Changing colours of autumn.

This weekend, the weather has been glorious, and the colours rich and vibrant. The soft autumn sunshine, azure skies and soft clouds floating by are idyllic. The sun has been surprisingly warm, and if you find a sheltered spot, it is like being touched by the love of God.

Yet the message of all of this, is that the seasons are changing, that the leaves are starting to turn, and then to fall, sometimes gently, sometimes in a stormy frenzy of whirl.

Autumn brings hope, because it reminds us that change can be beautiful. As human beings, we often seem stuck, stuck in grief or trauma or illness. We get used to it, and forget that there is another way to live.

Jesus was always on the move, going to different places, meeting new people, praying, challenging people as to how they could follow him. He was never static. So we too are called to be open to learning, to explore our creativity, to deepen our spirituality, to be fashioned into the very image of Christ. The Holy spirit is ever at work within us.

When we enjoy the changing autumn colours, I think God is also inviting us to change- to somehow find deeper healing from the past, and the courage to move on. This seems to be slow, painstaking work. We complain as the leaves fall, as there is so much to let go of, regrets, old patterns of thinking, difficult memories, dark hurts. Yet if the tree lies bare for a winter, by spring there is new life, new growth, new colour.

For all those entranced by the melancholy beauty of autumn, may we allow God to search our souls, guide our thoughts, to help us to choose wisely, to establish a new rhythm of life. It might be a painful transition involving reflection and self awareness, but my prayer for all of us, is that we are able to keep going forward

Let us pray, Lord Jesus, we strive to go forward, to move on from the past, but unbidden memories can force their way to the surface. Cleanse us by your holy spirit, and give us the vision of better things that are to come, of new growth and energy. And on days when it just seems too hard, may we just rest in the warmth of your love, and find your gift of deep, healing peace in your rays of light. Thankyou Father God, that we can rest with you, to marvel at Your beauty, and be in communion with You, Amen.

A convergence of sorrow and love.

Light and shade

In life sometimes there can be the juxtaposition of too many sorrows. The loss of a loved one, of a job, of a dream, all coming at the same time. There are so many things that can cause people to mourn, not just our personal circumstances, but the loss of certainty, a wailing over injustice, a deep sorrow at the state of the world. In this time of pandemic, turbulent international politics and horrendous poverty and injustice, we have so many reasons for sorrow.

Walking in the valley of the shadow can be scary and lonely. There are so many dark places on the path, which are unexpected and unnerving. Yet it is when we are under pressure, that we call out to our Saviour, when we find out what it means to have him walk beside us on that path.

One of my favourite verses is from Isaiah chapter 43: ‘ I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places’. I often ponder what this means, but it seems to be that it is only when everything goes wrong, and you feel overwhelmed, that the beauty of Jesus’s presence can be truly felt and appreciated. Somehow it is only through being in the darkness, that we find out who we really are, and the discover the blessing of God’s grace to us. For He never turns His back on us, and when we are weak, He holds us up, and encourages us each step of the way.

And do there is a convergence of sorrow and love, for it us only in the deepest despair, that we experience the tender and transformative love of God, His Holy spirit refining our characters, so the dross is burned away, and only the gold comes forth. We are changed forever, with such an overwhelming waterfall of love flowing over us, that we are cleansed and strengthened and inspired.

The cross points to this deep truth, because in this place of human cruelty and barbarism and pain, Jesus lived out the love of God, revealing concern for his followers, forgiveness for the sinner, and a trust that he could commit his spirit to His heavenly Father. The cross is the most powerful and moving expression of love, because it is when Jesus is desolate and separated from his heavenly father, we see the extent of his self giving love for all.

This encourages our hearts, for when we are burdened looking after a loved one who is chronically unwell, or when we are struggling with pain and ill health, and life seems colourless and drab, that is when Christ’s presence gives us new strength, when we feel appreciation of a random act of kindness, when we are gently drawn into an experience of love that defies all description. In the darkest moment, God can bring a revelation of His grace, which whispers to our souls a word of peace.

I feel really thankful, that even in my worst days, God was there. Even when it seemed no- one understood, God listened. Even when all seemed lost, God was faithful. We are so blessed.

I remember the words of that great hymn ‘ when I survey the wondrous cross’ and the third verse says this: ‘ see from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down; did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?’

May we pray, Gracious God, we give thanks that even on the most drab and empty days, in the midst of our unmittigating sorrow, You reveal to us the depth of Your love in Christ, that convergence of sorrow and love on the cross, and you meet with us, and through your holy spirit breathe new strength and life into our souls. Your amazing love demands all we have, gladly given in love and service,and so we declare our love and devotion for You anew, Amen.

A legacy of wonder- the ice cubes are dancing!

We have had a beautiful weekend- my amazing son Andrew has become 21 years old. For a mum, you wonder where all the years went- they pass so quickly in a whirl.

It has been a very emotional time. We are so sad that Colin – Andrew’s dad isn’t here to celebrate with us, nor Colin’s parents. So much loss, and a big gaping hole in our lives. Having tried to write a little about Colin’s life too, my soul is full of the things that went wrong, times of illness and irritation.

However I also wrote some personal notes about Andrew’s life as he grew up, just now and again, to remember some of the details of his childhood. And at the weekend, I reread these, and it has been so healing. It reminded me of Andrew’s courage, his complete independence as a small boy, his determination, his quirky sense of humour, his insights, his patience. Andrew has an amazing turn of phrase- like when he was small, and he looked at his orange juice one hot day, and said ‘ the ice cubes are dancing’ Once you hear this, ice cubes are never the same again, they move and clink and dance to an unheard beat. It is seeing the wonder in the ordinary.

And so, even as I look back over the years, and grieve the losses and pain of my husband’s disability, so I have been reminded of the moments of mercy and wonder in every day. I am so privileged to have a son, who has always done his own thing, and who has brought us such joy. Whether it is his love of cars and their engines, or his insights into science fiction, or his infectious enjoyment of waterfights, our lives were always full.

And I think of Jesus saying of his sheep in John chapter 10 verse 10a: ‘I have come that they might have life, and gave it to the full.’ Jesus gives us the gift of life, with its sorrows and splashes of light, to experience the sadneses of life, and moments of connection and inspiration that are so ethereal it makes you cry.

And so today, I am full of a deep gratitude, for the vivid reminder that in the midst of uncertainty and illness, God blessed us as a family with a beautiful life together- however uproarious and chaotic it looked! And Colin’s legacy lives on in Andrew’s hard work, strength, loyalty, insight and humour.

May we value our children, and all our loved ones, and tell them what they mean to us, and savour every moment we have with them. May we always pray and encourage them, so that a legacy of wonder and love, can be passed down. Let us pray

Dear God, Creator of all things, You share with us all that You are, love, mercy, goodness and truth, forgiveness, wonder and joy- as Jesus demonstrates, life in all its fullness. Life can be bittersweet, but may your holy spirit keep our hearts from becoming hard, and enable us always to see the wonder around us, and to share that dance and legacy of love with others, Amen.

Joy in the journey

Surges of activity and then rest.

Dear friends, we are all on a journey from one place to another. For some of us, as lockdown restrictions ease, we have physically travelled. For all of us, we know that we are on a spiritual journey through life, taking us from experiences in the past into whatever lies ahead. There are many stony paths, diversions, hill tops and even dead ends, sometimes we are injured enough route, and we need so much guidance as we travel.

One of the wonderful things about God, is that He has promised to be with us. We want to learn from the past, to rejoice in the good, to learn from our mistakes, to find healing for the saddnesses, so we can continue on our journey. Often we reach a crossroads on the path, and have to work out our next step.

The famous words in Proverbs chapter 3, verses 5 and 6 say:

‘ Trust in the Lord with all your heart,  and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.’

Taking time to listen to God, to pray, to study His Word, to take time to reflect, so we can discerm the way ahead is so vital. And it is only knowing where we have come from, that helps us work out our next steps. Being more open and honest about my life in the past has been exhausting and scary, but hopefully eventually it might be liberating. The Holy Spirit sometimes takes us through the wilderness ( not our first choice of location!) yet the things we learn – our complete dependence on God for all things- couldn’t be experienced any other way.

In a conversation recently, some one said that they were ‘ plodding’ and sometimes there is a heaviness to our lives, we are just putting one foot in front of another.

A song from Michael Card encourages me, and it has the following lyrics:  ‘ There is a joy on the journey,             There’s a light we can love on the way.  There is a wonder and wildness to life,   And freedom for those who obey.’

Sometimes the jouney is uphill, and we are breathless and our muscles are sore. Sometimes we have to stop and rest for a while. Sometimes we have to check our compass, and go a different route. But with our Saviour with us, there is light and wonder and wildness on that journey, and paradoxically freedom from obedience. And a joy, even in the hardest of places.

Whether we are in a dark marsh, a rain soaked walk, or a mountaintop, may we somehow find joy on our journey, a thanksgiving for the process, and hope that our destination might bring better things.

Let us pray, Dear God, your people often set out on journeys, Abraham and Sarah, Moses, David and so many others. We too are travelling through life, and sometimes the road is clear, but other times we are disorientated and in the dark. Be our Guide, Lord Jesus, and may we have courage to follow your Voice. May your Holy spirit help us find that freedom in obedience, that brings us thanksgiving and joy, Amen.