Monday, August 31, 2020


It’s not that I have stopped listening to the voice in my head that tells me I can’t do something. I have decided to take it head on. Usually it’s my own voice that tells me that, or excuses what I have done, labelling it as a poor effort. I meet with a group of artists and we find ways to express deep truths from the Bible through art. It’s always a challenge. I tend to dismiss the “oohs” and “aahs” when I present the finished picture, and I’m swift to say that it’s not that good, and if I had a little more skill, it would be better. The perspective is off or the drawing of the man is clumsy at best – I have already lined up the faults ready to be trooped out like a line of shoddy soldiers when the general comes to visit unexpectedly. I’m too competitive to remember that it’s just a bit of fun.

I was showing one of my pictures to a friend. It as one of the “better” ones. I was about the list what was wrong with it when it felt like someone put a hand over my mouth. It wasn’t her. It wasn’t me. It was “someone”. Not a physical someone at all

“If you can’t draw…learn!” said God.

I like painting a lot. My art teacher at school convinced me that I couldn’t paint. In those days there was nothing experimental about art. You couldn’t fling paint at the canvas, scrape at it with a butter knife and call it art. It had to look like something.

When I retired, I joined an art class. I didn’t expect the Picasso in me to show up, and he didn’t. There was no expectation that everything was still life. We painted lemons once simply to play at shading. Painting woke me up colour and texture. I looked at clouds and though “I could paint that!” and I did. I almost wept at the beauty of autumn landscapes. Just as I have bookcases full of poetry books, now it seemed I had boxes of art materials and a cleared kitchen table. I did homework.

There are a lot of classes for all sorts of things on Facebook right now. In lockdown there were things offered for free to make use of those long hours of the day when you weren’t supposed to go outside. A tempting one was “Tree Bathing”, the Japanese notion that getting close to trees is good for your mental health. I’d have to go outside for that one. There are no trees inside. Another one was “How to Forage.” I have been scouting the bushes ready to pounce on the blackberries. Down by the fence there are magnificent mushrooms or toadstools – big and blousy. I’d rather not poison myself and knowing what is edible and what isn’t would be helpful. Not grubs and insects – they may be edible and a good source of protein, and it might be useful if things go all dystopian. Foraging? Another going outside thing.

There is was. Learn to draw a portrait. One hour on a Sunday afternoon. A webinar. An expert and a charcoal pencil. A picture of an old lady.  The voice in my head echoing “If you can’t draw…Learn!”

 I signed up.


There was a box involved, and lines and an ear placed just there. Nose and chin, glasses and cheekbones, eyes and shading all unfolded quietly. She explained it all as she went. It reminded me of Home Economics classes, except I was never any good at cooking. My lines began to look like a person. A bit of shading here and there, a gentle rubbing with an eraser here and there and I drew a portrait.

Sometimes it seems to be our default position to say “I can’t do that.” Sometimes it comes after a whole lot of time and effort and mistakes. Mostly we don’t try at all. There are things we genuinely can’t do. I will never perform brain surgery. Sometimes “can’t do” is really “won’t do” and we dig our heels in. Sometimes “can’t do” is really “what if I fail?”

What if you don’t? What if by choosing to give it a miss you never discover, not how good you are at it but how much enjoyment you get? Just as my first foray into painting opened up a vibrant world of colour I never noticed before, maybe drawing portraits will make me look more carefully at people and appreciate the character expressed in a face. Who knows where that journey will take me?

I’m changing my default position. When the “can’t do”s ride into town, like bank robbers in a spaghetti western,  I will say to them 


Saturday, August 29, 2020

Greatest Love

I choose to love You, Lord, with all my heart 
But yet I know it struggles to be true
It yearns to hold all truth that You impart
To always beat in harmony with You
I choose to love You, Lord, with all my soul
To know my own surrender to Your will
The whispering world claims it can make me whole
But You alone, my life with purpose fill
I choose to love You, Lord, with all my mind
Re-write my thoughts, that I might know Your way
I cast all foolish frippery behind
Upon Your highway, Lord, I long to stay
I choose to love You, Lord, with all my strength
Yours is the power that works through all of me
There’s nought I own that meets the width and length
Yours is the might, the miracle I see
I choose to love the ones You call Your own
Your treasure placed in me, on them I pour
A harvest bounty from the seeds I’ve sown
And riches gleaned as I Your word explore
I choose their joys and sorrows, make them mine
My sword I wield to keep them all secure
For I and they are precious on Your vine
The fruit we bear together will endure
I choose Your Kingdom now and will pursue
To build the part You have bestowed on me
My King in all His glory fills my view
Your Kingdom seen in me, Lord, let it be

Friday, August 21, 2020

A Tree and its Roots

I managed to catch a little bit of old time normal this morning. There were no breakfast ingredients in either the fridge or the cupboard. There was nothing in the cupboard under the sink for cleaning and the last dribble of laundry liquid had been used yesterday. Old Mother Hubbard was playing a mournful tune on her violin. A proper shop was needed, not the emergency tide-us-over purchases we had been doing for so long.

Dobbies was all but empty. No bustle of shoppers and tangle of chairs and tables, just social distancing and efficient service. I sat down with a pot of tea, a bacon roll and my kindle. It had been a while. My Dobbies card had expired some time early into lockdown so there was no free drink to collect.

I’d downloaded a book of devotionals written by a man who taught a preaching course I did a few years ago. I liked his style, the stories he told and the truth he taught. I settled down to read the first chapter.

It was all about a tree, planted and growing somewhere. Throughout the decades a town was built, and the height of the tree was measured in how many stories high the buildings were. There were wars and men went to the moon and the tree grew. Then one day, out of the blue, with no warning whatsoever, the tree fell over. Ah, thought I, ash die-back, dutch elm disease – the kind of tree was never mentioned, but I thought disease. It’s what we battle with today.

But, no, said the experts. There was no evidence of any internal damage going on. The problem lay underneath the ground, with the roots. All the traffic of feet, walking and running and skipping and hopping, had broken up the network of roots and without roots, falling down was always going to happen. The experts recommended that all the other trees should be fenced off so that people couldn’t get near them. And so it happened.

Things in the natural often have a spiritual truth to tell. People have roots too. They are not the kind that tether a person to one spot alone, but a person’s thoughts and feelings, their dreams and memories are all there inside. And then people come along walking and running, skipping and hopping over those things. A word here, a look there, a snatch of a smirk, a rumble of ridicule or a bold insult all serve to break up that precious network of thought-roots. It doesn’t always have to be deliberate. We think that people think like us and won’t be hurt because sometimes we are not hurt by them. All too often the hurt isn’t visible.

We need to do some fencing off.

We need to take steps to guard the things that are precious. When God tells us that He loves us unconditionally, we should not allow ourselves to trample over that truth. When God says we are the apple of his eye we should not list all the qualities of a bad apple and say that is us. God’s word written down and read, breathed upon by His Spirit, helps us to guard the heart inside.

I planted the truth and harvested a poem:-

A Tree and its Roots

a glorious tree, it was that grew

leafy limbs in the sky it threw

cool the shade from a blazing sun

a leaning place for those who run


it wasn’t the wind on a stormy day

nor insects inside nibbling away

but came there a day when the tall tree fell

what caused its fall who could tell?


a wise man lent on his walking stick

he said that the roots had fallen sick

feet all tramping here and there

were more than all the roots could bear


without its roots a tree will fall

it matters not how large or small

beneath the soil we cannot see

how strong or weak the roots might be


it’s just like folk the wise man said

they too have roots that grow and spread

so much that spills across the soul

can stop a man from being whole


a careless word, a touch of scorn

and something deep inside is torn

hope that’s dashed, a promise broke

is all it takes to hurt some folk


there’s need, he said, to guard the roots

to nurture new and growing fruits

to mind the spirit deep inside

where grace and peace and truth reside


precious are the lives we live

priceless is the love we give

full of power the words we sa

will they harm or heal today?


Wednesday, August 12, 2020


I am knitting a scarf. It’s the third time I have knitted this pattern. I’d bought some lovely sparkly wool for my first attempt. It was the first time too that I ventured away from my usual double knitting and size 4 needles. The pattern contained sections of lace, a lot of knitting two together and yarn round needles. A dropped stitch somewhere saw a gentle unravelling of my knitting. It was the Monopoly equivalent of “Go to Jail”, passing “Go” and not collecting my £200. I am a stubborn sort of a girl at times. I was determined I would not be conquered by the pattern.

I decided I needed a practice run on bigger needles and thicker wool. Yes, I was back to double knitting wool and size 4 needles. I felt that every “knit” row was an obstacle course. It wasn’t the kind of pattern you could knit while watching the TV. A glance at the screen and a blip in the concentration and the stitch got dropped, the unravelling happened, and I’d have to take it all out. I thought of hat patterns I could dig out instead touse up the wool.

Friday mornings, before lockdown happened, were spent with a social/craft group, knitting being the craft and nattering being the social side of things. I am perhaps the novice of the group. I am described to the new people to the group as “She knits hats and scarves”. I could argue my case and point to two baby jumpers I knitted. There’s nothing untrue about it, though. Hats and scarves are what I knit.

I have a fierce concentration face when I’m knitting, and I sigh a lot. I told them about the pattern and the dropped stitches and having always to go back to the beginning.

“You need a lifeline,” said the lady sitting next to me. “when you have knitted a few rows of pattern, thread a different colour of wool through the stitches. If you have to take out any rows afterwards, you only have to go back to the lifeline and not back to the beginning.”

Wow. Why did I not think of that?

I rattled through (slowly) the double knitting practice scarf, and through the delicate sparkly wool one, threading lifelines every so often. There were dropped stitches, but the lifelines stopped me from having to start again. I knitted with confidence, maintaining my fierce concentration face, but sighing less.

I attended a Zoom meeting last night. It was a ladies’ discipleship meeting. Before it was a zoom meeting, we met at a friend’s house and round the dining room table we drank tea, ate biscuits and shared life. God loves variety and the different ways people lived out their faith was always inspiring. The Zoom meetings were no different.

I thought of the lifelines in my knitting and though how much we need lifelines in life. There are so many dropped stitches we deal with. Bills drop through the letterbox and we know there’s not enough money in the account to cover it. The child shoots up over the summer and last year’s uniform will not fit. A word said carelessly by a friend sets us on a downward spiral that we can’t seem to halt. Things are unravelling.

The Zoom meeting, for me, is a lifeline. Collectively we have lived through every experience going and know what comfort to give. Together we have a reservoir of knowledge and experience to call upon. We all have truth to share.

There is a good reason why the Holy Spirit baptises us into the body of Christ. There is a reason why God is not interested in lone rangers. Sometimes we focus on and preach truth that applies to an individual. We read a letter to one of the churches and assume Paul is writing to us as individuals and setting personal challenges. We are a body.

The body brings with it the idea of a lifeline. My life should never unravel so much that there is no one there to help.

We live in a world where we are not allowed to fall apart. We are all expected to thrive and flourish and be productive. The world really doesn’t know what to do with those that unravel.

This is where the church should be better than the world.


Monday, August 03, 2020

God the Father - Me His Child

It’s not my comfort zone, this Zoom group “Art and Soul” where proper artists who know what they are doing hang out! Then there’s me still in nursery school, potato printing with poster paints.  Not false modesty on my part, if a picture turns out well it’s more accidental than anything.

The “soul” bit of it relates to a Bible verse as a prompt. One of us chooses a Bible verse. It is something we have thought about and meditated upon. There is always so much truth to be gleaned and to be shared with others.

Romans 8:15 was our verse this week. “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (NIV)

The sme verse in The Passion Translation is lovely.

“And you did not receive the “spirit of religious duty,” leading you back into the fear of never being good enough. But you have received the “Spirit of full acceptance,” enfolding you into the family of God. And you will never feel orphaned, for as He rises up within us, our spirits join Him in saying the words of tender affection, “Beloved Father!” (TPT)

What’s not to like about being fully accepted, being enfolded into the family of God and never having to feel orphaned?

I wanted to just sit this one out.  Whatever picture in my head I have of what I would like to do I have no idea about how to do it. I Lack skill, but It’s like every skill in life. For all of us it’s down to practice. I don’t practice painting enough.

Fathers are a mystery to me. Mine was a one parent family, a mother and six children. What I know of my dad, who died of cancer when I was young, I know from what my mum told me and what my brothers and sisters have shared. My own memories are vague. I can’t tell the genuine ones from the ones that have been accepted as memories because I have heard the stories so often. There are times when I wonder how different a person I would have turned out to be if he hadn’t died.

The Fatherhood of God has always been a bit of a struggle. Seeing fatherhood demonstrated in other families has been my fall-back position and I have known some excellent fathers.

 After a few attempts at other ideas I settled on a father and son walking side by side. Whoever invented stick men should be made a “sir” or something. You can’t go wrong with stickmen. It makes me feel a little bit guilty for all those times I banned stickmen when pupils were drawing comic strip cartoons of the life of St Columba. The end result was vaguely ET going home.

The “show and tell” bit of the afternoon was upon us. I had coloured around my father and son in rainbow shades of soft pastels. Walking anywhere with God is walking into a life of promise. Yes, there was a journey to be made. The father’s hand will never let go.

It is a mystery how God would want to adopt us as His children.

But He does.