are called according to His purpose." This helps me to remember that whatever trials I may be going through that day or the next, it will ultimately be working together for my good.
  • My mother gave me a card that reads, "Today...Let there be peace within me, trusting that God has planted me right where I am meant to be." which also has Psalm 138:8 on it: "The Lord will work out His plans for my life, for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever." It is so tempting for me to spend the last few moments before I go to sleep complaining to the Lord about my lot in life and I often struggle at the moment with trusting that He has put me in the right place and that He knows where I am headed. Father, help me I pray!
  • A final card I have blue-tacked onto my bedside table that I will share with you is from Hyacinth and Lily which is quoting from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: "Love is patient, love is kind. Love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does  not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoicies in the right. Love bears all things , believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." Seriously, it amazes me how many times I can read this verse and yet on a daily basis still fail to get it right!
I fully encourage you to do something similar: it's amazing how much this has helped me! Especially if you (like me!) are no good at committing loads of verses to memory, then it helps to have them tacked up in places where you will see them throughout the day and be reminded of Biblical truths.
 
God bless!
 

Mistaken Identity Book Review

(First posted on Violets and Daisies on Monday, 4th February, 2013)

Mistaken Identity: Two Families, One Survivor, Unwavering HopeMistaken Identity: Two Families, One Survivor, Unwavering Hope by Don Van Ryn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodreads Plot Summary:

Meet Laura Van Ryn and Whitney Cerak: one buried under the wrong name, one in a coma and being cared for by the wrong family.This shocking case of mistaken identity stunned the country and made national news. Would it destroy a family? Shatter their faith? Push two families into bitterness, resentment, and guilt?

Read this unprecedented story of two traumatized families who describe their ordeal and explore the bond sustaining and uniting them as they deal with their bizarre reversal of life lost and life found. And join Whitney Cerak, the sole surviving student, as she comes to terms with her new identity, forever altered, yet on the brink of new beginnings.

"Mistaken Identity" weaves a complex tale of honesty, vulnerability, loss, hope, faith, and love in the face of one of the strangest twists of circumstances imaginable.

My Opinion:
While I did not find this book particularly well written, as is often the case when you have more than one author, nethertheless I was glued to it from the very beginning. What made you want to keep reading is the fact that what happened seemed like something that would only happen in fiction, yet this happened in real life! I particularly loved the faith these two families demonstrated while going through what must have been an incredibly difficult time. This is a book that will remain in my memory for a long time and I will definitely be recommending it to all my friends!

When The Results Aren't What You Hoped For

(First posted on Violets and Daisies on Tuesday, 15th of January, 2013)

Today marks a very exciting day for many students here in New Zealand. For it was the day that we recieved our NCEA exam results, which determine our qualifications for our destination once we leave high school, whether that be university, a job or anything beyond! So of course it's quite important to many of us - particularly those who, like me, love to learn and can get quite carried away with trying to do our best.
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Maybe it is not so surprising then that the Lord needed to teach me some hard lessons in pride today!!! For the previous year I got results which actually exceeded my expectations - the Lord was gracious there as I was going through a particularly difficult year and so that was a real blessing as it took some pressure off me. But over the course of the year it grew harder and harder to keep motivated in terms of serving the Lord through my work ethic, and yet as my results continued to remain high my pride only grew. So imagine my horror when I recieved my results today only to find that while I had not failed completely they were markedly worse than previous years!
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How does one respond? I must say I had not contemplated properly until today the real struggle I had been having with pride in that area - I had simply tried to shrug it off and ignore it. While my results are such that I can still carry on with my plans for this year, I realise that I could easily have missed out.

To my utter surprise, however, I did not find myself in tears but rather the Lord enabled me to face today with a sense of peace that His will was being done, that this was happening for a reason, perhaps to teach me some well-needed lessons. For one thing, I was aware that I had not worked as hard last year as in previous years that would merit better results, indeed I was fortunate to do as well as I did! The Lord gently reminded me of this, and more besides, today.

I guess the point I'm trying to get across is that sometimes, when we do things, even when we try our hardest (as we should!) we don't get the results we would like, or even what we feel we would deserve. For instance, the production Daisy and I were orgnaising could easily have been a failure - the community may have shown no interest at all in it, or it may have never come together as well as it did, despite all our hard work. But you know what? I am slowly learning that whatever the outcome, the Lord's Soverign Will will ultimately prevail and He will turn it to His glory. Not that we shouldn't try - far from it, as trying our hardest is one of the best ways we can serve Him! - but rather that we need to be turning the attention away from our pride in our own abilities and rather seek to be serving Him and putting Him first in everything that we do. Then He can give us the grace to leave it in His hands to give us the outcome He sees fit, and have confidence that whatever happens, He will never abandon us. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, whoever you may be, please pray for me as I am really struggling to do this! Likewise, my prayer is that the Lord will help you as you seek to serve Him in your life and that He would help you to leave the outcome of things in His hands!

To close I will leave you with two verses that I believe emphasise that we need to be trusting in the Lord rather than ourselves and our own abilities:

    It is better to take refuge in the LORD
        than to trust in man.
(Psalm 118:8 ESV)


    Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
    (James 1:17 ESV)

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And as an aside, thanks so much to all of you who encouraged me recently through this blog. Encouragements like that really make this blog feel worthwhile! It really is my prayer that this blog would be a place where young Christians like myself can go to be strengthened in their walk with Christ, and I'm so glad that many of you feel it is doing just that - it is truly humbling to see how the Lord uses even things that we consider insignificant for His glory! Please do let me know, however, if you ever disagree with something I say as these posts are merely the ponderings of young Christians who still have a lot to learn and the last thing I or any of the other authors on this blog ever want to do is lead anyone astray with wrong thinking! Test everything by Scripture, dear readers! :)
 
God bless and have lovely day!

Thank You Lord!!!

(First posted on Violets and Daisies on Saturday, 22nd of December, 2012)

Give Thanks to the Lord 
I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart;
        before the gods I sing your praise;
    I bow down toward your holy temple
        and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
        for you have exalted above all things
        your name and your word.
    On the day I called, you answered me;
        my strength of soul you increased.
    All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD,
        for they have heard the words of your mouth,
    and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD,
        for great is the glory of the LORD.
    For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly,
        but the haughty he knows from afar.
    Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
        you preserve my life;
    you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
        and your right hand delivers me.
    The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
        your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.
        Do not forsake the work of your hands.
(Psalm 138 ESV)

There is an interesting story behind me posting this psalm. Isn’t it amazing how the Lord brings His word to our attention and teaches us through it? Isn’t His timing always perfect? It frustrates me endlessly how often I turn to His word and read through it habitually but without really taking it in and meditating upon it. And yet, there are other times when I open His word and am so convicted, so challenged, so filled with love for Him that words simply cannot express it – those times and the way His word calls forth prayer from deep within me amaze me . 

The other evening, I just did not feel like reading my normal Bible reading (I am currently going through Romans) as my heart was suddenly overcome with thankfulness towards the Lord and the ways I can see Him working in my life at the moment. So I thought I would turn to a psalm instead – and of all the ones I turned to, it was this one titled “Give thanks to the Lord”. What an amazing psalm it is and how it was my prayer last night!!! So often I focus upon my sin and forget to thank the Lord for what He has done and what He is doing – thank you Father!!! 

Sorry that this was such a rambling post, but I was just so overcome with the Lord’s faithfulness to me that I felt I had to share this with you. My prayer is that you and I would both keep searching the scriptures, even on days when it is the last thing we feel like doing as it is amazing how the Lord uses even our reluctance to turn us closer to Him. To God be the glory!

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Rainy Day Thoughts

 (First posted on Violets and Daisies on Monday, 30th July, 2012)

I can’t remember where I first saw this, but I thought the analogy was so true. And as it was raining as I sat down to type this, it just seemed to fit that I should post it.

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It’s what I am gradually learning: that God always is there for us even if we feel alone or abandoned. He is so faithful! Often though, we are reluctant to trust in the “umbrella” of faith He gives us – something I am also learning!
 
Doesn’t this remind you of Psalm 23?
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I experienced this myself today, where I was not paying proper attention and as a result was nearly run over by a car backing out of a driveway. It really made me realise that had I not noticed in time or the driver not slowed to a halt, I may have met my maker a lot sooner than I would have otherwise anticipated! When one considers that the only reason we are able to breathe is because He is sustaining the universe, one can only begin to contemplate how “He shields [us], though [we] may not always see.” How amazing is that?

It's amazing what the Lord can do!

(First published on Violets and Daisies on Wednesday, 25th July, 2012)

It's amazing what the Lord can do! :)

Today, I attended a prayer meeting which the Lord used in wonderful ways to work on my heart, which I felt I must share! It's so funny how He uses a series of little seeming "incidences" to teach us valuable lessons: it is surely no "coincidence" as some might claim! I felt that very much today, where I was learning about various financial matters that are relevant for future plans I am thinking about. I was getting quite anxious about it all, quickly forgetting the verse I find myself returning to frequently:
"...do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let you requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6,7) 
Honestly, I am very quick to forget this! But the Lord turned my anxiety compeletely around when tonight, at prayer meting, we were talking about monetary matters and how it is better to focus on the riches of eternal life God has given us in Christ than earthly riches. So often I get caught up in the riches this earth has to offer - whether it be a successful career, a lifestyle of luxary or even just a trial free life.
Help me, oh Lord, to treasure you above everything and everyone else, and to desire to follow you even if it means being poor by this world's standards. Let my life be centred around you and what you would wish, and not purely my own self-centredness. In your name, amen.
 Also, here is a little cartoon I saw that I think is very true!

I can't remember it's original source, but every time I look at it, it reminds me once again that truly, God holds us in the palm of his hand, even when we think He's not there! Please pray for me, that I would keep trusting in His provision and I pray that you, the reader of this blog, may also see His hand working in your life.
Your sister in Christ,


Saturday, 13 April 2013

Sunday thought...

(First posted on Violets and Daisies on Sunday 22 July, 2012)

There are times in our lives when we can be reading God’s word, the Bible, and appear to be doing the “right” thing, when in reality we take none of it in and refuse to listen to what He would have to tell us. That has been me recently, I confess. In a sense, a refusal to pay heed to God’s word is in fact a form of rebellion against Him, and that was certainly the attitude of my heart recently. Basically, I was saying to Him, “Lord, I’ll read your word, I’ll give an outward appearance of following your word, but actually I’m angry at you for the way my life is at the moment, and so I’ll live my own way still thank you very much!” But last night, the Lord struck my heart and convicted me of my sin in this area, through a passage in Job:
“Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty. For He wounds, but He binds up; he shatters, but his hands heal.” – Job 5:17,18
In every circumstance, every trial, GOD IS IN CONTROL. This is what I was refusing to remember. God may be disciplining me or He may be shaping me and drawing me closer to Him through my trials. Whatever the case, I had been “despising His discipline”. So if you read this at a time when you, like me, are going through a difficult time, I urge you to remember this! And to top it all, in my email inbox this morning was this post from  My Morning Ti which I highly recommend you read!
God bless you as you serve Him!
 
Your sister in Christ,
Violet

Meditations of His Love: Consider it All Joy

(First posted on Violets and Daisies on Thursday, 7 June, 2012)


I saw this post on the blog Meditations of His Love and it was so good that I just had to share the link to it with you all! My prayer is that the Lord would use it to strengthen you and build you up if you are going through hard times, just as He used it to minister to my soul this week. 

I must confess that the part that says "Consider it all joy!/When your heart starts to break/And the tears come unbidden and strong." describes pretty accurately how I've been recently! It's when we are facing trials that the true nature of our walk with Christ is revealed, and often it is pretty ugly! I for one have discovered that I am still learning to trust in God and that His hand is working in each and every circumstance, and so therefore, I ought to continue to be joyful even when things don't go my way. But like a spoiled child, I often turn in anger at God, blaming Him for what is often the natural consequences of my own sin or the sins of others. So like Sarah H. has, I challenge you all to apply James 1:2-4 to your lives today. I know that this will be a real challenge for me!

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."

So I want to say thank you so much to Sarah H. for posting the blog article. Thank you, Sarah, it really helped in my walk with Christ this week! May the Lord bless you richly as you serve Him!

So, here is the link to this post, and I highly recommend you read it!


(As an aside, another great blog that has helped me tremendously on my Christian walk recently and that I highly recommend you check out is My Morning Ti)

God's creation - isn't it amazing?

(First posted on Violets and Daisies on Tuesday, 3 April, 2012)


It’s when I see videos like this that I am once again reminded of the wonderment of God’s creation – and the way that He sustains us all on a daily basis without us ever fully comprehending it! And isn’t the creation story just amazing! God could have created it all in the blink of an eye, but He chose to spend time making it – making us. How often I forget this and become so wrapped up in my own little world, questioning God when things suddenly don’t go my way and becoming all too quick to blame him for it. At the moment, I more than anyone else need to be reminded of His control over our lives and His daily provision for us (I think this calls for me to re-read the Genesis account tonight!!!) 

Whoever you are, your prayers for Daisy and I (as well as Lily and Hyacinth!) would be greatly appreciated, as we (just as everybody else!) go through difficult times in our lives, where it is easy for us to forget God or to begin to blame Him for things. And likewise, our prayer for you is that God will use this blog to draw you closer to Him. 

I’m sure that there was more I was meaning to write, but I must confess that I have reached a blank so I’ll leave it at that for now (probably a good thing, or I’d begin to ramble)! And homework is calling . . .

Blandina: A Martyr for Christ

(First posted on Violets and Daisies on Thursday, 2 February, 2012)

Written when I was 12 or 13!

Image by Sabing Baring-Gould, 1924.
Blandina struggled to keep the tears from streaming down her face as she watched her brothers in Christ being tortured one by one, in ruthless attempts to force them to disclaim their faith. There was Sanctus, a deacon from Vienne, and Maturus, who had only recently been baptised but still stood firm in his belief as he faced his oppressors. And poor Attalus! He had always been such a strong person and a support to Blandina, but now was doomed to die like all the others. The tears now flowed freely down Blandina's face as she thought of her dear friends rejoicing with Christ in heaven. As hard as she tried not to remember, all the horrors of the past few days came flooding back . . .

Day after day, Blandina had been subject to every kind of torture imaginable. Amid ragged gasping she had cried, “I am a Christian. We do nothing to be ashamed of . . .” She had somehow found strength in uttering those simple yet precious words. Oh yes, they may scoff at a slave for having such defiance, but how could they expect that she would refuse God! No, she would acknowledge Him as her Saviour even if it meant death.

As Blandina was tortured, her persecutors muttered to another, “It is a miracle that she is still alive! Her body is so mangled and she has so many hideous wounds that she should be dead by now! We are beaten, what else can we do to be rid of this cursed woman?”

Blandina, her body already worn with torture, had been tied to a post. Wild animals were let loose, much to the delight of the spectators who cried for her blood. But Blandina devotedly prayed to her Lord and the other martyrs listened in wonder and amazement at this woman's faith. Amazingly, none of the wild beasts harmed Blandina. Eventually, her persecutors took her down and thrust her once again into the prison where she awaited her doom.

Blandina opened her eyes from this painful reverie to see a guard glaring at her. “Get up!” he growled sharply. 

Blandina hardly had the strength to stand, but she tried to and immediately collapsed on the ground in pain. The guard was at her at once, pulling her to her feet and ordering her to walk. She was led along with Ponticus, a fifteen-year-old Christian boy, to watch other Christians being punished and made to swear by pagan idols. When they refused, the persecution increased. Soon enough, Ponticus and Blandina were added to their number, and the persecution resumed. 

Ponticus sometimes wondered how much longer he could survive the harsh torturing, but when he saw how much courage Blandina had, he felt strengthened and resisted so bravely that their persecutors were amazed. But Ponticus was of a tender age and his body could not cope for long, so his soul went to be with the Lord. 

Despite being whipped, burned with hot irons and given to the wild beasts, Blandina did not disclaim her faith. At last, her persecutors, finding no way to break her resolve, dropped Blandina in a basket and threw her to a bull in the amphitheatre. She was gored again and again by the bull. Her body was by now used to pain, and she died knowing she was going to heaven to be with her Lord and Saviour at last. Blandina had held on firmly to her belief in Christ throughout the whole ordeal. Her persecutors later admitted that they had never known a woman to suffer so much for so long.

I think the story of Blandina shows clearly how we to are to respond when faced with trials. As Hebrews 12:2 says;

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

No doubt some of the crowd who witnessed Blandina's death and possibly even some of her persecutors were stunned by her faith and prehaps became Christians as a result.

For my research, I used a book called '2000 Years of Christ's Power - Part One: The Age of the Early Church Fathers' (pages 81-82) by N.R. Needham.