Decisions, decisions

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What to do? We all have to make decisions – every day – what to wear, eat and buy. Whether to send that letter, make that complaint or compliment and so on. We all have our own way of making these decisions, and a wrong decision may have no consequence, or a huge, life-changing effect.

Doodling decision trees, listing “pros” and “cons” and discussing the issues with trusted friends and family, and also with others affected by the decision all have their place, but if we talk to God about it – praying or journaling, we can be more confident that our thoughts are being directed by God.

Sometimes a decision is taken out of our handsIMG_1228 – perhaps applying for two jobs but only getting an interview for one. Instead of looking at the closed door with regret, we should anticipate the possibilities within the opportunity we have been given. It may be scary, unknown, and there’s no doubt we will still face difficult times, but looking to God for our strength, we can move onward with confidence.

Our attitude towards decision-making should be that of Jesus Himself who affirmed, “Not My will, but Yours be done” (Matthew 6 v10, Luke 22 v42). Ask for wisdom, trust His promises, and He will guide your path: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3 v 5-6).

Worried about a difficult decision you have to make? As A.W. Tozer said:

“While it looks like things are out of control, behind the scenes there is a God who hasn’t surrendered His authority.”

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Hey, Mr Postman!

letters

Maintaining a friendship made on holiday, my 7 year-old princess has discovered the joy of letter-writing.

Correspondence between the two friends has few words but lots of glitter and quirky pictures that make us all smile. Even the envelopes – in varying shades of pink and purple – are adorned with sparkle, stickers, and metallic pen (ahem – that would be MY metallic pen!).

In the age of instant online  messaging, letter-writing is something I rarely do. In fact, the most time-consuming aspect of the process is finding suitable paper, envelopes, stamps and addresses. But a hand-written note is a precious thing – it is an investment in a relationship, and for the recipient it is a welcome relief from the usual junk, requests and bills pouring through the letterbox.

During those times when God seems far away, and I feel I can’t connect with Him, I write him a letter. I don’t necessarily use paper and an envelope – sometimes I just write in my journal.  If I can, I’ll read a Bible passage before I begin. Psalm 118 is a good place to go when I don’t know where to turn. Verse 5 says “In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free.

Putting pen to paper can be hard. But if we simply write “Father” “Dear Daddy” or “Dear God” – however we like to express our relationship with Him – then we’ve made a start.

It’s OK to pour out everything on our minds, ask questions, rant, letters 2challenge, complain. When allowing the words to flow this like, I often find my heart softens, I open up a little, and am able to confess God’s love and power. In hard times, it may take a few letters to feel a sense of closeness and security in Him.

And when I’m there, I might just send a letter to someone else – and bring a little joy (and glitter) to their letterbox.

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…As the sand

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve just returned from a one-off Mediterranean holiday, courtesy of my very generous and thoughtful retired parents. We were treated to a wonderful hotel with attentive staff, great fresh food and a pool with slides and waterfalls for the children.

But every day, all Small Boy (who was a little overwhelmed by the whole experience) wanted to do was to sit on the adjoining beach and play in the sand. The first day this happened, I bit back the irritation that we’d come all this way and he was simply recreating our usual Lancashire beach-side breaks somewhere warm and expensive.

But then I realised – the sand was the only native thing to him in the culture-shock of a foreign environment. Sand is a familiar, perhaps comforting element for all of us – from the sand-tray at nursery, wet walks on the beach, the heat of desert dunes (ouch!).

It’s not surprising that the Bible is full of references to sand. Usually as a simile, sand describes an uncountable multitude, a weight impossible to measure. But sand is also where treasure is hidden – something with the potential to hide or reveal.

Sand can be used as a tool for our prayers and meditation – we can write and draw in it to express our thoughts and prayers; let it run through our hands as we think about the vastness of God, His thoughts about us, His attention to detail (all those tiny colours and shapes), our problems as we perceive them.

Next time you’re sitting by the sand-pit, watching the children, on the beach, or cleaning the last stubborn grains out of shoes, stop for a moment – and use this mundane, copious, beautiful gift – to look to God, His provision, His care for you and find the treasure hidden in the detail.

sand thanks

 

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Vain repetition?

dirty laundry

Do you ever pray the same thing over and over? Ask forgiveness for a sin again and again? I know I do.

But is it really necessary? God’s grace and forgiveness isn’t like a stain remover that needs to be applied several times before a stubborn mark finally disappears. Psalm 139 v4  says “You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.” So why do we repeat ourselves?

As frail human beings, we can find it difficult to let go of our sin, resentment and hurt. It can take quite a lot of scrubbing on our part to clear the mess away from our hearts and minds – to accept forgiveness, and to welcome God into our hearts.

Likewise, when we give glory to God, “chewing over” a phrase, thought or concept helps us to remember, take truths on board, and strengthen our faith.

Repeating phrases mindfully (as opposed to the mindless “vain repetition” that Jesus warns us about in Matt 6 v 7) is a great way to focus and develop clarity over a phrase or statement.

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Psalm 51 – a prayer of forgiveness

The Bible is full of examples of repeated statements. For example, Psalm 136 repeats “His love endures forever” 26 times – and many modern hymns and worship songs contain repeated phrases: Truths to be layered up, strengthening their meaning in our hearts.

This week, try it out – pick out a Psalm, a worship song or a prayer of your own, and chew it over, repeating, speaking, whispering and writing, and strengthen the words in your heart.

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A dog’s life

snoopy croppedOn my way to the office this morning the sight of a toddler pulling his toy dog along stopped me in my tracks. It really isn’t long since my own Small Boy pulled his “Doggy” behind him everywhere he went, slowing our progress to the shops, church and playgroup. How soon those hassled and sleep deprived times became precious memories.

But even when it would make us late , I always allowed Small Boy to trail Snoopy along. I waited patiently each time we stopped to set him back on his feet.

Why?Snoopy3 toys2remember com

Because I clearly remember my own beloved Snoopy dog, with a shoe in his mouth and slightly bent wire tail. He and I were inseparable, and I still harbour a shred of regret that I accidentally left him in the yard one night and the rain made his paint crinkle.

It’s all too easy in the busy-ness, stress and urgency of normal life to forget the past. Of course, we so often revisit sad, bad and mad moments. But the mundane events and the happy memories so often hide in the shadows.

In our meditations, we can use an object, an event, a colour or even a sound, taste or smell to direct our thoughts and rediscover hidden memories. We can recognise with fresh understanding, God’s hand on our lives and those around us. Try it – dust off some old memories and give thanks to God for those special moments.

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The blank page

blank_page__new_life_by_mellowillowWe so often hear the phrase “turn over a new leaf”…”start afresh”…”have a clean slate”. New beginnings are great, with no previous expectations to live up to, and endless possibilities of where the journey will take us.

Expressing our prayer and worship or meditating on scripture, using a journal, gives us a physical “blank” page to start on – each and every occasion. The previous page need have no bearing on what this new page will hold. In a way, it’s a tangible metaphor for our relationship with God: We can put our sins behind us, affirm Christ as our Saviour and dedicate our lives to him. But then what?

We must take the first step, and the gift of a blank page can sometimes feel more of a burden than an opportunity. Where do I start? What if I make a mistake? What if it doesn’t turn out right?

With journaling, the answer is simple: just make the first mark.

If you like colour, get some colour on the page – paint a background, scribble, splatter, crayon, draw a frame, or stick a magazine picture on the page. If you prefer to write, begin with “Father”, “Jesus” or whatever scripture phrase you just read. When the page is no longer blank, you have made a start and it’s so much easier to continue.

“But what if I mess up?” Guess what – we WILL mess up, we DO mess up – some of us mess up every day. But we can learn from our mistakes, we can build on our language or art skills, just as we can build our relationship with God day by day.

And tomorrow, there is a new blank page waiting for us.

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Rocks rock!

I love rocks. I studied their chemical makeup at university, then borrowed their properties to develop new materials in my later research. Our amazing planet is covered in them, often beautiful, sometimes dangerous and the vast majority never touched by a human hand.

They’re a frequent feature throughout the Bible: God is likened to a Rock – firm, solid, immovable. Goliath was defeated with a little onerocks rock, and death was defeated when a huge one was moved from the mouth of the tomb that first Easter. Christians are described as “living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple” (1 Peter 2 v5).

We can also use rocks in our own reflections – wondering at their beauty, feeling the weight and texture and thinking about a stone’s  journey before we came to pick it up  – and thinking about our own journey…  We can lay them out to form words and shapes (perhaps to express an encircling prayer, as I discussed last week), or stack them up as we pray for unity. My favourite rock activity is to unburden myself in prayer, while holding a rock, and hurling it hard into the sea, releasing my guilt, worry, whatever is weighing me down, as it disappears.

Thisrock2 week I tried something new – instead of sending a “thinking of you” card to a burnt-out and frazzled friend, I sent a rock. Praying for her as I painted, it became a physical representation of my prayer, and rather un-subtle a reminder for her to slow down.

So this week why not grab a rock, and use it any way you like to help you connect with God?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hello World

So I have finally grasped the nettle and entered the world of Blog…and it stings a little. This is a new, unknown world for me, but I’m hoping you’ll be patient and forgiving as I learn the language, custom and etiquette.

My aim is to share something of my journey of faith with you, and offer some ideas that may help you in your journey too. And if I can offer any insight, advice or just a supportive prayer, get in touch.

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Encircling Prayers

An ancient form of prayer, dating back to the Celts, asks for God to surround us, protecting us from danger. These prayers are also known as “Caims”

The idea  of God “encircling” us goes back much further than this – in my favourite Bible song, the writer says to God “You hem me in, behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me” (Psalm 139 v 5).

There are many published encircling prayers, and their format allows us to adapt them to whatever circumstances we face.

They can be used as an active, kinesthetic prayer – on the beach you can draw a circle around yourself in the sand as you pray; you could turn around, drawing a circle around you in the air with a finger; or even (as I have done!) find a circle feature on the pavement (or the floor tiles at the Trafford Centre) and stand in the middle of it to pray.

An example you may like to use and adapt:

Circle (name), Lord.

Keep (comfort) near and (discouragement) afar.

Keep (peace) within and (turmoil) out.

The eternal Father, Son and Holy Spirit shield (name) on every side.

 

encircling

courtesy of Dr Annie Campbell @ Etsy

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