Advent 2016-6: Water of Life

” ‘The poor and needy search for water, but there is none;  their tongues are parched with thirst.

But I the Lord will answer them;  I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.

I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys.

I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.

I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.

I will set junipers in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together,

so that people may see and know, may consider and understand,

that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.’ “

Isaiah 41: 17 – 20

Advent 2016-5: 60 million trebles

I’m posting something different for today… It’s about loving our neighbours …

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ 

‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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 neighbour as yourself.”  There is no commandment greater than these.’
‘Well said, teacher,’ the man replied. ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him.  To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’  ”  Mark 12:28-31

For some months now I’ve been involved in a fantastic project set up by an amazing woman called Ellen Roche.  Ellen wanted to do something to raise awareness of the plight of the 60 million refugees across the world.  And so she had a vision to create the world’s largest yarn blanket by next summer.  This yarn blanket will consist of joining together smaller square blankets 36 inches by 36 inches.  The aim is for the sum total of all the crochet treble stitches in all the blankets to add up to more than 60 million trebles – one stitch, one life.  I joined in when the project had less than 2 million trebles and it now has more than 10 million and new people are joining every day.

So far, I’ve made 4 blankets from various balls of wool I had around my home and I’m working on my 5th.  My four blankets contribute just over 40,000 trebles to the project.

Ellen is hoping to construct the large blanket at a London venue next summer.  Afterwards the individual blankets will be detached and half sent to UK charities and half sent to refugees in other countries.

I am proud to be part of this compassionate movement both to raise awareness and to provide comforting, warm blankets to those in need.

Why not join us? If you can crochet or knit you can join in.  The Facebook group can be found at Sixty Million Trebles.

If you don’t knit or crochet perhaps you know someone who does?  Please pass on these details and let’s show our neighbours some love.

Advent 2016-3 : Peace within your walls

‘May those who love you be secure.

May there be peace within your walls

    and security within your citadels.’

For the sake of my family and friends,

    I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’

For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,

    I will seek your prosperity.”

Psalm 122:6-9

Today’s reading from Psalm 122 made me think of the recent US election.  I find I am deeply disturbed about all its implications and concerned about the future for both those within and those of us outside of the US.  And so my response was to draw the dove as a symbol of both the Holy Spirit and of peace, and to include the Stars and Stripes of the US flag.

It somehow seems ironic that this is a time when we are looking forward to the birth of a middle Eastern baby, born into a refugee family, and someone who stood against Empire, and who taught us to love our neighbours (pointing out that our neighbours are those who we might see as foreign and not like ourselves).  Jesus came for the poor, the oppressed, the marginalised, the minorities.  He challenged the comfortable and sought justice for those whom this world has crushed.

And so I feel shocked and helpless and want to dissociate myself from those who claim to be Christian and yet supported a candidate who is the polar opposite of all that Jesus was and is.  And the only response I have is to pray.  I pray that despite how things are, the work Jesus came to do might still go on; that despite the hate-mongering, ALL people in the US might live safely and securely and that peace would reign.  This is my prayer for all our sakes.

Advent 2016 – 2: The Lord binds up bruises 

“…How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you…The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the Lord binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted.” Isaiah 30:19-26

This is a difficult passage.  On the one hand it paints a picture of hope for God’s response to our need, but on the other it suggests that some of the things we suffer are a punishment.  Without getting into an in depth study of the nature of the text, for me what stands out is that God is gracious.  Whatever the reason for our difficulties, God is waiting to respond to our call for help.  And what a response! Not just a response that repairs the damage, but a response that goes beyond anything we can imagine.  A response that causes the light to be brighter than we have ever experienced before.  

Light is a consistent theme during advent.  The people walking in darkness have seen a great light: Jesus is the light of the world.  And so perhaps these verses in Isaiah point to the coming Jesus, the light that shines on the world and makes everything, even the sun and the moon, glow brighter to drive out the darkness.

I wonder what bruises we carry that might need binding up by the one who responds with overwhelming grace and shines light in our lives?

Advent 2016 – 1: May he be like rain …

I am attempting an artful response to some bible passages during Advent this year.  They are taken from the church’s 3- year programme of readings for each day (called the lectionary).

Three years ago I attempted something similar but with passages identified from a different source.  If you click on ‘Advent’ in the tab on the right you will see all of them.  This year, as in 2013, my medium will be the Paper 53 iPad app.

I will read the passage and reflect before drawing my response.  I hope that you might join me in reading the passage and perhaps use my picture to help reflect on the words.  Or perhaps you can make your own picture using whatever medium you prefer.  I may on occasion also offer some words of reflection.

Psal 72:1-7

1 Endow the king with your justice, O God,

    the royal son with your righteousness.

2 May he judge your people in righteousness,

    your afflicted ones with justice.

3 May the mountains bring prosperity to the people,

    the hills the fruit of righteousness.

4 May he defend the afflicted among the people

    and save the children of the needy;

    may he crush the oppressor.

5 May he endure[a] as long as the sun,

    as long as the moon, through all generations.

6 May he be like rain that falls on mown grass,

    like showers that water the earth.

7 In his days may the righteous flourish

    and prosperity abound till the moon is no more.”

This psalm looks forward to the time when justice will be done.  The afflicted, the poor, the needy and the oppressed will be saved and defended and Jesus will be the rain that waters them.  The coming of Jesus heralds a new era when everything is made new, justice is served, and sickness, poverty and oppression are no more.

Yet whilst during advent we anticipate Jesus birth, and we wait, we also recognise that he has already come and is even now living as the risen Christ and so those of us who call ourselves Jesus followers need to seek to imitate him.  And so I ask myself -how am I also bringing justice and healing to the afflicted? How am I saving the children and defending the poor?

I recently wrote to my MP to express concern over the unaccompanied migrant children in Calais.  I find myself very dissatisfied with the answer I received whereby the government are only focussing on under 12s.  I have a 13 year old and a 17 year old and the thought of them being alone in such a place fills me with horror.  I can only call myself Christian if I am prepared to stand up for these children and so I need to find ways to pursue this.

Perhaps you too could ask yourself the same questions ‘How, this advent, am I bringing justice and healing to the afflicted? How am I saving the children and defending the poor? ‘

I pray that as we anticipate the coming of Jesus, God would show you how you can be part of his plan.

O come, O come Emmanuel – God with us.

Called and Kept

I am coming to the end of what seems like a long journey towards ordained ministry in the Baptist Church of Great Britain. A month ago, my college went on a 24 hour retreat together where we spent time thinking about what it meant for each of us to be called and kept by Christ.My reflection and response was to create a picture… (See end of post for artwork info)

Although for me, my reflection was particularly about what it means to be called to ordained ministry, all those who believe in Christ are called and kept. 

My picture shows a representation of the risen Christ, a human yet divine figure, who cherishes a heart in his arms. The heart is patched to show that it has scars, it has been broken and patched up and that some pieces have fallen away. The lamb at the bottom of the picture illustrates the sacrifice that Jesus made in order to catch the pieces of our hearts and bring them to himself.

For all those who follow Jesus, we are called to enter into the same sacrifice and the same response to love, affirm and cherish the hearts of others. My call to ministry has meant sacrifice in many areas of my life but through it all I have been kept by Jesus. I have been vulnerable and my heart has been exposed to knocks and hurts but Jesus has faithfully patched it up and continues to hold me close.

My calling is to love and affirm God’s people – that everyone has value in God’s eyes. My sacrifice is to be vulnerable, to be open to being hurt, and to continue to be vulnerable no matter what. My identity is in Christ, where I know I am beloved and kept safe.

Do you love and affirm everyone as God does?

Are you prepared to witness to Jesus’ sacrifice by being vulnerable?

Do you know how much you are beloved by God and kept safe for Jesus?

… Then may mercy, peace and love, be yours in abundance…

“To those who are called, who are beloved in God the Father and kept safe for Jesus Christ: may mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.” Jude 1:1b-2

The artwork
The blue and purple background was painted using water soluble felt pens – just cheap children’s ones – and then painting over them with a brush loaded with water. The colours are vivid and vibrant and the paint effect is like that of chromatography. I then cut out and collaged the rays around the head and the pieces of the heart from paper that I’d painted using ordinary watercolours. The remainder of the painting used watercolours, coloured pencils and felt pens including the lettering which I drew freehand then painted. Finally I picked out details using a fine liner pen.