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


Sow 2016

Happy New Year everyone.  Welcome to 2016 and to a more concerted effort on my part to blog, since last year I pretty much abandoned blogging.

The new year is often a time for setting new goals or resolutions, a good time to refocus our lives on what’s really important, though I tend to do this throughout the year as and when my context changes.  Being in education means we have a refocus in September as well.

But this year I’ve decided to have a focus word for the year.  You can find lots of info on the web about this from both a faith and secular perspective.  I did it a couple of years ago when I chose the word ‘being’ – I used it to help me to focus on the importance of just being rather than doing.  Being with people and being with God, without the need to have a purpose to the being other than just a presence.  I believed it helped me develop tremendously.

This year’s focus word is ‘Sow’.  I am anticipating a change in my role this year which has caused me to reflect on what my calling is and who I am.  I believe I am a ‘Sower’; I think I’m called to help people develop new things or change things that aren’t working for them.  As I go through a process of discernment as to where to go next, my focus word will help me to know whether I’m heading in the right direction.

Here is my page at the beginning of my faith journal…


As you can see I have chosen a verse from Luke 8 which comes from a parable that Jesus shared.  The verse reminds me that when God is present in the place that I choose to sow, then the crop that flourishes there will be amazing.  It is a reminder to me to discover where God is already working in the world and to join in with the heavenly mission to bring healing and reconciliation, light into darkness and love in abundance.

The words on the left are from Galations 6 and are a reminder that whatever we sow we will reap.  So if we sow hate we are likely to reap hate.   When we sow fear and close our borders to those in need, we are likely to increase our fear of the stranger, which in turn has many other negative consequences.  When we decide to solve problems with violence we are likely to reap more violence.   We reap what we sow.

When we sow love, we are likely to see love flourishing.  

Our governments, as well as us all as individuals, would do well to heed these words of wisdom in Galations.

The words among the letters of the word SOW are the things I aspire to sow – faith, hope and community.  All things I believe God wants for the people of this world.

What would your word for 2016 be and what quote might support that word and inspire your focus for this year?
Share in the comments below, I would love to hear about them.

The Arty stuff:

My journal is a Moleskine notebook with printed grid pages.  The pages are quite thin so although I used Crayola twistables coloured pencils, when I outlined in a black fineliner, it showed through on the adjacent pages so I’ve glued them together.  It also makes the pages stronger.

This year I want too try to participate in some other online communities as we faith journal together.  Here are links to some that I’m joining in with.  Go ahead and join us … I look forward to seeing you there.

Documented Faith

Faith Art Friday

Logos365 with His Kingdom Come

Advent day 9: A new kind of love

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11

Today I encountered a woman selling the Big Issue outside Waitrose in my village. She was standing in the cold in flimsy shoes and thin socks, yet she still had a smile for me because I stopped. I was embarrassed because I had no change and told her I’d get some from the car. She nodded and wished me a Merry Christmas, clearly thinking I was making my excuses and a quick get way. Her surprise when I returned was apparent and her gratitude disproportionate to the few pounds I gave her.

All day her frozen feet in their flimsy coverings have been on my mind. So imagine my surprise when I found an advent reflection in my inbox from Rethink church, challenging us to carry little ‘care’ packages of food around in our cars in case we see someone in need Rethink church .

And then I also reflected on today’s verses. This wonderful prayer that love would abound and that we would be filled with the fruit of righteousness. The fruits are shown on my picture (Galations 5:22-23). When we show these fruits which are the outcome of a true and deep relationship with Christ, we will find our hearts stirred to respond with loving kindness to all those in need; to do so in an intentional way, whether through carrying a ‘care’ package, or by speaking out against injustice and oppression even when it costs us to do so.

We must never forget that Jesus said …

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40

And he also said …

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Matthew 25:45

As we wait for Jesus to come, where might we be missing seeing him now?

Pause, Ponder, Prepare

The heart of God

I’ve taken an extended break from blogging over the summer. Not for any reason other than I’ve been enjoying spending time with family and doing some personal reflection.

But I’m back again thanks to some encouragement from my friend Chris whose fabulous blog you can find here Each article takes only 7 minutes but of course you can lose yourself for hours as there’s loads of interesting stuff.

I have recently met and started to get to know some new people in my life. People who have struggled with some of the worst things imaginable and which continue to affect their lives long after the acts or situation have been left behind. People who themselves may have committed deeply disturbing acts on others. It’s a new experience for me to hear their stories, to listen to them, and to try to bring the love of Jesus without judgement or condemnation.

But I am compelled to do this, because I too have a past. I too have been hurt by others and have hurt others. And I, and they, carry the scars. We all have a past; we all hurt and have been hurt. It seems, for the moment, that it is part of the human condition.

But I found my redemption in Jesus.

These pages in my altered art journal illustrate the bible verses given to me on my baptism as a believer in 2001. They depict the person I was and the person I am, through Christ.

This page is the former me; the me that carries the burden of the people I’ve hurt and those who have hurt me. But as the verse says, through my baptism, that person has died …

… and now that Christ lives in me, I am a new person. Forgiven and redeemed by the amazing heart of God who loves us all unconditionally.

God’s unconditional love can be a difficult thing for many of us to accept. And the reality is that we don’t deserve this unconditional love, but it’s still available to us anyway. In my art book, the heart of God sits between my old self and my new self, covering both.

And it’s this conviction that gives me hope for my future and for the future of every single one of us so that though we have been scarred, those scars may no longer be what defines us, but may be the evidence that shows that no-one is beyond hope.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

The Artwork
This is a page from my altered book. You can see the pages peeking through the paint which I love as it gives it texture. After a layer of Gesso I used acrylics and a black sharpie outliner and I chose to write the words on white paper to make them stand out. I find it helps to colour the edges though, otherwise they don’t integrate very well with the painting. I also used a white marker to pick out highlights. I liked the idea of the middle page being cut into a heart shape to represent the heart of God sitting between my old self and the new.