And then it was all #change

After six months we are finally moving on Thursday.
It means posts might be a bit erratic until the new year, but what I did want to share with you for four days… is the park.
It has been a strange two or three years, full of both excitement and the pain of depression followed by the long road out of it.
I have gone from dust and ashes to genuine joy at the world around me, and the park has played a significant part.
Walking there most days has allowed me a moment in the present away from the struggle of coming up for air and dealing with the causes of my illness.
Here I have found space to talk and walk with Jesus, and enjoy the beauty of his creation.
I am so grateful for it all.
I will miss this park very much, but we are moving next door to a new one! But for now, the first installment of four:
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#Advent 11 a moment in time

Although advent is a season of waiting, it is because we move through time, unlike God, who lives in eternity.

CS Lewis said:
” …at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which [God] has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them.”

It is now we are alive and now we can meet with God.
It certainly felt that way on this morning’s dog walk. May you find yourself in the presence of Jesus… in the present.
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#Advent 10 signs of the Kingdom

It is the birthday of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights today. Born out of the horror of the second world war, we can say in truth of those who wrote it:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9

As we spend time in Advent thinking about what it means to wait for God’s kingdom, it is a real encouragement to see how people are bringing it in. It is the now of the “now and not yet”.  Although there are many circumstances where the universal declaration of human rights is still ignored every day, it still stands as a beacon for people longing for God’s Kingdom. It might not be scripture, but it certainly lends itself to  love your neighbour as yourself:

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But speaking of scripture, both a reading in my daily prayers, and today’s 365 promise remind me of who it is we put our hope in, and why he is worth trusting:

Psalm 30:5
For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favour lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.

Lamentations 3:22-23
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

How faithful Jesus is. And how beautiful his personality. who else would be worth waiting for, working for?

We see his compassion, new each morning, and long for the night to pass, for his Kingdom to come, the place where we wont need a list of rights to bring about justice, because the Prince of Peace will be with us.

#Advent 7 A reason to hope

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The weather has finally cleared a bit here. With the sun coming out, I am reminded that hope can be found in all seasons. All across the internet at the moment you will see quotes by Mandela or about him, and they are full of hope:

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It is a good thing, and it is contagious. The pay it forward movement can be seen in all sorts of guises, from SGM Lifewords giving away good quality booklets and the like, or allowing people to pay it forward, to organisations such as Hope Mob, A Platform for Good and We are what we do all encouraging us to reach out, put others first, care for our neighbour whether we know them or not.

Surely all these things are a sign of the Kingdom of God right here and now. No, it hasn’t fully arrived yet, there is plenty of selfishness to choose from, but it is here and it is coming. That’s the importance of Advent, it allows us to wait for the not-yet while celebrating the already-here. Being a follower of Jesus is not all about waiting to die and go to heaven when your “real” life starts. Jesus came to bring in the kingdom right here and now and his life was littered with examples of the restoration that life brings.

This Christmas, how will we be bearers of restoration and light, bringers of hope? You could do worse than buying a toy for this charity that had all its toys stolen.

Today’s crafts, gifts…

A hat:

A toy elephant:

Chickens…

 

#Advent 6 treasuring the questions

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAThis morning brings the news of the passing of a great man. Nelson Mandela died last night, and this morning his tributes are all over the internet. Gillan Scott in his tribute quotes  Archbishop Desmond Tutu saying:

‘He was tempered in the fire of adversity… The 27 years of incarceration, were important in the making of the man.

‘It gave him a new depth, helped him to be more understanding of the foibles of others, to be more generous, more tolerant, more magnanimous and it gave him an unassailable credibility and integrity, and so he could be as he was when he emerged from prison, willing to extend a hand of friendship to his former adversaries and be generous when they were vanquished.’

What a long time he had to wait, for freedom and for justice. At 39 I just can’t imagine what it would be like to be in prison for  twenty-seven years. Only by the grace of God would it be possible not to lose hope.

We may not be in prison, but there are many ways of being incarcerated. Dreams and ambitions thwarted can have the same effect. Or we may see the good we could do but find our way blocked. At work at the moment we can see all the amazing things we could be doing for young people, but right now resources are tight… so we have to wait.

In this season of Advent, we may find ourselves not having the answers, the results. so instead, as Martyn Joseph put it, we instead treasure the questions:

But the journey has brought me so much closer
I don’t have to stand here and lie
Over and over I cried in the darkness
Over and over to see
The crime is to sit and not wonder
Renewing my mind set me free

And if I don’t find out the search is not in vain
And if I don’t find out I
Treasure the questions as they rage in my mind
I treasure the questions some day I will find
I ran out of answers such a long time ago
And I treasure the questions wherever I go

As we journey towards Christ, we know that some questions are not answered this side of heaven, but that when he comes again, we will see fully:

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  1 Corinthians 13:12

 

Today’s craft:

Something to warm your friends this Christmas from The Frugal girlsHot Cocoa and Cider Goodie Bags.

#Advent 5 follow the shepherd

christmas 3Our home computer opens up to the website http://www.365promises.com/ and today’s promise comes from Psalm 100:

Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
He made us, and we are his.
We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

It was also the opening words of my morning prayers today. What a comfort these words are. We do not travel alone. We do not need to fear the attack of wolves,  because God has made us, we belong to him. He hasn’t just made us and cast us on some cosmic rubbish tip in favour of the next best thing, (that being what humanity can be so fond of doing) instead he has called us his people. He is our shepherd,  he leads us and protects us.

And this isn’t just for the easy times. As Psalm 23 says:

Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.

The Lord really is our shepherd. It must have been such a difficult journey for Mary and Joseph as they headed to Bethlehem, and then after the birth of Jesus having to flee to Egypt. The Christmas story is full of hardship as well as joy. Which means it perfectly mirrors our lives. As we continue our journey to the coming of Christ, let us remember that he knew and knows what it means to have sorrow, but because he came to us, we can rejoice that we can be his people. His grace is available to us all and as we acknowledge that he is the Lord our God, we find that Jesus is also our shepherd, guiding us through dark places and light as we journey ever closer to him.

Another advent craft for you:

Good shepherd sheep cupcakes:

#Advent 4 Casting out darkness

It has been grey and dark all day outside, but my morning prayers washed over me:

Almighty God, give all of us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.† http://www.explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/hours.php

We could be forgiven, sometimes, for wondering if the darkness is winning. I see so much hurt and confusion around me, a very real lostness. But Jesus is indeed the Light of the World, and as we wait with darkness around us, for his light to wash away the dark for good, it is a joy to know that he gives us his grace so that we can cast away the works of darkness.

Because of the humility of Jesus we miss his searing light, so different from the fame and glory humanity covets. His light is framed in love, in a passionate pursuit of the other rather than self.

He gave everything.

The duck in the photo is a memento from a time where other people helped me back into the light. If it had not been for the generosity of friends and family, I might not have had the chance to get well. There are so many different shadows around us.

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Surely then this is how we are to put on the armour of light. In a time where it takes a petition for us to consider why on earth there are so may food poor in our rich country, and where so many young people are in desperate need of help to stay mentally well, we really need the grace of God to pursue our calling, while in this mortal life, to carry the light of Jesus to others.

Today’s craft, making a little light:

A glass, some craft glue and scraps of material, hey presto you have warm and comforting light.

Never leave a candle untended.

#Advent 3 announcements we never expect

Luke 1:26-28

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee,  to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.  “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.  And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

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I expect Mary needed a sit down and a cup of tea after that. What a huge thing to happen to her. In a moment her life had changed forever, and as she began to consider the implications of what the Angel had said, her faith must have been tested again and again.

The bible doesn’t record the conversation between Mary and Joseph, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that it was one painful and difficult conversation.  Notice, Joseph isn’t told by God until Mary has told him, that the child is of the Holy Spirit.

We may not be visited by angels and given a task of utmost importance, but most of us have had something, some news, which has changed out lives forever. Good or bad, we are never the same again. We have to pick ourselves up and begin our lives all over again, from a different place than before. It can be a great challenge.

Just as Mary declared she was the Lord’s servant, so can we. Regardless of how easy or hard the journey is, if we hand ourselves over to God, we can walk in the company of the Saviour.

A craft for today:

Get in a festive mood with Christmas tree pancakes, amongst other cheesy ideas:

#Advent 2 Art and Worship

I went to church in the evening yesterday, as my parents church had a special Advent Sunday service on.  There was lots of singing and music from the front as well as hymns for us to sing and art to look at.  It was a beautiful way to start the journey of Advent, giving us time to look and listen, to open our hearts to the particular journey Jesus wants us to travel this year. It also aknowledged that the waiting is not just to celebrate Christ being born, but also, that we wait for his return.

But back to the art. There were also, in the church large paintings which had been commissioned by the Diocese of Ipswich and St. Edmundsbury for their stand at the Suffolk show this year. They were painted by the Reverends Wendy Gourlay, Mary Lamb and Caroline Allen.

They are a beautiful act of worship, which of course is a journey in itself. Advent is a time when we pour out ourselves as we seek companionship which God. We long for his presence, reach out for his love and his way. This has been expressed so well through the ages in art and cratfmanship. And so lanst night all in the same place, the old and the new. Scripture written two thousand years ago and songs only a few years ago.

The four evangelists carved a long time ago:
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And art painted this year:

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We are connected to all the people of God, longing, waiting worshipping, as we open our hearts to God right now and we wait for Jesus to return.

Another craft for you to make this Advent: tree decorations, part one.

Draw or print from the internet some templates, cut two out the same in material you like and sew together with a little bit of toy stuffing inside. Take your time as you make these to think about what you are waiting for this Christmas, and thank God for all that you already have.