Tag Archives: christianity

Lists, lists, lists

It’s official – I am drowning in a sea of lists… In the past week I’ve flown to England (sorry there was no postcard last week!) and am now getting ready for camping with the family and preparing my son for a trip to Africa. Packing for a six week trip in a country which has unpredictable weather always stresses me out a bit, and I always get it wrong (too many pairs of shorts, not enough cardigans..) and the camping/vaccinations/visas are pushing me slightly over the edge ūüôā
One way I try to keep that stress under control is to write lists.. Lots and lots and lots of lists.
I have lists of clothes, of medications, of jobs I have to do before I leave, of items that need a charger, things I need to tell my husband, emails I need to write and pictures I want to paint. All of them scribbled on the backs of till receipts and envelopes, mostly never to be read again. Lists are slightly taking over my life.

My husband, who has a much more orderly mind than mine, just can’t understand why I write so many lists (especially as I tend not to read them again). But I find the process of writing them really helpful for three reasons:

Firstly, it helps me to prioritise; to focus on those things that need doing.

Secondly, it changes my perspective, and changes my heart (so that I calm down and panic less!)

Thirdly, it actually helps me to remember, to bring to the front of my mind all the things I need to remember.

The lists which are collecting on the fridge and in the bottom of my handbag and back pages of my sketchbooks remind me of a list I’ve been writing recently, and which is important for all the reasons above: a thanks list.

A friend challenged me a while ago to write a list of everything I have to be thankful to God for. I’ve been working on it for a while and as you can imagine it’s turning into something of an epic.

Strangely, just like I don’t really realise how many jobs there are to do until I start writing the list, so I didn’t realise just how many reasons I have to be thankful to God until I started to write them down.

More importantly, I can feel it changing my heart. Writing the never-ending list is pushing me deeper and deeper into a sense of ‘I have’ instead of ‘I need’. And even though I’m really only at the beginning of this particular journey, I’m experiencing a wonderful unfolding revelation of what it means to say that God is my provider.

So this week’s postcard is simply an encouragement to write lists:
a list of prayers you’ve seen answered
a list of all the people you love
of all the good books you’ve read
all the ways God has provided for you financially
all the positive influences in your life
all the spiritual blessings that are yours in Christ
all the material things you take for granted
all the necessities and all the luxuries
all the songs you love
all the paintings that have lifted your heart
all the things that make you smile
and all the best moments in your life that you can remember…*

*if you have any more ideas for sub-lists of things to be thankful for, put them in the comments!

Diving for Treasure

“Just throw them in one more time Mummy, pleeeease!”

I’m on holiday, so I spent the morning throwing diving toys into the pool over and over again. ‘Treasure’ for my six year old mermaid to retrieve from the bottom of the deep.

After a while I observed a technique developing. I would throw all the toys in at once, and instead of diving in immediately, my sweet sun-bleached mermaid would stand on the edge of the pool and wait for a while, looking.

Of course I asked her what the pause was for,
“Mummy, you have to wait for water to stop being wiggly before you can see where the treasure is… then you can dive for it.”

The water of my soul has been a bit stirred up lately. A load of things have had my mind busy. not bad things on the whole, but there has been a lot of end-of-term activity, a lot of summer things that need planning and a few slightly stressful jobs lurking at the back of my in-tray, and the water has become churned up. The treasure that I’ve been looking for has been difficult to see, like colorful smudges on the bottom of the pool.
so I heard God speak to me today – you really need to let the water settle.
I went back to the pool later, when the mermaid had gone inside to eat watermelon and watch High School Musical for the hundredth time, and it was still. Every toy was as visible as if it were already in my hand.

Stillness matters.

But for me, it doesn’t seem to be enough to just say ‘be still, my soul’. I actually have to do something to pull all those stirrers-up out of the water or at least to stop them thrashing about so much… So I did what I know how to do, I sat down and wrote a list of the things that help me find stillness.

Going for a walk, or a long swim
Listening to certain kinds of music
Writing a list of all the things that are stressing me, and then praying about each one.
Reminding myself that stillness isn’t a reward for those who are super good, or super spiritual, and that it is not, therefore, out out of my reach.

Thirsty?

I know that in the heat of summer,
especially here in Cyprus, it is really important to drink lots of
water. But I am the sort of person who gets busy and caught up in
things and I often just forget.

I’ve
noticed that when I’ve gone a long time without drinking and am
feeling thirsty, I often take a while to realise that’s what the
problem is and might even try other things- an apple, a biscuit –
not really recognising what it is that my body needs or is
craving.

Sometimes we are like this with our time alone
with Jesus. We forget how much we need him, how much his presence
is like water to our souls and we become ‘spiritually dehydrated’
without really noticing. And yet, as when our bodies have gone
without enough water, one taste of pure refreshing time with Him
can be enough to reawaken our thirst and make us drink long and
deep. Perhaps you too have been busy and distracted? Perhaps you
have not noticed how thirsty your soul has become? Why not come now
and take a sip? Ask your loving father to pour out his refreshing
spirit over your soul. Sit with him for a while… and enjoy the
precious refreshment he longs to bring you. Thirsty?

Holy Spirit
come,

drip drops of living
water

onto my lips

cool, clean, pure

and as
I drink

stretch streams of sweet
refreshment

into the dry and thirsty
land

that is my soul.

reawaken my thirst for you

oh living water

until I
cry out

for more

and more

and
more

and then let me be
drenched

soaked in you

day after day

year after
year -and let me never dry out again

Hanging on the Line

I’ve heard that it’s not the thing to air one’s dirty laundry in public, but I promise you that this lot is definitely clean, straight out of the washing machine, slightly damp and smelling of soap.

Today it was a mixed wash, so the line has my daughter’s summer dresses, my husband’s work shirts, some pillowcases, socks, a swimsuit and a white (wonder what made me think that was a good idea?) shower mat.

Sometimes I’m astounded by the power of Dixan (washing powder). I put all this lot in the washing machine, grubby and malodorous, and an hour later here it is… clean and sweet-smelling, blowing in the breeze. Even the shower mat, which was frankly gruesome when it went in (how is it that children’s feet come out of the shower still so dirty?), is now white, soft and fragrant… It’s a domestic miracle.

And I’ve been thinking this week about the truth that in Jesus we are washed completely clean, ¬†because on¬†Friday I had the glorious experience of seeing my fifteen year old son being baptised.

baptism

 

As I watched him going down under the water and coming back up again I thought again what a wonderful picture this is of being washed clean, of getting a new start. All the the mistakes, the falling short and the deliberate disobedience of our lives washed away. We leave every stain, every bit of dirt, every echo of guilt there in the water forever, not just that one time, but every single time we come to Jesus and ask for his forgiveness. Beautiful.

I love this from Colossians 1:22

But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation

Fortunately I don’t have anyone in my life who is likely to walk up to my washing line, stare at my shower mat and point out any stains on it!

In my spiritual life I don’t need someone else to do that, I’m actually pretty good at accusing¬†myself. ¬†But this verse tells me that I am utterly clean, and that God isn’t pointing out my stains and blemishes, not because he has developed selective vision, or because he is being polite, but because once i’ve asked for his forgiveness and been washed,¬†THERE AREN’T ANY THERE ANY MORE.

(This isn’t a claim that I don’t mess things up anymore – far from it. ¬†I end up in the laundry pile painfully often, but then I come to Jesus and ask to get washed and then I am CLEAN)

Although I knew that truth, I also struggled for years to get rid of the feeling of being dirty. In the end it took a powerful picture from God of myself standing under the flow of Jesus’ blood and seeing it removing the stains from my hands and heart before that particular piece of truth made it’s journey from my head to my heart. ¬†Sometimes it takes God to write something directly onto your heart for you to get it!

It was hard to believe that the shower mat would ever look clean again… and so much harder to believe that God could come and wash every single dried-on, ground-in stain from my heart, but it’s true.

and if you want it, it can be true for you too.

 

washinglinefeat

 

 

For your journal:

Be honest, where are you in this process?

If you’re in the laundry pile, in need of forgiveness, come to Jesus and ask for it.

If you’re looking at a life that has been washed, but still pointing out stains that are no longer there, remember that when Paul said no-one was able to accuse you anymore that includes¬†you! Don’t risk telling Jesus that his blood was all very well, but not enough to clean your heart up… you know that’s not true. ¬†There are no exceptions.

If you, like me, struggle to shake the feeling of being unclean, dirty, messed-up , take a risk Рask God to show you how clean you are.  Get that truth into your heart where it belongs.

time for a cup of something?

Yesterday morning, at about 11:30, I got a text message from my 12 year old:

Exam finished, pick me up, Got time for a cup of something?

As ever, my first thought was “no time”.

But then I thought, “how often does my little girl ask me out for a coffee? ¬†Wouldn’t it be lovely to say yes and to do this thing which will make her feel loved and special?”

So we stopped by at coffee shop on the way home and drank iced coffee in the sunshine while we talked about the test she’d taken. ¬†I’m so glad I took that time. It was great coffee, great rest and great to be together. As I was enjoying that moment of togetherness and sharing with her I remembered this picture that I painted during worship on Sunday…

It’s a tray of plastic cups from the ubiquitous Swedish furniture store. We must have at least a hundred of these at our church for the kids to have water in, and it feels like nearly that many at home! ¬†Anyone else out there prepared to admit to having bought three sets in order to avoid the argument about who gets the pink one?

I’ve only painted a few, but in the picture God showed me, there were many, many different coloured cups, all with something slightly different in them. And one of those cups is for you.

I don’t know what is in the cup God has for you today

It’s a cup of blessing, and sometimes blessing comes with laughter, sometimes with tears. ¬†It might be comfort for your pain, it might be a lesson learned, it might be uncontrollable joy bubbling up from underneath the stone floor you’ve carefully laid in place. It might be any number of awesome, beautiful, wonderful, precious things. ¬†I don’t know. ¬†But I do know that it will be good.

I don’t know whether you will choose to drink the cup God is offering you today

It might not be the same as yesterday’s; it might not be what he has promised for tomorrow. It might not be what you think you need right now; it might not look like an easy cup to drink. ¬†It might look so good that you think it can’t be for you, that he can’t possibly want to pour out blessing for you after everything you’ve done.

I don’t know whether, like me,¬†you will just think “No time”, and never make it to take the cup he is offering.

Don’t be too tired or too busy. ¬†Don’t be so caught up in the urgent that you miss the important. ¬†Whatever reason you have for not taking the cup God has for you today, don’t let it be “I just didn’t get around to it”.

But what I do know, beyond doubt, is that he has a cup for you.

Whether or not you call yourself a Christian: a son or daughter of the king; there is a cup of blessing from the Father with your name on it. ¬†You can’t put in an order for the particular kind of blessing you want, and you can’t exchange it for another one. ¬†But if you want it, it’s there. Waiting.

As I write these sentences, I’m listening to an instrumental version of the hymn ‘I surrender all’. ¬†Sometimes… often… accepting my cup for today is an act of surrender. ¬†I’d rather have someone else’s… A little girl inside me is still yelling “I want the pink one!” ūüôā ¬†And often I get the pink one, and sometimes I look back and realise I got something better.

If you can make time today, even a few minutes, ask the Father what cup he has for you today.  Then take time to recieve whatever he has to give you.

Make time, come, surrender, and drink… it will be good.

ikeacups feat

 

For your journal/ To think about:

How about¬†if this week, every time you see a coloured plastic IKEA cup, you asked God “What cup do you have for me today” and then took a moment to listen to and respond to his answer?

 

 

 

Little Flowers : : my messy beautiful : : Postcards from Heaven

A while ago Glennon Melton of Momastery.com posted a challenge. ¬†-If we believe that sometimes what’s messy about us is also what’s beautiful about us,¬†then we should write about it… Here’s mine:

I went for a walk this morning to have some time to ask God about what I should paint and write. The one thing I noticed was¬†that the orange trees in my neighbourhood are just bursting with hundreds of¬†insignificant little white flowers. ¬†Now, when God draws my attention to something like that¬†it’s usually because He has something to¬†say to me through it. ¬†And today He said: “that’s your messy-beautiful: ¬†You’re an orange blossom… but on the inside you¬†really¬†want to be a rose: ¬†a huge, red, eye-catching rose, that is perfect and unblemished and beautiful and that everyone notices.

Hmmmm.

OK, I admit it. ¬†¬†I’m an orange blossom: small, a bit damaged, no shelf-life unless stuck to the tree and in the middle of a wonderful community of a million other flowers just like me. ¬†And God is OK with that… but I struggle with it!

The bit of me that wants to be a rose is called something like, “I need to be significant”. ¬†It’s not small. ¬†It’s like a deep, deep hole that’s been there forever and grows every time someone forgets to copy me on an email, or ask my opinion about something. ¬†A¬†huge gaping unfillable bucket of a hole in the middle of my heart. ¬†Now that’s messy.

I’ve been walking with Jesus for a while now, so I know that I’m very important and significant to Him. ¬†I also know that only He is able to fill my need-to-be-important¬†bucket.

But here’s the thing- every time something comes along that I could use to measure my ‘significance’, I look away from Jesus and I try to fill the bucket again myself. ¬†And¬†IT NEVER, EVER WORKS…

bucketI can confirm that it is impossible to fill up that bucket with nice facebook comments or website hit stats or well-behaved children or good grades or a shiny car (that was a while ago) or a trim waistline (that might have been a previous life ) or ANYTHING other than Jesus.

I’m a slow learner.

So I often ask myself why Jesus would ask me, with my gaping wound of an importance-hole, to put myself out there¬†on a website or in a book or anywhere where I could so easily fall into the trap of trying to fill my own bucket with reviews or stats or happy comments… ¬†Or where I could be destroyed by bad ones! ¬†Why would He ask me to follow Him into a place where I know I’m always going to be limping?

… It’s a good question. ¬†But I think I got a hint of an answer the other day when someone sent me this verse:

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

Songs 8:5 NIV 

Do you see it?

God chooses wounded people because those who limp, lean.

Don’t discount yourself because you’re wounded and limping. ¬†Do lean on Jesus. ¬†And in the words of Glennon: ¬†Do show up anyway.

There’s a world out there that needs changing… and it’s only¬†going to be changed if limping, messy people with mixed motives and scared hearts lean on Jesus and show up and start changing things.

 

blossom detailAnyway, back to the orange blossom…

I picked one off the tree and brought it home to paint and to ponder on.  On the kitchen table when I got in, abandoned by my five year old chaos-generator, was a beautiful red rose.

“That’s really not fair” I said to God.

But¬†I walked over and picked it up anyway. ¬†It was a fake! – made of plastic and silk. ¬†It looked great from a distance, but close to it felt rough to touch, and it smelled of… nothing. ¬†In that moment I looked down at the little orange blossom flower in my hand – soft, small and already wilting from being taken out of the tree, and it smelled AMAZING.

So that’s it. ¬†I’m not going to pretend to be a rose and smell of nothing. ¬†I’m going to be an orange blossom, working together with lots of others like me to fill the streets with the sweet fragrance of Jesus. ¬†Who is with me?

 

 

orangeblossomfeature

 

reflect greens

 

 

For your journal: ¬†Ask God about the messiness and beauty inside of you and see what He shows you. ¬†You might ask Him whether you have a ‘bucket’ of your own, and what you do to try and fill it. ¬†What would it take for you to hand it over to Jesus and let Him fill it?

 

This ‘bonus’ postcard¬†is a part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project ‚ÄĒ To learn more and join us,¬†CLICK HERE!¬†And to learn about the amazing, beautiful, grace filled book that is¬†Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback,¬†CLICK HERE!

MBW-285

 

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 Рsuddenly.

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.