Tuesday, 29 April 2014

On clearing away the brambles.

Gardening doesn't come naturally to me.
I think I may have blogged about it before.

A few years ago, 
my friend who is a keen gardener,
bought me some strawberry plants
and a special strawberry planter 
for my birthday.

I hadn't been very well at the time
and she knew that there was something about gardening that helps.

I duly planted them 
but didn't look after them very well
so we ended up with about two strawberries in total.
The planter has sat mocking me ever since.

Until today
when I filled it with fresh compost
and planted the strawberry plants
I'd bought at B & Q 3 weeks ago.

And that was it.
I was off!

With my gardening gloves
and my new compost
and my lavender plant.

Then me and my secateurs went to war on the brambles.
Why on earth did God invent brambles?
They wind,
they choke,
and they get everywhere.
And by 'eck their thorns hurt!

I have a camellia plant that my in-laws bought us when we moved in to this house.
It blooms every year about this time.
Beautiful pink flowers.
They don't last long but when they bloom
it's a poignant memorial of Chris's parents.

This year we've only had two flowers on it.
I'd thought it was budding,
but when I looked closer
the brambles were all over it.
And where I'd thought it was budding, 
it was just leaves.
Bigger isn't always best in the gardening world.

After removing some of the junk
I'm still hopeful for a few more blooms, 
but if not,
I know it will come again next year.

The analogies of gardening aren't lost on me.
Especially at the moment.
The importance of proper care.
Of  looking beneath the surface to see what's really happening.
And of course,
getting rid of the things that bind,
that catch us,
and strangle us in their grip,
over and over again.

After my efforts in the garden I was pooped.
So I lit some candles
drank my coffee
and spent some time 

Sheila Walsh writes
"Jesus didn't come to get you out of the pain of life,
he has come to live in you through it."

I want to be a beautiful,
But life sometimes creeps up from behind
and threatens to choke me in its grip.

Jesus describes Father-God as The Gardener.
The gentlest,
and tender remover of brambles.
We can trust His tender hands
until we bloom again.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

On not eating chocolate for Lent.

Yes you read the title right.
I haven't eaten chocolate since before the beginning of  Lent.
I know!
I'm as surprised as you.

Especially as it was the very thing I swore I wouldn't do,
the whole 'giving up' thing.

I commenced my physical, emotional and spiritual de-cluttering on Ash Wednesday.
And as the days passed and things were cleared away,
I began to realise I hadn't eaten chocolate.
Or drank diet coke/pepsi.

And what was more surprising was,
I didn't really miss them.
Not at first anyway.

As I was clearing away the stuff that crowds in on my life,
it was putting the things I relied on in plain sight.
When things go wrong,
when difficulties arise,
when life got tough
I'd reach for the cans and the Cadbury's.

Now don't misunderstand me;
I know there are much worse things I could be reaching for.

But as I attempt to lead a life in full reliance on God,
I became aware that I needed to make God my chocolate,
Prayer my diet coke,
And listening for his voice my comfort food.

And there you have it.
As I knelt at the cross on Wednesday night of Holy Week
the words going through my mind were
'Nothing but thy blood can save me.'

It's the blood of Jesus that saves me,
cleanses me,
heals me
and makes me new.

Nothing else.
Just Jesus.
His death.
His resurrection.

And as a daughter of the resurrection
I want to live free.
Free from all that holds me back.

Happy Easter!

(Now where's that chocolate...?)

Friday, 18 April 2014

Five Minute Friday: Glue

I love going to the cinema.
I don't really mind what film we see,
as it's the experience I enjoy.

The big screen.
My coffee.
Popcorn if the boys are with me.
Or a few snacks if it's just Chris and I.

I love films.
And I have a range of films I see over and over...
Mona Lisa Smile
Apollo 13
The Illusionist

A few years ago I saw, 'A Joyful Noise'
Now, it's not the most original of story-lines.
A church choir is influenced by two strong women...
Enter Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton
who battle it out for the 'proper worship style'.
But the singing is fab!
Gospel music at it's best.

One of my favourite moments is when Queen Latifah sits at the piano
and sings 'Fix me Jesus'.
It moves me every time.
After all, who wouldn't want to be fixed?

Who wouldn't want their lives to be sorted,
their problems solved
and to live forever, good as new?

Today is Good Friday.

It's the day that Jesus takes my brokenness
my mess
my muddled existence
and he carries it with Him to the cross.

It's not glue that holds me together now,
it's blood;
The blood of the sinless one
who looked at me and thought I was worth dying for.

His death has brought me life.
New life in Him.
I'm fixed.
For today at least.

The beauty of the cross is it's timelessness.
And when I mess up
He stands waiting
Arms outstretched
Calling me
Loving me
Fixing me.

The Coppice
Accrington, Lancashire

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Five Minute Friday: Winning

"Are you winning?"
The same question, every Sunday morning.
For seven years.

It came from a retired man,
With a broad Lancashire accent,
Who had lost his wife,
And became a member of our congregation.

He asked it with a twinkle in his eyes.
There was I,
Mum to two very young,
very noisy,
very lively boys.
And wife to an equally noisy and lively husband.

And my answer was always the same,
"I'm getting there!"

My answer would still be the same 12 years on.
Though now I have another boy to add to the collection.
Turns out it was buy two, get one free!

And they're all still young,
and lively.

And I'm still winning.
Because I'm on the winning side.

This season has been tough at times.
Threats of relegation abound.
And the enemy attacks at regular intervals.

But I'm still winning.
I'm on the winning side.

As Jesus said
In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart,
I have overcome the world!


Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Lent:Variations on a theme

A note to the Father

Reasons why I love you No. 10,001

You take me on these journeys.

You see me in my anger
my sense of injustice,
my muddledness,

And you suggest we go for a walk.

And I still feel cross,

And you don't say much.

You just listen while I shout.
And you let me cry.

Then we sit in the silence

And we listen to the birds
And the wind in the trees
And I cry some more.

And gently you remind me of my tendency to want everything fixed
before I give thanks.

That because I want a solution to something,
I fail to thank you for all the other stuff


Marshmallow clouds

The wind in my hair
Light and shade on the ground
The radio
Birds dive-bombing into the water then using their feet like water-skis
Green hedgerows

And 'in everything give thanks' isn't another stick to beat ourselves with.

Because Ann Voskamp is right,
'Eucharisteo (thankfulness) does precede the miracle.'

The miracle of realising that no, life isn't perfect.
In fact it's far from that.

But in the muck and mess that often accompanies my life,
I can still find you.

You are in all

and through all.

Thank you.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Five Minute Friday: Writer

It's Friday.
The day we write for 5 mins without stopping on a given prompt word.
Today's word is: WRITER


I am a writer.

There you go, I've said it out loud.

No false humility.
Just facts.

I write, and people read what I write.
I guess this makes me a writer.

Today I have decided to write truth.

This was my week:

I have known delight at new beginnings.

Messy church was fab.
All generations working together to share the joy of Easter was heart-warming.

Costa is a great place to chat to stressed Mums with toddlers.

I have laughed.
Sneezed and coughed.
A lot!
(Sahara dust)

I have struggled at times this week
to believe in a good God who has our best interests at heart.
I made the choice to do so anyway.
I ate lots of shortbread yesterday.
These two things are probably related.

I have got angry,
really angry inside.
Thankfully, it came out as tears.
Lots and lots of tears.

Tears are good.
They are healing.

Here is truth as I understand it:

I am confident 
I will see the Lord's goodness
in the land of the living.
Psalm 27:13

How's your week been?