The Sea.

Many of you will know my love of the sea. I could sit there all day listening to the rhythm. Watching the waves flow in and race out.  Or race in and flow out! Seeing all the colours blend together and catch the sun. Blues. Greys. Browns. White? It’s a subtle kind of white. Contrasts. With sand and grass. Tans, beige, greens of every hue. Love it!

But it also reminds of  stories. Rolling waves crashing down. Deserted beaches. Marooned.

   

   

Marooned? Well not on these beaches! But stories like Treasure Island. Kidnapped. Robinson Crusoe. I’m sure there are many more. Perhaps a little more modern!

But there are also bible stories that prod the memory while you look. While you think. While you relax and slip into that no man world. Miles away. Silent. Stories like the one where Jesus walks on the water. Matthew 14. It is a passage that has always spoken volumes to me. It is one of my favourite passages. When Peter gets out of the boat to walk to Jesus. When he suddenly realises what he is actually doing. When his feet start to sink. When he feels the wind whip. When he starts to panic. “LORD, save me!” v30. And Jesus reaches out His hand. How often do we start to do something and get cold feet. How often do we panic, “I can’t do it!”

   

I love to listen to Oceans by Hillsong too.

“You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise my soul will rest in your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine”

Deep. Thought provoking. It says it all. So when I started a new reading plan (YouVersion) using Hebrew words I was over the moon to learn something more about this story.

The Hebrew word for water is ‘mayim’ and comes from the root ‘mem’ which means chaos. The disciples were there in the boat in a storm. On the water in the chaos. Mayim. Mem. How often do we find ourselves in chaos? How often does Jesus beckon to us to get out of the ‘boat’ into the ‘water’? Into the ‘chaos’? Mayim. Mem. Jesus calmed the storm for Peter and the disciples. He calmed the wind. He calmed the water. He calmed the chaos. Mayim. Mem. He was in total control. He IS in total control of ALL chaos. Mem. He calls us out to get on top of our chaos. To walk with Him.

“When oceans rise my soul will rest in your embrace. For I am Yours and You are mine.”

Mayim. Mem.

 

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Reflections

We’ve been away in ‘my little home on wheels’ for the last time. Two weeks in Norfolk. Two weeks of sunshine and only one day of rain. But boy did it rain!! Anyway, having just got back on my feet we took gentle walks here, there, and everywhere. With crutch in hand the first walk we ambled near the river of the campsite. Beautiful! The river was so so still but very clear. Amazing! The following pictures speak for themselves.

  

   

But behind us as we gazed at the reflections, there was the most beautiful undergrowth with leaves and berries and fruits and ….

   

           lots of ideas for paintings!

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Writing.

Writing. The art of putting pen to paper. The art of mark making. The art of putting words together, to mean something. A document.

When I think of writing my mind automatically thinks of hand writing. Calligraphy. The beautiful marks. I loved to write in this way and my own handwriting probably shows the hours that I used to spend doing it. My dissertation at Uni was hand written in italics. It took forever! But it seemed the only way of writing about a church for an art dissertation! My writing became a writing. My document.

As an infant teacher I had the privilege of teaching, of showing, little ones how to make the marks that ‘speak’. We would practice making ‘d’ by ‘running round the tree, up to the top and down again’. We would run round on each other’s backs. In each other’s palms. On special paper. In sand. With our fingers as pens. With crayons. With pencils. With ink and paint. Writing was and is fun! Writing was and is special! Writing did and does communicate. Messages in bottles showed the children the importance of sharing things through writing. Making and posting cards spread the ‘writing’ further. Cards for making and sharing memories. Birthday cards. Anniversary cards. The joy of receiving the letter or card. Writing was and is GREAT fun!!

But writing was also serious. A note to the teacher, or the reverse, a note to the parent. It could hold information about the child. Notes were not always shown immediately to the child. They were private between Mum and teacher. Only at a set time did the child find out what it was about. It was carefully carried by the little one, with breath held tight. Carried to the school gate. A message with importance. Finally, given and then….  to be let out when the note was read and shared. ‘ ….. has worked really hard today and deserves a treat!’  ‘…… needs a bit more practice with her spellings!’  ‘….. has to go to the doctors at 3 o’ clock.’ A message with meaning. A writing that can instruct, explain, point in the right direction.

Have you looked in your bible and thought about all the writing that is there? Over 2000 years ago scribes started writing it down. Letter by letter. Word by word. Sentence by sentence. An oral tradition became a written one. Painstakingly done with reverence. Masterpieces. Carefully written to be passed on. Passed on to us through the years. Stories that we love. Teachings that help. Predictions of events yet to come. Letters communicating closeness, thoughtfulness. Showing that the writer cared. Letters that were written to someone special. With best interests at heart. With pointers and instructions. Things that were private, but now be shared. A letter to the Galatians. One to the Ephesians. Philippians. Colossians. Romans. A letter from Paul. Peter. John. James. Written by the author or his scribe. Carefully. With love. Taken by messenger. Over land and sea. By foot. By boat. Given to someone. People waiting. Expecting. And then it is shared. A greeting. A word. An instruction. A blessing.  And now, it is shared again. With us the reader. A message that is God breathed. A message that comes from Him. A message that is important. An instruction for us. An encouragement at the right time. Together with ‘reading’, ‘writing’ is our link with the LORD. A special verse carefully read. Over and over. Then carefully written out on a post-it to stick to the fridge. To the inside of your bible. To the page it comes from. Writing that becomes a book mark. Writing that is then made into an art. The art of mark making. The art of putting pen to paper. Something to be treasured. Privately. Then shared at a later date.

Go on, have a go. That verse that means so much to you. Write it out, lovingly, carefully, thoughtfully. Punch a hole and add a ribbon. Then place it in your bible. To be eventually shared. At that later date. To become a meaningful memory of you. For you.  A memory of a time, a place, a date. A memory of the writings that you treasure.

 

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Reading.

Do you love to read? Do you read? Or is it a chore? We all try to learn to read. We encourage our children to love books. As a baby, with board books and bath books, we turn the pages and chatter about what we see in the pictures. We show that magazines are books too and tell the little fingers not to tear. Not to put in their mouths. To love the pages. To love the words and pictures. As a toddler we get them to talk about the pictures. To increase their language. We start to introduce BIG words. LLOOOOOONNNNG words. Toddlers just love looonnng words. To get their tongues wrapped round in the wrong way. Then to giggle when it comes out all wrong! At school, we encourage the children to sit and listen to stories. To put the text with the pictures. Out come thumbs and pop! Suck suck away. Soft hair is twirled round and round little fingers. Slowly but surely they get the idea that text can open up a wealth of story lines. A whole world. And that urge to want to say the words – to read the words, is born.

But it can be so hard sometimes. Words and letters can jumble up. We can know what we want to say because someone has told us, but where does it come from? How do certain letters make a word? It’s hard for some and not for others. We encourage the children in our care to use phonics to sound out a word. We encourage them to look at the whole word. The shape of the word. Aeroplane looks like an aeroplane. Two wings. One on either side of the ‘pl’ bit. But we don’t use aeroplane in our vocabulary very much now a days. We say plane. A one sided plane. One wing. It just wouldn’t get off the ground!! Different generations of teachers find different ways to teach the basics. Their one hope is that the children they teach, develop that love of reading. That love of being lost in a story. That love of seeing the images in their mind’s eye. Some make it and some don’t.

Mr A made it. He just devours books. Books of all genre. History books battle for space next to Sci-fi. Travel books push out espionage. The pile of Christian facts and explorations grows and grows and grows! His bed side table is full! He reads everywhere. And he reads everything. Visit a museum or gallery with Mr A and he will be lost. Lost reading every little last detail. Me? Visuals. I look at the artifacts. P is a bit of both. When P was little we would whizz round the museum looking and chattering about the objects. Once. Twice. Often three times before Mr A had read it all. Then we would question him. What did it say about such and such! Family conversations abound. Good for the language! Yes good for the language, but thankfully P likes to read too. P loves to read. Books. Kindle. iPad articles. All devoured and thought about. Devoured and stored to be brought out at a later date. He takes after his dad.

Sorry? Me? I am not a great reader. I was a child who struggled. Chatter about the pictures? I could do that until the cows came home. Finding things in the pictures that others hadn’t noticed. Pointing at words and making my own stories up. But putting all the sounds to the letters…. nope! Not me. Putting a picture around the words…. sometimes. Stringing the words together…. nope! I would sit with Mum. I would sit with Dad. I would sit with my sister, who was practising being a teacher. On the odd occasion I would even sit with my brother. But no. It just wouldn’t come. Until that light bulb moment. When I was seven. Three full years of school before it all came together. It wasn’t an easy pastime. It still isn’t an easy pastime. In the time it takes for the ‘boys’ to read three sometimes four books, I may have read one. But then again I probably haven’t! More likely than not I haven’t! Shocking I know. An infant teacher who likes to read to children with different voice characters. Who loves to watch their thumbs come out, and hair twiddling. Who loves to encourage and goes over board with encouragement at little achievements. Who can do all the language building. An infant teacher who just doesn’t read because I have to say every single word in my head. I can’t skim read. I can’t read quickly. I’m slow. I have to really really want to learn something to read about it. Occasionally I’ll come across a story book that I have read quickly – well quickly for me. And followed it up with another by the same author. Occasionally I have wanted to research something and will use the books to do it. And yes the reading skills are used everyday, so that ‘light bulb’ moment was a good moment. I’m grateful to Miss Bell, Mrs Boreham, and Mrs Coulson for sticking with me.

I’m grateful that I can use all the skills they gave me. Why? Because there is one book that I do read. A book of books. A book that is full of stories and anecdotes. A book that is full of good advice. A book that points the way to go. A book that I love and because I love it, I will read it over and over again. A book that I can pick up and put it down again. A lllloooonnnng book that will take me a while to read if I started at the beginning and read straight through to the end. A book that is ok to take a long time read. That does have long words in to wrap round your tongue and then giggle when it comes out all wrong. A book that is full of history and events. A book full of travel. A picture book. A visual aid. A book that is very close to my heart. My Bible.

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Play day.

Tuesday morning has now got a slot in the diary. A play session. A creative session. Just me, music, scissors and lots of things to tempt me into doing something different. Oh yes, and an idea!  Today is fabric day. I have decided to try and master machine embroidery. I’ve dabbled with this from time to time. Been frustrated from time to time. Binned things from time to time too! Oops! But that isn’t the way to go, so this morning I made a start…

   

Cotton selected then discarded. Un-picker at the ready, which I didn’t use!

   

Tracey Fox  hand dyed fabrics. An idea. A pencil outline and we are away.

  

Cut out and positioned and then whizzed! Yes whizzed. I think I may have been too slow before.

Morning one completed. Tick!

Save

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Hannah. My Dreams.

  

My dreams. We all have dreams. Little dreams. Big dreams. Dreams that give you a glow. Dreams that are yearnings. Dreams that start small and become big. As the yearning grows so does the dream. We read in 1 Samuel 1, that Hannah had a dream. A yearning. She so wanted a child. Each year she went to Shiloh. Each year she prayed for a child. The wanting growing. Each year she was disappointed. Her husband, Elkanah, had two wives. Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had two sons. Hannah had none. Daily she lived with this comparison. And struggled.

v 6 Her rival would taunt her severely just to provoke her, because the Lord had kept Hannah from conceiving.

People can hurt. Hurt you in what they say. In how they act. They may hurt you without meaning too. They may hurt you deliberately. Peninnah was hurting Hannah. Deliberately.

A simple question can hit home without the inquirer knowing it has hit home. A simple question like “How are you this morning?” Your answer immediately puts the comparison into play. How do you answer? ‘Well I’m better than yesterday but not as good as two days ago.’ ‘Well I’m hoping to be good, but I’ve been better.’ But how many of us answer ‘Oh I’m fine!’ Guilty. ‘Oh I’m fine!’ is my stock answer.  If I say that, I don’t have to compare the me of today, with the me of yesterday. It avoids the follow up questions too. And it isn’t just how we feel. It extends to our work. The work we are doing for the LORD. Our ‘ministry’. “How is your ministry doing?”

You think. You mull it over. Like I’ve been mulling it over. We create the parameters. We put in bench marks. I put in the bench marks for ‘me’. How am I doing in relationship to what I planned to do? We put in the value of what we are doing. We try to find the value in our function. We push aside the value in our relationship with God. The biggest ‘value’. In comparing we move out and away from God’s will. We are working hard, but missing God. Things go wrong. Why LORD? Where are you LORD when things go awry?

Hannah had not lost her faith in God. She was very low. Heart broken. Peninnah was no help. She breaks down and cries. She wept. Wept. Such a loaded word. Tears are gentle. They trickle out. They can come from a pain, but you can cope with tears. Cries. Cries has a body to it. The tears become more. It is usually more vocal. But wept. Wept is a whole body thing. Like sobbed. It comes from deep within. Hannah wept. v7.

v 8 Hannah, why are you crying? ” her husband Elkanah asked. “Why won’t you eat? Why are you troubled? Am I not better to you than 10 sons? ”

That last phrase. ‘Am I not better to you than 10 sons?’ Don’t I matter more? Hannah was hurt. v10. “Deeply hurt”.  Imagine all the feelings ebbing and fro-ing through her mind. Backwards and forwards. Round and round. Going over the same ground time and again. Been there? Done that? Many times. And while she was there praying ‘in the LORD’s presence,’ v12, she laid it all before Him.

v 11. she pleaded, “Lord of Hosts, if You will take notice of Your servant’s affliction, remember and not forget me, and give Your servant a son, I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and his hair will never be cut.”

How often has God whispered ‘Don’t I matter more?’ ‘Isn’t it all about Me?’ Where is our relationship? In what we do? Or with our LORD? How does that make you feel? Make me feel?  Where is the priority of my affection? How often I do things in my own strength and get no where. Trying to get to Jesus. Trying to get to His kingdom. Not because of who He is and has done for me, but because of what I am doing for Him. I come with the wrong qualification.

Hannah didn’t come with the wrong qualification. Eli thought she was there for the wrong reason and scolded her. He did not know of her heart. The outpouring. The true connection with her LORD. The union she had requested. The close bond. But upon hearing her he responded,

v 17 Eli responded, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant the petition you’ve requested from Him.”

So what is my union with my LORD? I know what I would like it to be. One of not just holding hands. One of a true connection. A true union. To be open to what He wants for me. To walk in tune along the steps He has put in place. It is God’s work that should be open to me, not the work I think He wants for me. It is all about His ministry not mine. He gives us this work to do not in a solo way. A work to do together. A  union. And the fruit of such work gives Him the glory. We give it back to Him.

Like Hannah’s. A dream of a baby. A dream so huge that it was her all. A dream that she sought God to fulfill. A dream that she would dedicate back to Him. A dream that they would do together. Samuel. A little boy she brought to the LORD. Brought back to Eli who had watched her pray from the bottom of her heart. A little boy who would serve the LORD.

Our dreams? To give back to Him all that He has given us. To be able to look up and connect. Jesus said, ‘”I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.” John 15 v 5. The branches look like they produce the fruit. The grapes grow on the branches but they are fed and watered through the vine. The vine provides the root and nourishment. Like wise us. Without Him we do not do His work. Look up and be connected. Fulfill your dream. A dream with Him. His dream with you. His dream with me. Walking the steps He has laid for me. A walk in confidence. In closeness. A closeness that leads to a knowing. A knowing of my path. Knowing that sense of rightness. A sense of peace. A sense of not being alone. Together. A sweet dream.

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Thomas. My Hopes.

     My Hope is in You! Psalm 39 verse 7

Hope, that feeling of something about to happen. That expectation. That anticipation. So why look at Thomas? The disciple that has been labelled ‘doubting Thomas’. Read his story in John 20 verse 19 – 29. Two encounters with Jesus. Almost identical encounters. A locked room. Disciples gathered together. Jesus appears and says ‘Peace to you!’ The difference? Thomas was not at the first one.

Have you ever been looking forward to something so much, that when it doesn’t happen your whole world just falls apart? That anticipation that grows and grows, only to be beaten down in one big blow? Crushing. Heavy. Hard work. You can’t get yourself together. You know you should. You know you need to get back to it. Like falling off a bike, but being encouraged to get back on it and ride again. That anticipation and disappointment all rolled into one – anticappointment. That was the ‘word’ used to introduce Thomas to us at the staff conference. It is such a good ‘word’. It tells you exactly how Thomas felt. He had been with Jesus throughout the ministry. Learning at His feet. Taking it all in. Jesus was going be the Messiah. The Saviour. But then He had been taken and crucified. The one person Thomas really thought was going to do the job, had been taken. And with it Thomas’s hope. The ‘anticappointment’ was great. Crushing. Life became hard work for Thomas.

When I have been down, really down, life has been hard work. You go around in a daze. In a fog. In treacle. You want to be on your own. On your own to think things through. On your own to process the facts, but also your reaction to them. You don’t want people telling you, we must go forward. Telling you to, come on, get with it! Some people can do that. Get with it. Some people only need a day. Some people need a bit longer.

Thomas was the only disciple not there that first meeting. Where he was we are not told. We are not told if he was feeling low. But they were all pretty stunned. All a bit frightened. They had gathered in the room and locked the door. So it seems possible that Thomas may have been hiding too. Thinking it all through. Feeling let down. Feeling inward looking. Not doubting. Just reflecting. Thomas believed in God. He believed in all that Jesus had done and said. He wanted to be there with Jesus. (John 11 v16 and John 14 v5) To go all the way. To follow. Your best friend has just been taken away from you. You are bound to be down. To be in shock. Perhaps it was Thomas’s personality, to be very down.

Everyone falls between a cup that is half empty to a cup that is half full. On a spectrum the slider can move up and down. We react to things differently at different times. I know I do. All the way through my depression I have never lost my faith in God. I have always believed Him to be there beside me. But each day has been different. My reactions to things have been different. The slider has moved up and down.

Here we see Thomas with a slider that goes up and down. It is down and his friends run up and say ‘We have seen Him. We have seen the LORD!’ The slider whizzes up at the slight hesitation it is true, but slumps when he remembers what happened. It couldn’t possibly be true. Thomas saw Him crucified. The slider is stuck. The glimmer of hope came because Thomas remembered the way Jesus had told them about the resurrection (John 14 v 1-7) But  it went as he remembers what he saw and he says…

“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Thomas does not give up. He tries hard. He carries on going about with the disciples. For eight days he goes through the motions with them. He perhaps wasn’t expecting to meet with God, but he goes anyway. He knows, he hopes. Oh he so hopes that what Jesus said, will happen for him. They meet in the room again. Together. And Jesus appears. He says ‘Peace to you!’ But He is there for one person. He is there just to reach out. He is there for Thomas.

“Put your finger here and observe My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Don’t be an unbeliever, but a believer.”

And Thomas’s response?

“My Lord and my God!”

He believes then because he has seen. We don’t know if he actually did put his hand into Jesus’s side. We are not told. But we are told he believed. He believed because he saw.

Our journey of faith is a journey of mystery. We don’t know what is about to happen. But it doesn’t stop our faith in God. We can look back and write down history. Look back and see where God has been with us. Look back at the slider and see how God made it rise not fall. That is our doing. Look back and say ‘Yes LORD, I believe!’ In trusting Him we overcome any glimpses of ‘maybe’.

God knows the future. He knows the future for each and every one of us. He knows the plan. And because  He knows the plan we don’t need to.  We carry our belief, in that He wants the very best for us, forward. Our belief that is built up by the things we know He did, and does, and will do. He doesn’t reveal the future, but He orders our steps. In trusting Him we can walk those steps with Him. We can move forward because we know God is GOOD!

Thomas had a very personal encounter with Jesus. He went to the room and met with Jesus. If he hadn’t gone he would have missed another opportunity. But he kept his hope alive and went. He had a meeting with Him because he looked up and hoped. He found that by looking up he had eye contact. An eye contact that was very special and very personal. In that seeing he confirmed his believing in a fresh way. He had a new and fresh meeting with God.

On that Friday, when I saw the title, “My Fears. My Hopes. My Dreams” I had a new and fresh meeting with God. In times gone past I have struggled with staff conferences. My fears have got in the way. But resting  with my leg up, God has carefully and gently revealed Himself to me. I have turned round fully and lifted my eyes for that eye contact. A fresh contact for which I am grateful.

Don’t miss your fresh contact.

A big thank you to Peter Cavanna – our teacher.

 

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