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


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.


Encountering Jesus….or Hit and Run?

We are full of memories, memories as varied as our individual lives, they define us, tell us who we are in some ways.
We need them to learn from and to push off from into a deeper future, a future which will be greater because we have learnt. Not to remember is not to learn.
Aristotle said: ‘Memory is the scribe of the soul.’

Some of our memories have left deep lines in the soul and we wish they weren’t there. These won’t be impacted by mere information, they need to be transformed into a pattern rather than a scar. Who can do this? Only a master craftsman. The designer of our soul no less.

We can know this transformation by encountering Jesus. Encountering him is the only way the very best of things has ever happened to us anyway. We might not have known it to be an encounter and perhaps we find such terminology makes us a bit squeamish, but encounter it is.

How else did we become believers if it wasn’t by hearing his voice, seeing things differently and responding to him? Sounds like an encounter to me.

How can we know an encounter with him then? Thankfully there isn’t only one way, but I’d like to tell you how to put yourself in the way of an encounter. It isn’t a one size fits all absolutely guaranteed method, there isn’t such a thing in a real relationship, but this is one way of making yourself more available and receptive to him.

Do you ever find the reading of scripture can leave you with a sense of dissatisfaction, a kind of ‘Is that all there is to it?’

If we read and leave then yes, sometimes that is all there is to it, sometimes it can leave no impact on us if we are reading without due care and attention, almost hit and run..
but…if we read and return, then we have more chance of those words sinking in and making their mark on our soul. Perhaps even making the lines in our soul into something beautiful rather than the dreary ugliness we suspect they trace.

A simple habit can change the way the words impact us, how simple? Very simple.

Take a short section of a narrative and read it aloud, if we do this daily the story becomes vividly detailed and we can start to see it much more clearly, maybe even imagine how we would fit if we were there.

I’m going to be reading these verses this week, would you like to join me?

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. NIV

Isn’t this time-wasting and playing with scripture in our imagination? Shouldn’t we be studying it instead?
Yes and no, study is great and helpful, but it does a different thing to this sort of reading, so yes we should be studying scripture, not instead of this, but in addition to it.
As for whether we should be using our imagination or not, well, funnily enough our imagination isn’t some aberration of our nature which has taken God by surprise. He has made us to see things with our mind’s eye as well as the physical.

As we spend time reading aloud and so hearing the story, we find our imaginations are fired up, we see things we hadn’t noticed before and can imagine how we would feel if we were there, we can wonder what we might have said, perhaps instead of dismissing the reactions of those who were there at the time, we may start to understand in greater depth the confusion they might have known on hearing Jesus tell a parable for the very first time.
Valuable clarity can come like a shaft of light shining on a text as it is read over and again, little things fall into place as they are looked at from various angles over a week of repeated reading.
Importantly we get to see Jesus in sharper focus, we see his character standing out against the backdrop of a broken and rebellious humanity as the beautiful nature it truly is.
We see the different ways he interacts with people, that he loves to intervene in lives, healing, restoring, delivering, lifting up, rescuing, any and all of the needs he sees, he meets.

The question is will we go to him and meet him so giving him the opportunity to make eye contact with us and say what needs to be said, or will we just read on without due care and attention?

I know you want to grow in favour with him to receive all you can from him, this is one way for this to come about. Respond to him. Let his words soak down to your soul and rework the lines, let him show you what he can do with those scars, see how beautifully he can change the dullness into a piece of craftsmanship that nothing and no-one else will be quite like. Your past and even your present can be made into the backdrop of a thing of great beauty, but no artist creates in a rush, so give him your time, because you can’t spend time with Jesus and stay the same.

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A Very Good Twenty Minutes…Or ‘I don’t know how to be quiet with God…’

Brennan Manning said of God:

‘He gives Himself to us completely in silence and solitude.’

He used these passages to read and ponder on:

Isaiah 43:1-5; Ephesians 2:6-10; 1John 4:16-19; Psalm 103.

Take about twenty minutes.

He says a biblical definition of fear is ‘Silent wonder..radical amazement..affectionate awe at the infinite goodness of God.’

This man knew what he was talking about.


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