Liquid words

It means so much to be heard, to be understood.

Last week I took my youngest daughter to see the cinema to see the new Roald Dahl film the BFG (Big Friendly Giant). We both loved it. Katie declared that even without the 3D glasses and hatbox of popcorn it would have been brilliant. high praise indeed.

One scene from the movie really touched my heart. The little girl, Sophie, asks the Big Friendly Giant why he had chosen to rescue her from the orphanage and he replies,

“because I hears your lonely heart in all the secret whisperings of the world”

It is so wonderful to be heard and understood. How much more wonderful to know that even those echoes in your heart that have never made it into words are heard by someone, treasured by someone.

And Roald Dahl was right, someone is listening.

I had already scribbled these words in teardrops in my sketchbook when someone quoted this verse from the passion translation of Psalm 39:

Lord you know all my desires and deepest longings. My tears are liquid words and you can read them all.

The message of this postcard is simply that God hears. He is listening to the whisperings of the hearts of his people. He hears your sadness and your joy, your despair and your hope. He hears your faith and love, confusion and questions, celebrations and disappointments, your anger and your tears.

He has searched your heart thoroughly, knows you completely and loves you fiercely.

He hears.

The monster under the bed

In the half-light of my smallest child’s bedroom, lit only by a glowing IKEA nightlight, almost anything can look like a monster.

The only cure is to call for monster-fighting Mummy, who comes wielding a mightiest of monster beating weapons: The light switch

One flick of the switch and the evil monster that lurks beneath the bed is shown up for the what he really is… A pile of tennis balls, a broken doll, that long lost trainer and an abandoned sweatshirt.

I felt just like this the other day when troubled by a decision I’d made, and desperately worried it was the wrong one. I went for coffee with a friend and poured out all my concerns, all the reasons behind my decision, and my fears for the future. Then God used my friend to shine some light on my situation, to reveal that things weren’t quite as I had understood them to be, that there was hope. She turned on the lights and the monster wasn’t quite the monster I had thought it was.

One of the prayers I’ve been taught to pray a lot is to ask God to shine his light into the situations I’m facing. This picture reminds me of just what a powerful prayer that can be. So often our ‘monsters’ turn out to be less unpleasant than we feared.

Of course, not everything is a pile of shoes… there are sometimes real live terrifying monsters lurking in our lives. But God’s light switch will always show them up to be smaller than they have become in your imagination.

More importantly, it will light up the strands that cannot be seen in the darkness, that powerful hope that is anchored in Jesus:
the monsters are temporary, but the love, peace and joy of his presence will be eternal.

Doppleganger prayer

Ever meet someone who strongly reminds you of someone else? I often see a girl walking around our neighbourhood who from a distance could be my eldest daughter. Same height and build, same long curly hair, same hipster glasses and same taste in clothes.

Seeing her again this week reminded me of a teaching on prayer that I heard in my twenties. It was simply that when you saw someone familiar or a car like the one they drive, and had that moment of ‘recognition’, you should pray for whoever you were reminded of.

Simple enough. And yet God has often used this powerfully in my prayer life. I have prayed for people when meeting their double, or even hearing ‘their voice’ on the radio, and found out, sometimes weeks later, that they had been in particular need at that time.

This postcard isn’t really to promote ‘Doppelgänger prayer’ as a particular method, although it is pretty cool, but mostly to say that God has so much to say to you and not only in the ways you’re already used to hearing him.

God will often speak in whatever language we’re listening in.

Of course, it is important to weigh up whatever you think you hear against the truth of his Word. But hearing starts with listening, and God speaks to his people in many wonderful creative ways.

I’m wondering what new ways of hearing God wants me to find and delight in this summer. I hope you find some too.

I have loved

 

I’ve never liked goodbyes.  When my daughter was little she would refuse even to say the word, as if by not acknowledging someone’s departure she could somehow prevent it from happening.  There are days when I wish I could work that kind of magic myself.

But goodbyes, and the grief that accompanies them, are a part of life that we can’t avoid.

This week we’ve said goodbye to yet more good friends.  People that we have loved, laughed and shared life with, and who are now off to start a new chapter in another part of the world. It happens, all the time. For some it’s a temporary farewell, because we know that one way or another, we will see them again. But we don’t know how many years that might take, and we will miss them.  They take a part of our hearts with them.

It hurts to say goodbye. And sometimes a little voice whispers that it would safer to love less; to not invest pieces of my heart in friendships with people who will inevitably leave;  that this sadness and sense of loss is my own fault and that perhaps I should have guarded my heart better.  And I certainly won’t cry, because that would be silly.

In some cultures people know how to grieve well.  I suspect that some of us have lost touch with that a bit.  We treat grief of all kinds like an illness, something mysterious that you need to get over as quickly as you can and avoid wherever possible.

And yet grief isn’t a malfunction. It’s not a sign that something is broken and need fixing.  It’s actually the reverse. It’s a sign that you have done what you were supposed to do, a medal of honour to say that you have loved.

CS Lewis wrote this: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.”  Grief is a risk we take when we love.

I’m reminded of this from Ecclesiastes:

there is a time for everything, a season for every activity under the sun
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot
a time to kill and a time to heal
a time to pull down and a time to build up
a time to weep and a time to laugh
a time for mourning and a time for dancing

 

This is how life is. Goodbyes and grief happen. There are seasons where weeping and mourning and perhaps even anger are the appropriate emotions to feel and to express.  But I love that this piece of poetry also sparkles with hope.  There will also be seasons of healing and building, laughing and dancing to come, at the right time.

So that’s the postcard of the moment.  When you’re mourning, for whatever reason, you may not want to do it loudly, but do it without shame.

Wear it as a medal of honour – I have loved.

medal

 

 

 

You go before me

I’m back, did you miss me?

Sorry I’ve been quiet lately.

Sometimes life can be like a stage in a car rally: racing through winding country roads much faster than is comfortable.   The driver clings to the wheel as twists and turns come up on the road ahead, swerving past, over and sometimes through obstacles. All at breakneck speed.

Some of the countryside is beautiful, but it mostly just streams past the windows while you try to focus on the bit of road in front of you and wonder what’s around the next corner.

 

As I painted this picture God spoke to me about three things:

1. Life isn’t a long, straight, easy highway all the way.

Not for anyone.

There are unexpected twists and turns, hazards and dead ends, and sometimes places where you have no idea which is the way ahead.  (There is also occasionally a patch of breathtaking scenery, which you might never have seen if you’d gone an easier way.)

My momentary struggles aren’t a punishment for something I did, or even, necessarily, a result of my bad choices.  They’re normal life.  Whatever Facebook might be telling you, no-one has it completely easy all the time.  It’s tough, but it helps to admit that, to realise that you or your family aren’t the odd ones out here.

2. I’m not in this race alone

Each driver in a rally has a co-driver who has studied the course and made notes about where the turns are.  All the way through the race the co-driver calls out that it’s time to turn to the left or right.  They’ve already worked out a route past any obstacles, seen where it’s necessary to brake hard and are aware of what’s coming up around the next corner, and the next one.

The driver would do well to listen carefully.

Jesus is the one who goes before me.  He’s the one who knows the route through the field of boulders, in and out of the winding lanes  or wherever else we end up.  In fact he’s the only one who can navigate us through it.

Of course, I do have to listen.  And when you’re stressed out and under pressure listening doesn’t always come easily.  But it does seem to be possible to choose it. I’m trying.

3. There’s a roll cage

Sometimes we try to reassure ourselves that God will make sure no bad things happen to us if only we follow him and have faith in him. Perhaps the reverse is actually true?  I wonder if a deeper faith lies in a place where bad things happen and yet still we follow him.  I’ve watched faith-filled people experience the worst and yet survive with their faith mostly in tact. God is also our roll cage.

It was only as I painted this picture from one I found online that I noticed the roll cage in the car.  The worst might happen, but the team can survive it.

 

 

 

 

 

Ready?

Are you ready?  This is an ancient trumpet used in Bible times to communicate urgent messages to the people. A blast on this was a call to attention, an urgent warning, a sign that something was about to happen.

I found a lot of references to trumpets in the Bible today.  From the trumpet sound that announced the arrival of the Lord in Exodus to the seven trumpets of Revelation. All of them saying:

Stop, look, listen, pay attention.  Whatever it is you were waiting for is happening now!

There’s something quite scary about the idea of an unexpected trumpet call announcing something big and imminent. Like an air-raid siren or smoke alarm going off, you have to react immediately, follow a plan you already made, be ready.

Reading Nehemiah especially it strikes me how much his fellow builders were ready.  With one hand they were building up the wall, and in the other hand they held a weapon.  They knew that the moment the trumpet sounded they needed to gather together and defend themselves.  To switch instantly from building to battle. No time even to swap one implement for the other.  They hadn’t stopped doing what they were called to do- but they were ready.

For Nehemiah’s men the trumpet was a warning – a message that you need to start fighting, right now.  In the other verse that caught my attention today the trumpet sound heralds good news- the best news- that Jesus is about to return:

Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
1 Corinthians 15:52

In either case, the blast of the trumpet is not saying ‘now’s the time to get ready’.  I suspect that if you wait to get ready until you hear the trumpet, it might already be too late.

I have no idea when that final trumpet call is going to sound, and no interest in predicting when it might.  But I know I want to be ready. And I know that until then we’re not supposed to stop and do nothing and just watch… That’s the job of the guy with the trumpet.  Our job is to be ready and to get on with the task we’ve been given at the same time.  And maybe to know what we’re going to do when the trumpet sounds.

But I wonder as well if there might be moments when God blows a trumpet in our individual lives or the lives of our church communities.  Each one saying ‘pay attention- the time is now’. Sometimes a warning, sometimes a herald, but every time vitally important that we hear and respond.

Are we ready to drop everything and listen up; to discern whether it’s time to enter into a new battle, or whether God is about to arrive in our lives in a new way?

 

 

 

free to dance

Today I’m altering costumes.  It’s big show night tonight for my daughter and her outfit is too big.  If you want to dance in something, it needs to fit really well. There’s no time to get the right size, so I’m making a few adjustments.

I’m also wearing clothes that don’t fit properly.  I lost a little bit of weight recently. Not much, just enough in fact to make my jeans fall down if I try to run anywhere.  I really need to find the time to get a new pair of jeans that actually fit me. But until then I’m just getting by with the old ones and making sure I hold onto them if I need a turn of speed.

This theme of badly fitting clothes in my life at the moment reminds me of this verse from Ephesians 4: 22-24

 You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts,  and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (NRSV)

When we chose to follow Jesus and accepted his gift of a new heart and a fresh start, our old ways of living stopped fitting.    It’s as if we have become a totally different shape.  But we often keep wearing bits of our old lives out of habit.  The list in Ephesians is pretty long: malice, anger, unforgiveness, bitterness, stealing, harsh words…

Those ways just don’t fit the new you.  You need to break the habit of wearing them.

Firstly: They don’t suit you.  They’re not your colour.

Secondly:  You can’t dance in something that doesn’t fit.

Why not ask God today if you’re still wearing something that doesn’t really fit you.  Something that’s restricting your movement or stopping you from running forward.

It might be something from Paul’s list, or something more difficult to spot, like the negative things you whisper to yourself or  say about yourself, you’ll never amount to anything, you can’t do that or I’m rubbish, I’m useless. Or it might be something hidden away for fear someone will see it.

Ask God, because he has priorities. He knows which thing he wants to help you deal with today. It’s not meant to be an exercise in thinking about all the things which are awful about ourselves, but in asking God to pinpoint the one thing he’d like us to get free from first.

Whatever it is, ask God to help you to take it off. Then accept his all-covering forgiveness and pick up the new clothes that he has for you to wear:

Clothes that fit well enough to dance in.

 

P.S For those of you who’ve noticed – this is painted in acrylics instead of watercolour – a temporary departure!  It’s a favourite of mine and I wish there was a word for the-freedom-generated-by-the-dance.  If there was, that would be its title!

P.P.S Thank you to everyone who has bought a copy of Postcards from Heaven. If you have time to go and write a review on the Amazon or BRF listing that would be wonderful x

 

 

 

 

Words and Pictures to help you hear from God

%d bloggers like this: