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Jo 12Each day, there seem to be so many opinions and pieces of information aired on the internet and on TV about surviving and thriving during this isolation period. Some of these contain advice on how to behave and care for ourselves and others, which may or may not be helpful. Some aim to encourage us to think and act in positive ways. Some make us laugh and are full of dry humour. But some also seem to do nothing except induce fear and panic and even more uncertainty. Should I really download that Covid 19 tracking app? Should all these children really head back to school at this stage? Should I really make that trip to the shops or go wherever right now? Should I really plan that event for later in the year?

Whoa! All this can do our heads in, can’t it? And this is where I have found it helpful to step back, so to speak, take a deep breath, and ask myself a different set of questions.

Whose voice am I listening to?

What effect does that voice have on me?

What thoughts am I allowing to take hold of my mind and guide my actions at this time?

Recently, I read the tiny New Testament letter written by Jude, who it is thought was one of Jesus’ brothers. Towards the end, he encourages the early believers to persevere and writes:

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Jude 20-21

Yes, I thought to myself—this is what I need to do! I need to pray and allow the Spirit to speak God’s true and encouraging words into my heart. I need to allow God to build up my faith and to remember all God has taught and shown and done for me in the past. But above all, I need to place myself right in the centre of God’s love afresh each day and be at peace, knowing God will watch over me forever.

And that is why I risk adding yet another blog each week to all those words already out there in cyberspace right now. I want to encourage others to listen to God’s loving voice rather than that voice that would cause us to fear or lose hope. Whoever we are, we all need to know that God is for us, that we truly matter to God, that God longs to provide for us and speak peace into our hearts at this time. At least, I know I do!

And what a wonderful, uplifting, final flourish Jude adds to the end of his letter to those early believers that surely still speaks to us today and encourages us to remember who we belong to and who is in charge:

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. Jude 24-25

Now what better final word could there be than that?

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Jo 12Drum roll, please … today marks the posting of my 400th personal blog! Thank you so much to those readers who have travelled this whole journey faithfully with me and for your special words of encouragement that have kept me going at times.

I began my blog back in July 2009, although it doesn’t seem so long ago to me. Did I envisage then I would still be going strong in March 2017? I don’t think so. Yet here I am, still producing those little pieces of writing that I hope have encouraged or challenged some of you along the way.

I am often asked how I can think up a new blog each week. Sometimes it is easier than others. Sometimes I struggle to hear clearly what it is God wants me to write about. Sometimes I no doubt get it wrong. But at other times, I seem to hear God whispering to me, almost in an excited voice, ‘Yes, that’s it, Jo! Share those words of mine you just read with others! Put that insight I gave you out there! Let others join in that experience you had with me!’

My WordPress stats tell me that some weeks, more people visit my blog than in other weeks. While whatever blog topic I choose plays a part in this, I have discovered certain natural reasons as well. Any time near Christmas or Easter or even school holidays is not the best, if I am aiming for maximum readership. Weekends are not always good either. Even posting at certain times of the day can change those readership statistics. But I have stuck to Tuesday mornings, not only because it works best for me but also because some of my faithful readers expect that new blog to arrive then, right on cue, whatever time of year. I remember one occasion when I inadvertently scheduled my blog to post on a Monday instead of a Tuesday—which caused a couple of my faithful readers to wonder if they had somehow lost a day out of their week!

What motivates me to spend time blogging, when I could be writing my next novel? Firstly, I enjoy it—well, mostly anyway! Secondly, challenging myself to write something worthwhile each week in only around 550 words has I think helped me become less of a wordy writer. But thirdly and most importantly, I want with all my heart to share those words and insights I believe are from God with you all. And I love reading that feedback, either via Facebook or blog comments, as to how God has spoken to you through them.

I know my words are only a few among so many others, as I launch them into cyberspace each week. I know they will soon be lost to sight. I know that, however hard I try, my words may not always be right or perhaps even wise. But I also know that God’s words are different. They are flawless and will remain true forever—and that is why I choose to include some at least in each of my blogs, including my 400th!

God bless you all!

 As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. 2 Samuel 22:31

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Matthew 24:35

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