Tag Archives: faith

Aaron’s Staff

 

Any day now the almond buds will burst out on the trees in my city. Thousands of white flowers dusted in pink will dance in the breeze heralding the end of the cold damp winter and the beginning of spring.

None of them will look quite like this though, and I wonder what the leaders of the tribes of Israel were expecting as they waited for Moses to bring them back their staffs?   I imagine they were somewhat surprised.

Overnight the dead wood of Aaron’s staff, resting in the presence of God, had not only sprouted, but budded, blossomed, and produced almonds.  Not only had life miraculously appeared, but the process of budding to blossoming to producing fruit to being ready to harvest (which usually takes from late February until mid-August) had all happened in just one day.

I often put limits in what I expect God to be able to do or the time frame he will work in-This person that I love seems to be beyond his reach,  this harvest might happen, but it will probably take a very long time.

The message of today’s postcard is simply that God is life.

And because unstoppable, limitless, powerful, life is part of who he is, there are no limits on where he can choose to let that life break out; no limits to what he can restore; no limits to how fast he can do it.

Do you know people or situations that seem utterly beyond hope?

They aren’t.

He is life.

 

Do you wonder whether God can do the impossible things he’s been whispering to you about?

He can.

He is life.

Do you look at your own heart and fear that parts of it are never going to breathe again?

They will.

He is life.

 

He can take even dead wood and make it fragrant, beautiful and fruitful.

Sometimes all at the same time.

It just needs  to rest in his presence.

He is LIFE.

 

aarons-staff2

The Art of Balancing Oranges

Ever played the orange-balancing game?  Players see how many oranges (or in this case mandarins) they can stack on a tea-plate, then try to stand up, turn around and sit down without dropping any.  It’s trickier than you might imagine.

Sometimes my life feels a lot like this.  There are so many oranges: so many things yelling for my urgent attention, so many people that need me to do something, or be somewhere, or find their shoes…

There are days when I think that if someone tries to balance one more orange on top of the pile (just one more) I might yell, throw the whole lot up into the air and storm away to some imaginary place of peace (maybe some arid place where no-one has ever even seen an orange).

I don’t of course, I just keep on balancing and dropping… And avoiding people who might have oranges in their pockets that they want me to carry.

I’ve slowly learned over the years that it helps to pray about things.  So I was moaning to God the other day about all the problems and worries and things to do (he called some of them blessings and opportunities, but I wasn’t in a totally positive frame of mind) and telling him how I really needed FEWER oranges thank you very much, or I couldn’t be held responsible for the mess I was going to make on the pavement, when he suddenly stilled my heart and whispered a word of great wisdom and encouragement:

 

“Get a bigger plate”

 

“There are bigger plates?” I asked incredulously, “I hadn’t thought of that

So it’s led me to a lot of thinking this week about what ‘plates’ might be made of, and how you could go about growing yours to fit your needs.  And my thoughts are, in no particular order:

  1. Take care of yourself.  Mentally, and physically, as much as you are able.  It makes a difference.  I hesitate to say this, given the shape I’m currently in, but it really is true that exercise gives you more energy. I don’t know how exactly, but I get more done on days I’ve made it to the gym. Invest time into your  mental health too, play, create things, get enough sleep, drink more water.  All of these things grow plates.
  2. Take care of yourself spiritually too. Pray! Walk as closely to Jesus as you can, not as far away as you can get away with, take time in God’s presence every day, even if it’s just a little bit.
  3. Choose wisely. Ask for wisdom so that you can make good choices and walk in them.  Don’t try to be superman, or superwoman, supermum, superdad or superpastor. If you don’t get what I mean by that please read this.
  4. Finally, grow your faith.  Faith is like water that goes granite-hard just as you step out onto it.  It gets stronger, wider and more weight-bearing the more you use it. If you never step out onto the water, maybe you’ll never get to learn that it can take your weight?

 

I pray that if you are balancing oranges, you’ll find ways to grow a bigger plate.  That your current burden would become a breeze to balance, and that you would be able to learn to let Jesus take responsibility for the weight.  I pray also for those days when oranges fall, that you would be enveloped in a grace that enables you to trust our Good Father -the ultimate expert fruit-catcher.

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

When I’m with you

It’s not so much a picture that’s captured my attention this week as a song that I keep hearing.  My car radio is broken – stuck on the local forces radio station and a DJ with a fairly limited playlist, so I keep hearing the same songs over and over.  This week’s favourite is a song written by a girl for her best friend – it has some pretty dubious lyrics, but there’s one line that sends powerful echoes through my soul every time I hear it :

“When I’m with you, I’m standing with an army”

Isn’t that awesome?  When I’m with you I’m standing with an army.  When I’m with you I can face anything because I know I’m not facing it alone.  When I’m with you I can be brave and courageous, because I know I have back-up, I know someone is covering my back.

When I’m with you, I’m standing with an army

It’s a statement of faith, a statement that slices through fear. And better than that, in Christ, it’s actually true:  One of the names of God that describes who he is and what he is like is ‘The Lord of Hosts’.  It’s used more than 200 times in the Old Testament, is sometimes translated ‘Almighty’ and means that God has ultimate power over all created things, including the mighty angelic host of heaven.

The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.  Psalm 46:1 NRSV

What a beautiful, awesome verse.  Pause with it for a moment.  Read it again, drink it in..

God is a both a refuge- somewhere you can run to and be safe- and the leader of a mighty army who will fight alongside you. He is your shield and the sword at your right hand. He will defend you and he will fight for you.  He is with you and when he is with you there is a whole host of heaven that stands with you too.

 

Are you fighting a battle?

Sometimes it feels like I’m fighting several skirmishes on several different fronts.  It’s tiring and painful and I easily forget the mighty army that stands with me and fights alongside me. I often make the mistake of thinking that I’m fighting my battles alone.

Sometimes the reality is harder to see than the deception.

And yet this is the truth:

When Jesus is with me, I’m standing with an army.