Tag Archives: reflection

First rain day

It’s an unofficial celebration day here on the island.  After a very long hot summer today we have the first proper rain.  All around you can feel the dry, dusty patches of land drinking it in.   Cracks in the earth are being filled, dust is being washed off. People are smiling as the air feels fresher and cooler.

Of course there are inconveniences – drains that have spent a summer accumulating dust and leaves take a while to get back into action, my car isn’t entirely waterproof, and I’m not at all sure where I packed away the umbrellas…

But it feels good.

And I suddenly realise how much I need to step back into the rainy, overflowing, soaking presence of God again.  It’s been a long, hot dry summer and I am so ready for some rain.

rain

This rain is embroidered in backstitch.  A skill I spent rather a lot of time trying to teach to some eager ten-year olds at camp recently.  In fact, I repeated this phrase so often that I can still hear myself saying it, over and over again:

“first you have to go ahead of yourself a bit, in as straight a line as you can, and then you have to come back to the place where you see the last stitch go in.  Ahead of yourself and then back, ahead of yourself and then back, ahead of yourself and then back…”

“Ahead of yourself and then back”

We go ahead of ourselves all the time, striking out in the things we think, or hope God is asking of us.  But there are times where the thread is loose, the way forward is unclear, we no longer seem to be attached to the line of what has gone before.

Life is backstitch

We need to learn to keep going back-

Going back into the arms of Jesus,

going back to resting in his presence,

going back to the last thing we heard him say.

I wonder what the last thing was that you ‘heard’ Jesus say?

Choose to remember it.

sink your heart deep into it.

Let it soak into you, fill you up and then give you the direction to stretch out ahead of yourself again.

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I’d love to know how God speaks to you through this (or other postcards). Please leave a comment below, Ellie x

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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It’s that time of year again when the kids are rifling through my cupboards trying to find not-out-of-date tins to take in to school for Harvest.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

Happy New Year – Hill walking

I’m quite partial to a long slow walk in the countryside, especially if it’s between tearooms. And I particularly love walking (very slowly) up hills.   I often come to a point in the walk or climb where I’m ready to have a little sit down.  I’m very British, so it’s a joy to me to sit down somewhere sheltered-ish on a fold out mat, get out a flask of tea and a sandwich and just sit for a while and look.  And I think the first couple of weeks of a new year might be the perfect time to do a good bit of looking.

Looking should be savoured. In my opinion it’s better than the actual walking… I like to look back and congratulate myself, remember the pain and the exhilaration;  look at where I am now, enjoy the view;  and look ahead to where I’d like to get to, when I feel like I’ve got the energy to get up and move again.

It’s good to look back at where you’ve been.  To remember that stretch where the walking was a joy and the scent of the flowers around you almost carried you along; the slope that seemed a particularly hard climb; the part where you slipped and fell into the thorns and came out limping and bleeding and yet somehow got up and carried on.  If you look back at the journey of 2014 there will have been different kinds of terrain, injuries, happy times, and people who came and walked beside you in it all, it’s worth taking some time to reflect.

It’s even better to sit next to Jesus and ask him to show you where he was, how he helped you, how he felt as he walked beside you on that climb. Joys and struggles, triumph and disaster.  Don’t judge for yourself, ask him to show you what you did well, what you learned, how you’ve grown.

And while you’re resting with Jesus at the very beginning of 2015, you might choose to have a quick look through your back pack for any rocks you might have accidentally picked up and carried with you this year. Lumps of unforgiveness especially have the ability to slow you down.  It might really help to get rid of them now and not carry them through into the next year!

Looking ahead is harder.  The view back is always clearer than the one in front.  It’s probably better not to second guess it,  and if you’re like me you’ll be in the thick of January before you have time to ask too many questions.  You might just ask for one word or picture that says something about what God wants you to learn or be in the next year and then, if you’re brave enough, look up into Jesus’ eyes and say “I’m not sure where I’m going, but I trust you to lead the way”.

 

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

Faith and the Flying Fox

I don’t often feel faith, it’s much more likely in any given situation that I’ll be feeling terror.  But to my great relief I’ve finally concluded that faith isn’t something you feel, it’s something you do.  And in some ways that’s much easier!

faith

I’ve come to believe that ‘faith is being certain of what we do not see’ can also be read ‘faith is hearing God, and then acting like you believe what He says is true.  For example:  Father God says that I am his precious child, that I am beautiful, that I am valuable.  Honestly, a lot of the time I struggle to feel like these things are true.  But I know they are, so I try to behave like they are.  I’m not pretending, – I’m lining my behaviour up with what I know to be true.

My kids went on a really high flying fox once… It was as much as I could take to stand on the ground watching them…  They were 40 ft or so up in the air and had to step off the platform and put their entire trust in the harness that strapped them to the wire.

That’s a great picture of faith – Standing on the edge of what feels safe, gripped by fear, but trusting that God has said this is the right thing to do and stepping off anyway.  Much, much easier to write down than to do!   On the flying fox, even when you have just seen your brother fly down in front of you and you know it is safe, it’s really hard to step off.  And sometimes it’s like that when God asks you to do something ….  

But the faith isn’t in the feeling. – It’s in the jumping.

The other thing I remember clearly about watching this zip line in action was the pep-talk on how to land safely:

“What you must do” insisted the instructor, “is start running while you are still in the air,  a long time before you hit the ground, or you will just wipe out”  And he wasn’t kidding!  As I watched people fly down the wire at great speed,  it was clear that those who began the action of running before their feet hit the ground managed to stay on their feet; and those who forgot were dragged unceremoniously through the mud.

Faith is being certain about the things that God has promised but you are not actually experiencing yet.  On the flying fox, the ground is coming, and you have to start acting like the ground is there before you actually get to it.

If God has said you’re going to have a ministry with young people, start talking to young people in your church.  If God has said He wants you to lead worship one day, learn an instrument.  If God has said to you that you are going to see people healed when you pray for them, start praying for the sick (and keep going until people start being healed).

I have a friend who dreamed one night that she was on a stage in a huge auditorium, talking about Jesus to thousands of people.  In her dream she was terrified – she could never stand up in front of so many people and yet she felt that this was a dream from God calling her to be prepared to preach.   Her response wasn’t to say “I could never do that” or to sit around waiting for it to happen.  She went out the following week and joined a public speaking club!  Isn’t that great?  Even if the reality of the dream is still a long way off, she’s getting ready for it.  That’s faith.

I don’t know what God has called you to do.  I do know that for many of you, you’re also not quite ‘there’ yet.  You’re still in the time of waiting.  But faith begins to act like you’re there a bit before you are. It  stretches out; it gets trained and equipped; it looks stupid; it cries out to God for help; but it starts running

Live in faith.  Then, when your feet hit the reality of what God has promised… you will be ready.

flyingfoxfeature

 Things to think or journal about:

Come before God today and ask Him to remind you of things He has promised you.  The many beautiful promises of scripture, or promises He has spoken to you personally.  What would it look like if you were to live as though that promise is a reality?  Is there a small step you could take this week into living in the light of that promise? If there is, then take it!  Jump!

Perfume poured out

I love the story from John’s gospel of Mary of Bethany.  Especially the moment where, perhaps overwhelmed with gratitude for the raising from the dead of her brother Lazarus, she comes to Jesus, pours oil over his feet then wipes them with her hair.

Today there are two things that strike me about this public display of adoration…

One is that it is an act of incredibly expensive worship.  It makes me wonder what a family in a little hill village above Jerusalem were doing with a pint of perfume that was worth a year’s wages?  One commentator I read suggested that it might have been a way of saving money, an investment for the future, perhaps for a dowry when Mary or Martha wanted to marry.  In any case it was a hugely expensive offering.

It may be that Mary was literally pouring out her financial security, her plans for the future, her hopes and her dreams over the feet of Jesus.  An act of pure worship.  It was extravagant, costly, over the top,  and it caused others to question whether she was getting too ‘carried away’, but in this moment it was undoubtedly entirely the right response to Jesus.

Sometimes singing a song of worship is a costly act for us, but there are many other things which we are called to do which require much greater obedience, trust, surrender and sacrifice.   These choices, to do what Jesus asks of you even when it might cost you your dignity, your good name, your financial security, your  dream of how life would be, are extraordinary acts of silent worship.

 

The second thing I notice today is that in John’s account ‘the house was filled with the fragrance’ of the spilled perfume.  I have a tiny, tiny bottle of spikenard oil from Israel that a friend gave me.  Just the tiniest dot of it has a heady perfume that I can smell on my skin for hours.  I can’t quite imagine what the fragrance of a whole pint spilled on Jesus’ feet and the floor would have been like.  The scent of it would’ve been totally overpowering and would have not only filled the whole house but would have lingered in that place and on Mary’s hair and on the feet of Jesus for days if not weeks.

When I painted this postcard, I wanted to show that in our moments of love, surrender and giving,  in singing worship and in the rest of life, Jesus does not remain impassive.  He responds. He smells the fragrance and he leans towards us to receive the gift. He honours us and our costly gifts to him as He honoured Mary and He wears the fragrance of our worship with pride.

When we not only declare our love publicly and with extravagance, but anoint Him with our trust, our hopes and our dreams, the perfume is spilled out over both Him and us.  We share in the lingering scent of it and the fragrance spreads out to fill the room.

I wave the white flag

and I pour out,

my heart,  my life,  my hopes,  my dreams,  my security,

over your feet.

Already washed in your blood

made clean by your sacrifice

restored by resurrection

alive in your life…    I choose

to trust

and place my all

into your hands

may the house be filled with its fragrance

Perfume poured out

If you want to read it for yourself, this story is in John ch 12 v 3-8.

reflect white

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