Tag Archives: featured

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

Advertisements

Changing the ground

This is the plant that ‘would never grow’.

Years ago, when my parents moved house, they brought with them a  large rhododendron in a wooden pot that was a favourite of my Mum’s. The pot was old and failed to  survive the move, so my stepfather stripped what was left of the wood away and planted the Rhododendron straight into the soil of the garden.

And my Mum, who is the only one of us who has any clue at all about gardening said,

“it will never grow”

Because, she knew what the rest of us didn’t: that some plants need a particular type of soil to flourish.  Rhodedendrons need to have their roots in acidic soil, not in the chalky clay of an Essex garden.  So it really didn’t stand a chance…

However, 25 years later, here it is – not just surviving but thriving.  A great big green and purple horticultural-impossibility!

You see, it turns out that even though most of the garden behind our house does indeed have very alkaline soil, the corner where this shrub was planted is in the shadow of a centuries old oak tree.  Year after year that oak has been releasing hundreds of leaves, which fall in a thick layer over this part of the garden.  And year on year many of those leaves have been absorbed into the soil and have changed it.

The oak tree has changed the soil around it from a place where the rhododendron had no hope of surviving into a place where it has been able to become glorious.

When my Mum emailed me a snapshot of it a couple of weeks ago,  I heard God whisper two things into my ear.

Firstly:

“don’t give up on people – you don’t know as much as you think you do”.

I do have a tendency to fall into a trap of thinking I know things.  Accepting that God knows better than I do is a good place to be.  Conventional wisdom says: ‘that plant can’t survive in that place’ but God says – ‘There’s a bigger picture’

and second,  a challenge:

“Be an oak”

Because this plant is under the edge of an oak tree, it’s alive and blooming, even though the soil is naturally hostile to it.   Some people are living their lives, day in, day out, in environments that are hostile to their faith.  Conventional wisdom might say that their walk with Jesus has no hope of surviving, let alone thriving…

But you and I can choose to be oaks.  We can choose to be continually releasing grace, hope, compassion, truth, faith and love.  And even when it feels as though those ‘leaves’ are just falling to the ground, unnoticed by anyone, they are making a difference…  soaking into the soil and changing it…

It lifts my heart to think that I could be an oak tree in someone else’s life,  quietly releasing what it takes to support life, changing the environment, making a difference.  I’m not even entirely sure how, but I’m up for finding out.  you?

all is not always as it seems
sometimes
you and I

can change it

Mum's Rhododendron

 

reflect greens

 

For your journal

What do you think it takes to be an oak tree?  Ask God to speak to you about how you’re already doing this, and how you could do more.   If you have any ideas, please comment them below!

Maybe you feel more like the Rhododendron, struggling to survive in a hostile world.  Perhaps you need to find a place where you can be in community with some oak trees and to choose to receive whatever it’s going to take for you to grow.

 

 

 

 

Superhero Socks

This is my sweet five-year-old, dressing up in her fifteen-year-old brother’s superhero socks. He has a wide collection, and likes to wear them mismatched as a tiny but significant (?) piece of rebellion against the oppression of school uniform…

I’ve been thinking about superhero socks a lot this week.  In my last postcard I mentioned IHE’s -Impossibly High Expectations – and the potential they have to limit us from being all God created us to be.  And I’ve been thinking about my own, and how to describe them to you, so that you can spot yours!

On reflection: having an impossibly high expectation of myself is like being quietly stalked by a Superhero.  This SuperSomeone tiptoes along behind me, like a malignant imaginary friend, waiting for  the moment to point out my inadequacies, show me how I could do things better, or encourage me to aim ridiculously high.  Next to her, I always feel pretty rubbish really.
Now, while it’s perfectly OK to enjoy a good superhero story, and even (in some circumstances) to wear the socks; I’m sure you’ll agree that to believe that you can be a superhero is a dangerous, possibly even life-threatening delusion.

But, we all seem to do it. We all seem to invent a ridiculous, superhuman version of the role we’re in, and then expect ourselves to be it : SuperSomeones.

My loudest and most powerful Supersomeone is ‘SuperMummy’. She stands in the background of my life, ever ready to rear her (very beautiful and perfectly made up) head at any opportunity. For some reason she is most likely to manifest the night before the children’s birthdays, or Christmas, when she’forces’ me to organise beautifully themed birthday parties, icecakes until 3 in the morning and try to make everything  ‘just perfect’.

If I ever take my eyes off Jesus and let them settle on SuperMummy, I’m done… I come to a few days later, confused and exhausted, wondering (again) why on earth I thought I needed to do all that stuff.

You see SuperMummy always wears make-up, is slim, has beautiful hair, can wear scarves stylishly, bakes perfectly, has a beautiful home (she found that piece of furniture in a second-hand store and distressed it herself) and a high-powered career, is amazingly spiritual, never shouts, and can preach in high heels without falling over. SuperMummy reads bedtime stories to all of her children every day, never forgets the PE kit, or shows up with kids in uniform on Mufti day, can instantly find a protractor the night before Maths exams, runs the PTA and never misses a dentist appointment…  Gosh, she can probably service the people carrier (minivan) as well.

SuperMummy does NOT exist… But do you know what? if I let myself be conned into trying to be her, I may not exist for very much longer either.  Trying to be a superhero is exhausting and dangerous… and not what Jesus has asked us to do.

Whoever you are, and whatever stage of life you are at, I bet you
have a SuperSomeone.. A SuperPastor, SuperDad, SuperFriend,
SuperDaughter, SuperWorshipLeader, SuperChristian.  Walking
quietly beside you, whispering over your shoulder, “You need to be more like me”  Do you know what? –  You need to get rid of them, right now, whatever it takes.

SuperWhatever will distract you from what God is calling you to be and to do, he or she will suck all the life out of you, exhaust you, whisper ‘try harder’ over your shoulder until you can’t manage another step and then show you all the ways you’ve failed.

Whatever you think about what he has written or said since, a few years ago Rob Bell, in a very popular book called Velvet Elvis had a moment of pure genius. Writing on this subject he said:

‘KILL YOUR SUPERWHATEVER… ACT NOW… SHOOT FIRST!’

At the moment we fell into his arms and surrendered to him, God our father gave us a gift to help us defeat the Supersomeones. An enormous endlessly supplied water cannon, filled with… grace.

There is grace enough to cover ever one of your imperfections… and mine. There is grace to not to have to be perfect, to be a superhero. In fact, Grace says “you aren’t a superhero, I didn’t make you that way”.

Of course, our kids, work colleagues, churches, friends, families, need us to try to be ‘good-enough’, but there’s a loooooong way between that and a superhero.

So there’s my challenge for you for the week: ask God to shine his light on your inner Superwhatever; ask him to show you where you have ridiculously high standards of yourself and then apply a ridiculously generous amount of grace…. Shoot first.

superherosocks feat

For your journal:

Is it time for you to give up wearing some superhero socks?  Have your worked out who your supersomeone might be?  Spend some time asking God about it this week.

Then set yourself some challenges… For me, shooting grace at the supermummy meant making some good-enough decisions, some of which I found very hard. ( Buying a pile of chocolate muffins instead of baking a birthday cake is one I especially remember:)

What challenge will you set yourself to be ‘good-enough’ this week?

 

P.S.  In case you don’t scroll down that far… Commenter Deborah wrote this, and I think it’s great:

‘What other approval is there, that compares to the voice of God whispering to my heart, “You’re mine”.’

 

 

 

Walking in the shade

It’s June and, after a few unseasonably cool weeks, summer has finally arrived in Nicosia.  (Weather.com tells me it’s 38 degrees C out there today- I am hiding inside!)

Once again, as the temperatures rise, I notice that we are beginning to live differently. We walk more slowly,  get up earlier, stay up later, nap in the afternoons.  School closes, we wear hats, close the shutters at 9am – ‘to keep the cool in’,  drink a lot of water and count down the days to when we can escape to chilly, wet England for the holidays.

Last week, as I walked lazily through the old city with visiting friends (in search of ice-cold frappé); one of those friends  pointed out another new habit I seem to have gained:  I cross the road a lot.   It took me while to work out what they meant, but it turns out that like many Nicosians at this time of year, I’m forever crossing over to the other side of the street as I subconsciously choose to walk or stand in patches of shade.

This week’s postcard is ‘walking in the shade’ because I’m aware that life can sometimes be ‘superheated’.

A hot season could be fired by pain, grief, fear, anxiety or uncertainty, or any number of other things, but a major culprit that turns the heat up under many of us are IHE’s: Impossibly High Expectations.

IHE’s -Supercareerguy/girl, superpastor, supermodel, superparent, superfriend, superspouse,  superchristian, superblogpostwriter  (pick your poison) fanned and fueled by family expectations, the media, church, facebook, pinterest, etc. put us (or make us put ourselves) under enormous pressure.  There is always another standard for us to measure our ‘success’ against, always another job that needs to be done yesterday.  That can make things pretty hot.

Whatever the cause; if you’re living in a hot place – you need to learn to walk in the shade.

The Bible tells me that the Lord my God is ‘the shade at [my] right hand’ (Psalm 121:5).  In a hot season you have to hunt out the shade.  If that means crossing the road every time you turn a corner or walking a longer way around then so be it …  If you’re in a hot place right now, it might be taking all you’ve got to keep going, and there may not be much time or energy to invest in your relationship with Jesus.    Please find some.    I’ve noticed that when the sun is at its highest and hottest if you want to get shade from something you have to walk very close to it.  And the closer you get, the deeper the shade.

So, if you’re in a hot season, walk close to Jesus.  Don’t let anger or disappointment, or tiredness or bewilderment make you decide to walk out in the heat of the sun.   Choose the shade.  And then keep on choosing it.

Of course, I know that not everyone who reads this will be living in a hot season… Some of you will be in a cold one.  Perhaps God feels a long way away right now; or maybe you feel as though your heart has somehow grown cold.  I was praying about this today and I felt God remind me that in the winter, everyone in my city chooses to walk in the sunshine…

That’s our beautiful God my friends: In the blast of the hot season he is the shade at your right hand, in the chill of the cold season he is the gentle sunlight that brings warmth to your soul.    Wherever you are living right now, draw near to him… he is what you need.

 

shadefeat

 

 

 

reflect greens

 

For your Journal:

Think about what this postcard says to you.  What kind of season are you in right now?  How would you describe it?  What reasons do you have for pressing in close to God, for listening for his voice, for walking the path he asks you to walk?

 

What do you think it means to walk close to God?  What does it take to get there?

I’m going to think some more about those IHE’s… expect more next week 🙂

 

 

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!” 🙂  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?

 

 

 

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?

 

More than you can Handle?

“God will never give you more than you can handle”

This well-meant little piece of not-actually-scripture is, I’ll admit, one of my ‘pet peeves’.  It annoys me because it seems to be saying that whatever difficult or awful circumstance you might be walking through you ought to be able to stoically bear it alone.  It also suggests that strength is to be rewarded with pain, more strength with more pain – Rubbish!

Pain and suffering is a part of life.  Jesus never said that it wouldn’t be (rather the opposite).  But I know many people who, even as I’m writing this are in the middle of circumstances: financial, physical, emotional that no-one should be expected to be able to ‘handle’.   I know that some of them desperately need to have permission to ‘not handle it’ alone so that they can be free to cry, shout, rest, lean on others and above all lean on the God who loves them.

 

Here’s what I think is true:

Sometimes it’s OK to say to God your Father “I can’t handle this – I need you to step in with a miracle here”   And this picture of a falling doll being caught is meant to show something of what I think our Father replies to us…

handlewords

I pray that today you will receive permission from God to lean into him.  To fall, and be caught.

reflect white

For your journal:

What things are there in your life that are hard to handle?  What keeps you from letting go of your need to handle them alone?