Sunday, February 28, 2016

This is Prayer

A throne to seek
A drawing near
A word to speak
A holy fear

A truth to learn
An ask to see
A key to turn
A change in me

A vow to make
A yoke to bear
A road to take
A joy to share

A foe to rout
A sword to swing
A vict’ry shout
A psalm to sing

A silent space
A wordless sigh
A lifted face
A question why

Emptying the Wardrobe

Thursday’s prayer meeting was another adventure into hearing, listening and talking to God.  What we prayed about came out of a time of hearing and listening and writing down words or phrases or drawing, perhaps, pictures of what we saw.

My word was “empty”. I had the picture of a wardrobe.

My husband watches the TV programme “Come Dine With Me”. While the host is doing something interesting with an avocado and rocket leaves, the guests are free to explore the house, open cupboards and stick their noses into various corners.  Wardrobes feature heavily. They make all sorts of about the kind of person the host is from the things that hang in the wardrobe. The sparkly top says that they like clubbing, the walking boots with their crust of dried mud says that they like the outdoor life and so on.  Much of what is said is not always complimentary.  A lot of sneering goes on.

And that is precisely why I will never volunteer for that programme.  My wardrobe is MY wardrobe and no one has access to it. There are one or two sparkly tops that have nothing to do with clubbing – just an acknowledgment that there are occasions that demand a little sprucing up.  There are also walking boots without the mud crust – another acknowledgement that the outdoors are waiting for me.

Many items in my wardrobe are not for wearing but for remembering.  I will most likely never be that slim again, or the fashion may never come around again but I won’t part from them.

The wardrobe I pictured and the word “empty” was all about the stuff we carry inside of us – the thoughts, the prejudices, the lies and the half-truths, warped truths, paraphrases of long forgotten arguments and polished grievances. All of thise things need to come out, so that God can put His things in.

I once did this personality test thing trying to find out how mature and balanced I was.  Right? You do these things too! I wasn’t totally unbalanced. One of the areas of my life that was sadly lacking was labelled “Adventure” – apparently I was not adventurous and disinclined to take risks. I was supposed to sit down with God and thrash out ten things I could do to be more adventurous.  The list didn’t include bungy-jumping or white-water rafting or high risk sports – the best that I could come up with was to buy a colourful scarf! That was my level of risk!

God asked me the other night, “What’s the colour of the robe of righteousness?” Did it have a colour? Red perhaps – the colour of the blood of Jesus?

“It isn’t grey,” said God.

I thought about all the birds, the really colourful ones, the ones that flap their wings, stalk about with beaks held high in a mating dance.  They are out to catch a mate ad they preen and they prance.

Too many churches are grey – not the buildings or the decoration, nor the clothes of the congregation. Their form of Christianity is grey.  Sometimes it’s not particularly vibrant or lively. I am not asking people to flap their arms, or preen and prance in the aisle. There has to be a quality of life that attracts people.  Grey is not a quality of life.

So, I kind of got the message to stop being a grey Christian and add a little bit of colour to my life. The wardrobe with its God filled contents was almost throbbing with life.  The clothes inside were almost begging me to worn.  If I allow myself to keep the old stuff, those old thought patterns and choices, chances are that I will eventually slip back into them.  They are familiar and I know how to wear them. Better for me to throw them out.

Spring is the season of cleaning out the old ready for the new to be given the space to take rot and flourish.  Where better to begin than with my heart-mind-soul-and-spirit wardrobe.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

This Journey

I’m not at home with mystery
With twists and turns that baffle me
The path ahead I long to see
And in control I want to be

One step is all that I can make
A step of faith I choose to take
And even as the mountains shake
This journey’s one I can’t forsake

My days are filled with mercies new
And sometimes clouds that block my view
Your hand in mine will lead me through
As every day I walk with You

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Be My Valentine

That’s two weeks in a row my husband has made me breakfast.  I’m up far too early for it to be a breakfast-in-bed event. Last week was Valentine’s Day.  This week was not.

A man from the carpet shop was coming around to measure the stairs, landing and one of the spare bedrooms for new carpets. It was good we were up and about as he arrived early, poked his measuring tape into various corners, did the arithmetic in his head and said he would be back with a price once he got back to the shop.

Last week I had got the date wrong. Valentine’s Day snuck up on me and I wasn’t prepared.  No card, no chocolates – nothing. I think my husband likes to have one up on me and he dines on it for years later.  One year, I forget where we were, but we bought exactly the same cards for each other. This year there was just the one card – big and glittery and pack full of sentiment.
I held a card in my hand as I was in the local shop buying the papers and a bottle of milk. It wasn’t for a husband, but for a boyfriend, but I’m well capable of scribbling out unwanted titles on cards and replacing them with my own.  In this particular incident that would have had a look of desperation about it.

Then I had an idea.  I have often written love poems to Joe – in cards, books, bits of paper hidden in the lunch box – and thought about bringing some of them together in some way. I’ve done similar things before – a sheet of A4 paper folded up into a little book.  Unfolded, the paper reveals lots of little poems.  I have done a few different ones and I love them and actually think I could market them.

So I set to work, digging out old anniversary or Valentine’s cards, birthday cards and searching through recipe books and so on. The search was a wonderful experience of rediscovering tenderness and passion anew.  I’m not saying that romance has turned cold, because it hasn’t, but it’s always good to be stirred. 

It was a joy to make.  My husband has it tucked in his wallet and shows to people he meets. This week had been a hard one and he tells me that every so often he has read through the poetry and it has brought a smile to his face. He knows himself to be loved and valued.

I have also had my challenges this week and to know that I have done one thing, at least, that has blessed someone brings a smile to my face.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Triumphal Entry

Approaching the King and drowning in need
Waving our palm leaves for victory we plead
Weary of bondage and longing for peace
From Roman oppression we ache for release

He comes on a donkey, no symbol of force
Spurning our wishes, He follows His course
Peace is His highway, salvation His aim
By putting to death our sin and our shame
  
To dance on His highway, palms in our hand
Free and forgiven, this He has planned

Angels and Peace

The heading of Saturday’s Bible notes was “Angels and Peace” – it was technically Friday’s heading as I was a day behind, but it was the right time to be reading it. If you know what I mean. 

Friday night was not a good night – not me at my best. I am a morning person.  There are things that I am capable of doing on a morning that completely defeat me on an evening, particularly a Friday evening – like reversing the car. I had gone to pick up my husband from the city centre. Current building work has meant that my usual pick up point is not available. We agreed on a carpark just opposite the Chinese takeaway.

Workmen had filled the end of the carpark with a large container. There was probably enough room to do a three point turn.  Perhaps more of a multi-point turn, but it was a Friday, and an evening, and not a time when I can do these things. The container made the space that much smaller and I got stuck. There were one or two car park spaces but the cars on either side of them were more abandoned than parked and it would have been a tight fit.  I would have tackled it on a morning.

I tried to reverse out of the carpark, but it wasn’t working. I went backwards, then forwards, then backwards again, and forwards. My mind just couldn’t figure out how to get out of the carpark.  The large container was in the way.

With each forward and back manoeuvre I was getting more agitated. I muttered.  I didn’t swear. I broke down in tears and I loudly berated my husband for his poor choice of a pick-up point. “Loudly berated” doesn’t really convey the way I spoke. I don’t think I have ever visited that side of hysteria before.

“That was bad,” said God, as I crawled into the throne room, “but it really didn’t measure up to Venice.”

Venice? We are not going to resurrect Venice, sufficient to say it was bad. When my husband talks of Venice, it is with affection. I think we must have been on separate holidays.  Affection isn’t the word that comes to mind.

Apologies didn’t seem to be enough once we got home. It was bad. What horrified me was that all those horrible words were just inside, hiding somewhere, waiting to spill out. I was devastated that I could cause so much harm to someone that I loved.

The next day was a Breathe Writer’s morning. And this is where my angels show up. The cloud I had whipped up the previous evening was still raining down on me. I didn’t really think about not showing up. Writing is my release.  I printed off a couple of poems to share if there was the opportunity, squared my shoulders and headed off.

I’m not talking about the heavenly angels but God’s earthly messengers.  We talked about all sorts of stuff. My friend, Marion, was there. My heart lifted and the cloud shifted just a little. Marion had signed up for an on-line prophetic writing course and led us through one of the exercises. List twenty words about spring and then write a poem or a short story without using any of them.

We picked through our pieces of writing.  I had forgotten to put my hearing aids in ad probably missed a lot of what people were saying.  Each poem, prose passage or narrative seemed to be a launching point for sharing God’s truth. I was being ministered to and being put back together. It was a blessing. My peace was restored.

Later on in the day, the evening, the car parked in a sensible place, the Poetry Club continued the good work from the morning. Being surrounded by godly people and sharing stories and poems was so good.

Angels and Peace – God’s gifts to someone that really needed them.

Thank you, Father.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

The Holy One

I have really got to stop buying books.  There’s nowhere to put them.  Open a random cupboard door and books fall out.  

This particular book is “Calling God Names: Seven Names of God That Reveal His Character” by Norman Hubbard.

Just about every prayer of mine begins “Oh God,” or “Oh Father” or “Oh Lord”.  They don’t quite have the disaster quality one might associate with the two-word starters.  I am conscious there is a beauty in addressing God that I am missing out on. I don’t want to use flowery titles to make my prayers sound great, but I want to use His titles to direct and empower the words I pray.

The first chapter addresses God as The Holy One. The study begins with Exodus 19 when the Israelite nation arrive at Mount Sinai ready to receive the law.  God is not portrayed as their buddy or their pal.  The mountain is off limits. God obscures himself in fire and cloud.  The nation trembles at the idea of God drawing near.  Nothing about God was to be taken carelessly or casually. They were not able to bear the completeness of God ad so He reveals himself bit by bit, adding to what they know, building a reservoir of knowledge and experience.  His intention is that their relationship with Him is always growing. 

I shared a poem I had written with the Breathe Writers this morning.

Mount Sinai
I am not sure
I want to be
This close to Him
Who choses me
He wraps himself
In fire and flame
This Holy One
I cannot tame
In silent awe
In stillness stand
He shares with me
His purpose planned

“This Holy One/I cannot tame” speaks to me of engaging with God on His terms, not mine.  He is not a presence in my life to do my bidding, which is not to say He ignores my requests.  I cannot bring God down to my level, although He chooses to stoop down.  God then, as God now, lays down the terms of His relationship with me.

“He shares with me/His purpose planned” speaks to me of the conversation God wants to enter into with me. He is not looking for a “yes” man who is just wanting to be told what to do. He invites me to ask questions, to make suggestions and to voice my protests if necessary. Neither of us, Him or me, are required to be the silent partner in the firm. There’s probably so much more He wants to tell me about, but He doesn’t always have my attention.

Something I wrote in my journal – Exodus 19:4 “I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” God doesn’t push me away, or pull Himself away from me when I fail to live the way He has set out for me. Rather, He enters into my life more fully to teach me His ways.