Sunday, July 5, 2020
Home Authors Posts by Ruth O'Reilly-Smith

Ruth O'Reilly-Smith

Don’t Stay Stuck

Do you remember that epiphany you had way back in 1998? I’m talking about that one big idea that’s become the driving force behind everything you do? It’s the one thing you’re known for and the subject your friends and family roll their eyes at when you open your mouth.

Are you stuck in a time warp?

You know the kind of person I’m talking about. They go on and on and on about a dramatic experience they had many years ago and still talk about it as if it happened yesterday. It was a life-changing experience that they carry with them into every aspect of their lives. This monumental moment has become an obsession and they’ve become stuck.

These are people who’ve lost close friends and family over this one big thing but they don’t care because the moment has become more important than anything else. They are defined by it. It’s become their identity.

Don’t stay stuck.

It’s time to move on. Learn from the experience and get moving.

This week, I met John who’s passionate about using mainstream films as a tool to talk about God. It’s a great idea but, the films he’s using are old and tired – I mean really old. He has the same idea for music. He uses mainstream songs that most of us will recognise from the Top 40 charts way back in 1980. He has no new songs. John’s become stuck. He had a great idea 30 years ago and he hasn’t allowed it to be the springboard to grow it into something that’s dynamic and actually makes a difference in people’s lives today.

In contrast, I met another man who told me of a dramatic healing in his life, six years ago. Andrew was admitted to hospital with a tear in the aorta – a life threatening condition. Doctors didn’t expect him to live or recover but he did. Although Andrew still shares his story, he hasn’t become stuck there. At 68, he’s part of a running club and he regularly competes in races and raises funds for a wide range of charities. He’s learning to play the guitar and volunteers at a number of local charities amongst many other things. Andrew has taken a traumatic and life changing experience and used it to continue growing. He’s an inspiration to be with. He’s full of joy and has a passion for life.

If you’ve become stuck, it’s time to look up and notice the world you’re living in right now and the people you’re journeying alongside today. Learn from that one pivotal moment and move on. Ask yourself how you can use that one defining moment to impact your life and the lives of those around you within the context of today?

Be grateful for that one moment, learn all you can from it, move on and keep growing. There are many amazing moments just waiting for you to discover today. We can ask God: “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

A Matter Of The Heart

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As radio host on a Christian radio station, I regularly receive heart-breaking messages from listeners who are living through desperately sad circumstances. One such listener wrote in asking for prayer. At 50, his marriage had ended and with two young children to look after, he was worried for them and felt hopeless, isolated and lonely.

Sandra is another listener and as she told me her story, I realised again just how fragile matters of the heart are. In the book of Proverbs in the Bible, we read

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” – Proverbs 4:23.

Sandra was neglected as a child and fell pregnant at a young age. She thought that moving in with her boyfriend would make things better but they only got worse. This man abused her physically and sexually and left her bruised and broken. When Sandra met Val, a friend of her boyfriend, she instantly noticed something different about him. He had kind eyes and his gentleness drew her to him. She felt safe with him.

Sandra soon left her boyfriend and started dating Val. He told her about Jesus, the one who’d made the difference in his life. If Jesus was the reason Val was the man she now loved, she also wanted to know him. Jesus changed Sandra’s life. He healed her broken heart and in time, she married Val. As she now looks back after more than twenty years together, tears still come to her eyes as she contemplates how blessed she is. She opened her heart to real love – love from Jesus and love from Val – and that has made all the difference.

I know someone else who loved deeply. A girl broke his heart though and he vowed never to love again, and he hasn’t. Whenever I’m in his company, I sense an ache in his heart and a deep longing for love but it will take a miracle for his heart to soften to love again. Jesus is the miracle Maker though and my prayer is that this man will bring his hard, cold heart to Him to fix.

One of the best pieces of advice I was given before I got married was from my friend Dudley, “Always keep a soft, open heart towards each other”.

Life’s too short to live with a cold, hard heart. Quickly forgive anyone who’s caused you an offence and surrender your hurting heart to the One who can heal you – your Maker. You may have to forgive the same person over and over until you know you’ve really forgiven them but remember that your forgiveness doesn’t let them off the hook, it lets you off the hook. Now you can live free from those who’ve broken your heart and be open to those who want to heal it.

We must be wise in choosing the company we keep but don’t allow a hard heart to be your guide. Your world will change for the better when you allow yourself to love and be loved.  The Bible tells us that Jesus came to bind up the broken hearted.  If you have been hurt and need your heart to be healed, place it in the hands of Jesus and see what a difference He can make it your life.

 

Contented Discontent

You’ve got the spouse, the kids, the job, the house, a fridge full of food and your own ride. You’re blessed with love and good health.

You are content and happy.

But what about the poor? You hardly notice them anymore. And that strained relationship with a colleague? And then there’s the debt you’ve gotten yourself into. Your salary no longer stretches till the middle of the month, let alone pay-day. And how does God fit into your rushed and busy life? Has He also become a peripheral and convenient add-on?

You push back from these niggling thoughts and focus rather on yourself. If you resist long enough, your heart will crystallise and harden against the sharp pang of guilt and shame.

We all have the capacity to venture outside our own contentment, to seek out personal growth and do something about the needs of others, but too often comfort has become our worst enemy and we do nothing.

The apostle Paul wrote in the Bible about contentment. He was beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked and lived on the generosity of others and wrote this:

“I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13).

He never allowed himself to be contained by his ‘contentment’ however.

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 2:12-14).

Are you living with discontent? Are you contentedly discontent, or have you deliberately turned a blind eye and hardened your heart to anything and anyone that makes you feel uncomfortable?

Being uncomfortable is usually a sign that it’s time to make a change. When you have everything you think you want but that illusive ‘something’ is still missing, maybe it’s time to take a closer look at what you really need in life.  The Bible tells us that we were made to live in life within a relationship with our Creator, God.  When that relationship is missing, there will always be something dissatisfied within us.

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” – C.S Lewis

If you would like to know more about how you can find contentment in life and know the comfort of being in a relationship with Jesus, please click on the link or leave a comment.

Why Worry?

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We’re in the throes of choosing a secondary school for our children. With the deadline for applications being the end of October, all the schools in our area are hosting open evenings. As the staff ply parents and delighted children with cake, sweets, tea and cold drinks and get pupils and teachers to be on their very best behaviour, we walk around the school in the hope of being able to gauge within a few short moments whether it will be a good fit for our children for the rest of their school lives.

We’ve been to four schools in three weeks and with one more open evening to attend, we’re all feeling frazzled and unsure. As our exhausted son collapsed into bed after one such evening, he worriedly confessed, “Mom, I don’t know how to choose.”
As wonderful as choice is, it can also be confusing leading to sleepless nights, tension headaches and a general sense of anxiety.
What’s keeping you up at night? What are your thoughts consumed by? How do you counteract worry and anxiety?

The Bible says

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

Whether you consider yourself a follower of Jesus or not, when the storms of life hit and you find yourself lying awake at night, wrestling frenzied thoughts and confusing choices, most of us cry out to God in prayer.
In the midst of worrying situations Jesus promises a peace no one else can offer;

“Peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” – John 14:27

John Piper has many concerns that threaten to steal his joy and peace. Aside from his public role as founder of desiringgod.org, theologian and author, he’s also a devoted husband, father to five and grandfather to twelve (at last count).  He writes that the promises of God act as a defence against worry and anxiety as he intentionally deflects any troubled thoughts onto his Maker.

When I am anxious about my ministry being useless and empty, I fight unbelief with the promise of Isaiah 55:11. “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”  When I am anxious about being too weak to do my work, I battle unbelief with the promise of Christ, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  When I am anxious about decisions I have to make about the future, I battle unbelief with the promise, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8).  When I am anxious about facing opponents, I battle unbelief with the promise, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).  When I am anxious about the welfare of those I love, I battle unbelief with the promise that if I, being evil, know how to give good things to my children, “how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11).
And I fight to maintain my spiritual equilibrium with the reminder that everyone who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for Christ’s sake shall “receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29–30). When I am anxious about being sick, I battle unbelief with the promise, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19).
And I take the promise with trembling: “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3–5)” – John Piper.

Why worry? The next time you feel overwhelmed by anxious thoughts, surrender them to your Maker. “Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4:6-7).

All Change

Spring has sprung in the southern hemisphere and autumn has arrived in the northern and with these two major shifts in our weather systems on earth, perhaps it’s time to talk change.

We’re into the final quarter of 2017 and after eight months or roughly 250 days, what has changed in your life? We moved house, the children changed schools, I started a new job and my husband’s about to start a new job. Maybe you’ve lost weight or quit smoking, you’ve started going to AA meetings or checked into rehab? Perhaps you’ve had a spiritual awakening with a commitment to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ rather than your own selfish desires or maybe you’ve experienced the heartache of loss – through bereavement or a broken relationship? Or, maybe you’ve finally formulated a financial budget and a plan to manage your money better?

Whatever it is, now’s a good time to reflect on how this year is going, count your blessings and consider any changes you can make in these last few months of the year.

Any shift in circumstance or behaviour has an impact on us. However small, if we’re aware of and intentional about the change, it can have a deep personal, spiritual, emotional, physical and lasting impact on us and those closest to us.

When I lived in London, I was caught me off guard a few times when the bus or train I was travelling on suddenly stopped. The bus driver or train conductor would announce – “all change” – and that was that, we all had to get off the bus or train. I was stranded in the middle of nowhere and would either have to wait for the next bus or walk to my final destination – I felt completely lost, disoriented and scared. These were the days before we had Sat Nav on our cell phones so I had to ask for directions or just start walking and hope to find something familiar and finally get to where I needed to be.

As the seasons change, maybe it’s time for an ‘all change’ for you. What ‘bus’ have you been travelling on that you now you need to get off? Or maybe the bus has stopped and you’ve been forced to make a change? Whether it’s a health change, a relationship change, a career change or a spiritual change, what one thing can you do today that will start you in a new direction or on a fresh path?

Setting the Atmosphere In You Home

Dear Mom,

Rather than just being aware of the atmosphere in your home, a mother plays a vital role in setting it.

Although I believe that both father and mother bring different and important aspects to the parenting of their children and great blessing flows to a family from a Godly father, often the sense of well-being, safety and peace within the home is set by the mother.

Mom, if you are at peace within yourself, your home will resonate with an atmosphere of peace. If on the other hand, you’re grappling with inner turmoil, strife tends to permeate throughout the home.

How does a mother consistently set a peaceful atmosphere in the home?

Look Up.

It’s particularly challenging with young children, but I have found that if I just lie in bed for a few moments (some mornings it’s just one moment) or grab a moment in the loo, take some time when I’m washing the dishes or waiting for the kettle to boil for my first cup of coffee, and surrender my day to God, asking Him to help me, lead me and guide me, I am better able to set a positive, peaceful atmosphere in our home. When I pause at the start of the day, resist the temptation to grab for my phone and scroll through Facebook and Twitter and rather look up to God as my source, peace reigns in my heart and oozes out through our home. Who or what is your source? As a mother, you give of yourself to your children throughout the day and you are giving out of whatever you take in. Time with your Maker, time reading the Bible, time in prayer and worship, time looking through your social media feeds, time listening to and looking at the news, time watching TV, time with good friends, time with gossiping colleagues, time reading a good book, time reading a not-so-good book or magazine. As you empty yourself into the lives of your children, ask yourself what your source is, what’s sustaining you? What’s filling you up and flowing through you, to your children?

Look In.

During a flight, if you experience any turbulence, parents are told to take care of themselves before they see to the safety of their children. The same is true in life. Look after yourself so that you can take better care of your children. In the first few months after giving birth to twins, my life felt frenetic and I failed many times. I found quickly though that when I made my spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health a priority, I was a better mom to our children. I would make sure that they were fed, clean and safe and then I washed, put on some make-up and get dressed. Although I was living on the top floor of an apartment and I didn’t feel like going out most days, I forced myself to get myself and our children outside. It wasn’t easy but getting out into the fresh air and going for a walk with the children helped me get some perspective, gave me some much needed peace and got my heart rate up a bit. What small change or changes can you make to the way you care for yourself so that you can better take care of your children and bring an atmosphere of peace into your home?

Look Out.

Ask for help. Ask your husband to help you with some specific things in the home. Ask family, friends, colleagues or neighbours for help. Reach out for help. We live busy lives but don’t become disheartened if your cry for help initially falls on deaf ears or if you don’t have a supportive husband or family – ask God to send someone to help you. When you try to do it all alone, you will usually end up feeling frazzled and flustered and that’s when we are more likely to create an atmosphere of turmoil and fear in the home. I challenge you then to look out. Who can you reach out to, be a friend to and ask for help from? Reaching out is a risk – you may not get the response you were expecting, but don’t give up. The church is a great place for you to be part of a community that looks out for those who are in need. Find a good church community where you feel welcome and part of a family and foster some good, possibly lifelong friendships that can be a real blessing to you when you need help, or a babysitter.

Setting a peaceful atmosphere in the home is not something that comes naturally or easily, it’s something we as moms have to be intentional about every day. You can make it a habit, starting today.

In The Here And Now

“The longer I live the more I learn to appreciate here and now… this moment…this place in life… this group of people”.

These are the words of the founder and bass singer of the Gaither Vocal Band, Bill Gaither. The Gospel Music Hall of Fame members and GRAMMY® Award winners are scheduled to release an all-new studio recording on October 13thWe Have This Moment.

Bill Gaither has been making music for more than six decades and yet what he values most in these, his twilight years, is ‘this moment, this place, this group of people’.

His words are poignant and have challenged me to enjoy the moment I’m in the right now, the people I’m with right now, the here and now.

Amy Grant is an American singer, songwriter, musician, author and a Christian. Often referred to as ‘The Queen of Christian Pop’, Grant has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide, won six Grammy Awards and 22 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, and had the first Christian album ever to go Platinum. She was also honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006 for her contributions to the entertainment industry. Although she was strongly criticized for her divorce from first husband Gary Chapman and her later marriage to country music singer-songwriter Vince Gill, after more than seventeen years together, she is at peace. In an interview, Amy said that about two years into her marriage to Vince, they both admitted that although they loved each other, they still felt a little like strangers in their own life. She admits though that as time goes by, “it’s suddenly all about the present, it eventually becomes about the life you’re in and not the one that you won’t ever return to”.

Are you living your life in reverse, hankering after the ‘good ol’ days’? Maybe you’re living in fast-forward, thinking only of how wonderful life will be when you finally get to do what you want to do or be with the one you love or have the one thing that continues to elude you?

I hope that you have been challenged, as I have been to rather live in the here and now. Be fully present and genuinely happy in this moment, with these people, in this life.

It was so worth it!

It’s a statement that starts with a sacrifice. You can only say ‘it was so worth it!’ and really mean it, when you’ve sacrificed something to get something even better. Whether it’s scrimping and saving for months or years, just so you can buy your first house, car or overseas holiday, waking up an hour before anyone else gets up and studying or writing, just so you can one day quit your job and be your own boss or saving yourself sexually so you can walk down the aisle one day and give yourself for the first time, wholly and completely to the man or woman you love – for something to be truly worth it, you’ve got to decide whether you’re willing to make the sacrifice to attain it?

We went camping with the family last week. We were only going for a few nights but decided to book a static caravan, rather than a tent. We had to sacrifice a bit more in terms of the cost but ‘it was so worth it!’ The evenings were freezing and we had wild thunderstorms with heavy rain and strong winds most nights – it may have cost us a bit more to camp in a warm mobile home, but boy ‘it was so worth it!’

On one of our day trips, we decided to climb the ‘little’ hill just outside the city. We could see it, so it couldn’t be too difficult to get to or climb? How wrong we were. We got hopelessly lost and then when we did finally ask for directions, we took the wrong route – going around the hill, rather than up to the top. After an hour, when we finally realised our mistake, we had a choice, either we could continue on the path we were on, or we could risk getting off the beaten track and climb what looked to me like a precarious rock face, with two ten-year-olds in tow. Also, we weren’t even sure whether there would be a way up to the top of the hill on the other side of the steep climb but we decided to take the chance. We were exhausted but deliriously happy when we reached the top of the rock face and saw another path, leading straight to the peak of this ‘little’ hill that had so confounded us. The views from the top of the mountain were absolutely stunning. We’d sacrificed time and energy, but ‘it was so worth it!’

I’ve heard that statement made by a number of people about a wide range of things over the last few days and it’s got me thinking about what we’re willing to sacrifice in order to gain something far greater.

We paid a lump-sum for entrance to one of our favourite gardens which now allows us to visit whenever we like for a whole year. We use our annual pass almost weekly so even though it was a big initial financial sacrifice, ‘it was so worth it!’

Before you assign your hopes and longings to the land of dreams, get practical and consider the sacrifices you will have to make in order to actually make it happen. You’ve heard the saying ‘no pain, no gain’? Wouldn’t it be great to sacrifice something now, in order to gain something far greater in the future? How brilliant would it be to one day say, with a big smile on your face, ‘it was so worth it!’

Separation Anxiety In Parents

Tamara Ecclestone, the Formula One heiress, has revealed that she suffers from parental separation anxiety. As mother to three-year-old Sophia, she admits that her battle with excessive fear and anxiety began when she became a mom and it’s a daily struggle as she worries that her daughter is in constant danger. Earlier this year she admitted that on her daughter’s first day of nursery school, she cried in the car for three hours. She adds, “I’ve just got to get my head around the fact that I’m not going to be there to pick her up every time she falls over, and that’s the brutal reality.”

Many first-time parents can’t bear leaving their children in the care of another person, no matter how much they may need some time to themselves – even if it’s only to get some sleep.

Dealing With Separation Anxiety:
  • Separation is a part of life. When leaving your child for the first time, start with a quick outing – a 20 minute walk in the park or to the supermarket. Make sure your child has consistent and reliable care during your absence.
  • Introduce the new caregiver gradually. Make sure that your child knows or gets to know a caregiver before being left alone with them.
  • Be casual about your goodbye. Don’t have a long, drawn out goodbye. Just say goodbye and leave without looking back.
  • Let go of guilt. You’ll be a better parent to your child if you get some ‘re-charge’ time to yourself.

 

I recall the first day I left our twins at nursery. With two lots of arms clinging desperately to my neck and screaming for dear life, I had to pry their tiny hands off me, turn my back on them, walk quickly to the car and drive to work. I bawled all the way to the office. Wracked with guilt at leaving my precious children in the care of others, I sat, blotchy-faced in the car park, trying to compose myself before facing my colleagues. As I sat in the car, I prayed. I prayed for our children, I prayed for those taking care of them and I prayed for myself. I started out in frenetic fear and with a panicked anxiety but then, I was still. An immense peace filled the car and I felt compelled to pray that God would sing His song over our children. In that instant, I knew they were going to be okay. Ten years later, I still have to daily surrender our children to the one who loves them more than I do – their creator and heavenly Father.

If you would like to know more about finding peace in situations that cause you anxiety we’d love to talk to you.  Please leave a comment or click on the link.

Money Can Buy Happiness

Using money to buy more time brings a greater sense of happiness.

A new study has found that people feel happier when their money is used to save time, rather than to buy things. The experiment revealed that paying someone to do tasks or chores, freed up more time to do the things that bring joy.

Stress over a lack of time is leading to increased reports of a lower sense of well-being and is contributing to greater levels of anxiety and insomnia, according to psychologists.

Paying someone to do something that needs to be done but that I would rather not have to do certainly makes me feel happier. When we’ve been able to pay someone to clean our house, do the ironing, wash the dishes, clean the car and mow the lawn, I have felt a greater sense of joy. It’s freed me up to spend more time with my family, to go for long walks or take a drive and do some sightseeing at the weekend, rather than feeling guilty about the pile of washing that still needs to be done or the carpets that need to be vacuumed or the lawn that needs to be mown.

Time is the most valuable commodity of the twenty-first century and with the ever-increasing demands, it makes sense to pay someone to free up some of our time – if you can afford it.

This latest study was devised by researchers who worked on a two week experiment with 60 working adults in Vancouver, Canada.

On one weekend, participants were asked to spend $40 on a purchase that would save them time. They did things like buying lunches to be delivered to work, paying neighbourhood children to run errands for them, or paying for cleaning services.

On the other weekend, they were told to spend the windfall on material goods. Material purchases included wine, clothes and books.

The research, published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found time-saving compared with material purchases increased happiness by reducing feelings of time stress.

Past research has found that people who prioritise time over money tend to be happier than people who prioritise money over time.

Think about it. What could you pay somebody else to do for you? If you can afford it, science says it’s a pretty good use of your money.

  • Make a wish list of all the things you would rather pay someone else to do
  • Now make a list of all the different options you have when it comes to paying someone to do those things – be creative, it doesn’t have to be expensive.
  • Check your budget – what can you afford to pay for someone to help you?
  • How much time will you save and what will the long-term benefit of that be?
  • Trim down that wish list to the top three things you could get someone else to do for you and then start with the first one.
  • Try it out. Commit to a trial period of three to six months. Does it really save you time? If it does, what are you doing with your extra time?
  • Make sure you use your extra time to do something you really love.

Neither money nor time can actually buy happiness, but if we can free up some time to spend with the people we love or do the things we love, we will quite possibly feel a greater sense of satisfaction and joy.

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