Category Archives: Living the Life

Fuchsia and Bindweed

 

Even after many beautiful years living in the grace of being a Christian, I often look at the piles of rubbish: stupid beliefs, insecurities, hurts, weaknesses and sin in my life and think “Come on Lord, why can’t you just deal with all this junk and sort me out quicker?”

I’m at a conference this week, and I’m going over old ground again: The heart of the father towards me, the need to forgive and to accept forgiveness…  Old and slightly painful ground. So I’m living in that place of frustration right now that there is STILL more junk to be dealt with. Still more rocks to be pulled out of my spiritual backpack.  But in the middle of that frustration God is reminding me of this picture…

 

One day a while ago, when I was berating my patient Father about his slowness in ridding me of all my junk, he reminded me of a beautiful fuchsia plant that used to grow in our front garden.   I once spent a whole afternoon sitting on the garden wall, slowly unwrapping the bindweed which had grown up around it, spiralling around every branch and stem until the whole plant was weighed down and choked by the weed.

I was desperate to save the beautiful plant, but ripping at the weed quickly would have certainly destroyed it. So I had no choice but to sit and slowly unwrap it, stem by stem.  It took a long time. And God showed me that I am like the fuschia: delicate, beautiful, cherished; and that he is like a gardener: careful, deliberate, patient and thorough.

I have no doubt that my powerful father could heal me quickly, could tear from me all the parts of me that are marred and broken, twisted up or distorted.  But his desire is not simply to get rid of the weed, but to save the plant and see it restored.

“Heal me”, I said,

“Heal me quickly LORD”

“I’ll do it carefully”, He replied

“So that all that is wonderful,

All that is beautiful,

All that I cherish so much

In you

Will remain”.

 

 

Fuschia and Bindweed

 

P.S.  At one point today, I sat with Jesus and said:

“I’m sorry Lord, I am just way too tired to deal with you taking more rocks out of my backpack today”

I’m pretty sure I heard him laugh out loud at that one!

Please don’t resist the healing, the freedom, the release from heaviness that he is offering you today.  I know it’s uncomfortable to look inside and find even more rocks in there, but the truth is that we will both walk so much better without them tomorrow…

 

An invitation

“This picture is an invitation.”

I lost count of how many times I said that over this last weekend.  I was sharing postcards – pictures with a message – with the many lovely seekers-after-truth-and-comfort who visited our booth at the local Mind Body Spirit Fair.  And as I shared the pictures I’d painted, I kept hearing myself say that phrase: “this picture is an invitation”.

And I suppose that many of the pictures I paint are just that: An invitation to trust; an invitation to step out; an invitation to surrender; an invitation to love and be loved;  an invitation to ask for more…

This one is an invitation to come and ‘be’

A bench sits in a shady part of the garden.  It’s a place of peace, rest and friendship.  It’s a place of quiet and of conversation.  It’s a place for you to meet with Jesus.

Have you been there lately?

Sometimes I get so busy with life that I forget to retreat into this place of quiet with Jesus, forget to do the one thing that restores my soul and enables me to keep up the busyness.

Sometimes I’m so ashamed that the garden that is my life has become overgrown and messy that I put off inviting Jesus into it until I’ve had a chance to tidy it up a bit.

How foolish am I, that I am so busy trying to make my garden look pretty that I forget to take the time to sit down and have a cup of tea with the master gardener that is waiting for me?  How crazy is it that I stand alone, fighting to hack back the weeds with my bare hands, while Jesus stands behind me holding a scythe?

 “I’ll be with you in a minute Jesus, just let me deal with this first”

 

Here’s the news:   Once you’ve invited God into the garden that is your life  he is always there.  He is always ready to sit with you on this bench, to listen to what is on your heart -however ugly it might be- and to speak and to pour out forgiveness, restoration and love into your heart.  He is waiting.   And he already knows about the mess, the corners of brambles and weeds; he even brought a spade.  But his priority, his heart, is to take time to be with you.

 

So you don’t have to invite him in, and I suspect you can’t keep him out, but you can refuse to listen to his invitation to join him in this quiet corner.  You can be too busy, too distracted, too tired or too ashamed.  There might be a hundred and one things you think you need to get done first.

But hear the invitation he is speaking to you now:

 

come to me

 

I wonder if it would be even better to not wait until I am aware of how weary and burdened I am, but to come today anyway….

… and when you come and make time to sit on that bench,  I think he says something like this…

come in poem

 

bench

 

 

reflect greens

 

If you’re reading this post, and thinking that you’ve never invited Jesus to be a part of your life, never known the closeness of a friendship with him that is like sitting on this bench in a garden with him, please find someone who knows him and ask them how.  They will be so happy to talk to you about their friendship with him.  And if you don’t know anyone to ask, drop me a line – I would LOVE to tell you more…

 

For your Journal:  (it’s great to process things with God on paper – I can heartily recommend it)

How does this picture of a bench and the idea of sitting on it with Jesus make you feel?

What things in your life distract you or hold you back from spending time alone with Jesus?

What do you find hard about making time with Jesus and what things could you do/ put in place to make it easier?

 

Immeasurably More

Please, may I have some more?

There’s something quite awkward about asking for more…   And that awkwardness often stops me from asking.  Somehow the vision of a grubby little boy with an empty bowl swims into my mind.  But before I find myself humming songs from Oliver…

To be clear, I’m not talking about material wealth here,  although it may for many be quite reasonable to ask for more of that..  Today though, I’m thinking about other things I’d like more of:  faith, wisdom, passion, courage, forgiveness, healing, ability to receive God’s love, love for others, a sense of the presence of God…

But for some reason I find coming to God and saying “please, I want more” really difficult.   I feel I should stand back and let others go ahead of me.  Asking for more when I have already received so much from God feels greedy.  Worse than that it makes me feel as though I’m somehow not grateful enough for what I’ve already been given.

(Also, written on the wallpaper inside my head is a little sign that says “It’s not OK to ask for stuff” which applies in a million other situations, not just this one. – God and I are in the process of rubbing this -and some others-out, but that’s probably another postcard)

But for each of us, it is without question true that God has more for us in our relationship with Him.  More understanding, more faith, more peace, more presence, more.  And his pockets don’t hold a limited amount:  If he gives to me it doesn’t mean that someone else will miss out, if he’s already given me some faith I don’t have to say “OK thank you that will do”.   This isn’t a tea party at a little friend’s house my friends,  you don’t have to smile a polite smile and say “thank you, that was lovely, I’m full up now”.

I wonder what you hear from God when you look at this postcard of the ocean.  Every time I stand by the sea I think about this…  I scoop up as much water as I can hold in my hands and I think “this is how much of God’s presence, power and peace I have experienced so far’… and then I look up at the sea.

The difference between the water I can hold in my hands and the contents of the mediterranean… and then the atlantic is beyond my ability to comprehend.  It’s extraordinary to even to try to think about it.

That’s how much more there is to explore of God my friends, that’s how much more he has for you.

Immeasurably more.

You just need to ask.

MorePC

 

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 3:16-21 NIV

reflect blue

For your journal:  What do you want to ask God for ‘more’ of?   What stops you from asking?

“Have you seen my phone?”… A lesson in listening

This is my phone…    It’s set to silent…    I’ve lost it.

This happens to me way too often.  I’m actually pretty good at remembering to set my phone to silent for church meetings, school music recitals etc. But I never remember to turn it back onto loud again afterwards.  If I want to be able to hear it above the background music of my world (guitars, computer games, disney channel, noisy five-year old) then I have to leave it set to what the kids call ‘old lady loud’.  But once again, I’ve forgotten and I’ve put it down ‘somewhere’.  Argh.

In a moment, when I’ve finished writing this, I’m going to go on a hunt for it.  But first I’ll go round and turn off everything that makes a noise:  Youtube, the water cooler, the extractor hood, the tinkerbell movie that Katie is watching and anything else I can think of.  Then I’ll confiscate my son’s guitar and beg everyone to be quiet, just for five minutes, so that I can HEAR.

And then I’ll call my phone from the landline and walk slowly around the house straining to hear any slight sound of my phone vibrating in it’s hiding place.  And if I begin to hear it I’ll hone in my search to one room until I eventually find it.. down the side of the sofa or in a  pocket or on a shelf (or in the toybox.)

So for five or ten minutes of my day because I really want to hear something I will listen for it – really listen.

I’m really hoping that some of you who read this will be thinking “yes, I’ve done that” because it will really help you to get what I think God has to say to us today..

When I lose my silent phone I make space to listen for a barely audible whisper.  I consciously turn off the noise that would interfere with my ability to hear and I listen hard.  And the last time this happened, I heard God say,

“I want you to listen for my voice like that”

So I’m thinking about blocking off some time in my diary, just for listening to God.  For me, turning off noise has to mean not being in the house (where there are a million jobs shouting at me that they need to be done).  So I’ll go for a walk somewhere quiet.  For you it might mean the last ten minutes of the day, or sneaking somewhere at lunchtime, or locking yourself in the bathroom…

But will you find a way to make some space,  take some time, turn off some noise so that you can hear the still small voice of God this week? Who knows what things He has to say to you?  Who knows what revelation He is longing to share with you; who knows what part of His word He wants to bring to life for you; who knows what comfort or encouragement He wants to bring to your heart?

I don’t… but I bet it’s worth you finding out.

 

listeningfeature

Still small voice
On the edge of my hearing
help me to still my noisy soul

Still small voice
constantly calling
spill your milk and honey out
over my heart

reflect white

 

The challenge for this week is to spend some time listening to God’s voice and write down what you hear him say…  for those new to listening for the voice of God there are some starting guidelines here.

 

 

The Way God Moves…

OK, I’ll admit it…  God doesn’t always act the way I expect Him to.  His timing can be wonderful and it can be extremely frustrating!

It seems to me that in the kingdom of God there’s a lot of waiting and a fair amount of suddenly. And the suddenly-stuff would often fit in neatly under the heading of not-quite-what-I-expected.

We often expect our progress towards the things God has promised us to be step by step in a straightforward direction, like the pawn on a chessboard.  But perhaps it’s more normal to be a bishop!

The pieces on a chess board each have their own unique way of moving.  The pawns mostly move one step at a time, forwards.  The bishops on the other hand can move right across the board (diagonally) in one move.   They often spend most of the early part of the game not moving, but can go from hiding at the back to the thick of the battle in an instant – suddenly.

So I’ve painted a chess-bishop this week for all those sitting on the back row wondering when God will use them and how.   And for those who have heard God’s call on their life to do something, and yearn for a step-by-step obvious route to get there, but don’t see the ‘pieces’ neatly falling into place.

I went to see a school production of the musical ‘Joseph’ last week. It was great, but a really odd piece of the music got stuck in my head (still there). Sung by the narrator to Joseph, hopeless, in prison:

‘strange as it seems there’s been a run of crazy dreams, and a man who can interpret could go far..’

I feel like God is drawing my attention to something here…

The line marks the moment when Joseph, alone in the prison, is about to be asked to interpret Pharaoh’s dream.  It’s the big turning point in the story:  It looks as though Joseph is as far as he can be from the promises that God gave him and yet there is barely time for a shave and change of clothes before he stands before Pharaoh interpreting his dream.  In a matter of hours Joseph goes from prison to power, from hopelessness to walking out into the promise God had given him all those years before.

Joseph had years and years of waiting and then a ‘suddenly’.

I hate waiting.  Patience is a fruit I’m yet to grow much of.  But I know that I shouldn’t abandon his promises for me and my family just because His timing is not what I’d expected.  So, when I am trying to work out how God could possibly give me the things I have heard Him whisper,  I’m learning to remember that it may not be step-by-step in a straight line that I get there.

It might be suddenly.

 

waiting
impatiently
for a moment in battle
unwillingly
hidden
away
struggling
painfully
with unresolved promises
fighting to hear
what you say
desperately
hoping
I've not been forgotten
fearfully 
wondering why?

and  then  suddenly

Bishop FB

 

If you’d like to take this further, why not meditate on and pray through Psalm 40 1:3.

Or write down in your journal some of the things God has promised you, but that you’re not walking in yet and ask God to help you to wait for them with faith.

 

Faith and the Flying Fox

I don’t often feel faith, it’s much more likely in any given situation that I’ll be feeling terror.  But to my great relief I’ve finally concluded that faith isn’t something you feel, it’s something you do.  And in some ways that’s much easier!

faith

I’ve come to believe that ‘faith is being certain of what we do not see’ can also be read ‘faith is hearing God, and then acting like you believe what He says is true.  For example:  Father God says that I am his precious child, that I am beautiful, that I am valuable.  Honestly, a lot of the time I struggle to feel like these things are true.  But I know they are, so I try to behave like they are.  I’m not pretending, – I’m lining my behaviour up with what I know to be true.

My kids went on a really high flying fox once… It was as much as I could take to stand on the ground watching them…  They were 40 ft or so up in the air and had to step off the platform and put their entire trust in the harness that strapped them to the wire.

That’s a great picture of faith – Standing on the edge of what feels safe, gripped by fear, but trusting that God has said this is the right thing to do and stepping off anyway.  Much, much easier to write down than to do!   On the flying fox, even when you have just seen your brother fly down in front of you and you know it is safe, it’s really hard to step off.  And sometimes it’s like that when God asks you to do something ….  

But the faith isn’t in the feeling. – It’s in the jumping.

The other thing I remember clearly about watching this zip line in action was the pep-talk on how to land safely:

“What you must do” insisted the instructor, “is start running while you are still in the air,  a long time before you hit the ground, or you will just wipe out”  And he wasn’t kidding!  As I watched people fly down the wire at great speed,  it was clear that those who began the action of running before their feet hit the ground managed to stay on their feet; and those who forgot were dragged unceremoniously through the mud.

Faith is being certain about the things that God has promised but you are not actually experiencing yet.  On the flying fox, the ground is coming, and you have to start acting like the ground is there before you actually get to it.

If God has said you’re going to have a ministry with young people, start talking to young people in your church.  If God has said He wants you to lead worship one day, learn an instrument.  If God has said to you that you are going to see people healed when you pray for them, start praying for the sick (and keep going until people start being healed).

I have a friend who dreamed one night that she was on a stage in a huge auditorium, talking about Jesus to thousands of people.  In her dream she was terrified – she could never stand up in front of so many people and yet she felt that this was a dream from God calling her to be prepared to preach.   Her response wasn’t to say “I could never do that” or to sit around waiting for it to happen.  She went out the following week and joined a public speaking club!  Isn’t that great?  Even if the reality of the dream is still a long way off, she’s getting ready for it.  That’s faith.

I don’t know what God has called you to do.  I do know that for many of you, you’re also not quite ‘there’ yet.  You’re still in the time of waiting.  But faith begins to act like you’re there a bit before you are. It  stretches out; it gets trained and equipped; it looks stupid; it cries out to God for help; but it starts running

Live in faith.  Then, when your feet hit the reality of what God has promised… you will be ready.

flyingfoxfeature

 Things to think or journal about:

Come before God today and ask Him to remind you of things He has promised you.  The many beautiful promises of scripture, or promises He has spoken to you personally.  What would it look like if you were to live as though that promise is a reality?  Is there a small step you could take this week into living in the light of that promise? If there is, then take it!  Jump!

Perfume poured out

I love the story from John’s gospel of Mary of Bethany.  Especially the moment where, perhaps overwhelmed with gratitude for the raising from the dead of her brother Lazarus, she comes to Jesus, pours oil over his feet then wipes them with her hair.

Today there are two things that strike me about this public display of adoration…

One is that it is an act of incredibly expensive worship.  It makes me wonder what a family in a little hill village above Jerusalem were doing with a pint of perfume that was worth a year’s wages?  One commentator I read suggested that it might have been a way of saving money, an investment for the future, perhaps for a dowry when Mary or Martha wanted to marry.  In any case it was a hugely expensive offering.

It may be that Mary was literally pouring out her financial security, her plans for the future, her hopes and her dreams over the feet of Jesus.  An act of pure worship.  It was extravagant, costly, over the top,  and it caused others to question whether she was getting too ‘carried away’, but in this moment it was undoubtedly entirely the right response to Jesus.

Sometimes singing a song of worship is a costly act for us, but there are many other things which we are called to do which require much greater obedience, trust, surrender and sacrifice.   These choices, to do what Jesus asks of you even when it might cost you your dignity, your good name, your financial security, your  dream of how life would be, are extraordinary acts of silent worship.

 

The second thing I notice today is that in John’s account ‘the house was filled with the fragrance’ of the spilled perfume.  I have a tiny, tiny bottle of spikenard oil from Israel that a friend gave me.  Just the tiniest dot of it has a heady perfume that I can smell on my skin for hours.  I can’t quite imagine what the fragrance of a whole pint spilled on Jesus’ feet and the floor would have been like.  The scent of it would’ve been totally overpowering and would have not only filled the whole house but would have lingered in that place and on Mary’s hair and on the feet of Jesus for days if not weeks.

When I painted this postcard, I wanted to show that in our moments of love, surrender and giving,  in singing worship and in the rest of life, Jesus does not remain impassive.  He responds. He smells the fragrance and he leans towards us to receive the gift. He honours us and our costly gifts to him as He honoured Mary and He wears the fragrance of our worship with pride.

When we not only declare our love publicly and with extravagance, but anoint Him with our trust, our hopes and our dreams, the perfume is spilled out over both Him and us.  We share in the lingering scent of it and the fragrance spreads out to fill the room.

I wave the white flag

and I pour out,

my heart,  my life,  my hopes,  my dreams,  my security,

over your feet.

Already washed in your blood

made clean by your sacrifice

restored by resurrection

alive in your life…    I choose

to trust

and place my all

into your hands

may the house be filled with its fragrance

Perfume poured out

If you want to read it for yourself, this story is in John ch 12 v 3-8.

reflect white