Which way now?

On Tuesday I went to Belper.

I moved country in July, so I’m still living in mostly unfamiliar territory and finding my way to new places can be interesting.  My mental map of Derbyshire is a bit dodgy – just little patches of knowledge connected by long spindly lines, with acres of uncertainty on either side.

But Belper is easy.  Straight up a charming road called the A6, through a couple of small towns with rather lovely countryside, always heading straight on, and then when you get to a roundabout – you’re there.

On the way back I didn’t even switch the SatNav on.

So it was a bit of a shock when the road ahead was closed. A burst water main had flooded the unfortunate village of Milford and the one road home I knew was completely blocked.

I did the only thing I could – turned round and drove back the way I’d come, looking for somewhere to pull in and turn on the SatNav.

But, as it turns out, I didn’t need to.  There was a signpost to a village that sounded familiar – I’d been there once before and I was fairly sure it was close to a route back to the city – And indeed, after driving miles in the ‘wrong’ direction, following signs to Kilburn, I found a different (faster) road home.

Another ordinary tale of my life.  But the reason it caught my attention was that I’d spent the morning talking with a new friend about kids and books and church and Jesus, but also about how we deal with ‘roadblocks’ in our lives.  You know-  when you’ve got a plan, and it all seems obvious how things are going to work out, and then something entirely unexpected blocks the road ahead.  When you knew exactly what you were going to do; what was going to happen and how everything was going to pan out, but then you hit a ‘Road Ahead Closed’.

When this kind of thing happens, I almost always sit there thinking a number of unhelpful things:  “this isn’t fair”… “I don’t know what to do next”…”I must have heard God wrong”… “this doesn’t happen to other people”… and feeling confused, panicky, and maybe a little bit cross with God for not following the plan.

Sometimes it is the right thing to just wait until God unblocks the road.

But often, there’s a different route to our destination. One that for some reason which may never be clear, he wants us to take.   So it may be that a better response to being in this situation is to say, “I still believe in what you said; which way do you want to take me instead?”

Yesterday I could have switched on the SatNav and trustingly followed her instructions –  “At the roundabout, take the third left”.  Sometimes that’s how God leads us – step by step, us trusting him to reveal his plan as we travel together.

And sometimes that still small voice reminds us that he has already given us an answer, that somehow he has already prepared us to face this situation and with a little help from a few signs, we’re already equipped to find our way.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Wise men and Pearls

Epiphany  əˈpifənē/:  a sudden and great revelation, insight or realisation.

On Sunday, many of us celebrated Epiphany,  remembering the revelation of God to a small group of learned men: astrologers or interpreters of signs, somewhere in ‘the East’.

Whatever those men it discovered in the skies so intrigued them,  that it led them to make a long and probably arduous journey across difficult country. A journey that culminated in the home of a very ordinary family –  worshipping at the cradle of a uniquely extraordinary infant.  I wonder if they really had any idea of who they had found?

Interestingly, it’s possible that they followed a similar route to Abraham, who also travelled from the East in search of the answer to a promise God had revealed to him.  Abraham had found the promised land, but the magi found God himself.

These stories of a revelation so captivating that it draws the one who sees it into a passionate search reminds me of one of my favourite Bible stories:

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Matthew 13: 45-46 NKJV

The merchant had his own moment of sudden and great realisation:  the knowledge that there was a pearl so beautiful that every other that he had ever seen paled in comparison.  And it led him into an uncompromising pursuit, giving up everything he had previously valued in order too have it that one pearl.

 

In all these cases that what fuelled and fired the pursuit was a revelation that there was something of inestimable value to be found or gained.  A sudden understanding that it is was worth searching, worth travelling out of your way, worth paying the fare, worth persevering, worth letting go of everything else to find it.

Epiphany: a lightbulb moment – a hearing from God moment – a moment when the world snapped into different perspective,  motivating merchant, patriarch and magi to leave all that was familiar behind and set off in search of something wonderful.

I wonder how many people you know who could do with a moment like that?

It’s Epiphany month – a great time to ask God for ‘sudden and great realisation and revelation’ in the lives of people you love, in the lives of your work colleagues and friends and even in the lives of people you don’t really know.

It’s a time to ask for God to reveal himself and to draw people into a journey towards the promise he has for them.  It’s a time to ask him to dangle the pearl of great price that is the kingdom of heaven in front of their noses so that a unquenchable yearning for more breaks open in their hearts. That they become so captivated that nothing else will do.

And I wonder if, while we’re there, we should ask that he does that for us too.

 

 

Shaken?

I love this picture, and right in the midst of the swirl of tinsel hanging and turkey shopping I know that I need to remember this more than ever x


My smallest girl was so excited yesterday unwrapping our Christmas snow globes.  She gave each one a little shake before she found a place for them on the bookshelf and watched the swirl of white glitter surround the figures within.

This time of year is a bit like living in a shaken snow globe.  All the busyness of school plays and concerts, shopping, cooking and trying to get everything done is like a huge swirl of glitter celebrating yet surrounding and sometimes obscuring the message at its heart.

At the centre of my advent snowglobe there’s the extraordinary miracle of a newborn king laid in a manger, Almighty God constrained in weakness, a world changed forever.  I desperately want to celebrate it, to marvel with the shepherds at the miracle of the incarnation, to be soaked in the reality of God-with-us.

And yet there are days when all I can see is the snow, and however hard I try I can barely make out the outline of the new parents cradling my lord and my saviour. This postcard is exactly where I’ve been for the last few weeks, struggling to get a glimpse of Jesus through the snowstorm.

When I started to pray about this picture I was certain that God was going to talk to me about finding stillness,  about making space for the glitter to settle so that I can see clearly.  And that would no doubt be a great plan.  But I was wrong, he wanted to say something quite different –

 Know

Just know it.  Even when you can’t see it, know that he is there, at the very centre.

The shaking of our snow globes doesn’t remove the figures inside, just obscures them.

Know

This Christmas, even when you can’t see for glitter, know that he did invade the world that he created.  Know that he brought his Kingdom to Earth and that, in spite of all appearances, the increase of his government and peace will not end.

Know

Know that however much the snow globe of your life is shaken, and by whatever means, he will still be there. Even when it feels as though the world has been turned upside down and the storm is at its most suffocating – nothing has changed… he is still there.

And it is possible to reach out through the storm or the glitter and catch hold of him, not seeing perhaps, but touching the miracle of the God who loved us and came to pitch his tent among us.

He is still there

God with us.

 

 

 

 

Shaken?

School play tonight, Soccer party tomorrow, concert on Monday,  and still so much to be done!  I think it must be time to repost this, one of my Christmas favourites. x


My smallest girl was so excited yesterday unwrapping our Christmas snow globes.  She gave each one a little shake before she found a place for them on the bookshelf and watched the swirl of white glitter surround the figures within.

This time of year is a bit like living in a shaken snow globe.  All the busyness of school plays and concerts, shopping, cooking and trying to get everything done is like a huge swirl of glitter celebrating yet surrounding and sometimes obscuring the message at its heart.

At the centre of my advent snowglobe there’s the extraordinary miracle of a newborn king laid in a manger, Almighty God constrained in weakness, a world changed forever.  I desperately want to celebrate it, to marvel with the shepherds at the miracle of the incarnation, to be soaked in the reality of God-with-us.

And yet there are days when all I can see is the snow, and however hard I try I can barely make out the outline of the new parents cradling my lord and my saviour. This postcard is exactly where I’ve been for the last few weeks, struggling to get a glimpse of Jesus through the snowstorm.

When I started to pray about this picture I was certain that God was going to talk to me about finding stillness,  about making space for the glitter to settle so that I can see clearly.  And that would no doubt be a great plan.  But I was wrong, he wanted to say something quite different –

 Know

Just know it.  Even when you can’t see it, know that he is there, at the very centre.

The shaking of our snow globes doesn’t remove the figures inside, just obscures them.

Know

This Christmas, even when you can’t see for glitter, know that he did invade the world that he created.  Know that he brought his Kingdom to Earth and that, in spite of all appearances, the increase of his government and peace will not end.

Know

Know that however much the snow globe of your life is shaken, and by whatever means, he will still be there. Even when it feels as though the world has been turned upside down and the storm is at its most suffocating – nothing has changed… he is still there.

And it is possible to reach out through the storm or the glitter and catch hold of him, not seeing perhaps, but touching the miracle of the God who loved us and came to pitch his tent among us.

He is still there

God with us.

 

 

 

 

Leaning

 

As my eight- year olds favourite movie tells me – “Life isn’t all cupcakes and rainbows y’know”

But I still sometimes find myself wondering why God leads me into difficult places.  I’m not massively resilient, or patient, or strong; I hate change, I care too much about what people think and I have to fight a tendency to want to run away from confrontation and hide under my bed.  I am weak.

I know that many of you are fighting a battle that is leaving you feeling weak and wounded.  Perhaps you too question whether you’re the right person for the job.  Maybe you’re asking God why he didn’t pick someone stronger? Someone more resilient?  Someone who could forge this raging  river victoriously and energetically and well?

Why did God pick the weakest man, in the weakest family in the weakest tribe in all of Israel to lead his army?

Well here’s the answer, right at the end of the story of the Song of Songs, and the title of this painting.

Who is this coming up from the wilderness leaning on her beloved?

God chooses the weak, because they are the ones who learn how to depend on him.

The strong fight in their own strength, but those who limp, lean.

In your fight, or your walk through the wilderness, lean into him, that’s how your weakness can become his strength, and his strength made complete.

And this will be the end of your story too.  You will come up out of this wilderness, and you’ll still be leaning.

 

 

When all is not lost

You may recognise this smile.  It featured in the book, Postcards From Heaven, when the front tooth was missing, and now 3 years on it’s full of big teeth, and the somewhat irresponsible owner of a (very-expensive-to-replace) removable palate-expander-thingy.

We were having a fantastic day at the Zoo and it wasn’t until we were just about to feed a magnificent giraffe that the gorgeous Chaos-Generator turned and grinned at me, revealing the tell-tale lack of wire.

“Where’s your brace?!” I yelled, “and why isn’t it in your mouth?”…

Fellow parents of wonky-toothed children may recognise the scene that followed. After an intensive hunt through bags and pockets and some frustrated remonstrations,  I left the kids with their Grandma and unenthusiastically retraced my steps around the Zoo wondering where on earth she might have taken it out and dropped it.

After unsuccessful hunts around the ice-cream stand and the Gopher viewing area, eventually I returned to the picnic area where we’d had lunch, more than an hour after we had left it.  The picnic table we had sat at was empty, and I hunted on and around it and the bin where I’d thrown the empty crisp bags, but the floor was covered in a thick layer of bark chippings and I imagine several families had used the table since we had.  There really was no chance of finding a 4cm wide piece of see-through plastic and wire.

The tiny bit of hope I had left drained away as I sat down at the table,  convinced that we would never see it again.

And then I looked down, and there it was, just next to my foot.

I’m not sure now whether it had been there all along, or whether God had moved it there.  But as I picked it up, flooded with relief, I heard God whisper “I am a God who restores”.

“I am the God who restores”

It’s funny because I would have said I knew God as Restorer well already, and I do, but in the sense of a restorer of a master painting – someone who comes in and painstakingly cleans something up and carefully repairs damage!  But obviously I only had part of the picture…

When I looked it up, the first definition of restore that I found was ‘to give back or return’.

Part of what God longs to do as our great Restorer is to return to us things that have been taken away,  things that feel forever-lost.

Perhaps there are parts of your heart,  your confidence, your strength, your faith or your hope that feel as though they have been taken away and are gone.  There are times in life when difficult things happen to us and something good that we had is taken away; we make a mistake and some part of us is lost.    If that sounds familiar, hear this:

 

Our God is the God who restores.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On fruitfulness

It’s nearly pomegranate season here on the island, and recently I saw a tree so laden that its branches were bowing under the weight.  These beautiful fruit are not quite ripe enough to be harvested, but heavy enough to change the shape of the tree that’s bearing them.  And it’s made me think again about the reality of bearing fruit in the kingdom of God.

Firstly, there are seasons.  The harvest has to come at exactly the right time. Too soon and the fruit isn’t ripe, too late and the wasps will steal it away.  Different fruit is ready at different times:  Accepting that life too has seasons and that God makes things happen according to his timing makes christian life a little bit less frustrating.

Secondly try as it might, this pomegranate tree will never produce a lemon, or cherries, or a sweet juicy nectarine.  Those things are wonderful, and I’m grateful that there are trees that grow them. But pomegranates are beautiful in their own way.  There’s something really powerful about seeking out what kind of fruitfulness God has for you in this particular season and then not wasting time or energy trying to do or be something else.

The third thing is that fruitfulness can be really heavy work – The branch that carries these fruit has taken time to mature and grow strong enough to bear them, but still, it’s bowing a little under the weight.   Sometimes fruitfulness is tiring: doing the things God is calling you to do, investing in the people God has given you, making the choices he is challenging you to make; all of those things weigh heavy.  But it doesn’t mean you’re getting it wrong.  Just that you need to make sure you make time to retreat into God’s presence to be filled and strengthened.  Just like the tree that needs to have a prop or two under its branches to carry the weight of its fruit  so we need to learn to lean back into him and let him shoulder the burden of ours.

 

If this is you – please schedule yourself some time with God as soon as you possibly can and ask for his strength and grace as you bear and gather in this harvest.

If it’s not you right now, can I make this a call of prayer for those that do need it?  I’m reminded of the time that Moses was praying over a battle, and the people of God were winning the battle as long as he had his arms raised in prayer, but would begin to lose as he tired and his arms fell. It’s a great story of the power of prayer, but I especially like the part where his friends realise what is happening and stand with him as they build stone towers that he can rest his arms against.

Perhaps you have a friend, or someone else who comes to mind, whose ‘branches’ are bowing under the weight of the ministry that God has given them.  Please pray for them. Call out to God and let’s be a part of releasing some supernatural strength into some parts of the kingdom that really need it!

 

reflect greens

 

fruitfulness

 

 

 

 

 

Words and Pictures to help you hear from God

%d bloggers like this: