Tag Archives: prophetic art

Umbrella.

I seem to spend a lot of June and July under an umbrella.  Not because it’s raining, but because my fair, freckly, northern-European skin makes me fundamentally unsuited to the Mediterranean sun.  So,  a shade-junkie, I dart about between patches of coolness, clutching a bottle of water and wearing a big hat.

Because I appreciate the shade so much, I love these verses from Psalm 121:

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
 the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

Sometimes, even a big hat isn’t quite enough.  The first time I saw someone carrying an umbrella like this in brilliant sunshine, however, I thought it looked very odd indeed.  Where I come from umbrellas are sold in the autumn when skies are ominously grey and then blow inside out on arctic railway station platforms.  In my mind, unless it’s enormous and anchored to a lump of concrete outside a cafe,  an umbrella is about keeping dry.

But in a Cyprus summer it’s not uncommon to see an umbrella on a blazing hot day, carried by someone who needs a portable pool of respite from the harsh sun.

God is speaking to me today about the shade he offers, about his promise to protect me day in and day out, about his constant presence over, around and next to me.

Firstly, like this umbrella, his shade is portable. I don’t have to dart from prayer meeting to church meeting, from quiet time to worship CD to experience his protection, his presence.  I can carry it with me all the time.  There is truth in the words that he is always with me, and his intention is that I should experience it.

Secondly, God’s protection is at work in season and out of season.  It may be that you are used to experiencing God’s help in one area of your life, but it has simply never occured to you to ask for it in another situation.  Perhaps you haven’t seen that an umbrella can be as helpful in sunshine as it is in rain.

Lastly, I also notice that there is room under this shelter for more than one person.  One of the great advantages of an umbrella is that it moves with you.  You can take it into places where it is needed and then invite others to walk alongside you for a while.  As they walk with you, they too can experience the shelter of God’s love, the nearness of his presence.  Today’s postcard is an encouragement to me to invite others to walk beside me, to learn to let other people step into the presence of God that I carry with me.  I’ll have to let you know how I get on with learning how to do that.

God is always with us. But it is possible to carry an umbrella in all kinds of weather, and yet never put it up, never stand underneath it and benefit from its shelter.  Perhaps today the Holy Spirit is calling you to step under his protection, to stop trying to brave it out by yourself and to ask for some help.

Whatever God is saying you today, I hope that you will enjoy the shade of his presence as you draw close to him.

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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.

Apple Chunks

Today I felt God saying that for this week’s postcard I should paint an apple.  So here it is.  My favourite kind, a sweet crunchy Gala. Yum.

Shortly after I painted it, my youngest asked if she could eat it, and as she is still a bit short in the front teeth department, whether I would mind cutting it up for her.

I wonder if what God is trying to say to me today is in there somewhere.  The good news about Jesus is the sweetest, most beautiful, healthy ‘food’ we could ever have the joy to taste.  But it’s also easier to eat if it’s cut up into chunks.

The advent season is a wonderful time to talk about Jesus, about the extraordinary miracle of God becoming a helpless child, about that tiny baby who was also the Saviour of the World, about the stories of shepherds and wise men and how they responded to him, and about how we choose to respond to him.

Advent is a time when faith conversations naturally start, so watch out for opportunites, and when you see them, don’t be ashamed to catch the moment and join in with what God is doing in people’s lives.

But, (and here’s where my picture comes in) don’t feel like you have to give them the whole apple.

Cut it up and hand out some slices. The gospel is biiiig. It’s much easier to digest in little chunks. And it’s also possible to share it out while remembering to eat some of it ourselves!

And, you know, when people taste that sweetness, many of them will come back for more.

I don’t know about you,  but I like this picture.  It takes the pressure off a bit, and I need that at this time of year!

But it also helps me to think that it might just be possible to join in with the conversations God is having with my family and friends this advent, and to have some conversations with God of my own in amongst all the pre-Christmas chaos. And that would be good.

Gappiness

This is my beautiful nearly-six-year-old’s new smile.  Gorgeous isn’t it?

I’ll admit though, that when she ran to me yesterday, yelling with excitement that the wobbly front tooth was finally out, I did have a little moment of grieving for that pearly toothed little-girl-smile that I will never see again.

And then, before I knew it I was wondering what her big teeth will be like: Will they come through straight and strong? Will they look too big for a while in her little mouth? Will she still look like my Katie?

I was stuck there for a moment in an emotional whirlwind, caught up between grief about what has been lost and worry about what is ahead…

And then… she smiled!

…And I heard God whisper  “Gappiness is just so beautiful, isn’t it?”

And it is…

A long long time ago, when I was an architecture student, we spent a month or two talking about liminal spaces: porches; walkways; vestibules; corridors; thresholds; all ‘in-between’ places. We talked about how important it was to help people realise that they are making a transition, to sense that a change is taking place, and to prepare them for space they were about to experience.

I often remember those lectures as I see people around me passing through liminal life-spaces, passing over the threshold between what was and what will be, moving and adjusting from one season to another and travelling the gappiness in between. It helps to recognise the liminal spaces for what they are: temporary places of rest, or refreshment, or preparation.  Gaps where God can prepare us for the next season.  They will pass.  And although they can seem awkward or uncomfortable, they do have a beauty of their own.

Kate showed me this morning that she can just see the tip of the new tooth poking through… before I know it she will have her big-teeth smile… but it will take a while, and for now, I’m going to lean back and enjoy the gappiness.

gappiness

The Bouncing Ball

In case you don’t know (having had the sense to avoid all sing-along movies for the last eighty-nine years) the bouncing ball is a little animated dot that bounces brightly along the words of a song to keep the sing-along-ers in time (and on the right word!)  It says – THIS IS WHERE WE ARE – PAY ATTENTION.

In my extensive research 🙂 I read just now that when the bouncing ball began life in September 1925 it wasn’t even animated, but a studio employee bounced a tennis ball on a long stick merrily along the words of My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean. Wikipedia even tells me that on the latest sing-along version of Disney’s Frozen the little ball has become a bouncing snowflake… *shudder* As if there can be anyone left in the world who doesn’t already know all the words…

Enough history… I don’t think God gave me this picture this morning so I could celebrate 89 years of sing-a-long movie technology…

The ball is all about focussing your attention on what needs to be done right now, on what is happening right now.  As I said – THIS IS WHERE WE ARE NOW, PAY ATTENTION.

It helps avoid confusion between that and what’s coming next, or what’s just gone. And it makes you keep a steady time.   Someone put it there, on purpose, to help you stay in the right moment.  And let’s face it, the whole thing sounds better if the vocalists are in time with the music!

To follow the metaphor, I am the kind of person who rushes ahead to the chorus instead of letting the verse play out. And although the chorus often has a better tune, the words of the verse are nearly always more interesting.

But the message I’m hearing through this week’s postcard is: Focus on the now. Don’t get distracted by the just gone and the not yet. Learn. Keep time. Find me in the present.

So that’s what I’m going to try to do.

I’m cheating a little because I wrote this poem for my very first post… but I’m all for recycling… and since I seem to need to hear things more than once, I’m going to assume that it might help you too…

I search for you:
I strain ahead to look for you
to see where we will go together
Longing to know, longing to be there, longing to see
and I just glimpse your face through the mist.

I turn around to look back
at the place I saw you last
felt your touch, saw you move, joined the dance
but it's gone.

and yet
when I open my eyes
I see you are with me now

bouncing ball feat

What about you? What is God saying to you through this picture? Do you need to rewind or fast forward to get your focus on to what God is doing now?

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

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