Let’s do This Together: “What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days” (Book-Review)

It’s a real honour to review one of Holley Gerth’s books. If you’ve read here for a while, you’ll know she’s a favourite writer of mine. “What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days” is a 52-part devotional based on the Psalms. I love the Bible, and I love when someone who’s had her share of emotional pain opens it up and finds comfort in it. With 3 Psalms per chapter, you could make it a daily devotional to finish in just less than 2 months, or read 3 Psalms per week and let it take you through the year.

In each chapter, Holley picks out a small portion from those 3 Psalms to explore in more depth. Reading “God Calls You His Own”, I imagine God delighting in me as a parent delights in a new-born baby. You may be better reading a hard copy of this than the Kindle version because after Holley’s thoughts, there are prayers, with space for you to personalise them and to journal what you’re hearing from God. Possibly my favourite of Holley’s books, I’d recommend this to anyone who’d like to see God as more than a distant grandfather-figure. It shows He understands your sorrows and wants to be part of your life. As Holley says, “What if instead of ‘Get it together’, God’s whispering ‘Let’s do this together’?”

A Small Thing that Makes a Difference is …

Holley has asked us to write this week about a small thing that makes a difference.  There are many, but if I had to pick one, here’s my choice.  A small thing that makes a difference is … your support.  How you give that support will vary, depending on who you are.  I listened to a conversation just a couple of days ago.  One lady put away her mobile phone and another asked:  “Somebody chasing you?”

“Oh, my daughter.  They keep in-touch every day.”

“That’s nice,” the other lady said.  “My son doesn’t keep in-touch every day.  I’m lucky if I get one call a week.”  Those kind of conversations encourage me to stay close to my family, when the world around us promotes self-sufficiency.  I think keeping in contact with your parents is a great way to honour them.

I’ve also read a book recently about God speaking our love-language, which focuses on expressing love in five main ways.  If touch is your language, you might give hugs to show your support.  If you’re more inclined to serve, you might visit people or help them around the house.

Maybe you speak up for the welfare of animals, or maybe you sponsor a child, giving not only financial, but emotional and spiritual support too, through your letters and prayers.  Mother Teresa said:  “The poor need the work of our hands, the love of our hearts”, and your letters can combine both those.

How do you like to support people?

Can I Recommend …?

You know some books you read and you think:  Well, that’s an interesting way of putting it, but I kind of knew that already?

At the moment I’m in the middle of studying “You’re Going to be Okay” (by Holley Gerth), and I wanted to point you to chapter 3 because I’ve never read anything like it before.  It was a bit like a science lesson, where Holley talked about the 3 parts of the brain.

First there’s the brain stem, which has 2 functions – survival and threat detection.  That’s the part that sends out alarm signals – makes the heart beat fast etc.  Then there’s the system where your emotions are, which reacts to what’s happened with feelings of sadness, anger and so on.  Finally, the neo-cortex (just behind your eyebrows) thinks deep thoughts – processing how you feel and deciding on a response.  Holley said we could break this down into stages, I.E. when we perceive a threat, stop and recognise what’s happening to us.  If we ignore it, the brain stem will send out the same message with greater and greater intensity.  Then we need to acknowledge how we feel (a reaction is inevitable, but our response isn’t), so we can go before God with our feelings and ask Him to help us deal with them.

I found that really, really helpful tonight and I hope you do too.  I’d recommend buying the book if you want to see all the detail in this chapter, and as I’ve only got to chapter 3 so far, I’m thinking there’ll be other wisdom in the ones to come.

4 Things for Those Difficult Days

Are you a Christian who has hard days – days when you’re pacing the house in tears, wondering how much longer you can carry on, what you have to contribute, and thinking everyone would be better-off without you?  If you know what I’m talking about, here are some of the things I remind myself on those days:

1.  This earth isn’t all there is.  Others may get the nice holidays or the dreams come true, and maybe one day you’ll have those things too, but your faithfulness will reap a better reward.

2.  Don’t be bitter – because sometimes on the days when God’s refining our characters, we need to face the rubbish in ourselves.  My pastor said just last Sunday:  “If you only live for the present, your trials will make you bitter – not better.”

3.  The Holy Spirit lives in you – yes, even though you might be wondering what kind of a Christian you really are.  If you truly call Jesus your Lord/the Master of your life, you can only do that through the Holy Spirit.  “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Philippians 1:6).

4.  You make a difference, and you’re supposed to be here glorifying God.  I think of Enoch in the book of Genesis.  “Enoch walked with God, and then he disappeared because God took him away” (Genesis 5:24).  If God didn’t want us here, surely He would have taken us away.  Our lives are His to take away (not ours), so while God has a plan for us on this earth, let’s live it.

This week’s Coffee for Your Heart prompt has been encouraging words for a hard day.  How would you encourage someone through a difficult time?

Appropriately, Holley Gerth (instigator of Coffee for Your Heart) has released a new book today.  It’s called “You’re Going to be Okay:  Encouraging Truth Your Heart Needs to Hear, Especially on the Hard Days”.  Why not treat yourself or a friend to a copy?

My Beautiful Week

The week started off well.  It was the first Monday of the school-term here in the UK, so I looked forward to ‘Opening the book’ again in the school assembly.  We acted out “Jonah the Groaner”!  I narrated and one of the team had made a big fish out of tubes with material draped over-top, so our Jonah could be sucked into the fish’s mouth.  The kids loved it!  They were laughing so much, I had to wait half a minute before carrying on with the story; I knew I wouldn’t be heard otherwise.  How special.  But do they know?  Do they know how precious their laughter is, how beautiful they are, and did the team know how much I valued working with them?

 

It’s not easy to talk about beauty.  Not easy to say to a friend as she stands with you at your front door:  “When I spend time with you, it reminds me to appreciate life.”  My friends and family are beautiful – the one I haven’t seen for ages who gives me a hug; the one who comes to my rescue when the power’s off and I’m too short to reach the trip switch; the ones who take time to phone or E-mail or talk face-to-face.  Sometimes I tell them, sometimes I don’t.

 

It’s not easy to talk about beauty, but did an encouraging word ever do anyone any harm?  This week’s “Coffee for Your Heart” prompt is to let someone know they’re beautiful just as they are.  I don’t expect everyone I’ve mentioned to be reading this, but to those who are, I hope you get the message.

Your Must-Know for 2014

Happy new year everyone!

One of my favourite writers is Holley Gerth.  I like her because she’s such an encourager (I think you’d struggle to find a post on her blog that wasn’t uplifting), and this year, she’s homing in on that even more with a challenge called “Coffee for Your Heart”.  This week, she’s asked us to pass on what we’d like people to know at the start of 2014 (it could be through blogging, Facebook, Twitter, or in real-life).  I took awhile to think about that one.

I’ve told you before about Kelly, a songwriter I know in the US.  I think what I’d like you all to know at the start of every new-year comes from one of her songs:

“If God brings you to it,

“Then He’ll bring you through it.”

I know others have been through far worse, but my 2013 wasn’t the best:  My mum was diagnosed with breast cancer; a friend had significant health-problems; I had all my jewellery stolen.  Those would be 3 stand-out moments, but you know, my favourite Bible-verse is Jeremiah 29:11:  God has plans to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us hope and a future – and none of those things did me any harm spiritually.  I’m still walking with the Lord, and guess what …  I got to another new year’s eve (and, praise God, so did my mum and my friend).

No trial comes into our lives without God’s permission, and whatever we have to face in 2014, if we’ll trust Him, He’ll see us to the other side.  It’s going to be ok.

Would you like to follow Holley’s blog and join in her challenge to give people’s hearts a lift this year?  What would you like your community to know at the start of 2014?

Part of the Plan

Holley asked us to write this week about what brings us joy, particularly relating to our God-sized dream.  Of course, if they’re related to a God-sized dream, they’ll be Godly things – not things that contradict His Word.  I had one of the most joyful days on Monday, as I sat in a café for 2 hours, having lunch and talking with one of my most treasured friends.  Some of you reading this may think:  That brings happiness, not joy, but I’d argue the opposite.  You see, spending quality time with this friend twice in a month is something I could only have dreamed of a few years ago.  It’s precious, and I’m super-grateful to God for it.

Holley says if we look at the things that bring us most joy, that’s a clue to God’s call on our life.  God uses what we already have.  You see that with Moses in Exodus 2:11-17:  He had a passion to bring about justice, and he didn’t always get it right.  Look at when he killed that Egyptian, but nevertheless it was there.  As my pastor said, it was there as much when he couldn’t stand by and let those shepherds stop his future wife from watering her flocks, as when he went to Pharaoh and pleaded with him to let the Israelites go.  You see it with Peter too:  He basically had a big mouth!  One minute he’d be all-out for God, the next he’d be trying to side-track Jesus, but the Lord eventually used Peter’s words to save 3,000 people in a day.  And I see it in my own life:  I love singing, I love writing; I feel God’s called me to do both.

So if spending time with family and friends is what brings me joy, maybe people will always be part of God’s call on my life.  Maybe I’ll never be like one of those missionaries who travel to foreign nations on their own to spread the gospel, and maybe that’s ok, because it’s not how God made me.

What things bring you joy?  Do you see them as part of God’s plan for your life?

Trusting Even If …

On the subject of God-sized dream stories that inspire me, here’s another.

 

There were three men – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  They had a dream.  When they refused to worship the king’s golden statue and he threatened them with death in the fiery furnace, they had the outcome in mind:  God would deliver them, and they would go on with their lives.

 

Kelly Williams, a singer I know in the US, wrote a song about them once.  Some of the lines were:

“We know our God is able to deliver us,

“O but even if He does not,

“We will put our trust in the LORD”.

 

If someone was to make a statement like that in church today, they might be criticised for their lack of faith.  But was it a lack of faith, or is saying those words an act of love and surrender?  “Lord, this is my dream, but even if you don’t do it, I’ll still trust You.”  The most exciting part of course is that God did deliver Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego!

 

I know stories don’t always end that way.  My uncle had cancer.  I prayed earnestly that he would be healed, but he wasn’t.  I don’t know why these things happen, but if it’s because Satan’s trying to make us doubt God, we don’t have to let him win.

 

I saw a quote from Corrie Ten Boom.  “Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible.”  However many negative experiences we might have had in the past, let’s keep believing for the impossible.  Let the cry of our hearts always be:  “We will put our trust in the Lord.”

Wait for that Dream

Have you read any books by Holley Gerth?  Or maybe one of your friends has found some of her encouraging words and popped them in an E-mail.  Well, Holley’s doing a series on her blog this year, all about God-sized dreams.  I haven’t been great at participating, but I’m joining in this time as she’s asked us to find a God-sized dream story that inspires us, and write about it.

There are so many dreamers in the Bible, but the one I want to think about is Jacob.  He had a dream:  She was beautiful …  Her name was Rachel.  He met her one day when she was a shepherdess, looking after her father’s sheep.  Rachel was Jacob’s cousin and he was about to stay at her family-home.  By the time he’d been there a month, he was in-love with her, so when his uncle asked what wages he should give him, Jacob knew:  He wanted to take Rachel as his wife, and he agreed to work 7 years for the privilege.

What must those 7 years have been like?  Who did Jacob meet?  Were there other young women in town, and was Jacob very good-looking?  I wonder if anyone tried to persuade him not to wait 7 years for the one he loved …  But the Bible says very clearly that they seemed like just a few days to him because of his love for Rachel (Genesis 29:20).

Then it happened – the wedding day came, but his uncle Laban tricked him.  When it was dark, Laban gave Jacob his daughter – the other daughter; Rachel’s elder sister, Leah.  I wonder how Jacob felt when he woke up next to Leah.  Did the doubts come sweeping in?  Had the other girls been right all along – was this a door closed?  Because not everyone respects the one who waits.  Some people, when they don’t see instant results, will say:  “What if it’s not God’s will?” or:  “God can do anything, but …”

Do you know why Jacob inspires me?  Because he didn’t let anyone dampen his spirits.  He didn’t give up on his dream and just accept second-best.  He confronted his uncle.  “Didn’t I work to get Rachel?  Why did you trick me?” and the confrontation paid off.  Within a week, they were married and starting their life together.  Could it be that when you feel like giving up, the best is just around the corner?

I read this quote from Henry David Thoreau recently:  “Friends are kind to one another’s dreams.”  Don’t listen to the buts and the naysayers.  Hold tight to those friends who encourage you to dream big, … and wait for that dream.