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 – 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?

Peace

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Where do you find peace for your soul?
I love the seaside. I know it’s November and most of us are experiencing cold and rain tucked up at home rather than warm, sunny days at the beach.
I was looking through my art journal and came across these two paintings, one from summer 2013 and one from this summer.

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It’s nice to look at them and recall being there … Hearing the crash of the waves … Smelling the seaweed … Feeling the sun and the sea breeze on my face. I was on holiday. I didn’t have to think about work, or chores, or my never-ending ‘to do’ list. I could relax and enjoy being there, in the moment, feeling at one with the world and completely at peace.

It’s good to have places we can go that we can relax and be refreshed and find an inner peace. But what is more important is to be able to feel peace, wherever we are and in whatever we do. And that’s why, for me, I find my ultimate peace in God.

God understands my earthly experience because he experienced it himself in human form as Jesus, and yet he also transcends that earthly experience, allowing me to connect through the Spirit with the God who created everything. This is what gives me peace..

…peace because I know I am not alone …

“the peace of God which passes all understanding”. Philippians 4:7

… peace because I know God loves me …

” ‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:10

I Am Called

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It’s taking me a while to do my ‘ABC of me’ journal. But that’s ok because as I’ve blogged before, it’s about the journey not the destination.

This journal is in a notebook with thin pages so I’ve glued two pages together and I’m using mainly coloured pencils and the occasional felt pen with a fine liner to pick out detail.

The text behind the images on the right hand page comes from Isaiah 61 which speaks to me about my call and I used a grey felt pen to write so it would form a background.


“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners …”
Isaiah 61:1

The chains go along with the words from one of my favourite hymns by Charles Wesley “And can it be” which speaks of the amazing love of Jesus and the freedom I feel in following him.

I’m now half way through my training for Christian ministry and sometimes it feels like I’ve been training forever. Sometimes it’s difficult to juggle all the demands on my time and I also wonder what God has got in store for us as a family when I complete my training. There are lots of unknowns and that can be so unsettling.

It’s at these times that I return to the knowledge that I am called into this vocation by God. I chose to accept that calling and I responded in obedience. Because of that obedience I believe God will make everything work out according to his plan.

It is both a privilege and a responsibility to answer a call placed on our lives and this verse from 1 Timothy illustrates that. I am humbled by the knowledge that Jesus thinks I am trustworthy enough to serve him in this way, and I hope I will prove worthy of his trust.

In this service of the Lord, the privilege comes when I get to walk alongside people, sharing in the joys – births, baptism, and weddings, as well as the sorrows – struggles, illness, and grief. The responsibility comes in all these times as I seek to represent Christ and help to facilitate a meeting between God and his people, and as I try to show them the love that God has shown me. A huge responsibility that If I tried to do on my own I would fail miserably at.

But when Jesus returned to the Father, he sent us his Spirit, the ‘alongside one’, our counsellor, often represented by a dove, as on my art journal page. So we do not have to do things in our own strength, but in God’s.

So, what are you called to do or be? Where is God wanting you to serve him today? And will you accept the privilege and responsibility that comes with that call? And will you allow God’s Spirit to guide and to counsel you?

For another blog on being called, see here

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Unconditional love

As we are somewhere between the UK Mother’s Day and the US Mother’s Day, I thought it appropriate to think about Mums and to share some cards I made for my Mum.

This was last year’s Mother’s Day card I made …

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And here’s this year’s …

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And just for good measure here is the birthday card I made for my Mum too …

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The cards are all made with watercolour paints, Promarkers and a black sharpie.

I don’t often make my own cards now because I don’t have much time so I only tend to make them for people I know who will really appreciate the work that’s gone into them.

But I know my Mum will. Partly because she makes her own cards and partly because appreciating your kid’s artwork is what Mums are supposed to do – however old you are.

Encouragement and support for your child is the key to good parenting in my book. It doesn’t mean you turn a blind eye to their faults, but in the ups and downs of life, a child needs to know that whatever happens, Mum and Dad are on their side. It’s called unconditional love. And I’ve had to practise it thousands of times with my kids already. Although we want them to do well at school, and develop good values and behaviours because we know that’s best for them, they know that even if they don’t do these things, we’ll still love them. Even if it seems like the world hates them, there’s a safe and loving place to come home to.

And I know that’s true about God too. God loves us unconditionally, whatever we’ve done. He is a safe place to come home to. He proved this by sending his Son to show us the way back to him.

Here’s a quick doodle in my journal to illustrate this …

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And this beautiful verse from Isaiah says it all …

“I have swept away your sins like a cloud.
I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist.
Oh, return to me,
for I have paid the price to set you free.” Isaiah 44:22, New Living Translation.

Dream and let go

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This picture in my art journal was painted with watercolour and acrylics onto a patchwork of pages from an old paperback novel. I like the way the white highlights make the images pop out. I couldn’t find a quote I liked so I made up my own.

I blogged about letting go a while back. You can see that blog here.

In that post I was talking about letting go of things when their time was up and it was time to move on. This picture above is about a different kind of letting go.

Sometimes we have a dream, a vision or an aspiration, but it just doesn’t seem to be coming to fruition. I’ve got something like this going on in my life at the moment. Sometimes however much you try to achieve your dream, there can be things that aren’t under your control. This is when it’s time to let go. Not to forget about it or to think it will never happen, but to believe it will, and to leave it in God’s hands.

Getting back to my picture, its like flying a kite. If you have the kite on a short string, if you keep fighting with it to pull it the way you want it to go, then you’re in for a battle with the end result being that the kite either breaks the string and is lost or it can’t fly and it crashes to the ground.

But if you let it go a little, if you let out some more string, if you let it find the wind so that it can fly freely, dance around, move to a better part of the sky, then you and the kite are in harmony. The kite is flying.

And I think its like that with dreams and aspirations. If we hold them too tightly or try to confine them or bring them into close proximity too soon, we can stifle them. They can crash and burn or they can slip through our fingers never to be seen again.

But if we believe in them, nurture them, allow them to go ahead and follow where they lead, then we can be in for an exciting and high-flying time.

Trying to live my life under God’s guidance can be challenging. I want to fly my own kite; I want to hold it closely and do everything I can to make things happen for myself. But I’ve learned time and time again that God’s timing and purposes are the best and when I trust him to make things happen then they turn out in the best way possible.

Isaiah 55:8-9 says

‘for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares The Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’

While this does not absolve me of any responsibility for moving forwards and striving for excellence in all I do, it does tell me that God knows best, and so when I dream or aspire to something, I give it to God and believe that if it is his will then he will open doors for me. And like the kite, sometimes the dream I had will fly in a different way to what I imagined; a better and more exciting way, and sometimes a way I would never have ever dreamed for myself.

So today I encourage you to dream and then let go. To place your dream into God’s hands and let him blow it where he will.