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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

Fuchsia and Bindweed

 

Even after many beautiful years living in the grace of being a Christian, I often look at the piles of rubbish: stupid beliefs, insecurities, hurts, weaknesses and sin in my life and think “Come on Lord, why can’t you just deal with all this junk and sort me out quicker?”

I’m at a conference this week, and I’m going over old ground again: The heart of the father towards me, the need to forgive and to accept forgiveness…  Old and slightly painful ground. So I’m living in that place of frustration right now that there is STILL more junk to be dealt with. Still more rocks to be pulled out of my spiritual backpack.  But in the middle of that frustration God is reminding me of this picture…

 

One day a while ago, when I was berating my patient Father about his slowness in ridding me of all my junk, he reminded me of a beautiful fuchsia plant that used to grow in our front garden.   I once spent a whole afternoon sitting on the garden wall, slowly unwrapping the bindweed which had grown up around it, spiralling around every branch and stem until the whole plant was weighed down and choked by the weed.

I was desperate to save the beautiful plant, but ripping at the weed quickly would have certainly destroyed it. So I had no choice but to sit and slowly unwrap it, stem by stem.  It took a long time. And God showed me that I am like the fuschia: delicate, beautiful, cherished; and that he is like a gardener: careful, deliberate, patient and thorough.

I have no doubt that my powerful father could heal me quickly, could tear from me all the parts of me that are marred and broken, twisted up or distorted.  But his desire is not simply to get rid of the weed, but to save the plant and see it restored.

“Heal me”, I said,

“Heal me quickly LORD”

“I’ll do it carefully”, He replied

“So that all that is wonderful,

All that is beautiful,

All that I cherish so much

In you

Will remain”.

 

 

Fuschia and Bindweed

 

P.S.  At one point today, I sat with Jesus and said:

“I’m sorry Lord, I am just way too tired to deal with you taking more rocks out of my backpack today”

I’m pretty sure I heard him laugh out loud at that one!

Please don’t resist the healing, the freedom, the release from heaviness that he is offering you today.  I know it’s uncomfortable to look inside and find even more rocks in there, but the truth is that we will both walk so much better without them tomorrow…

 

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

Not Alone – the art of firewalking

Sooner or later, we all come to a part of our life that feels like walking through a fire: bereavement, losing a job, miscarriage, illness, or  many other painful, difficult and stressful circumstances. Probably you’ve done some firewalking in your time. Perhaps you’re in the middle of a fire season right now.

It’s not so long since I came through a furnace of my own:  Moving from a secure life in England to a new, much less predictable one overseas, dealing with my kids’ reactions to leaving and losing friends, coping with their angry heartache as well as my own. It’s been a fire-walk: intense, painful, and sometimes terrifying.  But, (and it amazes me that I can write this) like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, thrown into a furnace because of their faithfulness to God, I have looked for, and found, the presence of God in it all.  I’ve been able to stand and walk around, even when I feared that I’d be consumed by the intensity of the flames. I have been ‘Not alone’.

And it is not that I’ve discovered that the fire was not so hot after all.

In the story we’re told that this furnace was seven times hotter than usual.    The miracle was not that the fire turned out not to be so hot after all. And moving country didn’t turn out to be easier than I expected… if anything it’s been much harder…

And it’s not that I was instantly rescued out of it.

These guys spent a while in the fire, and so did I, and so, probably, will you.  But, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, I did walk out the other side eventually and when I did I discovered that I wasn’t singed. Changed by the experience certainly, but not scarred… not defeated…not destroyed.

And, like them, I now notice that the only things that have actually been burned away and destroyed are ties that had bound me up: false beliefs and ways of living that had limited me – constraints that had stopped me from being all that God wanted me to be.  Now that’s a miracle!

Not that I believe that my heavenly Father caused that fire in my life, or intended it for me, I don’t.  But instead, I’ve learned that there are fire times in life, and that the enemy will use them to try to destroy, but that when we choose to trust God and look for Him among the flames,  our wonderful, redemptive, creative Father can use them to bring us into new places of freedom.

So this week’s postcard is a fire.   And the message on the back is simple:

notalone

 

fire 1

As I write this, I am painfully aware of friends who live their lives in a fire from which they expect no release until they stand in heaven itself, held in the arms of their Saviour. I think especially of those I know who have experienced, and are experiencing every day, the death of a loved one, particularly of a child.  Friends, I cannot begin to understand your fire. I could only say that for you, every day that you stand and walk around in that fire is a victory, and I honour you for it. And whether or not you are able to stand, I am confident of this, Jesus will stand, sit, kneel, weep, be alongside you every day, every minute that you are there. You are not alone.

Lord, be close,

when I walk into the fire

hold me

when all I see is flames

let me turn and see your face.

and on days when I cannot cry out to you.

call out to me,

shout loud, whisper quietly,

and I will try to lean into you.

Until the day that you lead me out into open space again

Let me know

that I am not alone.

 If you want to travel with this a little more, read Isaiah 43: 1-2

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

Rooted – on surviving the dry season

I really like to read the Bible aloud, and last week I was reading from Ephesians when this phrase caught in my mind.  And it’s been sitting there ever since…

roots

I keep coming back to wondering what it must be like, and how(!)  to send roots down deep into God’s love.   I really want to be like the tree described in Jeremiah 17 that’s fruitful in all circumstances.  Its root system goes deep into the water table, so even when there’s no water to be seen on the surface, it’s able to draw refreshment and life up from deep places.

Spiritual life seems to run in seasons. One day I’m flying, Jesus has never seemed so close, miracles are happening around me, I’m undone in the presence of God and every page of the Bible comes alive.  A few months later everything can suddenly seem much more difficult.  Faith might not waver, but enthusiasm and energy certainly do.

For a long while I thought this was a kind of malfunction.  That I should be able to maintain a level of passion and fervency and intimacy with God all the time.  Truthfully – I can’t.  But I’m starting to believe that it might not be so abnormal.  All around us seasons come and go, plants grow vigorously and are then pruned back, people are active and then sleep.  It seems to be the way of the world our Father has created that things have a rhythm to them.

The picture of being rooted says to me that perhaps it’s OK for spiritual life to be seasonal-  That an ebb and flow of feelings and experiences is natural – but that it is possible to be rooted in God’s love in such a way that no matter what season you are in, living water can always be drawn up from the deep.

Are you in an easy season or a dry one?  Are storm winds catching your branches or are you resting in a time of peace?  Either way the advice is the same – send your roots down deeper into the river of life.  Joseph advised Pharaoh to store up food during the times of plenty in order to be able to survive times of famine.   If you’re in a plenty time – enjoy it – store up food for the future,  practice trust.  And if you’re in a drought – look deep, the water of life is still present, seek and you will find.

Plant me Lord

on the bank of a river

Show me how to send roots deep into you.

So that in good years

in bad years

in wet times and in dry

There will be fruit to feed the hungry

There will be leaves to give shelter to the weary

There will be the promise of water nearby for the thirsty

And when the storm comes

Though I bend in the force of the wind

My heart will remain – anchored to yours.

like a tree planted by the water

rivertree

reflect white

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you can do to drive roots down deep into the love of God. Please leave a comment -either here or on Facebook- Ellie