Over a very emotional weekend, I had the opportunity to sit in the warm sunshine for a while. And while I was there, a stunning butterfly came and landed on my knee. It was just enjoying the warmth.
It sat there for about 20 minutes, and this was so good for both of us! Being still was so healing in itself, and having this beautiful creature to study was all absorbing. From the movement of the antennae to the fluttering of its wings, it was so interesting. It seemed so fragile, yet it had such a strong life force, choosing to sit in the sun.
Not to be dramatic, but it felt like a gift from God! A time of gratitude and awe and stillness that I really needed, a gift of peace and wonder, that has stayed with me, and given me strength.
I remember the verse from Philippians 4:19 ‘God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.’ God is so often gracious, and blesses us with an encouragement and inspiration, just when we need it. May God meet the needs of all of us, when we cry to Him, and may we receive His message of love.
Gracious Creator God, we so easily become downhearted and unsettled, weary from too much sadness. Even in bleak times, open our eyes to the beauty around us. Lord Jesus, grant us moments of such awe and wonder, that we find healing and deep peace. Holy spirit, may we each receive the blessing You have for us, and find renewal and strength for each day, Amen.
I have so appreciated being on holiday with Andrew my son, visiting beautiful friends. We have been in St Augustine, where it has been warm and breezy. Gorgeous bright days.
One day I found a little courtyard in the old town, where there is a quaint fountain, with a constant stream of sparkling clear water. The sound alone was refreshing, listening to the splash of the water bouncing off the surfaces. It was mesmerising, and so peaceful.
I have been so very busy, that now just taking time to listen and to be still was such a relief, and a joy. I remembered Jesus’s words from John 7:37: ‘ whoever believes in me, streams of living water will flow from within them’.
This was a powerful reminder, that God places these streams of living water within us his followers. But sometimes we disconnect ourselves from our Source. Or we allow barriers to get in the way- guilt, fear, shame, worry, doubt, grief – and they stop the flow. We lose our vibrancy and sparkle, and love becomes a trickle in a muddy pool.
It has been a helpful reminder, to seek to lessen the things that separate me from God, my sin, my forgetfulness, my perpetual rushing about. I ask that together with God, and guided by His spirit, that the streams might flow more abundantly once more.
Gracious God, thankyou for that gift of streams of living water flowing through the lives of those who place their trust in Jesus, so these streams of love might touch the lives of many. Forgive me when I block your love by my selfishness and closed heart and mind- dissolve these away i pray. By the power of your holy spirit, open up my life to receive your living giving spirit, and then to enable that stream of water to flow into the lives of those around me. May we all be channels of that sparkling and refreshing stream of grace and love, for Jesus sake, Amen
I have been so blessed to have had some time out with family in a sunny place. I realise how very much I have missed opportunities just to rest and be, in a warm climate.
I have especially enjoyed the light here, the amazing variety of colours in the sunsets, and last night the moon reflecting its silver glow across the expanse of the ocean. The bright luminous path in the sea in the starry night was wondrous.
The ripples of light in the water, as I have been swimming, have also been mesmerising. I have felt harmonious with the water and the air, as new patterns and ripples appear in a pool, or you become one with the rhythms of the waves in the sea.
The wonder of these experiences have been so good for my soul. For a short while I have put to one side images of conflict, poverty and distress, and I feel at peace with nature, and the Creator of all things. It has reminded me of my desire to be in harmony with God, to be at one with Christ, to just rest in God’s love.
I used to think that this was selfish, but now I understand that these moments of connection refresh my soul, for the days ahead. Finding time to refuel in the pandemic was strangely difficult, because although there was more time, at times I had to fight a sense of claustrophobia and sadness. I think for many people, the pandemic left us all more isolated, and not able to process our grief in community. So being able to travel has reminded me of that sense of freedom and space and connection.
Ultimately, one of the most beautiful Bible passages about harmony is in Revelation 22:1-3
‘The angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing 12 crops of fruit. And the leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations.’
I love John’s vision of the future, where people are with God, full of praise and worship. It seems no surprise that there is water, clear as crystal, at the centre of the city, bringing healing and beauty and life to all, for the leaves of the trees are to bringing healing to the nations. That spiritual refreshment offers possibilities of transformation for all. Vision such as this brings us strength and hope for the journey ahead.
Gracious God, our Creator, You have created a world of intricate patterns of light and shade, and of jaw dropping moments of revelation and connection. We worship You, grateful for possibilities of harmony, when the lion and the lamb lie down together. Lord Jesus, in You all things are held together, as the forgiveness You offer through the cross, brings an invitation to reconciliation for all. There are times in this life when pride, grief and violence seem overwhelming. But when we look to You, you remind us of the truth of who You are, and we are reassured and find peace. Through your holy spirit, inspire us to work towards healing and harmony even amongst the brokenness, and grant us a clarity of vision to energise us each day, Amen.
In Glasgow we often don’t appreciate water. It often pours from the sky when it is least wanted, breaking your umbrella, soaking through your jacket, and making your feet cold and soggy. Only the reflection of street lights in puddles make it bearable!
Yet the gift of water is amazing, whether it is the gurgling of a stream, the stillness of a loch, or the rhythm of the waves in the ocean. There is something so profoundly cleansing about being immersed in water, experiencing the spray of a waterfall or the waves on a beach.
Swimming gives it a new dimension. To be at one with the water, for your limbs to be working in a rhythm that enables you to move forward, is quite remarkable. I travel slowly, but it is like being home, maybe a womb like experience, with a profound sense of connection to the water. Wild swimming is the most magical of all, swimming with midges and swallows, clouds and skies, rocky shorelines, and ever changing expanses of blue, black and deep green.
We are so blessed to have such wonderful opportunities to be at peace with nature. We need to be wise as to how we practise, but the freedom of swimming outside is so liberating and full of bliss.
The bible speaks about the majesty of creation, and God’s power even over the ocean. In psalm 93 it says
‘ the raging waves lift themselves over and over, high above the ocean’s depth, yet at the sound of your voice they are stilled.’ v4 Passion Translation.
When swimming through the waves, to remember the length and width and depth of God’s love for us, can also speak to us in a powerful way. God’s love reaches us like the profusion of waves, cleansing our souls and healing our hurts, restoring our perspective, as we lose ourselves in the landscape.
Gracious God, there is something so elemental in being immersed in water, experiencing all the richness of colours and sensations, being rocked by the sea, or inspired by white beaches and azure waters. Thankyou for the wonder of Your creation, the cycle of seasons, the pull of the moon, the rhythm of the tides. Lord Jesus, you taught people on the shore, you travelled by boat, and You demonstrated that you could quieten the wind and still the storm. Help us have a healthy reverence for your creation. And may your holy spirit heal our wounds, soothe our souls, and invigorate our spirits, as we experience the life giving qualities of water! Amen.
I was away for a few days last week, which I loved, and my son looked after our handsome dog Gabriel. I am grateful to him, and others who walked Gabriel when I was absent.
My son was telling me what a good dog he had been, until I got in the door. In the hour he had been away, Gabriel decided to say he was fed up, and ripped a pillow to shreds, leaving a mountain of feathers everywhere. He didn’t look remotely concerned about this, as you can see. I think it was just his way of saying he wanted company!
For those who have experienced loss of some kind, it can be difficult to put into words how that feels- an ache in the soul, a lethargy, a heaviness. It is the feeling that is with you first thing in the morning, and last thing at night.
Grieving can cause us to do different things- not always to rip up a pillow, but to decide not to go out, to put off replying to a letter, to want to break things! Sometimes the emotional cost of choosing to do something difficult or new, can seem overwhelming.
We all cope with these in different ways. Sometimes we talk to an understanding friend. Sometimes we binge watch net flicks, just to distract ourselves from the pain. Sometimes we just want to be walking at a beach, or just alone with God, pouring out our soul.
Where we can, it is good to choose healthier options to express anger, loss and pain. We seek to give our regrets and guilt to God, over things we might have wished to be otherwise. We ask for cleansing, and a gradual coming to terms with what happened. Sometimes we shout at God ‘ why’- because we find it all hard to understand. And we pray for peace in our souls, and strength to tackle the new day in a holistic way.
A verse that has been speaking to my heart recently is from Isaiah 26: ” you will keep in perfect peace, the one who is focused on You, because he trusts and takes refuge in You.’ Sometimes when we are hurting, the temptation is to withdraw or to question. These are a healthy part of the process, but we pray that gradually through the ebb and flow dance of grief, that we begin to find a deeper and lasting peace.
Gracious God, Creator of all, thankyou that in the beauty of this world, the shade of a tree or the refreshment of a cool breeze, we are reminded of your presence. Lord Jesus, you wept at the death of your friend Lazarus, and you know the shock and pain of bereavement. Thankyou that You weep with us. Holy spirit, in the midst of our loss, help us to find safe ways to express our heartache ( that doesn’t involve feathers!) Thankyou for our beautiful pets, and may we always treat them well. We thank you for the interconnectedness of all things, and pray for the gift of peace and a sense of belonging for all who cry to You this day, Amen.
After dark times of trauma, grief and pandemic stresses and worries, we might all be forgiven if our mood is a little uneven. It is going to take a long time, maybe even generations for there to be healing or recovery for those who have experienced some of the bleak and tragic consequences of the impact of coronovirus.
When we feel overwhelmed or sad, many things help, the power of prayer, a listening ear, a promise kept, a thoughtful message, the paw proffered by a pet. God uses so many ways to lift up our souls, and to remind us we are loved.
One of the things I am learning to appreciate more and more is the stunning nature of Scottish countryside, especially the western islands. There are so many epic landscapes, towering cliffs, colourful machairs, dramatic coastlines, exquisite beaches, and an amazing variety of birds and creatures. Even in the drizzle, these have the power to speak to our soul of big emotions, of wilderness and tragedy and solace and inspiration. The stories from each community visited are so moving.
I am reading from the Passion translation of the bible just now, and in psalm 148 verse 1 it says:
‘hallelujah! Praise the Lord. Let the skies be filled with praise, and the highest heavens with shouts of glory.’
Just connecting with Creation, can remind us of the glory and majesty of God, so that just for a while, our hurts and wounds can seem smaller. Just being able to be still enough to give thanks and to worship, reorientates us, and can bring hope and restoration to our souls. Whether it is the shrill call of a bird, changing light through the clouds, or the rhythm of the waves- may we be lost in wonder, awe and praise. If we have opportunity in this summer period, may we intentionally spend time in some of our glorious landscapes, and to find God, and in Him, refreshment and hope.
Gracious God, at times our hearts are bruised by worry and grief- our cares are heavy, and often beyond words. Please speak to us that Word in season that we need to hear. Creator of all, as we experience the grandeur of your creation, may tears of appreciation run down our faces, as we bow down before You in worship and thanksgiving. Lord Jesus, help us to experience your Love in new ways, and find a broader perspective on our troubles. Holy spirit, in Your creation, may we find restoration for our souls, and your healing grace and peace, Amen.