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.

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.

Grieving and trusting!

Easter Garden

Holy Saturday is often seen as an in between kind of a day, a day of trying to process what had happened to Jesus on Good Friday, and wondering what the future might hold. Some of Jesus’s family and friends had stood at the cross, and had witnessed his death. They were numb- had all the miracles and wise teachings resulted only in a cruel and unjust death? It didn’t seem to make any sense.

If we are honest, I wonder if we often question if life is making sense. People suffer unexpected losses and bereavements that turn their world upside down, and we go though long periods of lament. We often reexamine details of events again and again, and think if only……..

The Easter story feels very raw and very real. We think of Mary having witnessed the death of her son, Jesus’s friends sharing his last hours of life, watching in disbelief and horror. And for Jesus to say the words ‘Father, forgive’. In the midst of the emotional, physical and spiritual anguish, his heart was still full of forgiveness and love.

And so on the Saturday, the Jewish sabbath, there was a sense of shock and bewilderment. Some of Jesus’s disciples hid because they were afraid that they too might be arrested. Others met in small groups, and went over the details- the betrayal, the arrest, the trial before the Sanhedrin, and then Pontius Pilate, the scorn and beatings from the soldiers, the crown of thorns. How cruel. What good could ever come from such a dark day?

Whatever place we are at today, if we are questioning or upset, heartbroken by loss or bewildered by injustice, may God draw us near, and remind us of His loving presence. Sometimes we don’t find the answers we seek, as to why something has happened, but even if we can find the healing and strength to live with it, maybe that is enough. There are so many in between days of turmoil and sadness, but Jesus understands, and He reassures us and brings hope.

Eternal God, You reveal that there is a loving purpose for this world, but sometimes there are so many challenging and painful things, we question what is happening. The pain can seem unbearable. Even your precious Son, although he had done nothing wrong, faced bullying and scorn, violence and an unjust and painful death. We believe that somehow through the mystery of the cross, our sins are forgiven, and that we are given the gifts of peace and of eternal life. Yet meantime, day to day, life can still be a struggle. Thankyou that it us ok to question, to he honest. Risen Lord, when you appeared in the garden on that third day, You had tender words of love for Mary. Help us also to know these words are also for us, and may your holy spirit help us to trust, even in the most difficult of days, Amen.

After the rain……

Black clouds and then ethereal beauty.

I was fortunate enough to be away for a few days up north. I so appreciated the change from the normal frantic pace of life, to a time of space and light and rest. I was so blessed. The weather was often amazing, but there was a particular day when you could see the black clouds gathering up ahead. There was nothing I could do, but wait for the inevitable rain. The deluge was heavy and torrential and the puddles deep.

However, after the rain, it was magical. There is a softness in the light, and the whole of creation seems to be coated with a reflective shimmer, that adds brilliance to all things. It was magnificent.

Often we question why there is so much suffering in the world, so much heartache and pain. There are no easy answers to these profound wrestlings about meaning and purpose.

Yet often on our journey, we find that after the rain and the sorrow, we develop a patience and a softness to us, that we have learned in the midst of trauma and sadness. We learn what is important, and what really doesn’t matter at all.

The temptation when skies are dark, is to become overwhelmed, to doubt, to become full of self pity or resentment. Why has God allowed this to happen, we shout.

Yet, even in the darkest and coldest experiences, we discover the tender presence of Jesus alongside us, we find a flicker of light, an act of kindness that brings comfort and a deep sense of connection. And these moments transform all things, and help us trust that God is still good.

I was thinking of the verse from Leviticus 26:4 ‘ I will send you rain in season, and the ground will yield its crops, and the trees their fruit.’ Even the rain has a purpose, and can bring new life and growth.

Creator God, You have created a beautiful world of light and shadow, rain and sunshine, heat and cold. Every experience can have significance and purpose, and we learn from each one. Lord Jesus, you teach us that after the most terrifying storm, can come peace, and that after rain can come a deep calm and serenity. Whatever adversity we have faced, or are facing, may your holy spirit help us to find a deeper insight and new perspective, which brings us wisdom which we can share with others, and draws us closer to You, Amen.