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.

Guarding our hearts.

There is so much which feels overwhelming. The effects of the pandemic continue on, the winter is round the corner, the health services seem over stretched and under resourced.

In the midst of this, if you are sitting with chronic illness, living with trauma, or grieving, there is another dimension to things, with feelings of frustration, helplessness and isolation. We can be bewildered, tired and hurting, and so we we protect ourselves by putting up barriers to prevent further pain or heartache.

The problem with this is, that the solution becomes worse than the initial issue. We end up becoming numb, locked inside ourselves, unwilling to venture out, and reluctant to trust. It might keep us safe in the short term, but longer term it actually imprison us.

So what do we do? If we are in a caring profession, how can we keep loving, even when we are close to burn out? If we are in difficult relationships, how do we care for people, who we do not easily relate to?

I wish I had the answer. A verse that is an anchor however is from Proverbs 4 verse 23:

‘Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.’

We need to know that our heart, our emotional wellbeing is precious. Sometimes if we have experienced loss or hurt, whether that is in relationship breakdown or death, we get lost in a maze of feelings of questioning, an emotional paralysis and deep ache that oscillate in intensity and can incapacitate us. Our hearts seem broken, and no longer able to function.

I believe that God heals the broken hearted, but it can be quite a long, turbulent process. At times we seem in danger of getting stuck. It is so hard to be patient, and to trust. Sometimes we need time out, to be able to find the support we need to recover, and to know that this is ok.

So we seek to guard our hearts, to make decisions not to over extend what we are trying to do. We need to ask God to keep us from temptation, to slow us down and to give us wisdom, to show us how to live. And I think living a life of prayer is key, for if we know how much we are loved by God, then that loving relationship breathes new life into us each morning, and gives us courage to love that the day ahead. And that is all we need.

Gracious God, some days we feel empty, rejected or alone. The temptation is to bury our feelings deep down just in order to survive. Forgive us. In Ezekiel chapter 36 You say You will take away our heart of stone, and give us a heart of flesh. Lord Jesus, may Your heart beat in ours, and give us courage to feel and to care. Holy spirit, keep us from temptation, and help us live so closely to Jesus, that we have tender hearts, able to love and be loved. Please fill us with your love every day, and this might somehow then spill over into the lives of others, 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.

Beauty healing the soul

Beauty in unexpected places.

Dear friends, what a journey we have all been on – the fears and stresses of covid 19 and Lockdown, and the gradual release of restrictions. And as we begin to reflect on all that has happened, we are gradually realising more of the devastation that has taken place, and the impact of this time on our world, our community, and on us as individuals. The ripples are still gradually spreading outward, and the impact of the loss of freedom, employment, health and precious lives is just beginning to be felt more keenly.

Our Christian faith helps us in times of stress and exhaustion, and it seems important to ask for a summer of rest and restoration, to have time for God to repair the damage to our souls, to heal our broken hearts, to give us space to find our healing and equilibrium. Our lives have been turned upside down, and in this time of fluidity, many of us have questioned what is really a priority in our lives. It is a time of soul searching and of seeking God’s guidance as to the way ahead.

My own experiences are still pretty raw, but I know that many people share these same type of difficult memories and pain, so I wanted to offer a few ways to self care over the summer months, that might help us on our journey.

God provides all we need, and He gives us nurture for our souls, as we read the bible, listen to praise music, and ask Him to speak to our souls – he brings us a Word in season. Worship also reminds us of the bigger eternal persepective, which helps us put our own situation into context. The joy of singing ( by ourselves, and for me, with no-one listening!) enables us to lose ourselves in God’s love.

God inspires us in so many ways through Creation- through the grandour of the hills, the roar of the sea, the babble of a stream – and sooths our souls.

God wants us to take care of our bodies also – the temple of the holy spirit – by eating healthily, taking exercise, and resting.

Sometimes sitting with a blanket, a candle and a journal, can create the space, so we can hear from the Holy spirit, and find our healing and peace.

He lets me rest in green meadows, He leads me beside peaceful streams,

He renews my strength.” Psalm 23: 2 NLT translation

Let us pray – Dear God, all wise and all knowing,

Look upon your children, in our weariness and brokenness,

Lord Jesus, grant us forgiveness and grace, rest and peace,

So we can worship You in the beauty of Your holiness,

And be lost in wonder, love and praise,

And know once more, that all is indeed well, Amen

Meditation 5