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


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.

The heart of the beholder

This week my lovely friends Ian and Vanessa gave me some beautiful peonies cut from their garden. Here’s a close up of a couple in full bloom …


Aren’t they absolutely gorgeous? They are my favourite flower, especially in this particular light pink.

They were too beautiful not to draw and paint so I got my watercolours and acrylics out and completed this spread in my journal.



I found this quote by John Ruskin – though as my 10 year old informed me, flowers are also vital to the life of the planet!
And maybe they aren’t really for us but for the bees whose ultra violet sight would see them in a potentially even more beautiful way.

So whatever the reason for their existence, flowers give much pleasure to many people.

But what about those flowers that aren’t quite so beautiful? Like thistles, or dandelions? Do they pale beside the beauty of the peony or do we appreciate that they have a different kind of beauty?

I was reminded of a story I got from a friend which I have used in church services. The version below is a retelling of an old Sufi story.

A young man named Nasruddin planted a flower garden, but when the flowers came up so did a great crop of dandelions among them. Wanting to eliminate these misfits, Nasruddin consulted with gardeners near and far, but none of their solutions worked.

Finally, Nasruddin traveled to the palace of the sheik to seek the wisdom of the royal gardener himself. But alas, Nasruddin had already tried all the methods the gardener recommended for getting rid of such troublesome weeds.

Silently they sat together for a long time.

At last, the royal gardener looked at Nasruddin and said, “Well then, the only thing I can suggest for these dandelions is that you learn to love them.”

I find this such a powerful metaphor, particularly alongside the beauty of the peonies. It’s easy to love a peony, but its much harder to love a dandelion, particularly when you think they marr your otherwise perfect garden.

And do we sometimes feel like that about people? There are people we find easy to love, and those we find more difficult. And often those we find most difficult crop up in our most perfect places. We might find ourselves thinking … ” if they weren’t around, life would be easier, better, more pleasant ….”.

But the fact is they are there, so instead of comparing our dandelions to peonies, we need to learn to love them as they are, where they are…

As H G Wells said “Beauty is in the HEART of the beholder” – not the eye, as this world would have us believe, but in the heart.

Jesus was asked which of the Ten Commandments was the greatest…

“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 neighbor as yourself.’. There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31

So while as Ruskin says, real flowers may bring us solace, so too we must bring solace to the metaphorical dandelions in our lives.