Moments of Exquisite beauty!

View from former East German television tower

Travelling is good for my soul. It reminds me of the wider world, and puts things in perspective. It expands my horizons, and revives me as I learn and meet people, and have adventures. I feel so blessed.

Visiting Berlin has been an important thing to do for a number of reasons. I used to study post second world war international relations, and so actually being in Berlin, and visiting Check Point Charlie, and being able to picture the various sectors and seeing where the wall was built in 1961 has deepened my understanding of what took place. Reading the accounts of different individuals has brought everything to life.

The second reason that this visit has been so important is that I had booked to visit Berlin five years ago, when my husband took unwell, so I had to cancel. Being able to visit just now, feels like some kind of sense of completion.

There has been so much more to Berlin than I had imagined. It feels like a city looking for redemption, trying to come to terms with its past. Everywhere you go, there is also building work, and there is a momentum towards building a better future. The architecture of the city is so diverse, old Prussian stone buildings, monolithic flats in the former East German sector, and incredible new modern glass domes and futuristic shapes and forms.

I have been doing a massive amount of walking in the last few days. At times it has poured with rain, buses have been late, I have got lost, and my few words of German have turned out to be massively inadequate.

Yet in the midst of this, there have been moments of exquisite beauty, when God has placed me in the right place at the right time, and blessed me beyond measure. I just happened to be at the TV tower, without a ticket, just at the right time when the queue wasn’t too long, and when the sun was setting over Berlin. It was a gorgeous sight, which moved my soul, and I prayed for continued healing and reconciliation for the city, and for inspiration and strength for the churches here. Just a small prayer, yet it felt divinely inspired. I hope every prayer makes a difference, not just for Berlin, but for all of us.

Gracious God, thankyou for the reminder that You love everyone in every nation, and that You show such infinite love and compassion. Lord Jesus, you see all that has taken place, all the cruelty and division in our world, and You weep, just as You wept over Jerusalem. Forgive us our sins we pray, for we are all guilty. By your holy spirit, grant us moments of inspiration and deep gratitude , so that we can pray for unity, for stories to be heard, and for the dignity of all to be respected. May tears even at the top of a television tower, bring healing grace for all who carry unspoken pain from the past. Help us to see our cities through your eyes, and to ask even yet for a river of healing and peace to flow, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.

One thing too many……

Just too much stuff!

Despite my best efforts, my life still seems to have too much stuff! I am trying to let it go, and to have better daily habits, but my confession is that a few books have sneaked into the house recently. I can’t imagine how that happened….

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been reflecting on the stuff that seems to have engulfed us emotionally too, as we struggle to cope with the consequences of the pandemic. We have got into habits of not going out so much and of being more fearful and self contained. And there is so much anxiety and frustration in our society just now, we oscillate between overconfidence and withdrawal, quietness and agitation. For many people, when something goes wrong it is one thing too many, whether it is the bus that pulls out in front of you, or the person who is rude, or being kept on hold for an hour, trying to pay a bill. We live in an anxious age.

I love that Jesus said ‘ come to me all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your soul.’ Matthew 11: 28-9

We are carrying so much- the scars from the pandemic, the stresses of economic and political instability, personal burdens, and worry and concern about where we are going as a world community. It is too much to bear.

Yet Jesus invites us to turn to Him, to lay our burdens at the foot of the cross, and to find rest. He takes our worries from us, and calls us to trust Him, and to just be still. He wants us to have rest for our souls, a deep peace, that passes all understanding. When we have prayed, and tried all the things we can think of, and given it all we have, and it doesn’t seem to be working, we just need to come to Jesus, and rest and wait. For He is humble and gentle, and will bring restoration to our souls.

Gracious and Loving God, we cry to you from a wounded and conflicted world, where everything seems discordant and there is so much confusion and pain. In these days, even a little thing can become one thing too many. Lord Jesus, have mercy on us. Help us not to keep trying to solve things by ourselves, but just to come and tell you of our woes and ask for your guidance. Holy spirit, reveal to us the wisdom of our Heavenly Father, so our lives might be more centred and graced. And meantime, may we draw near to you, and find that healing and rest which we crave do badly in the presence of our merciful abba Father. Bring restoration and renewal we pray, Amen.

Binge tv- the pros and cons!

And the next episode!

In the depth of winter, binge watching TV is so tempting. When it is cold, wet and dark outside, you want to stay in and forget, and so watching a wee programme feels so comforting. And somehow you just keep going…..

Confession- I have been watching ‘New Amsterdam’, a hospital drama which has great characters and storylines. There are insights into what leadership looks like, as well as many complex pastoral situations. It can be quite mesmerising.

However, I am very conscious of the downside of it all too. Firstly, we need to have a certain discernment about what we watch. If we are feeling a little fragile, then watching something disturbing can keep us apart at night. Some of the darker series can be addictive but unsettling too, and have a really negative impact.

The other thing is that by watching too much TV, we actually are in danger of not living in the real world, but instead living through the lives of the characters we watch. They become our family, and we get so embroiled in what happens to them, that we feel as if we know them, and that they have become real to us.

There are times when binge watching something is helpful, in the holidays, or when we are looking for a distraction from illness or grief. These series can be a welcome distraction, and help pass the time. Some series are so well written, they are modern masterpieces, and tell a story so well.

However, I know I need to be careful. I need to learn to know when to turn the TV off, and be courageous to live in the real world. It is not as safe as being an observer, but it is what we are called to do, when we are ready.

In Psalm 90, verse 12 it says ‘ Teach us to count the number of our days, so that we may gain a wisdom of the heart.’ We only live a finite life on this earth, although an eternal one with God. We need times to relax and do very little. Yet we are called to use our time wisely, and to be purposeful. I don’t think I want some one doing a eulogy at my funeral saying that she was good at watching TV! I think I need a bit more variety somehow.

Gracious God, I thank you for the precious gift of life, to wake up each morning, to live in your love, and to show that love to others. Lord Jesus, sometimes I need to rest, to find restoration, even to watch TV, just to unwind. However help me to have healthy boundaries in my life, so that I can live life in all its fullness. Holy spirit, please may my rest bring renewal and inspiration, so I can live more purposefully for You, and to love and to bless others. Help me I pray, in Jesus’ name Amen.

Courage to speak!

Healing in the midst of pain.

I am deeply thankful for my life. That doesn’t mean that everything has gone smoothly, or I don’t have any questions. Life has often been painful, confusing, and dark. But in the midst of the obscurity and shadows, God has lifted me up, brought me forgiveness, has helped me endure, healed me and given me hope. In many ways, I have learned what is important though these experiences.

For me after my husband’s death, I was asking God to help me make any sense of it all, and He helped me tell his story as a veteran who had intractable epilepsy and trauma. He enabled me to write ‘ Love song for a wounded warrior’ and to tell something of his story, so he wouldn’t be forgotten. It was such a big step, to speak into the silence, to place letters on a pristine white page, and then to wait….

Then, later on, I wanted to share something of my story of healing and on going recovery. I found my anchor in H Nouwen’s ‘The wounded healer’ and wanted to share different ways that Christ’s healing love helped to heal my wounds of grief and loss with the salve of Gilead, to help me work through trauma, and to reconstruct my identity after being a carer for so many years. And so I wrote a second book ‘ Love songs for healing and hope’ . It is composed of a collection of these blogs, some beautiful insights from friends, and some pastoral resources.

A resource to support the grieving

I am so grateful to share this book ‘ Love songs for healing and hope’. It costs £15, and all proceeds are split between two amazing charities Richmond Hope and Quiet Waters. I would like to raise more money for these charities. So far, £1400 has been raised, and I am so grateful. If you would like to order a copy, please contact woundedwarriorfg@gmail.com Please also share this information!

My experiences have reminded me how important it is that everyone gets an opportunity to tell their story. It has made me a more attentive listener. It has helped me see things differently, and to marvel at the gift of life, and to cherish it. My thanksgiving enables me to be more purposeful and more appreciative. I have so much still to learn, and I want to thank you for sharing my journey, and to take this opportunity to thank you for your prayers and support. May we continue to support, love and pray for one another, as we seek to heal.

Creator God, You spoke, and everything came into being, the moon and the stars, the vastness of galaxies, made out of a swirl of tiny atoms. Lord Jesus, You are the Word of God made flesh, and we see the powerful way You communicated the very essence and goodness of God. Thankyou that You give humanity the gift of communication, to reveal, to comfort, to challenge, to inspire. Holy spirit give us all courage to speak, and the wisdom to know when we should be silent. Help us to use words well, to bless others, and to share Your magnificent and healing love with all. Amen.

God’s heart…….

full of love……

This is such a reflective time of year- a time to think about what really matters, about what is important. We often have new year resolutions and ideas of how to change our habits, and these things themselves can be good.

For me, I have been asking God to show me what I need most of all at this time, and he has reminded me that I need to know, trust and feel that God’s heart for the world is full of love.

I can know that God’s heart is full of love and goodness as I read different bible passages. In Romans chapter 5, I am reminded that God shows His love for us through the death of Jesus His Son. For some one to give their life for my sake is extraordinary, never mind the Son of God. Because of his death, and the cleansing and forgiveness He brings, I can ask God to cleanse my heart and restore a steadfast spirit within me. I know that God’s love is powerful, merciful and open to forgive.

I also trust in God’s promises and His love. This is more tricky, because life is tough- we go through disappointment, illness, trauma and bereavement. I have to choose to keep trusting, even when I feel forgotten or life doesn’t make any sense. The verses from Proverbs 4 resonate: ‘ ‘Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life’. The temptation is to become bitter or to quietly give up. God calls us to look to Him, and see that His love is unchanging, slow to become angry and full of mercy. This steady self giving love heals our brokenness, and rekindles our trust.

I need to feel God’s love too. I know that feelings can come and go, and not to rely on them entirely. But I am probably my best self, when I live close to the Father’s heart. God’s heart of love melts my heart of stone, and makes it tender. His Holy spirit ministers to me, helps me forgive, gives me strength to start again, and inspires me.

I love worship songs sbout God’s heart. Remember the old Graham Kendrick song ‘ Teach me to dance to the beat of your heart,’ or Zach Williams’ There’s only love in the heart of the God’ or Tell your heart to beat again’ by Danny Gokely. Sometimes music speaks to our souls in a profound way.

For all of us, if our heart can beat to the heartbeat of God, everything else will flow from this. What more can we ask.

Gracious God, we are so delighted that you reveal the Father’s heart though Your Son Jesus Christ. In Him, we see your goodness and grace, your wisdom and beauty, and we bow down with humility and wonder. We know our hearts are so easily polluted with envy and greed, with pride and selfishness. Please cleanse us by your spirit, and bring renewal so we might have pure hearts, and be able to see Your hand at work once more in this world. May we not become weighed down by cynicism or negativity, but be open and receptive to see that You are doing a new thing. May we know Your love, may we trust You, may we receive your love and mercy very personally in our lives. Heal us, bring renewal, and then may the Father’s heart of love radiate through our lives, and touch all those we meet, for his is His will, Amen.

A naked tree!

Vulnerability

At the turn of the year, there is often a time of reflection, mulling over the year passed, and considering the possibilities for the year ahead.

Christmas and the holidays, give us time to be honest about what is going on, and how we are feeling, and so it can feel like a bit of a vulnerable time. We recognise home truths we have tried to forget, and we can wrestle with things about ourselves that we don’t like.

I am fortunate to live opposite a park, and so I often gaze at these trees. They are full of life in spring, but in winter their branches are bare and they look exposed to the elements.

I have learned to do the Ignatian examen, not just for my days, but for months and years. I look back over the year with God, and ask that he reveal to me not just my struggles, but also things I can give thanks for. I am so grateful for this process, for by prayerfully reflecting, I notice where God has been at work, and this is more encouraging. It gives balance to my perspective, and reminds me more deeply of how God has blessed me, even if I didn’t see it at the time. I also notice things that God is inviting me to do differently in the future.

Whatever kind of year you have had, I pray you have some time to do some honest reflection. Sometimes it can be painful, yet there are also golden threads of God’s grace and encouragement which are so heartening, and can make us weep at the mercy of God.

I think of verse 18 in 1 Thessalonians 5 where it says ‘ be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus’.

I struggle sometimes to be thankful, I have so many questions as to why things are the way they are- abuse, bullying, conflict, violence seem all too prevalent in the world.

I also remember the words of Job 19, especially as they are sung in the Messiah  ‘ I know that my Redeemer liveth”. I can hear these powerful words sung as a statement of faith, even when the world is falling apart. And somehow, I sing them too……

Gracious and Loving God, it can be hard to be honest, even with You, as we look at the year past, our fears, our struggles, our failures and our pain. We feel vulnerable and exposed. Yet Lord Jesus You look upon us with love, and you remind us that all has not been in vain. You lift us up from the pit, and You gently teach us more of Your ways. Through the cross, You have brought  us forgiveness, and your spirit strengthens our souls. You offer us a place of safety to find healing, and then give us courage to keep walking, believing that somehow next year could be better. Thankyou for every evidence of your love and blessing in this world. Holy Spirit help us notice them, and to take heart. 🙏

Possibilities of peace…

Taking a moment…..

I wonder how your Christmas 2022 is looking. It has been another topsy-turvy year, with so many changes in every aspect of life, whether the war in the Ukraine, or the rise in prices, economic pain and strikes. Financial pressures cause family strain too, and we seem to be adapting all the time. It can be overwhelming.

We put ourselves under pressure too, hoping for everything to go well over Christmas. We want the food to be good, presents to be right for that individual, for everyone to get on. But with the best will in the world, it just isn’t always like that.

Sometimes in the midst of it all, we just need to draw breath. We cannot make everything ok, but we can find peace in the Christmas message. That first Christmas was far from ideal, a long journey, no where to stay, giving birth amongst the animals. But all these things were nothing in comparison with the long awaited Messiah, the Son of God being born. Imagine hearing his first cry in the night, and knowing he was finally here. What a miracle, what joy and peace.

So in the midst of our stresses and busyness, may we take a moment to breath, and to ask God to fill us with His peace, the deep peace that comes from.the Prince of Peace, and then we know that all will be well.

Gracious Father, You sent Your precious Son into this world, to rescue us from sin and darkness, to bring us into your wonderful kingdom of light and love.

We are often restless and stressed, trying to do too much over Christmas. Forgive us. May we let go of what is unimportant, and to focus on the good and the inspirational. Even though the empty chair brings much sadness, may we find courage. Help us pause, and to find peace.

Holy child, Jesus Christ, king of Kings, may your birth bring us a deep peace that can come only from the Prince of peace, the deep peace of the running wave and the flowing air, of the quiet earth and the shining stars. May the peace of the Christ child be in your hearts and homes this Christmas and always, Amen.

Running on empty!

With the recent rises in fuel costs, I got into the habit of putting less fuel in my car! Now I know that is not logical. Half filling the tank each time looked as if I wasn’t paying so much, but obviously just meant I had less fuel to get anywhere. And this meant that little warning light above keeps coming on- get to a garage, as you have very little fuel left.

This started me musing in other areas, for it feels as if for many of us, we are spiritually running on empty. In the time leading up to Christmas, we seem to be trying to do too much, without enough resources. It is like we are trying to make up for the last two Christmases, when the restrictions of the pandemic kept us isolated. And so now we have works nights out, trying to catch up with friends, travelling to see family. We have nativity services, community lunches, charity concerts, plus Christmas cards and trees and food preparation. And this is against a background of food and fuel prices dramatically increasing, and a whole series of strikes. And temperatures of minus 7!

The strains on our society are immense just now, in terms of health and social care, in education and transport. The degree of misery and despair for some is immense, people not able to afford food or heat, in debt, struggling to find appropriate care for chronic health conditions, dealing with complex losses and bereavements.

So how can we spiritually refuel, and find any hope? Well I think the story of the first Christmas helps. Jesus was born to Mary, and to Joseph far from home, round the back of an inn amongst the animals. Things were difficult and messy that first Christmas. Yet in the midst of this, they were thankful for what they had, they trusted God, and they recognised the wonder of Jesus, the Son of God being born into the world. And the wonder of it filled their souls with joy and reverence and peace.

Maybe we need to slow down a little in Advent, and to do a bit less. It doesn’t have to be perfect. And if things go wrong, and relationships are strained, and finances are tight, simplifying things is ok. The best moments in life can be quiet moments, unexpected connections, glittery spiders webs, laughter with friends. It is being grateful for what we have, and taking time to be in the moment. It is only when we take time, then we are replenished and more able to then support others.

‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us’ John 1:14. This means that God understands our struggles, grief and isolation. Jesus came into this world, to remind us of the enormity of God’s love for us, so we can receive that love and live in it. And the more time we spend in worship and contemplation, the more we are spiritually replenished and renewed. So may we take time to breathe, to enjoy sparkly lights, to listen to Christmas carols, to go to church, to notice and walk in the beauty of Creation. May we let God refuel our souls, so weariness might be replaced by peace, and emptiness by love, despair by hope.

Eternal Father, you sent Your precious Son Jesus Christ into this world, our Wonderful Counsellor and Prince of Peace, to bring joy to the world. At times our heads are down and our hearts are heavy, burdened by the grief and pain of our society. Even in our lowest moments, especially in these lowest moments, come along side us, and speak to us of your love and grace and truth. Babe of Bethlehem, Child in a manger, remind us that you are our Emmanuel, and that we are never alone. May we choose to make space to find spiritual refueling, and then to find strength to live each day. Holy spirit, breath new life into us, help us to have moments to rest, to give thanks, and to self care, for You love us with an everlasting love. Bless us with your peace. Amen.

Lighting a candle, who knew it could be so hard!

No matches……

I am so enjoying lighting candles in this season of Advent. Candles speak to me of light and hope and life. They are so calming!

So I went to light a candle this morning, and I had run out of matches. That seems like a small thing, but the thing was it had enormous emotional overtones too. For about 30 years ago, my late husband Colin bought a batch of boxes of matches. In his usual exuberant way, he bought 30 boxes at a time. And we have been using these boxes of Cook’s matches over all this time. But today, when I went to look, the last one has gone, and I can’t find any more. It is another link with him that is gone.

December is such a poignant month. So many symbols of hope and love, families coming together, concerts and nativity plays, and the reverence and joy of Christmas services, and the celebration of the birth of our Lord.

Yet at the same time, you miss the people who aren’t there, you think of old memories, you feel an ache of what is missing. The shadow side of it all, that is often unspoken.

I am going to have to go out and buy new matches. I might shed a few tears, for life seems to be moving on, and I have no choice but to go with it. A little thing in the universal scheme of things, but such incidents affect so many bereaved people. And so we listen to each other’s stories, and weep together, even in the unlikeliest of places.

Gracious God, You are our Creator, and You have made this universe and planet to be good and beautiful. Yet there is a season for all things, and along with enjoying what is lovely, we are saddened by death and loss. Lord Jesus, be our light and shine in the darkness. Little things can have such resonance. We feel the pain, but know that life cannot stand still. Hope spirit, breath new life and energy into us, comfort us, and give us courage to move on, for Jesus sake, Amen.

There is still light in the sky….

Still hope…..

I was driving a few weeks ago, and it got suddenly very dark. I was on narrow country roads, and then there was a diversion. The rain was heavy, the roads were flooded, and even with  the high speed movement of the windscreen wipers, it was difficult to see. It was a very disorientating evening, and I wondered if I would ever arrive.

The thing that helped, was that there was still a little light in the sky. It was just a narrow band but it made all the difference. It orientated me in the midst of the twists and turns, and helped me keep my bearings.

Life seems so difficult these days, so much harshness in our society, health worries and concerns about how to keep a roof over our heads. Sometimes it can seem very dark.

I love the season of Advent, and the lighting of that first candle, however fragile and flickering. It just seems like a statement that there is still light and hope and love in the world. Even if we feel we are sitting in darkness just now, somewhere the light still shines. Whether we are wrestling with low mood, anxiety or sadness, God’s love is still our Guide.

In John chapter I verse 5 it says; the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness could not put it out’ Whatever we might be struggling with today, there is always hope, and possibilities of forgiveness and new beginnings. May we find courage to believe.

Gracious God, sometimes the world seems so dark, with conflict and ugliness and greed. It is easy to lose hope, and to despair of things getting better. Lord Jesus, thankyou for the Advent message of Your coming into the world as a vulnerable baby, revealing the very nature of God, and your promise to one day come back. Holy spirit, reveal to us more of the light, and may that light diminish our darkness, and help us find our path. Thankyou that there is always some light in the sky, in Jesus name, Amen.