Thursday, 24 December 2015

On this night.

Christmas Eve.
A night of possibilities.
Light.
Life.
Love.

As the sun sets,
and darkness covers the earth
the world waits in hushed expectancy.

Stars appear more radiant.
Lights seem brighter,
We wait...

'Today you will know that the Lord will come,
and in the morning you will see His glory.'
Exodus 16:6-7

Tonight
we will know...

And

In the morning
we will see...

Glory to God in the highest heaven
and on earth
peace
for you
and me
on whom his favour rests.

Rest in his favour tonight.
Feel His love.
Know His presence.

For His name shall be called
Immanuel
which means
God
With
Us.





Saturday, 17 October 2015

Thoughts on Halloween

It bothers me every year.
And I've already received several emails on 'the dangers of Halloween'
from well-meaning individuals.

Well my name's Karen and I don't mind it.
I'm a Christian, and I've just carved my first pumpkin of the year.
I lead a church and I've allowed my children to go 'trick or treating'.

These are my reasons:

Firstly I love pumpkins!
Pumpkin cake, pumpkin soup, toasted pumpkin seeds if you're feeling virtuous,
What's not to like?

Carving them is hard work.
I recommend a proper pumpkin carver,
after the first year when I nearly lost my fingers using a carving knife.
An ice-cream scoop is great for scooping out the flesh.
I pull the stringy bits out by hand to rescue the pumpkin seeds.

The difference with mine is I do one of two designs:



Or




The carvings speak for themselves.
Jesus, the light of the world.
Or
Carve a heart for World Vision.
The effect is beautiful.
The message clear.

Secondly
I believe in generosity.
What are we saying to the community in general,
the children specifically,
when we are grumpy and refuse them on our doorstep?
It may lessen our impact on other occasions when we want to share what really matters.

By the way
I wouldn't recommend giving them tracts.

Unless they're taped to sweets.
Lots of sweets...

I've just ordered some bags of hope from UCB.
They're free here http://www.ucb.co.uk/bagofhope.
I'll be putting sweets in as well.
The Pound shop is great for these occasions.

How about praying for each child as you close the door?

Thirdly
My boys are sadly past the age of dressing up.
Most of the time anyway.
When they were little we lived in a very close-knit cul-de-sac.
The children used to dress up and visit each others houses.
Not so much 'trick-or-treat' as " Please can I have my sweets."

I know the arguments.
I don't like seeing beautiful children dressed up as demons.
Mine dressed up as something else.

"It's scary for old people to have people knocking on their doors."
I'm not old, but I don't like answering the door after about 5pm either.

Maybe speak to your neighbours in advance?
Or follow Halloween etiquette
which dictates you only knock at a house with a pumpkin visible.

The final argument
and the most important one for many Christians is
"Halloween glorifies and celebrates evil."
It's not something we should be joking about.
It trivialises the dangers of the enemy.

I agree that we shouldn't be trivialising or celebrating evil.
It is alive and well in my community.
The battle of good and evil continues.
Day after day after day.
I also know that there are occult celebrations on this day, and every day.

But for the average person in the street Halloween has nothing to do with this.

And I believe in Jesus.
who's power in us is greater than any the world can muster.

That's why I carve His name in a pumpkin.
And represent His love by carving a heart.

Love wins.

Every time.

These are my thoughts.
I don't believe Halloween is the best time for we who are called to be salt and light
to retreat into our spiritual salt cellars.

You may not agree.
That's fine.
But I offer these thoughts for any whose children don't want to go to their church
'Light Party;'
And are facing their annual argument with their children about Halloween.

Let's spread the love and light to a dark world.



Monday, 12 October 2015

In search of the perfect coffee

Chris and I went for a coffee this morning.
It was a nice little cafe in a place we hadn't been before.
We were pleased to see flat-whites on the menu.
Described underneath as a double-shot espresso with frothy milk.

Perfect.
I ordered a skinny one...
A token gesture...

There was a young girl being trained,
She was told it was a 'bald cappucino' 
with no chocolate or biscuit.

It sounded fairly accurate...
"Except it's double-shot"
I added helpfully.

"Not here it's not.
We do our own version."

I kindly pointed out the menu.
She stood corrected, never having noticed this phenomena before...

When it arrived it was a very strong coffee
with a teeny bit of milk
and what looked like a teeny froth of skinny milk.
I'm beginning to wonder if it was something else entirely
You hear such stories of the practices of disgruntled waiters...

Apparently their version doesn't include a frothy top.
But we had a nice lunch
I even left a tip.

But as I left I was thinking
Can they have such a thing as their own version?
Do my consumer rights mean they have to give me what I reasonably expect?
Or at least what it says on their menu.

After wandering around the town for half an hour 
we went to the place we knew made flat-whites perfectly.
Despite the name of the chain it didn't Costa lot as I had points.

Perfectly made, 
Perfectly free,
Perfect.

The perfect flat-white


We live in an uncertain world.
Things often don't turn out the way we think.
Or hope.
Or dream.

Yet there is a Saviour who died once
for all
for us.

True love perfectly made,
perfectly free,
perfect.

Unchanging
Consistent
Constant
Ours

The LORD is loving and merciful, 
slow to become angry 
and full of constant love, 
He is good to everyone 
and has compassion on all he made.
Psalm 145:8


Tuesday, 8 September 2015

On saying goodbye.... Again.

I said goodbye today.
Again.

Seems like my life has been full of goodbyes in the last few months.
Or rather "See you soon"'s as goodbye became too painful.
And now we're in a new house.
New church.
New job.
And the boys are at new schools and colleges.

Anyway, back to today.
I drove quite a few miles for a final meeting with someone who has shared my journey for the last 18 months.
She has heard my story.
Witnessed my tears.
Laughed with me.
Taken me tenderly forward to a place of discovery and growth.
`
And you know
It felt ok.
It felt right to be saying goodbye.

Part of the reason, I believe,
was something I read earlier this morning.
I was in my favourite coffee shop.
That sells amazing bread.
And the most perfect flat whites I've ever tasted.
But I digress....

I asked God if there was anything I needed to know before I went to say goodbye.
As I opened my journal,
and looked down the page.
I read this:

You've always given me breathing room,
a place to get away from it all,
a lifetime pass to your safe house,
an open invitation as your guest.
Psalm 61:3-4

And this...

There is nothing but God's grace.
We walk upon it,
We breathe it,
We live and die by it.
(Robert Louis Stevenson)

And this...

Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace;
So sure 
And certain
that we could stake our life on it a thousand times.
(Martin Luther)

Life is transient.
Always changing.
Especially mine it seems.

But God is unchanging.
Constant.
Steadfast.
And He gives me an open invitation to be,
to breathe,
to get away from it all with Him.

Goodbyes are a fact of life in one form or another.
But God IS.
Always
Forever.


Monday, 27 July 2015

The role of July will be played by April

Everything changes they say.
The only certainty in life is that nothing stays the same.

In recent weeks our family has changed
Location
Home
Work
School
Ministry

Stress levels are surprisingly low.
But we are tired.
Our brains are fried from information overload.
And in the thrill of meeting new people
We shed the occasional, silent tear for those we miss.

We are going to a funeral today.
Saying farewell to a lady who loved life.
She had a beautiful smile
An infectious giggle.
And a rather naughty sense of humour at times.
(I love that in a person.)

Life will never be the same for those who loved her.
A guilty relief at less responsibility,
which gives more time,
feels bittersweet when we lose those we love.

We long to see their smile...
Hear their voice...
Feel their touch...

Just one more time.

So I'm praying for those who mourn today.
My arms are ready to embrace
with a hug that says a thousand words when words fail.

But I'm praying for the arms of the changeless one
to hold all who need Him.
Especially today.

May we know His presence
His power
His peace
In the ever-changing scenes of life.

Moment by moment He's got this.
He's got us.
He's gone before.

Trust Him.


Tuesday, 7 July 2015

On finding a fortress

I walked up Reigate Hill last week.
Nothing unusual there.
But since Daisy joined our family I've been exploring.
Taking different paths.
Places she can run.

Last week I stopped at Reigate Fort.
It was used during the wars.
Now it's a great place for children to play.
Some of the old buildings are still there.
And there's a big grassy area that's perfect for dogs to run.

The sign said that it was a place where the troops would stop for a while.
Just long enough for them to replenish their supplies.
Weapons
Clothing
Food.
A place for restoration
Albeit brief.

These days are days of change for many.
So much to do and so little time.
But I'm reminded that Father God is our fortress.
Our refuge
Our place of safety.

Wherever we are
Wherever we go
He provides a place on our road.
Our fortress.
A place to breathe.

Take a moment now to fill your lungs with life-giving oxygen.
He is here.
He provides.
He loves.

"I pray you'll be our eyes
And watch us where we go.
And help us to be wise
In times when we don't know.
Let this be our prayer, when we lose our way...
Lead us to the place
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we'll be safe."

(The Prayer)

Monday, 11 May 2015

Dance like nobody's watching.

I used to be a dancer.
Not professionally you understand.
But in worship.

Mainly before pregnancy changed my body,
And the way I viewed myself.
But more intensely during my training years,
culminating in a performance at
The Royal Albert Hall, during our ordination and commissioning.

I always think you should quit while you're ahead!

And now I'm just a disco diva.
Play some music.
Dig out my heels.
And I'll be there,
on the dance floor,
for most of the night.

A few months ago I put a new worship CD in the car.
I do quite a lot of driving in a normal week,
so I like to have some options.

There were words of a song that kept coming to me.
Over and over.

"Tears will dry
Your heart will mend
Your scars will heal
You will dance again."

My journey of tears, grief and broken-heartedness
is well-documented on this blog.

But scars?
The scars of life and ministry?
Of disappointments and betrayal?
Of being misunderstood and misrepresented?

Those scars are hidden.

Hidden from all but the One
who bears his own scars in his hands and his feet;
and asks me to trace them with my fingers
that I might believe.

I will dance again
Is a promise of hope to me.

A promise of freedom.
A promise that sees the dreams of this mother
whose body has seen better days.
Who has carried  and birthed three handsome and strong young men.
The dreams of this woman who longs to be able to do more,
work more,
love more,
but lives within the confines of self-care.
A promise that isn't about the dancing,
but about the dreams of who and what she can be.

God sees.
He knows.
He promises.

It's love beyond reason.
Love without limits.
Love with no restraint.

What's your dream?
Give it to God.
Trust Him.







Sunday, 26 April 2015

On being a responsible dog owner.

Today's post is not for the faint-hearted.
Or for the ever-so-slightly squeamish.

However as one friend told me this week, she
"Loves that I am publicly gross"
Perhaps you're used to it?

A few weeks ago we were given the gift of Daisy,
who delights in being a 20month-old cockerpoo.
She has proved to be a real blessing to our family in countless ways,

Here she is in all her glory!





We take the role of responsible dog-owners very seriously.
The long walks,
The feeding,
The playing,
Even the not-so-pleasant task of picking up her poo.

Warning!
Here comes the gross bit...

The problem is if we don't catch her in time
No sooner has she expelled it from her rear end,
Than she gobbles it up again.

Eewww!
I know!

And today when she did three lots in one walk.
And I was walking along with one filled poo bag
I didn't get to her third lot before she gobbled it up....

But you know God spoke to me in that moment.
And said,

"That's what you do.
"You get rid of all your 'stuff'.
The mess,
the rubbish,
the things I don't want you to have in your life.

You give them to me in the moment,
In a 'casting all your burdens' kind of way.
You're quite good at it really.

But before you know it you've taken them all back on board again.
And so it goes on
And on
And on."

I guess I'm not the only one who does this.
At least I don't think so.

And as I spent time praying and worshipping this morning
I remembered the two words God used to say to me over and over.

Trust. Me.

And you know we can.
Every last one of us.

He knows what we are made of.
He waits with open arms
Open hands.

Trust him




Sunday, 5 April 2015

When love called my name

"Mary" Jesus said.
She turned and cried out "Master."
John 20:16

Amid life
With it's twists and turns
Hopes and dreams
Love calls my name.

In times of joy
Laughter
Excitement
Love calls my name.

When I doubt
Fear
Despair
Love calls my name

In my life
With it's twists and turns...
hopes and dreams...
Love calls my name

Love
True love
Forgiving love
Real love

A love full of life
Hope
And possibility
Calls me by my name.





Saturday, 4 April 2015

Holy Saturday 2015

Today

God is silent
But not absent.

We rest in his love
as we wait for heaven to break through.

Oh love that will not let me go....

Find a quiet corner and let your heart remember.

http://youtu.be/ZiZ9xXoZ1Mk

Friday, 3 April 2015

Good FrIday 2015

I've spent most of today with a lump in my throat.
A tightness in my chest.

A sense of not really knowing what to do with myself.
What to do
Where to go
How to be.

Until a few minutes ago it felt wrong somehow.
Part of my longing for something.
Anything.
That would help make today significant.

But isn't this what it's like to grieve?
Isn't this how it feels when we wish things were different?
When we know God has a plan but it makes no sense in this present moment.

Jesus has died.
We know the ending.

The disciples certainly didn't.

The women watched in silent despair
as Jesus cried out

'MY GOD!

My God?

Why?
Why have you forsaken me?'

Maybe you,
Along with me,
Feel a bit out of sorts today.

You know,
I think that's ok.

We can sit with the grief of today.
God has not forsaken us.
It really is finished.

Together we scan the skies in the hope of a brighter day.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

I want to be a bottle-breaker.

I want to be her.
The one overwhelmed by love and grace.
The one who walked where angels feared to tread.
The one who wouldn't be told No.

I want to be her
The one who kneels at Jesus' feet
The one who looks into his eyes
And lets down her hair.

I want to be her
The one who took the costliest perfume and broke the bottle.
The one who cried happy tears all over Jesus' feet.
The one who wipes them lovingly with her silky hair.

I want to be her
The best beloved
The courageous one
The one made beautiful by forgiveness

I want to be her
The one who loves so much
So well
So completely
That when she stands and leaves his presence
She spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.

Monday, 30 March 2015

In search of life more abundant

It's been a while.
I'm sorry
Words have failed me a lot over these past weeks.

Regular readers of the blog may remember my well-documented search for joy during most Advents.
But this year it's Lent that has passed me by,
virtually unnoticed.
Lost in the where's
And why's.
The what
The when
The who
Of life in my world.

The truth is this:
The events of the past 5 weeks or so
have stripped me almost bare.
I could feel the resilience I'd worked so hard for
being chipped away piece by piece.

And now
at the start of this holiest of weeks
I'm on my knees
Pleading for something
Anything
That will lift me from the place I've fallen.

A place of greyness
Where anxiety threatens
And hope trembles
And only love penetrates.

'The ground is level at the foot of the cross
And that's where we find ourselves as Holy Week begins....
There is room here for each of us
And grace enough for all of us
And not one of us stand beyond His reach.'
Jennifer Dukes-Lee

I have a friend who consistently points me to Jesus.
When I'm lost
Despairing
Looking for truth
Direction
Hope

It's Jesus
Always Jesus.

No human flesh can reach the depths he can.

And so
This Holy week
Join me in my search?
My journey to Calvary?

May we find at the cross
Our sins forgiven
Our hope renewed
Our peace restored

May we find again the love that conquers all.

Jesus.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

I believe.

This past fortnight has been a tough one.
In the aftermath, these are my thoughts:

I believe that God,
Father God,
Loves me supremely,
Irrevocably
Unbelievably,
Immeasurably.

He understands us when humans misunderstand.
He values us when we are un-valued.
He represents us when we are misrepresented.

I believe God speaks through the Bible.
Through other people
Through my heart and my mind.

I believe that God can
And often does
Redeem everything.
But that doesn't mean we should settle for less than the best.

I believe that humans make mistakes.
When we do,
We should admit it,
Say sorry
And move on.

I believe that God works in our lives over periods of time.
He prepares us for what lies ahead.
He gives us courage.
He whispers words of love,
And hope,
Through the storm.

I believe that God fights for us,
as people,
as individuals,
as a family,
and not just for our situations.

I believe that wounds from friendly fire
Cut deeper than those of enemy fire.

I believe that God is healer.
He soothes our pain and calms our fears.

I believe that bystander apathy is a natural response.
But there comes a time when we should have the courage to voice our concerns on behalf of the hurting.

I believe that truth always rises to the surface.
Honesty,
Integrity,
And silence,
Speaks volumes.

I believe that God sees our distress,
and sends his ministering angels in the form of friends and family.

They listen
Pray
Send gifts
Send scripture
Cook roasts
Send texts
And send chocolate.

Thank you my friends.


Friday, 20 February 2015

Five Minute Friday: Open

Lord, I am open.
Open to what you want to do in my life.
Open to love
Life
Joy
Peace

Open to all you have for me
Even though the path may be different to the one I imagined,
Or even hoped for.

Your love is deep
Wide
High
Strong
Unending

My faith in you has not faltered.
You know the plans you have for me.

I am open.

'For I know the plans I have for you,
Plans to prosper you, not to harm you,
Plans to bring about the future you hoped for.'
Jeremiah 29:11

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

He makes me lie down....

I was on retreat for a few days last week.
It was with the Salvation Army officers from our region.

Wednesday morning dawned bright and clear.
We were sent off with a copy of Psalm 23 clutched tightly in our hands
to meditate on
and learn
during 60 minutes of silence.

I set off with my camera in hand.
I'd done something similar recently,
So already knew the psalm by heart.

As I walked I recited and clicked.

The Lord is my shepherd

I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

And so on

And so forth

And it was easy to recite

And live

As I walked beside the still waters.



I heard God speak several times

And then I arrived here.




And our conversation went like this:

God: Well go on then.

(I knew what was coming bit couldn't quite believe He was going to say it.)

Me: What?

G: Lie down in green pastures.

Me: You're joking right? It's cold. Damp. Frosty. Muddy.
And I'm wearing a skirt.
And a new cardigan.

G: Lay on your scarf.

Me: But that's only thin. Not even wool.

And we carried on like this for a while.

But eventually I laid down my scarf
And laid down
And gazed at the sky
And waited

For the meaningful cloud shapes
At least a kiss in the air trails
Or the writing in the sky.

But no.
Nothing.

Though it was quite pleasant,

Just laying there,

And after about ten minutes I got up.

And then it came...
The message.

My scarf
My cardigan
My skirt

were all bone-dry.

Nice one God.

And as I walked back to the Conference Centre I wondered

Was it a bit Gideon-esque?
Laying out a fleece and all that?

Or maybe a
'Trust & Obey' thing.

But then the verse from Malachi 3:10 came to mind.
It talks about bringing the whole tithe into the Temple.
Giving our all to God.
Who we are, not just what we have.

And then this:

"Test me in this

and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you

and pour out blessings

beyond your wildest dreams."


So there it is.

And I'm still pondering.

And wondering.

And asking.

Always asking.



Thursday, 22 January 2015

Daddy's girl.

He called me daughter.

With a smile on his face.
A twinkle in his eye.
His arms outstretched.

I  ran and jumped into his arms.

And he swung me high.
Held me close.
And we laughed.
How we laughed.

Deep belly-chuckles.
Giggles so high they robbed us of breath.

My girl.
You're my girl.
Always.

'Daughter, your faith has given you life. Go in peace'
Luke 8:48