Tag Archives: journey

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Harvest in Unexpected Places

It’s that time of year again when the kids are rifling through my cupboards trying to find not-out-of-date tins to take in to school for Harvest.  It brings back sharp memories of carrying a shoebox full of rice pudding and tinned carrots and leaving it at the front of a chilly church  amongst piles of similar offerings and wondering which mother had time to make bread in the shape of a bushel of wheat.

Harvest Festival for me is a time not only of being thankful for all that we have, but also of anticipating future fruitfulness and harvest in my life.  It’s reminded me of this postcard from last year and I thought I’d share it again today – hopefully it will inspire you too to expect a harvest in unexpected places.

It was 1917 and as blockaded Britain was slowly running out of food, the government announced that everyone needed to start growing their own supplies using whatever land was available. Suddenly, in cities all over the country people began digging up lawns, roadside verges, parks and other bits of unused land and turning them into allotments.   What had been ornamental or neglected or not-thought-of became places of harvest that produced food for a hungry nation.

Perhaps most of us have areas of our lives where we might expect to be fruitful.  But there are times when God turns those expectations upside down.  Sometimes when we feel like we are all out of resources, God produces a harvest in unexpected places – places we wouldn’t even have considered looking for it.

The garden fork in this postcard is a tool for turning over the earth.   Transforming a neat tidy lawn into a vegetable patch is a job that requires a lot of digging; turning over; planting of seeds and patience.  It strikes me as quite a challenging process!

It’s not an easy statement to make: “yes Lord, come and dig me over”.  You can’t pray that quickly or without some thought.  It’s a deeply courageous prayer.    But I know that without a doubt that a moment of surrender is the beginning of the process of new fruitfulness.    A veg patch never looks ‘finished’, it doesn’t have neat edges, may not be approved of by the neighbours, but it does something wonderful – it provides food for the hungry.

Today might be a good time to ask God what part of your life he wants to use to grow a fresh harvest in (and what that harvest or provision might look like!).  It might be a talent, a gift, a place, a group of friends, an opportunity… or something else altogether.  It may surprise you what He says!

Perhaps you look at this picture and recognise that you are already ‘in the process’ – that earth is being exposed and turned over,  stones being sifted out.  Or perhaps you are aware  of your area of your life which have been dug over and planted with seeds, prepared for something – but you’re not sure yet what shape that harvest is going to take.  Ask God about it today, but rest in the truth that He is the Lord of the Harvest, and that if we surrender to the process, He will bring it about.

Jesus
Lord of the Harvest
Be with me today
as I offer you the land of my life
the fields, gardens, paths and verges
Show me
the places I overlook
break up old soil
and plant new seeds
so that I may see your harvest
in unexpected places.

A Harvest from Unexpected Places

reflect greens

Meandering

There are times when life feels like floating along a great big meandering river: it takes an enormous amount of time to negotiate a long curve and then, after what seems like an age, you find yourself back in almost exactly the same place that you were before.

Arriving back in a place that you thought you’d left far behind you can be deeply disappointing and frustrating.  Becoming ill again after a time of feeling better, revisiting a family or relationship issue, facing the same old temptation or just realising that once again you can hear God saying the same thing to you that he’s  said over and over again in the past; all these can leave you ready to give up or to yell at the Lord “but we’ve been here before!”

“All that effort and I’ve travelled no distance at all”.

It amused me this morning to read that in rivers, meanders are a feature of maturity.  Young rivers cut in a straight line to begin with,  and only as they get more mature (and more powerful) do they start to wander about revisiting old ground and seem to make only very slow progress forwards.

I wonder if life-meanders are more likely to be a feature for us too as we become more mature in faith? When I first became a Christian, so much seemed to be easy and obvious,  life and discipleship was much more of a straight line.  It felt as though I was quick to learn things and deal with things. As time as gone on I’ve realised that there are deeper things, ground-in patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving that seem to need a different treatment.  Revisiting the same issues and challenges, each time armed with a little more experience and grace seems to be a part of that process.

If you understand this experience of having travelled the long bend of the river and found yourself, unexpectedly, back where you started, this is God’s word for you today:

It’s not about the distance travelled, it’s about who you’ve become while we travelled it together.

Because even if today you’re arriving back in the same old place, you are not the same old you.

On the journey to get here you will have changed, grown and learned. You don’t actually have to respond in the same way you did before.  You probably won’t.

And while you are back in almost the same place, this time you’re approaching it from a different direction and with grace and experience in your backpack.

So don’t get frustrated and lose heart my friends, when you find yourself back in old places, don’t believe the lie that you’ve travelled nowhere. Instead, remember that journey, and all the things that God taught you while you were travelling and then look down at the new you that Jesus has helped you to become on the way.

meandersreflect greens

There’s no place like home

It’s our nomadic season!

Once a year we run from the summer heat and leave the small island of Cyprus for the slightly bigger one of the UK, where we live out of (several) suitcases for five fun, but long, weeks.

Sleeping in a tent or on the guest beds of our fantastic welcoming friends and family is wonderful, but I can’t help missing the feeling of being ‘home.  Of course, the point of being here in the UK is not to feel ‘at home’, but to have fun, invest in friendships and do things that can’t be done when we’re in Cyprus.  But, although I’m having a great time, it’s actually quite difficult for a homebird like me to be on the move for that long.

I’ve been reflecting on that strange tension between the longing to be home and not feeling ready to leave yet.  Just a couple of weeks ago I was really wishing that I could pop home for a few days, run the washing machine ten times, sleep in my own bed and then pop back to spend more time with the friends I love (and the massive to-do list!)

It’s made me think again about Paul describing our bodies as ‘tents’  (in 2 Cor 5).  He seemed to think of his earthly body as ‘temporary accommodation’, to be replaced by a permanent building in heaven.  I’m fairly sure that most of the people Paul sold his tents to weren’t weekend leisure-campers either.  Tents were for people who for a long time or a short time were living on-the-move.

 Heaven is where our home is – life on earth is just camping

It’s made me wonder whether my life is, in reality, quite a lot like my family’s summer trip back to the UK.  It’s an interesting thought. …Maybe the point of my life is not really to be comfortable, or settled or easy; but to do (and enjoy) those things that won’t be possible in heaven… Chasing after the lost, loving the outcasts, defending the oppressed, caring for those in need.

Perhaps we are all ‘temporary nomads’ in the world for a while before we head back to our Home in heaven.  The long-term-travelling-camping thing is fun, but not easy.  It can be uncomfortable and difficult and inconvenient and we may never feel quite settled.

This time next week, we’ll be on our flight back to Cyprus.  There will be tearful goodbyes, and regrets about the stuff we didn’t get done… but it will be OK… we’ll be going home.

blue tent

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?

 

 

 

Harvest in Unexpected Places

I watched a documentary this week about life in Britain during the first world war.  So when I prayed for a postcard this week and saw a picture of a gardening fork in a vegetable patch, a story came straight to my mind:

It was 1917 and blockaded Britain was slowly running out of food.  So  the government announced that everyone needed to start growing their own food and that they should use whatever land was available.  Suddenly, in cities all over the country people began digging up lawns, roadside verges, parks and other bits of unused land and turning them into allotments.   What had been ornamental or neglected or not-thought-of became places of harvest that produced food for a hungry nation.

What does God have to say to us through  this story?   Perhaps most of us have areas of our lives where we might expect to be fruitful.  But even (maybe especially) when we feel like we are all out of resources God often produces a harvest in unexpected places – places we wouldn’t even have considered looking for it.

Continue reading Harvest in Unexpected Places