Hazel Flood's thoughts on life as a Jesus follower.

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More of His Presence?

Is it nonsense to say we want more of God’s presence? Is it ridiculous to sing of our desire for more of Him? Is it sentimental to invite Him to come to meet with us?

Some say this is so.

The bible doesn’t agree.

‘Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.’

Hebrews 11:6

To say we long for more of Him demonstrates the heart of the psalmist, the same heart as the one of whom God could say:

I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

Acts 13:22

David, the great lover of God.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.

I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
With singing lips my mouth will praise you.

On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.’

Psalm 63:1-8

David prayed this:

You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.’

Psalm 16:11

We aren’t ignorant enough to believe God is absent if we don’t invite His presence, we know He is closer than the air we breathe even though we may often be unconscious of the fact.
What we also know is that He loves to be wanted, invited, and welcomed, He doesn’t want us to hide from Him.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”‘

Genesis 3:8-10

We love God and have the deepest awe-filled respect for Him and we most certainly don’t wish to take His presence for granted. We want to know His heart, and to obey Him with all of ours.

So we cry out for Him to come and meet with us. To make His presence felt in ways which will please Him on that particular occasion.

Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.’

John 14:21-24

When we gather we can genuinely ask ourselves the question ‘What will Jesus do?’ because if we are willing to admit we need His presence and that we aren’t able to do more than organise a framework of a meeting, (why do we call it a meeting if we don’t want to meet Him?) then we have to allow for the fact that His presence could, really, make a difference.
If we won’t allow for this fact, then we protect ourselves from disappointment in some ways as we have no expectation of more, but if we permit ourselves to be vulnerable and admit we long for more, and that our ‘this’ is nowhere near enough without Him making His presence felt, then we give room for Him to come and take down our barriers and dismantle our confining structures.

Will we be like David in Psalm 63 and cry for more? Or will we be like Adam and hide when we hear Him coming?

Come on, let’s make ourselves vulnerable, let’s admit we haven’t had nearly enough of Him yet, after all, He loves to reward those who seek for Him.

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Feels Like Coming Home

Recently I watched as a young woman I know well brought a prophetic contribution in a meeting and I was struck by how much she had grown in the gifting. She was confident, comfortable, and entirely at home in what she was doing.

I thought of the stress we can sometimes put ourselves under as we try to discover ‘What has God got for me to do?’ or ‘What are my gifts?’.

It isn’t so necessary. If we will get and do the stuff around as and serve well, paying attention to what He says and shows us, we can find our God shaped gifting and calling as we go.

It isn’t rocket science. Funnily enough He does know we aren’t always amazingly bright and can easily be side tracked, so He draws us to where He wants us, makes us good at what He wants us to do, or at least lets a glimmer of ability in the area show through, and so almost by accident we come across what we are shaped for.

Maybe when we first attempt to speak in public we can barely string two words together, but if someone takes a risk with us we might just become good at it and find ourselves on the way to a future unimagined at first. I’ve seen this come about too.
It is deeply satisfying to see people who have no sense of ‘I can do this’, but who do have a creeping sense of God nudging them to try, becoming not just fairly able, but sharply, edgily, dynamically gifted. What a thrill that is.

To see another become entirely at home in their sphere of gifting, or to find yourself comfortable at the front edge of the as yet unknown is exhilarating and not to be missed.

Don’t settle or dawdle.

Take a risk. Be the first. Make a change. You don’t know what you will discover.

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Should we always take Jesus at His word?

Should we always take Jesus at his word?

What about when his mum asks Him to help the hosts of a wedding party when they have run out of wine and He tells her it’s not His time yet?

Or tells a mother that she can’t have what she’s asked of him because she’s a Gentile not one of the Jewish people he is called to?

I know, we can in all honesty take him absolutely at His word, but we need to take on board the truth that He sometimes gets to what His word is by a circuitous route.

He likes to provoke us, to make us say and think things which express the deep areas of our hearts in ways which if we had considered them more carefully, we may never have uttered them out loud.
He knows we need to be exposed to ourselves sometimes. So He gives us these opportunities to see who we are when we are irritated or offended and then maybe we will do something about it, hopefully take a u-turn.

When we assume He agrees with us, as we would if we were in some of the scenarios in the gospels, we let our true feelings show, and then, oh dear, we find He was just letting us discover who we are, at least sometimes.

But He doesn’t leave us there.

He draws us in to talk with Him, to let us discover even in our clumsy arrogant way of doing life that He loves us, and will work with us to change our hearts in order for this way of being to become more repellent to us than attractive.

How is this possible, that he should be so generously kind to us, and yet in such a way as to make us genuinely draw back from our old ways?
It’s only when we get hold of His way of seeing things that we really experience the full meaning of repentance, this old word, oh so familiar, means to change our minds and see things how God sees them.

We tend to hang on to the way of thinking which says repentance means to be sorry, and to turn away from whatever it is we’re doing that is wrong, this thinking isn’t mistaken, just incomplete.
We even say it is to turn right around to face the other way, but when we get hold of repentance as seeing this thing we’ve done, said, thought, from His point of view, with His heart of holy love for us and those around us, then we start to get a fuller picture of what repentance is.
If I see what I’ve done from someone else’s viewpoint it makes a great deal of difference and I will feel more like I should feel about it.

So should we take Jesus at his word?
Well of course we should, but maybe we want to let him finish what he’s saying before we jump in with our response.


It’s all about You Jesus

Whatever age they were when you were little, your parents seemed old, but did you notice that they don’t seem to change much over the years? For decades they appear to remain the same sort of ‘old’ they always were, so in some weird way when you look at them now, they seem to have stayed young. Ah well, age is a bit of slippery thing to grasp, much depends on what we do with our lives, we can be old before our time if we don’t invest them well.

I heard something on the radio the other day that made me sad, it was said by a person who was a comedian, apparently.
Anyway, they said that a person in middle age has little to look forward to other than acquiring a spare room, it got me thinking.

Kingdom people are different.
I see people who are extending their boundaries, increasing their influence, moving home, changing lifestyles, all at an age when the temptation is to settle and certainly not to be pioneers of any type, all due to the stirring of the Spirit as He says ‘Is this it, are you going to settle for this now?’

Jesus once asked a man do you want to be healed? His response was that there was no one to help him into the water when it was stirred by the angel of God. If the stirring has been happening in you, you know the disturbance He can cause as He moves on you to provoke you to change.

What will you do? Will you respond as my friends have and move to where God has made space for them?
Or will you wait for the stirring of the Spirit to pass? If you leave it long enough He will let you settle down again, is that what you want? Or when you sense Jesus saying ‘Do you want to see change?’ will you be willing?

At any age there can be a feverish level of activity devoted to filling a life with what will apparently satisfy us, make us emotionally and physically full, happy, and content, but the purpose of our desires and appetites is to drive us to long for more than simply a lifelong loving spouse, an adventure every now and then, and a way to provide for us and our families.

We are made for Him, for walking with Him and working with Him, finding our forgiveness, peace, satisfaction, purpose and fulfilment, in Him.
Other things may bring joy and delight as is His intent, but these are to provoke us to seek for the higher and better, nothing will deliver settled satisfaction to the heart and mind like life lived in step with Jesus.

Is this what it’s all about? Us finding our satisfaction in Him?
Yes and no.
He loves it when we do find these in Him, but our hearts, to truly find these things, must be seeking first His satisfaction, not our own.
How funny, we find ours in seeking His.
How kind He is, how lovely, and how awe-fully generous that He would include us in extending the Kingdom and changing culture, and intend that we would enjoy ourselves to the full while we do it.
It’s all about you, Jesus.

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Something lovely from Sarah Bessey’s Weekend Meditation

I saw this Dallas Willard quote in a blogpost from Sarah Bessey, I loved it and I’m sure you will too. (This father of ours, well, He is far beyond anything or anyone we are used to. Enjoy.)

weekend meditation

“We must understand that God does not “love” us without liking us – through gritted teeth – as “Christian” love is sometimes thought to do. Rather, out of the eternal freshness of his perpetually self-renewed being, the heavenly Father cherishes the earth and each human being upon it. The fondness, the endearment, the unstintingly affectionate regard of God toward all his creatures is the natural outflow of what he is to the core – which we vainly try to capture with our tired but indispensable old word “love”. – Dallas Willard

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The Glory of God to Hide a Matter

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.
Proverbs 25:2 NIV

Guidance, revelation, little things or not so little, Father God seems to enjoy making me play at treasure hunt or hide and seek.
When I need direction I find He quite often likes to hide what He is up to for a while.
I’ve heard a phrase that says He likes to hide things for us rather than from us, and that seems to be the case with me, I imagine it is with you too.
The funny thing is though, He will give me dreams and directions which are exceptionally clear, sometimes so clear I wonder later how I didn’t understand from the first moment I heard Him, but I just don’t click what He is saying until the time He has chosen for me to see what He means. When I can see, it is so clear I have to laugh at my inability to see what is so obvious, but then I know He has been hiding things in plain sight, again.

He has sometimes told me things which I haven’t liked the sound of but I’ve recorded them in my journal anyway, thinking this is probably just me and my own thoughts, but in the pursuit of integrity I will record it regardless, I don’t only write down that which I’m sure is from Him, how will I know what I’ve missed otherwise?
As I read through my journals in later months or years I can discover long forgotten prayers or thoughts which are gradually becoming crisp clear unmistakeable reality. At that point I am so glad I keep a journal, I’d never remember or even realise all He says to me otherwise, and perhaps I might not be so willing to see His hand in events.
I feel as though He puts blinkers on me like a horse, to stop me shying away from what He is doing, until He knows I’m in the right place to see things from His point of view, or at least more than I would have before. I find myself in this place so often now, I’m getting used to the feeling of playing games and discovering a few more of the plans He has up His sleeve. I like it too.
Kind of like a child, ‘More Daddy, more!’

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Secret Mercies and the Kindness of God

Whenever I hear the account of Jesus walking on water, and then Peter getting in on it too, I tend to wander in my thoughts, along the lines of ‘How did that look then?’

Come with me for a few minutes, let’s take a look.

‘Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”’

Matthew 14:22-33 NIV

First of all, why on earth did Peter ask Jesus to tell him to come to Him? He had no previous example to encourage him to expect this to be okay, yet he asked Jesus this most bizarre of questions.

Then he did the impossible. For a while.

(Just an aside, do we believe we need precedents to give us confidence to pray? Do we really imagine God has to have previously heard a particular request for Him to answer us? Surely not.)

My thinking doesn’t end there though. Even in Peter’s failure, a miracle is ongoing.

Peter began to sink, whoever begins to sink?

Try standing on water, you are plain sunk. Done. No beginning to it.

There is hidden mercy in this story, only a little thing I know, yet it shows the unnecessary kindness of Jesus.

He didn’t let Peter sink like a hefty fisherman, he let him start to sink slowly.

Time enough for Jesus to take his hand and return to the boat with him.

We kind of miss this bit don’t we. Even in Peter’s failure, his rising panic and draining faith, his loving Lord is making the water thick.

I wonder how many times Peter recalled the moment of Jesus’ secret mercy to him.

It seems to me He loves to share secrets with His friends, it communicates to us deep within when we know that God has done something individual and personally special for us. Something which to many would seem unnecessary, and ultimately it is, but He knows it demonstrates a level of particular love which gets under our guard and sinks into our heart.

How amazing is He, how kind?

Kind enough to pursue you down through all of your years. Catching your eye with this or that, making you curious. Drawing you in little by little, until you get to a place of knowing this is for real, He does genuinely love you in ways far beyond anything you might believe He has to as a Saviour, or as a Lord, but in addition to those, He loves as your best Friend, and as the perfect Dad, and as a Brother who says nothing is too much. Nothing.
From the extremes of the cross and the grave, to the detail of water being too thin.
That’s how kind He is. That’s how much He loves you.

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Prophecy and God’s Sense of Humour

Prophecies are mostly given with no apparent conditions but this doesn’t mean there isn’t change which needs to come about before the word will be brought into being. This isn’t often taught on though, so it can be a little tempting to assume it will be plain sailing from the receiving of the word through to its fulfilment. What should our response be when we receive prophetic words?

(I wrote this post sometime last week, we were away over the weekend, and received prophetic words which surprised, encouraged, and challenged us, and that was before we got to church, then, while at church both of us were picked out and given prophecies by a man who knows neither of us, nor anything about us. So we now have to think about this too, funny that, but I rather like God’s sense of humour.)

When we receive prophetic words from God they may seem to have no conditions attached, and if this is the way we see them, then we might be excused for thinking no action is needed to align ourselves for Him to move forward and bring about whatever He has spoken of. Do we imagine because He has spoken that we must be in great shape and therefore we don’t need to apply ourselves to becoming more like Jesus? If we put it like that, then, no, we would say we are still in need of change, but when we hear from God that He wants to do a specific thing then it can sound like a done deal. We must be aware that this is not necessarily the case.

Whenever we hear from Him we need to continue to examine our hearts, but also to see if there is anything we need to do or perhaps skills we need to learn to ensure we are in the best place for Him to bring about what He wants to do in or through our lives.

As we pray about the prophecy He has given we must be willing to hear Him along the way to its fruition too, He could have quite a lot to say.

We are eager to be used by Him however He chooses and we need to be just as eager to be responsive to the Holy Spirit as He provokes us to change and grow, keeping us in step with Him and so more likely to be ready for Him to put in motion whatever it is He has up His sleeve.

When He decides it is time, and of course that is another challenge as He doesn’t appear to view the passing of time in quite the same way as we do. Consider this, He can say something is going to happen soon, or that He is going to bring about some great thing in us or our situation, yet He’s well known for taking years, sometimes decades, when we assume He means to do something in the next few weeks or months. As the psalmist said, ‘Pause and calmly think of that.’

It is good for us to recall the stories from the Old Testament where we see His people waiting for many years before the promise comes about.

Abraham and Sarah spring to mind.

But, when He does decide it is time, that one day will be THE day when things shift and change happens, as we don’t know when that will be, we had best keep our eyes open and our hearts tender. We want to be ready, don’t we?

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Recalling those early days when I first met you, when I would put my little son to bed for his rest in the morning, make a cup of tea, and sit down cross legged to settle in and worship you…how lovely to know you remember it too, and so much more clearly than me.

I’d sing all the songs I could remember, I’d tell you all the stuff. So simple.

You’d remind me of my history and I’d see even more how you loved me..

You’d hear my cries for this and that.

You’d stir my heart for more, for unheard ideas, for unimagined roles.

You’d speak, even before I knew to imagine you might not.

You set my heart to desire great things before I knew to think they were impossible.

You filled me to make me hungry.

You drew me into a walk, step by step…

How kind you are.

Do I long for those days as some old, long gone, sweet memory? No, you are here and so am I.



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Paddle Out…

How’s your heart doing in this beautiful summer weather? Do you do well with the change in routine which comes around holiday times?

Get a cold drink and sit down with me for a while…

Imagine a riverbank with reeds extending some way out into the river. You’re sat low in a small boat, and you’re hampered by the reeds towering over you. You want to be free to follow the flow of the river, of course you do, why else would you be there?

You feel for the oars and struggle to fit them in place before getting into position yourself, you start to pull, first one then the other, occasionally both together… As the reeds thin out there’s more freedom to use the oars, finally you break through into the beginnings of the free flow of the river.

But you don’t want to stick to the side, your eye is on the centre of the river, the deep powerful fast flowing river.

So you row, your feeble attempts to paddle out into the river have paid off, now you feel the strain as you pull hard and see the boat push through the water to enter the faster flow…finally you merge and are free.

The breeze and the green scents remind you of childhood days out, walks, picnics, stupid dogs, and freedom….

Free again to follow the flow of the river, to go where it takes you….and so you go.

What do I mean by this?

If we’ve been around a while we know those rhythms which are beneficial to us, helping us make good progress on our journey.

For some it is getting out and walking in the open, the fresh air blowing the cobwebs of a cluttered mind and bringing a return to ease and aaahh…

Others need the stimulation of people, to be active in helping someone else brings their sense of being in step again.

Some simply want to worship, no time constraints but to linger for as long as they can, knowing they too have his smile over them.

You see, each of us has a set of oars. If you take some time to ponder you will recognise yours too.
Why not dust them off, put them in place and paddle out through those limiting reeds and get yourself out into the fast flow of the river of God again, feel the wind of His Spirit in your face…you know how you love it.

Let the beauty of summer provoke you to seek the presence and power of God, He loves to be sought, He tells us… Seek my face… Those who seek me find me…

He hides so as to be found… find Him.


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