I Am Encouraged

It’s hard to believe that we have been amidst a pandemic and its consequences for a whole year, and with only tentative signs that we may be able to emerge to some degree in the near future. People have suggested that the situation we find ourselves in is now the ‘new normal’, as if we have moved to a different permanent way of being than the one we had before.

But the reality is that there is no permanent way of being, new or otherwise. Life moves on. You can never stand in the same river twice. So we need to have resilience and resources to draw upon.

I am blessed to have a loving family, fabulous friends, wonderful church fellowship, and amazing colleagues, who all help with my resilience and give me emotional and practical resources to deal with what life brings along. And I have God.

I have blogged elsewhere about the loss of my Mom due to Covid, and the way in which I was held by God through the prayers of others (you can read that blog post here https://janelydialoves.wordpress.com/2020/05/29/hopefulness/)

And God has been very present throughout the last year, someone to run to when grief comes, or pressures become too much. God is my safe space. The words of the well-known Psalm 23 come back to me often …

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.” Psalm 23: 1-3

These verses give me encouragement that I am not alone. Even on the darkest days, my Shepherd God walks with me, leading me to a safe, calming and soothing place where my soul can be restored, ready for whatever life brings my way again.

This piece of art is part of my ‘A to Z of me’ which I started, I think, back in 2014 and which, as you can see, I haven’t progressed very far with. This project is to encourage me to think about my faith identity and how God speaks to me in it and through it. Having to think of a word beginning with a specific letter that describes my identity is an interesting and challenging discipline. But it’s also one that helps me to develop my relationship with God. This particular entry reminds me that God is with me, encouraging me, supporting me, cheering me on, through the highs and lows of life. God is dependable and reliable, he is always there. Deuteronomy 31:8 tells us that the Lord will go before us and that he will never leave or forsake us. That is an incredible promise.

Sometimes we may feel that God is distant; we can’t sense his presence and we may feel abandoned. But God promises always to be there. As the psalmist cries out …

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to heaven, you are there, if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” Psalm 139:7-8

There is no place that we can go that God’s presence is not with us, even when we can’t see it or feel it.

So be encouraged! God will go before you; he will never leave you. He will make you lie down in green pastures; he will lead you beside still waters and restore your soul.

I hope and pray that even amidst the chaos and uncertainty of this pandemic, we may open ourselves up to the ever present God, and that through his love, our souls will be refreshed and restored, so that we might face whatever lies before us.

The Artwork:

This book is simply a blank sheet notebook. I glue two pages together to prevent bleed-through as they’re quite thin. I used Arteza coloured pencils for this image as they are waxy and so blend well. They do make it difficult to write on afterwards though so some perseverance is needed with a permanent fineliner to outline the images.

You can see the previous entries in this book here https://janelydialoves.wordpress.com/tag/a-to-z-of-me/


Call to Worship Psalm 78

If you are using this prayer for anything other than personal devotion, please see the main ‘Worship Resources’ page.

Call to Worship based on Psalm 78
[Notes: This was written for an online service but you can just change the last paragraph to suit. If you would like a powerpoint presentation with images and words to go with this prayer then please email me – janelydialoves@gmail.com]

O people of God, hear the words of his mouth,

Hear his parables, his stories,

Listen anew to things of old,
To things once heard and known,
Now experienced afresh.

Be ready to share with this and future generations,
The wonders of the Lord.

He did miracles for his people in the land of Egypt;
Yahweh-Shawah, God is there; God is here with us now,

He divided the sea and led them through;
He guided them with the cloud by day and with light from the fire all night.
Yahweh-Raah, God is the Shepherd; God guides us by day and by night

He gave them water as abundant as the seas and made water flow down like rivers.
Yahweh-Yireh , God the provider; God provides for our needs in the desert

Yahweh-Bore; God the Creator
Yahweh-nissi; God who covers us with his love
Yahweh’ – God who will be who God will be

Yahweh, the Great I am; We come this morning to worship you, to hear from you, to be inspired by your Holy Spirit, and to serve you in the places you have called us.

Loving God be with us here this morning as we, your dispersed people, gather together online as one church. May our worship offering please you and may we receive all you have to offer us, in the name of Jesus, Amen


This image was taken by me on an evening walk near to my home.  I am so blessed to live in a beautiful part of the North-West of England.  I loved the way the sun shone through the trees creating long shadows.  It was a spiritual moment for me, this image and the walk, re-connecting with our Creator God – Yahweh-Bore.  A reminder that whatever is happening in the World now, the presence of God is tangible if we would only pause for a moment and notice.

Love and Devotion

This is a page from my ‘A to Z of me’ journal where I’m using each letter of the alphabet to prompt me to think of a different aspect of my faith and life.  It’s been some 6 years since I did the letter ‘C’ so perhaps this is a lifetime pursuit.  There are links to the A, B and C pages, and the inspiration for this journal at the bottom of this post.  If you appreciate beautiful art then please do go and look at Valerie Sjodin’s blog which is the inspiration for this journal.

It’s taken me some time to find the right word to represent my letter ‘D’, but finally I settled on ‘devoted’.  Initially it seemed rather arrogant to claim this for myself, so let’s just say that it’s something I’m working towards!

But what am I devoted to?  Well, there’s my family, and I’d like to think also my friends, and for me, I am also devoted to God. 

Devotion perhaps suggests obsession, but I like to think it is more about what I recognise is most important in my life.  But devotion is also an action, so it’s not just about what I think and feel, but also what I do.

I hope and I strive for devotion to God in my life.  So what does that look like?

Well I think there are two verses which I find helpful here.

Firstly …

“if you love me you will keep my commandments”

John 14:15

And what are those commandments?  Well the other three gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke – all report a response from Jesus to the question ‘What is the most important commandment?’ The enquirer is referring to the ten commandments given by God to Moses and recorded in the Old Testament books of Exodus (chapter 20) and Deuteronomy (chapter 5).  But Jesus doesn’t choose one of the ten commandments, instead he captures the spirit behind the commandments and summarises them into two, simple to remember, statements…

” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:30-31

These two commandments form the basis of my faith and life.  This is what forms my devotion.  Firstly that I should aim to love God with all my being, and secondly that the outworking of this love should be that I love others equally, with no prejudice and no injustice.

But that is an incredibly difficult task to do, and relying on my own strength I fall short frequently.  But I don’t rely on myself.   The Bible verse on my art journal page is the verse given to me when I was baptised as a believer back in 2001. 

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” 

Galations 2:20

It is Christ living in me and through me that enables me to both love God and love my neighbour.

I am reminded of Corrie Ten Boom, whose sister Betsie died in a Nazi concentration camp while she, herself, survived.  After the war, Corrie travelled around testifying to how her faith in God had sustained her even amidst the darkness and evil abounding around her. 

She recounts how on one occasion after preaching a sermon on God’s forgiveness, a man came up to her whom she vaguely recognised.  He confessed that he had been a guard at the concentration camp where she and her sister was imprisoned.  He had come to faith, and repented of all he had done, but he was seeking Corrie’s forgiveness. 

Corrie looked at his hand and knew that she alone could not forgive him, so she reached out her own hand and asked Jesus to step in and make it happen.  She was overwhelmed by the feeling of forgiveness that flowed through her so that she was able to take this man’s hand and genuinely forgive him.

THAT is Christ, living in Corrie Ten Boom.

I hope and pray that I never have to endure the suffering that Corrie did, but I am thankful that when Christ lives in me I can do things that otherwise would be impossible.

I say “I am devoted” as an aspirational statement, rather than an achievement.  I pray that each day I may get better at being devoted; that I may grow in my love of God and my love of neighbour, and that in doing so, I make a positive contribution to the lives of others, and to the work of God in this world.

The artwork:

This journal is just a simple plain paper notebook.  I used coloured pencils and a fineliner on this page.  Sometimes I add felt pens for emphasis but I like the softer look of this page so I didn’t use them this time.  The pages are quite thin and the fineliner tends to bleed through so when I’ve finished I stick the page to the next one with pva glue.

You can find my other pages here:

A is for Accepted

B is for Believe

C is for Called

And for the inspiration for this journal, see Valerie Sjodin’s wonderful blog here

Valerie Sjodin’s A to Z of me


These are difficult times for us all and many of us are grieving – some of us have lost loved ones to covid-19 or other causes during ‘lockdown’ and we can’t do many of the usual things we would do to grieve.  Some people have lost their jobs, some have lost their much-needed contact with family and friends, and some have lost their usual patterns of living. 

I lost my beloved Mom in March to covid-19.  I then became ill myself from the virus.   Grief has been a huge part of every day since.  Sometimes it feels too difficult to bear and other times there is a numbness which I have interpreted as my mind’s way of shutting out what it can’t cope with.

But in amongst all this grief there is also hope.

Hope has come to me in the presence of Christ through the prayers of my family, friends and church fellowship.  Their prayers and messages have sustained me through some of my darkest times, giving me hope that there is life and purpose beyond the grief.  I have felt God’s presence through the outpouring of love and concern for me and my family.

During this time of grief, I have found comfort in creativity.  In the midst of the chaos and the lack of things I can control, I have connected with my Creator through the gift of creativity that I’ve been given.  This creativity has allowed me to connect with beautiful things. 

Isn’t it interesting that when someone is grieving or ill, one of our first instincts is to send flowers?  I have received lots of flowers over recent weeks and each gift has told me in its beautiful blooms that I am loved and cared for and held.  But more than that, these flowers are signs of hope; that despite the darkness and the loss, there is still beauty in the world to behold.

As I come to terms with my loss and recover my strength after my illness, I am appreciating my wild garden with it’s flowers that sprout up each year despite my best efforts to neglect them.  I see rose bushes that have been brutally pruned during last autumn, flourishing once again with beautiful flowers.  The Buddleia bush, pruned back to about a foot and a half, is now around six feet again and getting ready to be food for passing bees and butterflies.  Life has sprung where once things seemed dead.

This is the message of the Christian faith.  We believe in new life; resurrection; that death is not the end.

The image above is from my sketchbook and I painted it during the few days after I lost my Mom.  It is an image that is bright and colourful, depicting my need for hope during the darkness of loss.

These words from scripture also give me hope in the darkness …

‘ The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young people stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,

    they will walk and not be faint.’

Isaiah 40: 28-31

The artwork:

This is a painting in a simple sketchbook, on thick cartridge paper, using my Koh-i-noor watercolours, which I love for their vibrancy.  I then used some coloured pencils to pick out details and give some depth.  And finally I used a fineliner to pick out detail and shape the flowers, leaves and stems.  This picture was imagined by me – I didn’t use any source material – so the flowers aren’t real ones and to some extent I just let the paint do it’s own thing on the paper.  So the flowers and leaf structures are imposed afterwards.

Mindful prayerfulness

Yesterday, Good Friday, at one of my churches, we had a day of creative prayer.  Every couple of hours we had some led prayers and reflections and the rest of the time, everyone was free to wander, to reflect, to read, to listen to music, or to just be still in God’s presence.  It was a wonderful time; a time of retreat together.  There was a strong sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit, a unity through community, and a serious but hopeful contemplation on the message of Good Friday.  You can read one of my past Good Friday reflections here… Christ’s Hands

I shared some thoughts from the people of Solentiname in Nicaragua in the 1970s, whose experience of Jesus was one of liberator; someone who came to set them free from the sins of the corrupt and oppressive political systems they found themselves in. You can read more in The Gospel in Solentiname’ by Ernesto Cardinal  – an amazing script of bible study discussions of the Gospels among these oppressed peoples.  If you live in the privileged West, it is truly worth reading to have your eyes opened to a different Gospel perspective.

I also designed some bookmarks for people to colour in, using them as a kind of mindful prayer to help focus our attention.

JLH bookmarks1

We then laminated the coloured bookmarks for people to take away.

I want to offer these as a resource to anyone who would like to use them for non-commercial purposes.  You may download them and print them for personal use or for use with church or community groups.  Please do not use them for profit.

You can download a pdf version here … Janelydialoves bookmarks1.  I hope you will be blessed by these.

May Jesus, the liberator of the world, give you freedom and hope now and always.