Masks. Hiding. Sharing. Journeying.

“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

How often do you wear a mask? Perhaps you don’t. Perhaps the need is not there. Perhaps you are so strong in yourself that it is a thought too far. But then again it may be just around the corner. Something that you always have in your ‘hand’. At the ready. Just in case. Just to be on the safe side. A comfort blanket. A comfort blanket that can be installed safe and sound. A look down followed by the look up. From frown to fixed smile. From ‘I can’t’ to ‘I’m trying’. Probably trying too hard. And noticeably so?

Why?

Why do you place the mask? Why not let the real you speak out? Why not go public? No, because that involves explanations. That involves being honest. That involves letting someone in. Becoming vulnerable. To say that, ‘I can’t’, out loud. To crumble. Because to go ‘there’ and acknowledge ‘there’, is a painful way. Behind the mask is safety.

Safety.

Safety from whom? Safety from the outside? But also safety from yourself. By putting the mask in place you gain control. Control over your thoughts. Control over your feelings. Control over the how, and the when, you deal with the things you have to ‘sort’. Thoughts and feelings are private. Only given out to others when you tentatively say OK to someone who you know will care and not judge. Someone who you know will be there whatever happens. A friend. A true friend. A friend who is always there for you. At any time. In any place.

A special friend.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

And in that knowing the mask can come down. You can relax as you let Jesus in, to lift the load and help you sort through it. Bit by bit. Tangle by tangle. To learn and rethink the way you react. The way you take on a comment. A piece of your life. A sheltered way that is shared and made easy as you carry the load together.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29.

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Diaries, Plans and Blank Pages.

What do you have new each year that is crisp and clean and ‘oooo’ ? It may arrive in January or maybe in September? If you are in the academic sphere it is probably the latter. But does that make a difference to how you use your diary?

Form and Function.

As I have moved through life, the form and function of my diary has changed. At Primary School it didn’t really exist! Life was free and easy. “Can I go and play now?” “Mummy, when is tea, I’m hungry!” “How many more sleeps ’til Santa comes?” Every day felt like every other day. Yes I went to ballet! – I know…… you don’t have to say it….. Yes I went to Brownies and Guides. Yes I went to stay with aunts and uncles. Yes we had visitors to stay with us. But these just happened.

Secondary School was different. The all important time table arrived with subjects, form time, social time all factored in just so we could function as a unit. Through these you got to know what was happening on a certain day, and whoa betide you if you forgot you gym kit, or brought your French book instead of your German book. Uniforms appeared. Satchels. Pencil cases with everything in. We became a unit. A group of girls! Oh yes it was an all girls school. (In fact, I was at an all girls school from the age of 7!) But I digress! This timetable became an important part of life. The list became part of my life because of it. Lists for each day. Lists for each subject. Lists for everything! I do love a good list!!

Gap Year- s.

At Uni the timetable continued but in a different way. There were gaps. Gaps for private study. Gaps for tutorials. Gaps for rowing/ coxing. Gaps for shopping. Gaps for coffees. Gaps for the bar – a pint of coke for 10p. Yep, it lasted all night too!! The timetable was fast becoming a diary.

Life and Listening.

Adult life appeared the moment I left the safe environment of Uni. The timetable became a slim long line diary I carried around in my bag – oh yes I was a proper young lady! The days were taken up by employment. The teaching day started at 8 in the morning and finished, at school, at 5.00, but started again after tea. Social dates were few and far between. If I wanted to do something I had to make sure things were covered. The weekends became special. Coxing had to go – something I was good at! But it clashed with my church fellowship. The food shop was fitted into the odd half hour. Bus trips into town for coffee and browsing were once a month. Oh that diary looked beautiful in January/September. Crisp, and scribble free. But……

Family and Fun .

With the arrival a someone else into my life, the diary got bigger! Times for just me, became times for him, and then times for me and him! We had to get our heads together. Weekends were still special. Our church life together, became bigger as we became more involved. Week night meetings began to appear. Teaching started to be longer at school and less at home. And then the BIG bombshell! A little one appeared and the diary disappeared for the ‘Family Calendar’! Mum, Dad, Toddler, Together. Supply Teaching. And LISTS! We all lived by it. For 18 years. No 19 years! And when toddler became a young man and moved away the ….

Filofax Appeared.

Pages for this. Pages for that. Sub dividers, ruler, pockets ….. well it was my dream diary! I’ve had my Filofax for over 15 years. 15 years of bliss and control. Organising my life this way. Organising it that way. Slotting a note in here to make sure I do something. Slotting an agenda in between this date and that date. Information at my finger tips. And that is the crux of my thoughts – control with lists.

Control. Who’s?

Having made a big decision last week, I now find my diary is empty. And that is scary!! Giving up something I have been clinging to was one of the hardest things I have had to do. But I knew deep down that God wanted me to do it. By giving it up I was releasing my control. By giving up I was saying OK to what ever comes next. OK to Jesus being in control. OK to Jesus taking the reigns. Easy to say. Hard to do. Yes I still write my lists. Every night. I have done for years. But they are full of things that do not go into a diary. My diary is blank and will be blank until Jesus points the way to something. Something that I know is right for me. Something that I can grow into because it is out of my comfort zone. Hard as this last year has been, I wouldn’t be here at this stage if it had not happened. Making big decisions. And eventually moving forward to a full diary again. Resting with my LORD.

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Crunch point with new attitude and timing. Mixed with encouragement.

Have you ever watched the video of the crash dummy straining against it’s seat belt as it hits something head on? Seen all ‘the extremities’ i.e. it’s arms, legs, and head flail around? Completely out of control? But seen the heart of the dummy remain strapped in. Safe. Sound. Pressed against the seat by the seat belt. Everything comes to rest. Life is sometimes like that.

In fact, the last few weeks have been like that. Do this. Do that. Read this. Read that. Focus on this. Focus on that. Going round and round in circles without engaging with anything. With anyone. Flailing about. Until….finally….. you hit. Wham! Everything stops. The arms, legs and head stop. Flop. Become heavy. A heap on the floor. You feel in a vacuum. You feel in a bubble. You feel in tight cotton wool. Every thing muffled. You see the world – life going on without you. You can’t get up. Not yet. You can’t shout ‘I’m here!’ Not yet. You just have to let it all go by.

The crunch has been so huge, so enormous that it blows everything away from you. The vacuum it creates, leaves you sitting still, numb, but in a strange way at peace. You don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to go anywhere. You don’t have to communicate with those around you. Yes you may talk, but the engagement is missing. You just ‘do’. The barrier around you, the cotton wool, the bubble, encloses and protects as it loosens. And all the time, there in the background, is the rhythm. The beat.

Deep within you, there is the anchor grounding you. Slowly. Beat. Not rushing. Beat. Methodical. Beat. Pushing through. Until you feel, you acknowledge, your heart beating inside you. Gathering speed to wake you. Gathering speed telling you the numbness is going. Telling you who is in charge. Telling you who has protected it. Who has held it, and you, in their arms. Cradled it until the time was right, is right, to gather momentum. Gradually bringing those extremities, the arms, the legs, the head back into line to start again. To communicate outside the vacuum. Outside the cotton wool and bubble. To say ‘hello’ to the world. At a pace you are comfortable with and able to cope. There may be two steps forward and one step back, but that is OK. The ‘Who’ is holding the cotton wool gently. Not compressing it. Allowing it to fluff so that things can get through and breathe. Beat without hindrance.

Today I read James 1:1-12. There in the middle were the verses that spoke.

“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. BUT endurance MUST do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, LACKING NOTHING.”

So, I know I am beating. I know I am breathing. And most of the time I am communicating, BUT, for my LORD to work, I must let Him complete the work within me. Not on His own, but with me. So that I will lack nothing. How quickly? I don’t know but Jesus does and it will be in His timing, not mine.

Be encouraged.

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Gifts.

Christmas. A time for giving and receiving. Presents pile up in the run up to the event. Under the tree. Into sacks. Gift wrapped and bagged. Excitement grows especially if you are young. (Does that include the young at heart?) Excitement both with the giver and the receiver. Joy. Laughter. Smiles. Peace – hopefully!! Contentment. But does the contentment last for long? Once the parcel is unwrapped. Looked at. Oooo-ed over. Smiled at. Thank yous given. Then to be placed on the pile of new things which need to go upstairs. Is it then that it is forgotten? Or occasionally remembered? When the socks are put on. The new pen used. The crisp white paper in the journal written on oh so carefully. New books and paper always make me use my best writing. Either way these gifts become just things.

But the biggest gift we receive at Christmas is the reason for the season. The clue is in the name of that season. Christ-mas. Never X-mas. Christ-mas. The gift of Jesus begins then, with the baby. The Prince of Peace as mentioned in the last posting. God’s gift of Jesus given so we could enjoy a relationship with the Father through the giving of His life. A daily relationship. Not put on the pile for later. A gift that is two way. A gift to help us walk close.

But the gifts do not stop there. Jesus gave a major gift. A Helper. After rising from the dead and meeting with His disciples, He “breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’. John 20:22.  The giver to the receiver. One gift to everyone who believes in Him. A single gift. One to accept and say thank you. One gift to take on board. One gift to have for ever more. Only lost when we turn our backs on it. What a gift!

And what does that gift give you? The fruit of the Spirit are the outward signs of that gift. Love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Galatians 5:22. One gift. One gift of many. One gift that you have to accept completely. No picking and choosing. It isn’t a box of chocolates that you can pick over. The caramel. The nut. The Turkish delight – no, no! Not that one! The coffee cream left languishing in the corner. You can’t say yes to love and the peace and leave the long suffering. Leave that self control. Jesus gives the gift complete with its fruit. All or nothing. To help us. To guide us. To show us how we are to live.

In turn this gift from Jesus gives to us in its own right. The gifts of the Holy Spirit. Not the fruit. The gifts. Each one carefully defined. Each one given with care. Thoughtfully given at times of need. Thoughtfully given when we need that bit of extra help from the “Helper”. A gift that may be given for a season. A gift for a long spell or a short time. Gifts that are finite. Gifts that are given to help others. To build others up. For the common good.

 

“4 Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different activities, but the same God activates each gift in each person. A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial:

to one is given a message of wisdom
through the Spirit,
to another, a message of knowledge
by the same Spirit,
to another, faith by the same Spirit,
to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
10 to another, the performing of miracles,
to another, prophecy,
to another, distinguishing between spirits,
to another, different kinds of languages,
to another, interpretation of languages.

11 But one and the same Spirit is active in all these, distributing to each person as He wills.”

1 Corinthians 12:4-11.

 

So whether we have a gift from the Spirit at the moment, the Spirit is here with its fruit. Dwelling within us. The gift from Jesus. The Helper. Its fruit becoming second nature. The attributes that make us different. That show of our love for Jesus and His love for us.

A whole pile of gifts from the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. A pile of gifts that won’t be taken upstairs to forget. A pile of gifts to benefit us day by day. To use and live by. Through the ups and downs that is life. Loving us. Keeping us close in that special relationship. For a new year.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

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Prince of Peace.

I sat down this morning to ‘rest’ with the LORD and see what He wanted to teach me. To discover that something. Opening my bible the title of the passage was ‘Birth of the Prince of Peace’ and boy do we all need Him! We need Him for the opportunity to ‘rest with Him’. We need Him for the opportunity to take stock of our lives. We need Him to speak the volumes of His love right into our very being. To bring about His peace. The Prince of Peace. The Sar Shalom.

Over the last few months I have been on a very bumpy road. I’ve shared some of what I have felt. The ups and the downs. The flights and the bumps. Shakey landings time and time again. But this week I experienced one of the smoothest landings -?! – you could think of. Yes there was a bit of turbulence before I approached the runway, but that runway was the smoothest place you can imagine. Not a cosy duvet type of place that swallows you up. A firm path. A concrete path. With the lines and lights to guide. To touch down in the right spot. To run and slow right down. To finally stop and rest. Yes I have found my peace.

A God given peace. A coming home given peace. A warm and welcoming home peace. And along with this peace come other things. Problems sorted. A knowing that God has it all in His hand. To give out bit by bit. To gradually open up a new beginning. A beginning with light. A light so strong. A light so encouraging. A light of belonging. Of blessing. His light. A ‘yes’ light.

But this is not just for me. It is for all of us. People talk of a New Year , a new start (me included!), but if we go back a week to Christmas and see the helpless babe, the new beginning starts there. In the stable. In humble beginnings. Visits from shepherds. Visits from people passing by. For who can resist a baby!  Something that we peep into every year at this time.

For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

That baby grew. Became a toddler. Learned to walk. To speak. Grew again into the boy that went to Jerusalem and went ‘about my Father’s business’. Grew into the young man. Grew into the person we read about in the gospels. The person who took everything onto His shoulders. The Son who died so that we could have a relationship  with our God. With our Father. A Son who rose again and went to be with His Father. And in so doing allowing our relationship to blossom. To begin.

He was ‘born for us’. He was ‘a Son given to us’. He took everything ‘on His shoulders’. He became our ‘Counselor’. He was and is and will always be a ‘Mighty God’. He was and is and will always be our ‘Eternal Father’. He is the ‘Prince of Peace’.

So as we glimpse this new beginning, hold it – in your hand. Plant it firmly in your heart. Know it fully. Touch down onto that firm runway. Come to the stop with confidence. And be led by His shining Light.

May you have the complete Christmas. A Christmas that is happy, but also full of His peace. A Christmas when we welcome the Prince of Peace into our lives.

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Grace.

I have been trying to write a post about Grace for a while, but it just would not come together. The word grace has been appearing all over the place. Beckoning. Whispering. Alison – My grace for you.

Grace is such a beautiful name. So much more than a name. We sing about it. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…. We read about it. We hear the message behind it. God’s grace. The grace of God. The God of grace. Grace. A favour. A blessing.

But remember, it is God’s grace. It is the blessing he gives to us when we turn to Him. When we truly turn to Him. Even when we have done or said something wrongly. He is there. There forgiving us. Loving us with His unconditional love. So freely given. Grace that is more than a word. Grace that is an action. An action so freely given. An action that was bitter sweet.

Have you ever thought about that action? Really thought about it? What He actually did for you and for me? The agony of the garden. The agony of the trial. The agony of dying such a horrifying death on the cross. Have you looked past the words “He died for my sins?” Looked past and seen the person. Have you thought how much it cost? That moment when Jesus felt so alone.

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” Matt. 27:46.

“He said, “It is finished!” Then bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” John 19:30.

The bitter. Buried in a tomb from where He rose. Rose in glory. Ascending to His Father – our Father. His God – our God. John 20:17. The sweet.

He went through it all so that He might receive the crown of heaven, as King of kings and Lord of lords. The two phases of the saving work of Jesus Christ.  God’s grace. God’s grace given to you and to me. Inviting us into an everlasting relationship. A relationship that out lasts the ‘stuff’ we have here. All the material things. All the things we get hung up on. All the things we hurt about. All the things that we can give to our Lord if only we would let go. And in return receive an inheritance so big that we just cannot envision it. Why would anyone die like that for me? For us? Just so that we can have that relationship. That perfect relationship with Jesus Christ – our LORD. A God who loves us no matter what we have done. Completely unconditionally.

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Blue skies, nothing but blue skies all day long.

Eleven days of sunshine. Eleven days of blue skies. Eleven days of nearness. Eleven days of listening. Eleven days of being blessed. Eleven glimpses of a good time away.

  

   

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