A naked tree!


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. 🙏

Mystery in prayer!

To be honest, so many questions!

To my great surprise, I have had some answered prayer this week- a person came forward at just the right moment, another person was really encouraging, and a family member had a positive medical appointment. I am deeply humbled at some really lovely outcomes.

It made me realise however, sometimes when I pray, I just don’t know what to expect. I know that I pray to the King of all the universe, and that God delights in hearing his children. I know that God is good and loving, that He loves justice and is merciful. I know that nothing is impossible for God.

And yet my experience is that sometimes when I have prayed desperately for some one to be healed, or for a particular direction in my life, it has not worked out. Maybe healing for some one, is sometimes the healing that is in death- no more crying or pain. Sometimes too, in retrospect for some prayers, I am glad that God did not bring them to pass, for I was in danger of going in the wrong direction.

Yet it is so hard. There is so much mystery in prayer, so much that we don’t understand. It can really hurt, when what we prayed for seemed so reasonable. I was rereading some of Philip Yancey’s book ‘ Prayer’ and on page 239 he reminds his readers of Paul’s words ‘now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror, then ( in God’s nearer presence) we shall see face to face.’ 1 Corinthians 13: 12

We are so conscious that we only understand things in part. There is so much that makes no sense. The book of Job articulates this theme so well, when Job faces so many disasters in his life, but somehow can still say ‘ I know that my Redeemer lives’ Job 19:25. He trusted even when he didn’t understand.

This is my prayer for all of us today, that whatever our situation, whatever our story and our struggles, that we still able to trust God, to know that His love for us is unchanging, even when He seems far away. God is faithful, even when we doubt, and He is loving and forgiving, even when we cannot feel it. In the middle of doubt, questioning, and even anger, may we know that God never gives up on us, and always offers us a way back to Him.

Gracious and Loving God, we are so thankful for your perfect nature, Your goodness, and mercy and grace. We thankyou for your love in Jesus Christ, supplying all our needs. At times You answer our prayers in ways we recognise, and we are so grateful. At other times we are hurt and bewildered at how life turns out, and in danger of becoming bitter. Holy spirit, cleanse us of anger and resentment, and restore out faith in You. Even in the mystery of our prayer lives, speak to us of Your constancy and faithfulness, and enable us to trust, even when we do not understand, and even to find peace, Amen.

Spring- the breath of life

Breathing deeply, finding peace.

The days are lengthening, there are crocuses on the ground and buds on the trees. Although there are still some rainy dismal days, there is also a feeling of greening, and of spring.

These are still such anxious days, and I am learning more about the importance of breath. We all know breathing is good! But there is so much more to it than this.

In the fresh air, our intuition is to breath deeply and slowly. We appreciate the air coming into our lungs, that it shows us down, and helps us be more in the moment, at peace and attentive to our enviroment.

There is so much science to this- that slow, deep breathing reduces anxiety and feelings of panic, that it helps us relax, brings more oxygen to the blood, and releases endorphins. Breathing in should be deep and measured, and breathing out even more slowly. This calms the parasympathetic system and the vagus nerve, and brings a feeling of deep peace. So many practices of Christian meditation reflect the importance of this type of breathing, even from thousands of years before. It is an ancient and healing practice.

Exploring practices that help bring healing to people who are anxious or traumatised, seems so very important in today’s age. Whether it is the use of breathing techniques and trauma informed care in schools or medical settings, it seems such a beneficial and holistic tool to offer. And in churches also, maybe we need to learn more from ancient Christian practices of meditation, to enable us to be more fully in the presence of God.

In Job 33:4 it says ‘ the breath of the Almighty gives me life’ and this is not just giving us the capacity for life, but also quality of life and spiritual awareness. The modern worship song ‘ Sound of our breathing’ by Jason Gray, captures something of the rhythm of our breathing, and of God’s breath within us.

Let us pray: ‘ Eternal God, You breath Your life into this world, into every human being- may we notice and cherish this gift. Lord Jesus, when we are stressed or anxious, help us to slow down, and breath deeply, and exhale slowly. Holy spirit, bring us your healing and calm, shape our lives, and enable us to live more fully for You, Amen.