A seal at the beach!

Spotting the seal?

I was swimming in the sea today- so wonderful and almost warm. And in the water was a seal- he was about 50 metres away, but round the beach the cry went up’ there’s a seal!!!’ and everyone was so excited, not just the small children. It was like we had never seen one before. ( I didn’t get a picture, as it was a bit wet).

Seals are amazing creatures- they have such a rounded head, and move so gracefully in the water. What I notice about them is their desire to play! On so many occasions at Millport in the past, they have followed me along the beach, almost playing peekaboo, every time I turned round to look at them. They are comical in their interactions.

This reminds me of the importance of play. Play between adults and children, can help children feel safe, help them to voice how they are feeling, and strengthen relationships. I came across ‘ Theraplay’ and just love how simple it is and how effective. It is about creating positive relationships in fun ways. It sounds simple, but is really profound, and can bring healing to children who are struggling or unsettled.

After all these years of trauma and pandemic, it feels like we need to learn to play again. The sunshine helps, and whether it is making sandcastles or paddling in the sea, moments when we are absorbed in fun things, are so relaxing and healing. Tensions leave us, and we laugh again.

It is amazing that Jesus Himself, in the midst of his ministry, made time to be with children, and surely to play. There is an innocence and pure joy in children, that reminds us all that play is indeed essential for our wellbeing. We need more playing!

Gracious Father God, You take delight in your children, and love to see us enjoying Your Creation. Thankyou for days of sunshine, and animals and birds and fish that bring us joy. Lord Jesus you remind us that even when there is so much going on in life, playing is a blessing, sharing fun and laughter, and building relationships. Please forgive us for times when we are so serious, and heavy in heart, that it seems as if we shoulder the cares of the world. Holy spirit, we commit the people and places that we worry about, to Jesus in prayer. And we give thanks for lighter joyful moments, when we can play and laugh, and find the deep healing we need, Amen

Learning to be patient!

A traffic jam in Uist!

The weather today has been wet and freezing! I decided to go for a lovely beach walk, which was very memorable. The wind was blowing so strongly the foam from the sea kept blowing into me. It was bracing indeed!

I was so grateful to find my car in the mist in a field, that I failed to notice another little problem, there were cows! Cows and calves, looking super cute, but right in front of the car. I didn’t want to startle them, so I thought I would just sit, and they would move eventually.

Well, dear reader, it took a while. They did keep moving, but not necessarily away. Sometimes it was more towards! And then they would stop, have a chat and a snack, and then form a new configuration right in front of me. It took a long time! By the time I could safely move on, I had names for them……

As I sat there however, I was thankful. I had no schedule or agenda, I didn’t have to be somewhere else. I wasn’t in a hurry. I could just sit in a field of cows, and be content.

Maybe life is meant to be more like this. Listening to people who have come here to Uist, many have come to get away from frantic lifestyles and demanding work schedules. Here the pace of life is much slower, and patience is easier, especially when you are confronted with a herd of cows!

‘ Love is patient, love is kind’ – 1 Corinthians 13. Maybe slowing down, and waiting is good medicine.

God of creation, You are the God of sunshine and cloud, warmth and rain. Every season has its purpose. Thankyou that you teach us to value every encounter with people and creatures, and to seek their wisdom and good. Lord Jesus, You saw the beauty of the lily, and noticed the humble sparrow. Teach us to take time and look after your world in even the smallest ways. Holy spirit, give us patience, that we might cherish the beauty around us, even cows and their calves, and be content, Amen.

Spiritual refuelling!

However illogical it is, because of the increase in fuel prices, I seem to think it will be cheaper if I run my car on a half tank of fuel. Somehow it feels as if it is costing me less!

There is a problem with this, as you might guess, because I seem to get to the bottom of the tank very quickly. The wee amber light on the dashboard comes on, to let me know how many miles I might have left. This is good too, except the last time I was out, I didn’t have my purse with me, just some coins in the car. And so I could only buy £6 of petrol. I have to say though, it got me where I was trying to go.

This has been meaningful to me, because it reminds me that even a little fuel can make a difference.

In my spiritual life, I often try to spend time with God to pray, and read the bible and to sing praises. But there are some days, when I feel spiritually dry, as the energy that I started the day with has gone. It is easy to feel depleted and empty.

Yet even just a short time with God can make a difference, where it is an arrow prayer, or going back to a relevant verse, or singing a meaningful song, can revitalise my soul. Even though it is just a wee refill, it can help reconnect with God, and sustain me through my day.

In Ephesians 5:18 Paul writes that we should ‘be filled with the spirit’ and it seems healthy, especially when we feel a bit run down, to just pause and spend some time with God, so we can find our spiritual fuel. Even just a short time, can give us the guidance and energy to complete our journey.

Gracious and Loving God, You give us an abundance of spiritual resources, Your love and truth and grace revealed in Jesus Christ. Yet sometimes we confess that we think we are too busy to stop, and we try to live in our own strength. And then we wonder why we struggle and feel disconnected. Lord Jesus, help us always to make time for you, even if sometimes that is just a spiritual top up. Holy spirit, we welcome you, and ask that we might slow down, so you can fill us, and help us to do Your will, and to fulfil Your living purpose in the world, Amen

The cost of individuality!

A gorgeous dog!

Our dog Gabriel has featured in a few of my posts. He is a lively bundle of energy and affection ( when he is not sleeping).He has also been rehomed, and we have to be careful with him, to keep him safe.

At the moment, we are looking for kennels to take him for a few days, and it has been tough. We have been told he is too nervous and unsettled, and we are still looking for the best place for him, so he can have a wee holiday too.

This has reminded me of the cost of individuality for people, as well as dogs. We like to think that we are welcoming, caring people, but when some- one thinks differently, or behaves in ways we don’t understand, we are often judgemental or dismissive. We justify our own position, by caricaturing another.

My late husband was a war veteran, and because of his epilepsy had some brain disfunction. He could behave strangely or act unexpectedly. He didn’t choose this- it was part of a neurological condition. There were very few who understood this, snd were willing to interact with him, because it was difficult, maybe even scary at times.

I think of all the people who feel that they don’t fit in- the person with a disability, the person whose trust was broken, the one who struggles to connect. It feels like there are many who feel rejected, misunderstood or belittled. As a society, we need to ponder on how to be. How can we include and affirm those who feel broken or different?

I think of Jesus, and his way of including and valuing everyone. ” while Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him.’ Mark 2:15

I pray for a community where all are valued, a church where all are welcomed, a world where love and healing are valued more than power and greed. It is just a dream, but the more rejection and hurt I see, the more urgent the dream becomes. Thy kingdom come indeed…..

Father God, you have made every human being in Your image. We have rebelled against You, and we let You down, and hurt one another. Forgive us. Lord Jesus, you know what it is like to be rejected, even though you did not deserve this. Teach us, by your holy spirit, to see people through your eyes, and to show love and compassion, even when it is hard. Lord Jesus, You invited everyone to come to your table, and there was a place for all. May we in turn, make space in our hearts and lives for others, to they can find grace and acceptance and hope, Amen.

Hallelujahs- finding perspective through praise!

Praise in the darker days.

‘O come let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker’ Psalm 96:6

At the moment, it feels as if we are all going through every emotion- Christmas approaching, a new virus variant, so many stories of tragedy, local and international. These are such turbulent days.

I think at times it can all feel overwhelming. For people who have experienced trauma and bereavement, it can be even more unsettling, because there are so many triggers, and so many old wounds are reopened. What can we do, to rediscover our equilibrium when we feel troubled and off balance?

For me, I need to spend time with God, time with His Word, time in worship. This reminds me that God is still present, and that His goodness and mercy never fail. Worship reminds me of the bigger picture, helps me remember that I am a child of God and restores my perspective.

The psalms express something of that perspective, people being real, questioning and lamenting. Rereading this book of prayers and praise can help in days of dismay and weariness.

There are days however when it can be hard to concentrate, and so beautiful praise music can be ideal to find connection with God, and opportunities for worship.

On days when we hunger for God’s presence, music like ‘Nothing else’ by Cody Carnes, can remind us of the beauty and wonder of God’s presence. If we are experiencing a time of waiting and uncertainty ‘While I wait’ by Lincoln Brewster can transport is into the presence of God. If we are experiencing sorrow ‘ When the tears fall’ by Tom Hughs is so deeply moving. The song ‘ Broken Hallelujahs’ expresses that we can worship, even when we don’t understand and are hurting. We might not find all the answers, but we find a God who cares.

Sometimes we think that in order to pray or to praise God we need the right words, or we need a certain amount of faith. But Jesus calls us to come as we are, with faith even the size of a grain of mustard. He accepts our faltering words, and mumbling groans. And so we are thankful.

Merciful God, we know that we are created in Your image, to live in relation to You, to receive Your love, and to share it with others. Yet sometimes we get hurt, and are sorrowful and disillusioned, and we are in danger of retreating inside ourselves. Lord Jesus, You understand the pain of human existence, and You came to save us from our sins, to bring healing, to set us free. When we are struggling, may we ask Your Holy spirit to help us reconnect to You, to sing our Hallelujahs, even when they are just a whisper echoing down the corridors of eternity. Even when we are crawling, and on our knees, may we worship and trust, and somehow gain perspective, to know that we are heard and loved, for You are faithful. Enfold us in Your love, that we may find peace and strength, Amen.

Helicopters overhead!

The sound of rotors.

Over the last three weeks, the characteristic noise from the skies has been the sound of helicopters above. Living in Glasgow, where COP26 has been held, the security for the conference on climate justice has involved so many, with every precaution taken to keep people safe.

I have read some of the papers about climate justice, but wanted to understand more, so I went to Glasgow Green last Saturday to hear the speakers, and to get a better sense of what they key issues are, and what we can do. I seem to learn better in person, than just by reading.

Vanessa Nakate

The street protest in Glasgow involved over 100,000 people even in the pouring rain and strong winds. At Glasgow Green there was a great variety of speakers from many different organisations. One of the most powerful was Vanessa Nakate from Uganda. She spoke about the devastation happening in Uganda from uncharacteristic storms, and the impact on the global south from changing weather patterns. Another speaker from the Marshall Islands spoke of her concern than unless global warming is kept to 1.5 degrees, that these islands will become completely submerged by rising sea levels, possibly in the next 20 years. Hearing the stories of these speakers, and many others, brought the urgency of climate justice home.

There is so much to be done. We can lobby our governments to keep the promises they make on emissions, forestation and climate initiatives. We can pray for governments and international corporations to put ethical environmental concerns before profits. We can campaign for educational initiatives to inform and to inspire change.

I have also been challenged about how I live each day. Can I use refillable products from shops like Locovare, to reduce plastic waste? Can I use locally produced products more? Can I lead a simpler life, buying less, using my car less often, perhaps eating less red meat? So many questions. I have started, even just a few wee steps to change, and I guess if we all start, then this is how we make progress.

I remember the opening words of psalm 19: ‘ the heavens are telling of the glory of God, the heavens declare the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech, night after night reveals knowledge’

We have been called to be good stewards of this gorgeous planet, with such rich and diverse ecosystems, and gorgeous colours and forms. There is enough for everyone, if we are willing to be less greedy, and to share well. Are we willing?

Gracious God, You have created the heavens and the earth, and they tell of Your glory and goodness every day. But we the people of the earth mine, destroy and exploit the resources of this earth, to make money, to wield power, to exploit those who live on the edges. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon us. Holy spirit burn away our disinterest and complacency, and grant us tender hearts, which care, and desire to be thoughtful stewards of this earth and her people. Give us self discipline to live differently, courage to change, and inspiration to make a difference, Amen.

Actively involved in the healing process!

Participating is hard work!

I am so grateful that healing is such a strong theme in the bible. Whether it is the healing of Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20, or Jesus’s amazing healing ministry depicted in the gospels, God loves to heal in body, mind and soul.

I fully recognise the complexity of this topic, as sometimes we pray for people and they don’t seem to get better. We don’t know why some prayers don’t seem to be answered. Maybe sometimes the damage is too great, or the process to get better just too arduous for a human being to bear. We just don’t know, and it is distressing and exhausting trying to work it out.

I have been reading a lot recently about healing from trauma, and about finding ways of feeling safe and becoming more whole again. And I am always surprised at how much hard work it is. Working with topics like low self esteem, childhood or adult trauma, anger management etc seems so tough. For example, if for whatever reason, you don’t like some one shouting at you. You learn this insight, and what experience caused you to think like this, and to respond like this. Investigation complete, so you think.

However this is actually just the start. For identifying the trauma, then starts you on a path of what you do to cope, what your protective mechanism is, eg to avoid angry people, to withdraw etc. And often the coping mechanism then becomes part of the problem, because it forms an unhealthy pattern of behaviour, a bad habit. So then if there is a loud voice or angry behaviour, you recognise the impact it is having on you, and you then learn to choose to respond differently. You choose to stay in the room, take a deep breath, and give a boundaried answer.

That sounds great in theory, but putting it into practice is exhausting. And putting this into practice with multiple different traumas, makes it complicated and wearisome. It is one step forward and two back.

I am so blessed to have the resources to think this through, and to seek healing. God is so faithful, He never lets us down, and always provides a safe place to ask difficult questions, and to ask for strength to change. The Holy spirit challenges us, and brings insight, strength to change, and much healing. However we also need to intentionally participate, to face up to difficult memories, and to be open to change. May we all find continued motivation and perseverance to continue on this path.

The verse from Isaiah 64:8 comes to mind: ‘O Lord, you are our Father:we are the clay, and you are our Potter, we are all the work of Your hand.’                                             We all need to be fashioned, to be willing to change, for the clay to be soft and malleable in the hand of the potter, for something beautiful to be created.

Gracious Creator God, You see the brokenness in our world, the distorted thoughts, the shattered self image, our doubts and fears, our negative ways of thinking. Heal us we pray, in Jesus’ name. And even when it is wearisome, repetitive work, where we need to pause, and choose to respond differently, give us courage. May your holy spirit help us let go of destructive and negative ways of thinking, so we can live in freedom, and find the deep and lasting wholeness we seek, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Waves of suffering everywhere.

Turmoil.

I choose to affirm the good in the world, that God is still real, loving and powerful, that there is still hope. But sometimes to make these statements takes such courage.

In the week where the details of Sarah Everard’s death have come to light, it seems that so much is broken, it is hard to ever imagine any kind of repair. Her trust was violated in so many ways it is hard to put into words. That people can be so intentionally cruel and brutal to another human being is terrifying.

I think however that the problem is that this terrible abuse of power, rape and murder just remind us of the reality of what goes on daily for many people. Whether you are talking about domestic violence or hunan trafficking, some one choosing to violently exploit and control another human being is all too common. Institutional corruption is endemic in so many places. And we often turn the other cheek. We pretend not to see, we pretend things will get better. And it doesn’t.

As a human race, we need to weep over the seemingly unrelenting brutality and violence in our world. We need to pray for it to stop, for us to support charities working in this area, to do what we can to support those affected by it in any way. There are too many children and adults traumatised by abuse and violence.

Jesus said ‘ come to me, all those who are weary, and I will give you rest.’ Matthew 11:28

When we are tired of putting on a face, being brave, of crying on the inside, we can come to Jesus and be honest, and pour out our hearts to Him. In the presence of God, we are safe, and can find shelter and healing. It might just be a first step in a healing process, but in the midst of the overwhelming pain and suffering of the world, it is an essential refuge. Even in the midst of heartbreak and sorrow, God’s love for us has never changed.

Gracious God, You are full of loving kindness and grace, and You created this world to mirror the beauty and harmony of who You are. But we have rebelled and sullied our planet and our relationships, and been exploitative and cruel. Lord Jesus, You who experienced the brutality and callousness of human beings on that Friday of Holy week, have mercy on our souls. In the ongoing spiritual battle, may we pray for evil to be restrained, and for the vulnerable to be protected. And please can your life giving holy spirit bring healing to all who have suffered at the hands of another, so that in time they might trust and heal once more, Amen.

A vision of harmony!

Patterns of light.

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.

(not my picture, but this was the idea!)

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.

A wistful emptiness

Anniversaries and birthdays of those no longer with us.

Today would have been Colin’s birthday. The date is etched in my soul forever. But what happens when the person is no longer here? For most people, it is just another date in the calendar- of no special significance. Yet for the people left behind, you are marking the date with the key person missing. There is no one there to open the cards and blow out the candles, There is such a mixture of emotions, sadness, thanksgiving, guilt and a longing for things to be otherwise.

Listening to other people’s experiences of loss, the guilt of remembering a significant date, is that other people think you should have moved on by now. As the years go by, in some ways, part of you does process things differently, but I think there is still a feeling of profound sadness.

In some situations of grief, feelings are exacerbated by the circumstances of a loss. Very often people choose not to talk much about these, as they can be distressing, and as a society maybe we need to make more space for people to talk more honestly about the messiness of it all.

At the risk of repeating myself, I find it hard to come to terms with what happened with Colin, as it was so unjust, and involved so much suffering, over decades. His head injury led to a long term degeneration through poorly controlled epilepsy. It was hideously painful to witness.

My consolation comes from my faith, that even in the darkest, most bleak and challenging days, God was with us. God blessed Colin with the knowledge that he was loved, even when nothing made any sense.

In psalm 86:15 it says: ‘You, Lord are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness.’

I understand when people question where God is, when something awful is happening in their life, the illness of a child, a gradual loss of faculties, a painful treatment. Watching someone you love suffer is excruciating.

Yet in the most tearful circumstances, there can be a moment of lucidity, a glance of understanding, a loving connection, that can be transformative. And the power of prayer to help find meaning and hope can never be underestimated.

I just want to write to encourage people to know no-one is alone, even when we have bad days, or when we question, or when it all seems too much. We need to find people we can trust to talk to, even if it is to say the same thing for 100 times. There are some days on which that is just what it takes.

Gracious God, on the outside all looks well, but You see into our hearts- the painful memories, the regrets, the lament- why did it have to happen that way, why did that loved one suffer so much? Lord Jesus, you understand us, for You suffered at the hands of others, when it didn’t need to be like that, and You come alongside us with compassionate eyes and cascades of grace. Holy spirit, lift from us our pain and grief, and help us remember the moments of beauty and trust and love, that transformed even the hardest times. And on days like today, bring healing and a sense of peace, Amen.