A dark day of weeping.

A cascade of tears.

Yesterday was Good Friday, always an emotional day. To think that some one could love me enough to give their life for me is so much to take in, never mind that that person is the Son of God.

To read the narratives of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas in the garden, of his trial in front of the high priest, Herod and then Pontius Pilate, and then the crowds shouting ‘crucify’ is heartbreaking. And then it gets worse, the taunting and mocking of the soldiers, the spitting and jeering and beating, the crown of thorns, Jesus carring his cross, and then dying on that blood soaked wood.

And the words that Jesus said ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit’ Luke 23: 46, and then breathed his last. I was just so moved by the scene, with his mum Mary, the women, his disciple John all present. Jesus was surrounded by love and prayerful tears, even in the midst of his agony. They watched him commit his spirit to God and breath his last.

And something of the meaning of these words struck home, as I remembered the memory of my late husband breathing his last. The sacredness of that moment, the events leading up to it, the helplessness all came back into focus. And I wept hot tears for Jesus, for Colin, and all with those remembrances of sitting at the bed of a loved one. These moments of eternal significance  stay with you for a life time.

It is so hard to finish preparing Good Friday worship, when you cannot see the page in front of you because of your tears. Sometimes the flood gates open, unasked for, as you catch a glimpse of the rawness of grief once again, and that collective grief of the world, sorrowing over loss and pain and sin and violence. It gives a deep sense of the love that motivated Jesus to die for the sins of the world, and to open the way to eternally for all who place their trust in Him. And it brings clarity to that sense of the depth of sorrow of those round the cross, accompanying Jesus in that last journey.

Grief is like this, you are thinking that you are getting stronger, and then out of the blue that wave of pain and sorrow overwhelms. It is also a sense of loss that connects with the losses in all humanity, and is so very dark.

The idea that we grieve so much, because we have the privilege of experiencing the richness and fullness of love makes sense. In many ways to feel such pain, is the cost of love, and so it is a privilege. And after tears in the night, eventually comes the comfort of the dawn.

Gracious Father God, we cannot begin to understand your distress at seeing your precious and beautiful Son so cruely mistreated at the hands of others. Lord Jesus, even in your darkest moment, You demonstrated love and grace, and trusted your spirit into the hands of your Father. May we know too that sacred moments of life and death are held in Your loving and compassionate hands. Even in the midst of our tears, Holy spirit, help us not to fear, but to trust and find peace, for You are faithful. Thankyou Jesus, the Lover of our souls, Amen.

The beauty of nurture.

Mother’s day.

Today being mother’s day is a very emotional one. I am so fortunate to have my beautiful mum, but have lost my mother in law. We owe such a debt to mums and loving patient adults who have helped form us and guided us along our way.

I was so privileged two years ago to attend Bessel van der Kolk’s conference on trauma in Boston. It helped me understand so much about trauma, attachment, neurodiversity, body work and different ways of exploring healing for those who are suffering and traumatised. As a lay person, I have so very much to learn.

In the midst of all the technical neurological and psychiatric therapies, a recurring theme was really simple and profound, because what is at the core of it all is the power of love, to create a safe space for people to feel seen, listened to, valued, cherished. Healing can then be explored in different combinations suited to each individual, when some kind of trust can be restored.

It was so exciting, yet so deeply challenging in a world where many feel abandoned, ignored, abused and mistreated. How to be supportive and prayerful, for that broken part within each of us is so difficult. How can we let God tend to that uncertain, hurting child within?

Listening to stories of the power of good attachment in the earliest years of life, reminded me of the vital nature of good nurture. To support babies and toddlers, to feel safe, and loved, to they can learn and play, can strongly influence children to grow into more contented and peaceful adults. We know this as people, but the scientific data regarding brain formation that confirms this is astounding.

In 2 Timothy chapter 1, we hear of the positive influence his gran Lois, and mum Eunice had on this young boy, in this case passing on their faith to him. It equipped him for his years ahead.

May we know that the choices we make, the attitudes that we have, the love we show, can make such a difference for all around, and especially for babies and children. As we give thanks for mothers’ day, may we encourage one another to nurture and love and play with the babies and children in our midst! By doing so, we are building a healthier society.

Let us pray, Father God, You love us all with a perfect and generous love. Lord Jesus, You delighted in having children around you, and their curiosity and playfulness. Forgive us, as a society, when we let babies and children down, when they feel unsafe and unheard. Holy spirit, teach us more about how to love and nurture babies and children, and our inner child too, so we can be healthy and whole and at peace, Amen.

More bridges- bridges of connection.

All different kinds of connection!

I have been reflecting a lot recently on different ways to connect. In my last blog, I was thinking of the importance of listening and prayerfully making space, but there is so much more to connection.

There are qualities that make deeper connection more possible, openness, love, empathy, compassion. People have such different life experiences, incredibly varied ways of thinking, different priorities, that we need many ways of relating to others.

I was privileged to be a chaplain in a special educational needs school, and I learned so much about different types of communication, whether it was makaton, dancing or using all the senses. I loved it, and felt at home, as we were all being and learning together.

In this time of lockdown, I worry that so many are becoming isolated, and we are forgetting how to communicate. For many people they have lost their confidence, their ability to relate. And for people who have experienced trauma and sadness, this is intensified.

And so I think we need to build many types of bridges of love and connectivity. I have been reading about ‘trauma informed’ care often spoken about in education and in medical settings, about helping people to feel safe, to be gentle, to give options, to explain things well, to promote healing and empowerment.

When I hear of this, it seems as natural as breathing. Why haven’t we been doing this all the time? And what does it mean for our society, and also in a spiritual dimension. We talk of churches as places of sanctuary, places of safety and healing, but how often is this really the case?

As we start to think a little more about the future, how can we promote healing to a society stressed out and anxious after lockdown, traumatised by experiences of suffering and grief? We need to offer a wide variety of ways to enable people to connect and experience safety and love.

I started to think about many of these themes, because of my late husband’s ptsd symptoms and brain injury. And I think how we support individuals, and how we operate as a society, says so much about who we are. We have a choice to pursue divisive and negative rhetoric, or a language that uplifts and offers opportunity for safe self expression.

It says in 1 John 4:19 ‘we love because He first loved us.’ God revealed the full extent of His love in Jesus, how he challenged corruption, loved the person on the road side, healed the sick. How can we continue that kind of work today, as it has never seemed more important?

Let us pray, Gracious God, so many are tired and stressed, lonely and traumatised. Yet You look upon us with tender mercy, and long to pour out your healing balm. Forgive us Lord Jesus, that we are so rigid and narrow in our form of communication, where we often judge others, rather than appreciate their difference. Enlarge our minds and our hearts, through your holy spirit, to connect with others with empathy, with creativity, so we can build bridges of acceptance and love with others, Amen.

Healing of identity!

Discovering our true self.

I had a birthday this week, a lockdown birthday, which I guess has become quite distinctive. They are characterised by not being able to meet all the people you would like to, and a sense of poignancy as a result. We are all grateful to be alive, and we know keeping the rules keep people safe, so that is a small sacrifice to make. But it still feels very different.

I have been very blessed however, because there are so many ways of keeping in touch with people. And this year, it has been wonderful to be in contact in different ways with people. And actually co writing ‘Love song for a wounded warrior ‘ has been part of that process, because I have been able to reconnect with lovely people I had lost touch with, or not spoken to properly for years. It has been healing to explore shared memories of different adventures that we experienced in the past.

And so, one of the things that seems to be happening in my soul, is a healing of identity. It has been healing to connect with people, and hear their stories. It has also been amazing to remember parts of my life that were at the circumference of my memory, and to bring them back into the middle.

And this has been so significant because I think when I was a carer, I completely lost sight of who I was. Just dealing with the day to day stresses and medical needs of Colin, working full time, and being a mum, meant that I didn’t gave much space to exist, to make a decision, to know that I had choices. I wonder how many other carers are like this, where your identity gets completey eroded in caring for someone else. I am not complaining, that was what seemed best, to fulfil all the roles I had, to love unconditionally. However now I look back, I recognise that part of myself died. Now I am beginning to realise that I need to ask God to bring possibilities of renewal and resurrection.

Knowing who you are, is a profound question. It changes and evolves over time. I love the Ignation concept of becoming your best self is to be fully alive, the one that God has fashioned us to be. The quest is how to rediscover this, to ask God to put the fragments back together in some form of wholeness.

Many verses remind us of our identity with God, ‘ you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus’ Galatians 3:26. We are beloved children of God, which is breath taking. A song by Jason Gray ‘Remind me who I am’ https://youtu.be/QSIVjjY8Ou8 also speaks of the rediscovery of identity, of love and purpose. It is an important quest for each of us, especially if we might have lost our way through the pressures of life.

Let us pray, Gracious God, sometimes our lives seem full of jagged pieces, bits of a mosaic but with no discernible pattern. We repress painful memories, we get overwhelmed by trauma and weariness, and we feel lost and broken. In the messiness, You come to us Lord Jesus, to forgive, to hold and heal, and to remind us who we are. We thank You that we can trust You. Please bless all those who care for others, may they be supported by kindness and support and respite. Holy spirit, recreate our identity, as Your precious children, and give us courage to explore our freedom our gifts, our path forward, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Courage to cross thresholds.

Beyond

We are heading towards the end of 2020, a threshold between the present and the future. In celtic spirituality, thresholds are often equated to thin places’ places where the divine is more readily experienced. It can be a spiritual place of suffering or loss, where the usual material certainties have lost their attractiveness, and we learn to rely on Christ, as our Strength in our weakness and confusion.

2020 has been a year of such darkness and suffering- so many dying from the virus, people with long term effects of covid 19, loved ones unable to see each other, even in end of life situations. So much weeping.

I think of all those I have lost this year, personally and in the church family, and it is so hard to take in. All the people that I don’t get to speak to again, at least in this life. I miss them.

Yet in 2020, I have also had cause to be grateful. I have listened to friends heroically looking after loved ones in impossible situations, people showing great kindness above and beyond the call of duty, prayer warriors, and encouragers and those who have sacrificially served others. It has been humbling.

I am also so deeply grateful to God, for enabling me to publish ‘ Love song for wounded warrior’ this year, a tribute to my late husband- his life as a veteran, and his struggles with his subsequent medical condition. This time last year, it seemed like an impossibility, I was editing and rewriting drafts, and questioning why I would even think about doing this.

But God opened the door, and held it open so I could walk though. I faced delays and setbacks and struggles, but I felt a sense of call to honour my husband’s memory, and God enabled me to do this, and I am still amazed that it actually happened. I am grateful that your donations too, have been a blessing to the Coming Home centre, and Epilepsy Connections. Thankyou.

I still don’t know where God is leading me. I have been so encouraged by people’s insights and prayers, and telling our story has been the right thing to do. It has also been costly. I feel called to continue to explore ways of finding healing for people who have experienced complex trauma, but I need courage and wisdom.

For just now, I am humbled that God has given me courage to write, to try to express what is going on my heart. All I can do, is to continue to share the themes that I struggle with, in the hope that it will help another human being, to be honest about the rubbish in our lives, to seek prayer and healing and support.

At this juncture between the old and new, I am grateful that God helped me find my voice. Thankyou too for reading this blog. I seek to be faithful to Christ, and to continue to seek supportive communities for people to find healing and hope. For we are never by ourselves, and God is always here. What an encouragement.

Let us pray, Lord Jesus, the pain, sorrow and brokenness of 2020 is almost too much to bear. Yet in the midst of the darkness and despair, You shine the light of your presence, a lamp to my feet, and a light for my path. Guide us all by Your Holy spirit, through the door of your choosing, and the new life beyond. Grant us hope for the new journey ahead, to put one foot in front of another, and help us to follow Your healing calling, wherever it may lead, Amen.

Unexpected angels in our midst, even Gabriel!

A Christmassy Gabriel!

Everyone has their own favourite film at Christmas, from Elf, Love Actually and It’s a wonderful life. There are many films to choose from, and it seems important to enjoy them, especially with the latest locdown restrictions announced today. People are so worried about the virus, disappointed about their plans to see loved ones have now been cancelled, concerned about loved ones unwell or having the virus. We need some escapism, to help us to cope.

It’s a wonderful life, is particularly popular, as it reminds us that when we are questioning what our life is all about, that maybe God has used us to accomplish more than we know. Clarence the angel, is maybe not what we imagine angels to be like, but he appears just at the right time to save a life.

There are so many angelic appearances in the bible, and in the Christmas story, Gabriel the angel speaking to Zechariah in the temple, to Mary in the house, to Joseph in a dream. Angels are described as heavenly messangers, that stand in the very presence of God. They do the bidding of God, answering prayer, intervening in situations, revealing God’s will.

Especially in these days of difficult death statistics, restrictions and isolation, we pray for God to send His angels into this world- to remind the lonely person that they are not alone, to visit the despairing person in a hospital bed or prison cell, to remind that bereaved person or traumatised child that God wants to comfort them.

On the hillside, the angels praised God amongst the shepherds, and brought news of great joy for all people, for a Saviour was born to bring glory to God, and peace on earth. The purity of angels praising God must have been inspirational.

I believe that God still sends divine messengers to this earth, to encourage, to guide the lost, to be with the dying. Sometimes God might choose the most unlikely people to fulfil His purposes, unexpected angels are all around. And this brings us hope.

We know that in the new year, the various vaccines will be rolled out, and that this will make a difference. We know that these restrictions will not last forever. We know that the number of people ill with the virus will gradually lessen. There is much to be hopeful about.

Right now, as we look at the dark nights, and the rain drops rolling down the window pane, it is easy to feel down. May we know that God has not deserted His people, and that the angels still sing. May we notice the angels in our midst, the prayers said, the acts of kindness around, and may this strengthen us, and remind us that there are better days to come.

May we pray. Eternal Father, news of a new more spreadable variant of the virus, is hard to hear, and the new restrictions have curtailed so many plans to meet up at Christmas. Help us to remember that the first Christmas was tough too, a long journey, a birth of a child in less than ideal circumstances. Yet God provided for the holy family, and He provides for us today. Holy spirit, help us notice the angels in our midst, the heavenly singing, the prayer, the acts of kindness. And may we find peace, trusting in You, Amen 🙏

Coming home at Christmas?

This is a photo of our wonderful dog Gabriel welcoming me home. Yes, he is in fact standing on the dining room table. Yes, I had only been to the bin. But there he is welcoming me back to the house, with excitement and enthusiasm!

We have an image, about what it is like to be welcomed back home. It is a bit like the movie images, of a harmonious family sitting round the dinner table, synchronising forkfuls of delicious food, with a place setting with your name on it. But it is seldom exactly like this.

This year, we are all so conscious that we can meet up with a few loved ones at Christmas, under the new regulations. But it is so hard. Many people are opting not to visit, as they think this is the best way to keep loved ones safe. Others are travelling or planning, but are worried as to who to invite or not, and how that might be received. There are strained relationships and worries as to what to do. It is so complex, as to what to do for the best.

When we celebrate Christmas, we remember that we are celebrating the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ. His birth brings Hope, Love, Salvation, Forgiveness, Joy. It is a beautiful time, whether we celebrate it alone or with others

And if we are celebrating alone, for whatever reason, we remember the story of the Prodigal Son. He was far from home, he turned away from his family and went and did his own thing. But when he decided to go home, his Father was watching for him, and celebrated with the best robe and a feast of celebration, for the one who was lost was found.

This reminds us, that actually we are never by ourselves, for God welcomes us into His presence with a tender love and care. And this Christmas, my prayer is that every person will know that message of grace and love, wherever they may be.

There is a beautiful song called ‘ You came running’ by Laura Story which reminds us that in Luke 15:20 it says: ‘ while he was still a long way off, his Father saw him, and was filled with compassion for him, he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.’ The Father sees his children, and he runs to welcome us. What extraordinary grace and undeserved love. When we are with God, we are always spiritually home.

Let us pray, Gracious Father, when we feel lost or alone, thankyou that You are looking out for us, and long to welcome us back to you. Lord Jesus, Saviour of the world, You came as the Word made flesh, to open up the door to eternal life, to all who place their trust in You. Holy spirit, prompt us to keep returning to You, to know that You never turn us away, and that we can be reconciled with Yourself. In the midst of disrupted plans, and empty places this Christmas, may we know how much we are loved by You, and find peace, Amen.

Continue reading “Coming home at Christmas?”

The significance of doors

Doors opening and closing.

Our beautiful dog Gabriel is so clever that he can work the door handle to the kitchen, so he could get into the fridge- his favourite place! He looks so very pleased when he manages this.

A great strategy to deal with this, was to replace the handle with a door knob, so the dog can’t work it. This is an excellent solution, except sometimes I can’t turn it either, and then we are both locked out of the kitchen!

This started me reflecting on the importance of doors. Sometimes we try a door, and it just won’t open. It might lead to a geographical location, but sometimes to a new experience or spiritual journey. We pray, we bargain, we plead, but the door will not budge.

At other times, doors open that we hadn’t even known existed, and we are amazed and bemused. Is this a door we are meant to be going through? We pray for the guidance of God to show us. A door might open easily, but this doesn’t mean it is the right one.

We know from Ecclesiastes that there is a season for everything under the sun, but the transition between seasons can often be messy and poorly defined. Knowing the direction of our calling, and our life is not easy to discern.

There is a song by the band ‘King and Country’ called ‘Pushing on a pull door’ . It is such a relatable song, because it is all about making plans, and thinking you know what might happen, and then everything goes upside down, and you realise that you have been pushing on a door that won’t open in the way you thought. All that energy, until you learn to see things through God’s eyes, and that you need to change your approach.

In this season leading up to Advent, we had plans for Christmas, and what this time might look like, but our plans have had to change dramatically. In these days of trying to keep everyone safe from the virus, we seem to be revising all our decisions daily, and it is exhausting. Do we see that person, can we travel there, should we self isolate, just in case? How do we keep people safe, but also help them to know they are remembered and loved?

Whatever our decisions, about Christmas arrangements, or our path through life, may God guide us on His path, and may we be quiet enough to listen to hear His voice speaking to us. May Jesus show is the right door to go through, and his Holy spirit guide our steps.

‘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 path straight. ‘ Proverbs 3: 5-6

May we pray: Gracious God, we start of on our journey, thinking we know the doors to open, but finding that the door will not budge, and we get frustrated and bewildered. We do not know where to turn. Lord Jesus, on the road to the cross, the path was often difficult, with unexpected turns. Help us to know this can be true for us too. Please travel with us, give us courage, and through your holy spirit guide our footsteps, and bring us to the place of your choosing, to a place of healing love, obedience and peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Honouring a legacy?

This week, one of our very long standing church members died, and had a funeral that celebrated her long and incredibly full life. It was very moving, to reflect on all that she did, and she was described as a pioneer of her time. One of our challenges as a church, is how we live up to her legacy.

This started me thinking about what we leave behind us. None of us knows the number of our days, so how do we make them count?

I found a quotation from the 4th century Greek statesman Pericles:   

          ‘what you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the life of others.’

I started writing because I wanted to honour my late husband’s life. Somehow, telling his story, helps us as a family, to find meaning in what has taken place, and to honour his legacy.

Part of this is shaped by a desire to raise the profile of the need for more effective care for veterans. The damaging nature of the long term emotional, spiritual and physical injuries after serving in armed conflucts, cannot be over estimated. And the impact on relationships and families can be immensely destructive.

It also feels important to raise awareness of the need for more research into epilepsy, and the exploration of possible new treatments. If some one’s seizures are well controlled by medication that is great, but if their epilepsy is intractable, life is challenging.

To honour Colin’s legacy, in the midst of these two strands, I also want to give thanks for people who have supported and prayed with us. God gave us kind people around us, guided our path, and sustained us on the darkest days, granting us all we needed.

And so Colin’s legacy is that even in the midst of trauma and disability, we are not to give up, that God gives us strength each day, leads us to helpful people, enables us to laugh, helps us find an internal resilience that we did not know we had. Every day of life is precious. God gives our lives a quality of love and grace that is life changing.

At times, I question writing about all this, because it makes you so vulnerable. But this feel like our purpose to try to encourage others,, and the best way I can honour Colin, so I pray for strength to do so, especially in these days leading up to Remembrance.

In Ephesians chapter 5, verse 2 it says:    ‘ live a life of love, love others as Christ loved us’                                         The legacy of Christ, is indeed love, and so sharing that love, truth and grace with others, is our greatest calling, let us pray.

Gracious God, forgive us that we often don’t think what our spiritual legacy is to the next generation. Lord Jesus, may we be inspired by generations of Christian people, who have faithfully and creatively followed you. May our life’s purpose be to honour the legacy of all who have gone before, and may your holy spirit guide us as to what to do, as we seek to pass on your life changing and transformative love and truth to others, Amen.

I’ll walk you to your car, lass.

Civility in the city.

Anniversaries are such strange things. You think you are prepared, but you seldom are. This month is the first anniversary of my father in law’s death, and it feels really emotional. He lived a long and full life, and he accomplished amazing things, but I still feel so very tearful at his death.

I used to visit him and his wife on a Sunday evening, and they always made us a meal, even when that should have been the last thing in the world they should have been thinking about. My mother in law would make a Sunday roast dinner for us, and took great pride in getting all the details right. How she cooked in that little scullery kitchen I will never know!

And then at the end of the evening, Tom would say to me ‘ I’ll walk you to your car, lass’. Everytime he said this, I would just be blown away. It was an old fashioned courtesy, offered as if it was so self evident that this was the only possible thing to do. They lived in the top flat, parking on the street was often difficult, and do with my parking skills, my car was often far away. But still he pull on his cap and jacket, and would accompany down the stairs. He would wave me out of my parking place, stopping the other traffic, just to make sure I got home ok.

That weekly courtesy was one of many, and just spoke of his kindness and manners. Even when he was less well, it took me all my time to stop him escorting me down the stairs, even when I protested that it was raining, and I didn’t want him to get wet.

Sometimes it is these little things that are so moving, so symbolic of his life, his thoughtfulness and humility and self effecting nature. Yet he also held strong views on politics, art and culture. He was incredibly witty, loved conversation and was stimulating company at dinner. He was an artist, with an independent vision and style. He was a brilliant husband, father in law, dad and grandpa. So sorely missed.

May we never take our loved ones for granted. May we take time to remember them, all the memories, good and bad, funny and poignant. May we have space to speak of them fondly, and to laugh and to reminisce. Every day is so precious.

In psalm 90 verse 12, the psalmist says : ‘ teach us to number our days, that we may gain a wisdom of the heart.’ Appreciating what we have, is just so vital, giving us thankful hearts, and puts all things in perspective.

Gracious God, our times are in your hands,and we are so grateful for all who have gone before us, who have shared their lives with us, who inspired us, and loved us. Lord Jesus, help us treasure all the ways You have blessed us, all the people who have shown us kindness. Holy Spirit, may the example of those who have gone before us, inspire us to live each day for good, that we may love and show compassion and thoughtfulness to others, and to seek to make this world a better place. Amen.