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Friends, Beloved Reader.

Whoever in their wildest dreams/nightmares thought we would be here. Isolated. Distanced. At home.

I did not sign up for life in this dystopian alternate universe. Can you please wake me up when September ends the matrix has been reset/the ring destroyed?

And yet.

God is good and God is loving and God is with us - through the grief and fear and uncertainty across the world. Through the anxiety and pain we feel right now and that yet to come. Through the daily briefings from Boris. Through all the unanswered questions being thrown toward heaven.

God is good, all the time. And all the time, God is good.

And so, I have hope. Kinda scared to write this in case in a couple of weeks I look back and hysterically laugh at my own naivety but here goes:

I am hopeful that we will lean into trusting God through the mystery and uncertainty in a way that resets what we thought possible and unleashes bold faith that enables us to run with the wild of the Spirit into the immeasurably more.

I am hopeful that in the shaking of things we thought unshakable we will discover our real values, where our trust is placed and the courage to reshape our lives with our eyes set on Jesus, making decisions based on faith and not fear.

I am hopeful that God will feel more real and more present to us all.

I am hopeful my hairdressers will reopen soon because I really need a haircut already.

I am hopeful my favourite place for brunch will keep delivering.

I am hopeful this reawakening of community will last throughout our lives.

I am hopeful we will all grow in compassion and love, that we would no longer be able to ignore those fleeing chaos and danger.

I am hopeful this will shape our nation for the better.

I am hopeful this will shape our world for the better.

I am hopeful we will learn new rhythms of rest and prayer and sabbath.

I am hopeful the oat milk black market will keep me stocked in dairy-free milk (STOP STOCKPILING NON-DAIRY ALTERNATIVES WHEN YOU CAN DRINK COW'S MILK).

I am hopeful the internets will cope.

I am hopeful that in three weeks time I'll still remember how to apply mascara.

I am hopeful we will discover how to be present for our people whilst being apart.

I am hopeful I won’t kill my housemates when living and working alongside each other is just too much. I am hopeful they won't kill me!

I am hopeful miracles will abound and when we are asked where God was in 2020 we will say “Here. God was here. And this is my story of God’s goodness.”

I am hopeful that we will dance in the land of the living.

I am hopeful God will empower you with inner strength through the Spirit, that your roots will grow down deep into God’s love and keep you strong. I am hopeful you will grow in your understanding of how wide, how long, how high, and how deep God’s love is. (Ephesians 3v16 -19)

I am hopeful we will reach the other side more loving, more gracious, more trusting, more patient and more Wild.

I am hopeful we will discover that most of those meetings actually could have been a two-sentence email.

I am hopeful that at somepoint soon we will stop storing up earthly treasures of hand sanitiser/loo roll/pasta.

I am hopeful we will remember that darkness has not overcome the light.

I am hopeful we will know God giving us the grace for the day and filling in all our gaps.

I am hopeful that I will remember that this is just a season. I am hopeful I will live it well.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15v13

May you stay with the hard and holy things with brazen/bold/barefaced/shameless/unabashed/audacious/unashamed hope. 

Disclaimer: I have hope but it doesn't mean I don't see the darkness. Hope is not my overiding emotion right now - I’m an optimist but staring down a world-wide pandemic is something else. WHO EVEN KNEW PANDEMIC WAS A REAL WORD BEFORE LAST WEEK?! This is is just as much a choice as joy is. This is a won't-let-go-until-we-see-blessings kinda hope. This is a we-have-no-option-but-to-hope kinda hope.

Break the bread. Pour the wine. Give thanks.

I hold you in my heart and in my prayers. May grace and peace overflow throughout your day/isolation/lockdown/distancing. May goodness and mercy chase you down.

What are you hoping for?

This was right by work. Best graffiti ever.
This was right by work. Best graffiti ever.

P.S. I am already BEYOND EXCITED to be back together again. The joy awaiting in reunion is already too much for my heart to hold.

Its world book day! Rejoice! Celebrate! Books are the greatest!

A few months ago one of my faves tagged me in a book challenge – post one book a day every day for a week. I was SUPER KEEN because I love books and I love sharing what I'm reading. Obvs, I only managed one day because life. But now, here for your delight and edification (and beacause we all may end up at home more than we thought): THESE BOOKS CHANGED MY LIFE AND YOU SIMPLY MUST READ THEM.

First up, is Love Does by Bob Goff. Joy. Whimsy. Jesus. This book changed everything. I LOVE Bob. I don’t leave the country without this book.

I want to go barefoot because it's holy ground; I want to be running because time is short and none of us has as much runway as we think we do; and I want it to be a fight because that's where we can make a difference. That's what love does.”

I even ditched food so they’d be enough space in my bag for it to be carried up a mountain – and food is my very favourite thing. SUCH IS MY DEVOTION. I give this book to EVERYONE – birthday presents, wedding presents, new job presents, thank-you-for-being-a-good-friend presents, how-to-be-a-better-friend presents, sorry-I’m-leaving-the-country-but-let-this-book-distract-you-from-your-sorrow presents… any excuse really.

Next up, is the book that is saving my life right now: An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor. I LOVE Barbara. This book helped me to see the sacred in the unlikeliest of places.

Reverence for creation comes fairly easily for most people. Reverence for other people presents more of a challenge, especially if those people's lives happen to impinge upon your own... I have an easier time loving humankind than I do particluar human beings... Particular human beings rarey do things the way I think they should do them and when they prevent me from doing what I think I should be doing then I can run short on reverence for them."

Third is At Home in The World by Tsh Oxenreider. Tsh and her husband sold all their things and took their 3 kids travelling around the world a year. This book changed everything. Tsh let me know I wasn’t the only one who wants both adventure and routine at the same time.

Wanderlust and my longing for home are birthed from the same place: a desire to find the ultimate spot this side of heaven. When I stir soup at my stove I drift to a distant island. When I'm on the road with my backpack, my heart wanders back to my couch and my favourite cup of coffee.

My equal pull between both are fuelled by my hardwired desire for heaven on earth. And I know I'll never find it. "Earth's crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees it takes off his shoes, the rest just sit around and pluck blackberries" unless the flickering bushes compel me to remove my shoes, traveling the world will never satisfy. Neither will the liturgy of normal life back home."

Fourth is The Way of The Heart by Henri Nouwen. This book changed everything. I’ve pretty much highlighted and underlined the entire thing. I LOVE Henri. This book helped me to see how silence is more than just being quiet, solitude more than just being alone and prayer more than just words.

Solitude shows us the way to let our behaviour be shaped not by the compulsion of the world but by our new mind, the mind of Christ. Silence prevents us from being suffocated by our wordy world and teaches us to speak the Word of God. Finally, unceasing prayer gives solitude and silence their real meaning. In unceasing prayer we descend with the mind in to the heart. Thus, we enter through our heart into the heart of God, who embraces all of history with his eternally creative and recreative love.”

Fifth is The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claibourne. This book changed everything. I LOVE Shane. I recently heard him speak and was reminded of how he has such a loving way of challenging what you think it could mean to follow Jesus. Another way is possible.

Our world is desperately in need of imagination, for we have spent so much creativity devising ways of destroying our enemies that some folks don’t think its even possible (much less practical) to love them. We have placed such idolatrous faith in our ability to protect ourselves that we call it more courageous to die killing than to die loving. The faith we have in the market and in the imagination we employ to acquire wealth has so far surpassed our ingenuity to share we cannot help but wonder if the contemporary gospel means good news to the poor whose bellies scream out to God.”

Last is Inspired by Rachel Held Evans. For when the river is no longer a river, the mountain no longer the mountain and all the old answers you had about the Bible and faith and God just don’t make sense any more. This is a recent addition to my must-reads. Disclaimer: may help/hinder/spark a crisis of faith.

God save me from the day when stories of violence, rape and ethnic cleansing inspire anything other than revulsion. i don't want to become a person who is unbothered by these texts... There are parts of the Bible than inspire, parts than perplex and parts that leave you with an open wound. I'm still wrestling, and like Jacob, I will wrestle until I am blessed. God hasn't let go of me yet.

The gospel means that every small story is part of a sweeping story, every ordinary life part of an extraordinary movement. God is busy making all things new, and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus has opened that work to everyone who wants in on it. The church is not a group of people who believe all the same things, the church is a group of people caught up in the sam story, with Jesus at the centre."img_20200316_0720434926429091325460047996.jpg

Got any recommendations for me?

I’ve just got back from a week in Portugal. I read a lot of books. I ate a lot of bread. I drank a lot of really good but really cheap wine. I went barefoot on the beach. I got ridiculous tanlines which will probs take until October to even out so I'm def not wearing a strapless dress to any weddings this summer. I saw a few stars - and even a planet! Every morning the breakfast buffet gave me a legit reason to eat double my body weight in pancakes, cereal, toast, apple danishes, pastel de nata, toast, eggs, cheese, bacon, pineapple, orange, melon, tea, orange juice, toast and sparkling wine (which is totally acceptable if you just call it Breakfast Wine). The gym is now my home.

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My first day back at work was BRUTAL. No sun. No beach. No Breakfast Wine. I’d tasted freedom and this whole 'need-to-set-an-alarm-in-order-to-get-to-work-on-time-and-then-actually-turn-up-and-do-work-and-handle-responsibility-and-be-nice-to-colleagues' thing was just too much. By the end of the day it took all my willpower to not quit my job and jump on the first plane out of Gatwick. Destination Unknown.

It turns out, despite spending the whole of 2019 learning about joy, I’d forgotten that choosing joy can be a spiritual practice too.

Anything can become a spiritual practice once you are willing to approach it that way – once you let it bring you to your knees and show you what is real, including who you really are, who other people are, and how near God can be when you’ve lost your way." Barbara Brown Taylor

Joy is a choice to adjust your attitude from “I can’t believe they expect me to be here” to “I get to do this.”

Joy is a choice to learn to love the liturgy of the everyday.

Joy is a choice to not focus on all the things that frustrate you but instead give thanks for the things which aren’t making you google ‘epic ways to Mic Drop hand in your resignation.'

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Given how much I LOVE sending cards this is me.

Joy is a choice to embrace the hard and holy things.

Joy is a choice to not batter the Roger at work to death with a hair straightener for talking to you about your hair AGAIN but instead take a deep breath and calmly explain that you really don't give a care about his opinion of your hair and so if he could keep his comments to himself that would be much appreciated (“but Rachel its fascinating, your hair is so versatile, it can be frizzy and then straight” – by the grace of God alone this man is still alive).

Joy is a choice to notice the wonder of sunrise from the train platform rather than lament being awake before the sun.

Joy is a choice to abide in the light and let its radiance illuminate the next right step.

Joy is choice to choose joy, even on the days you'd much rather wallow in being the Grumpiest of them all.

Break the bread. Pour the wine. Give thanks. Celebrate.

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img_20200110_0715242802874310517312250443.jpgIt was love at first sight. And they have been my Absolute Faves ever since, faithful companions at nearly every excuse to dress up over the past nine years – weddings, nights out, Tuesdays, Christmas Day (most overdressed in church on Christmas morning? Yep, that would be The Holmes Sisters). Don't judge heels by their height as these shoes are perfect for both dancing through the night and running through Victoria station to catch the last train home. Until recently.

Now they're falling apart and just give me blisters which leave me limping for a week. My soul grieves the loss of my most beloved.

My other heels just don’t match up. Instead of confidently striding around I’m reducing to powerlessly tottering along the road at the mercy of every uneven pavement slab and gust of wind that decides to test my core strength - an incentive if ever there was to spend more time at the gym. But it turns out, wearing heels can be a spiritual practice.

Anything can become a spiritual practice once you are willing to approach it that way – once you let it bring you to your knees and show you what is real, including who you really are, who other people are, and how near God can be when you’ve lost your way." Barbara Brown Taylor

Quite literally unable to walk any faster, wearing heels forces me to slow down and accept my limitations - repeat after me: I will only reach my destination when my shoes allow me to. Wearing heels reminds me that I cannot control everything and instead need to trust in the One who created all the things.

Wearing heels makes me question alllllllllllllllll my decisions – because if I willingly choose shoes I know I can't walk comfortably in what other terrible life choices am I making??!!!! (THIS QUESTION IS RHETORICAL – I DO NOT WANT YOUR FEEDBACK)

Wearing heels forces me to see others as more than just obstacles taking up the pavement and hindering my journey. Maybe the weight of their burdens is more than they can carry. Maybe their snail's pace is in fact a giant victory and I should be praying for their restoration. Maybe everything isn’t all about me. Maybe.

Wearing heels at night transforms a mindless walk home from the station into an a hyper-vigilant mission where I’m aware of every stranger around me and every car that passes – it grounds me in the experiences of the thousands of women who don’t feel safe walking alone. It reminds me to pray for mercy for my sisters whose lives are marked by fear, vulnerability and powerlessness.

Wearing heels steers me away from self-reliance and reminds me that support from others isn't always such a terrible thing - because tottering along is much easier when you’ve got an arm to cling on to and people to help you stay upright on the tube.

Wearing heels reminds me that however unsuitable the footwear I chose that day, God will always give me the shoes I need for the road I’m on and the strength to match the day.

Wearing heels reassures me that however much of a sensible adult I pretend be, I'm still a ridiculous girl far more concerned with the appearance of her footwear rather than its practicality. Je ne regrette rien.

Wearing heels reminds me to be thankful for a slow, torturous walk of far more significance than me tottering home - one to a hill outside a city. A walk that didn't end with kicking your shoes off at the end of the night and a nice cup of tea on the sofa while you wait for chips to arrive.

It turns out, wearing heels can be a spiritual practice, if only we have the heart (and shoes) to find it.

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P.S. If anyone know where I can find some black, size 4 wedge heels help a sister out.

Comfort us, O Lord,
When we cannot face our own disappointment,
When our dreams seem so far away,
Because we tried to do it all,
When we are tired and scared
Because we forgot our hope is in You.

Comfort us, O Lord,
When with trying to live more justly
We have replaced one set of rules for another;
Having become paralysed with information,
We have ceased to do anything at all
And in our efforts to inform others
We have allowed our anger to drown out our Hope.

Comfort us, O Lord,
When we dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas,
While we wait for Your mastery to calm the storms;
Where we have lost sight of land,
And are yet to to see your stars.

We ask you to illuminate
The horizons of our hopes;
As we stumble forwards
In Strength, Courage, Hope and Love

This we ask in the name of our captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Guide us, O Lord,
When we have lost our way.
When we are stumbling from one path to another
Because we took our eyes from your lights on the path.
When we are no longer certain of our direction
Because we are confused about the purpose of our journey.

Guide us, O Lord,
When faced with an abundance of options
We are paralysed with the fear of failure.
Having fallen in love with holding out for the best opportunity
We have forgotten to be thankful for the freedom of choice.
And in our efforts to do your will
We have forgotten that burning bushes are not an everyday occurrence.

Guide us, O Lord
When we boldly dare
To renew our search for your lights on the pathway.
When in following your word
To the pathway of holiness
We shall find the gateway of the narrow path

We ask you to remind us of our identity with You;
And to guide us in re-imaging our future
In strength, courage, hope and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ

I first read this 9 years ago. It's been one of my favourites ever since and I've even written a re-mix or two and re-post it nearly every year. It was most likely written by Francis Drake over 400 years ago (apparently the poetry buffs are still arguing about it). As we get into the stride of 2020 it seems important to pray and ponder it again.

A Francisan blessing:

May God bless us with a restless discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships,
So that we may seek truth boldly and love deeply within our heart

May God bless us with holy anger
At injustice, oppression and exploitation of people,
So that we may tirelessly work for justice, freedom and peace among all people

May God bless us with the gift of tears
To shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation or the loss of all they cherish,
So that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and transform their pain into joy

May God bless us with enough foolishness
To believe we really can make a difference in this world
So that we are able, with God's grace, to do what others claim cannot be done

There's just something about blessing and benediction that gives me goosebumps. I think its got something to do with witnessing a love that calls down all the good things from heaven on behalf of someone else. So when I read this take on the beatitudes this week I wept - its just too beautiful. By Nadia Bolz-Weber:

Because, what if the beatitudes aren’t about a list of conditions we should try and meet to be blessed. What if these are not virtues we should aspire to but what if… the sermon on the mount is all about Jesus’ seemingly lavish blessing of the world around him. So maybe Jesus is actually just blessing people, especially the people who never seem to receive blessings otherwise.

I mean, come on, doesn’t that just sound like something Jesus would do? Extravagantly throwing around blessings as though they grew on trees? Because I like to imagine Jesus here standing among us saying:

Blessed are the agnostics.

Blessed are they who doubt, who aren't sure, who can still be surprised.

Blessed are those who are spiritually impoverished and therefore not so certain about everything that they no longer take in new information.

Blessed are those who have nothing to offer.

Blessed are the pre-schoolers who cut in line at communion.

Blessed are the poor in spirit. You are of heaven, and Jesus blesses you.

Blessed are they for whom death is not an abstraction.

Blessed are they who've buried their loved ones, for whom tears could fill an ocean.

Blessed are they who've loved enough to know what loss feels like.

Blessed are the mothers of the miscarried.

Blessed are they who don't have the luxury of taking things for granted any more.

Blessed are they who can't fall apart because they have to keep it together for everyone else.

Blessed are those who still aren't over it yet.

Blessed are those who mourn. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.

Blessed are those who no one else notices: the kids who sit alone at middle school lunch tables, the laundry guys at the hospital, the sex workers, and the nightshift street sweepers.

Blessed are the forgotten.

Blessed are the closeted.

Blessed are the unemployed, the unimpressive, the under represented.

Blessed are the teens who have to figure out how to hide the new cuts on their arms.

Blessed are the meek. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.

Blessed are the wrongly accused, the ones who never catch a break, the ones for whom life is hard, for Jesus chose to surround himself with people like you.

Blessed are those without documentation.

Blessed are the ones without lobbyists.

Blessed are foster kids and special ed kids and every other kid who just wants to feel safe and loved.

Blessed are those that make terrible business decisions for the sake of people.

Blessed are the burned out social workers and the overworked teachers and the pro bono case takers.

Blessed are kind-hearted football players and fundraising trophy wives.

Blessed are kids who step between the bullies and the weak.

Blessed are those who hear they're forgiven.

Blessed are the merciful, for they totally get it. 

Full post from Nadia here: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2014/11/some-modern-beatitudes-a-sermon-for-all-saints-sunday/

Friends. Here we are. A new dawn. A new day. Feeling good?

Whatever your thoughts about the year ahead, may grace and peace and love and joy and hope surround you and overflow from you.

May you find joy in loosening your sail to the wild wind of the Sprit.

May your good hair days far outnumber the bad ones.

May your roots grow down ever deeper into the soil of God’s love for you - may you know how wide, how long, how high and how deeply you are loved.

May you abide well.

May your eyes and heart be open to wonder and awe.

May you be amazed and perplexed.

May your trains never be cancelled or delayed.

May you choose joy, even on the days that grief is the weight you carry.

May your queues for brunch always be short.

May you be forever changed by all the good gifts around you.

May you know you have the shoes you need for your journey and the strength and grace to match your day ahead.

May your celebrations be abundant.

May you be bold enough to tell the Rogers at work to stop mansplaining your actual job to you.

May you be brave enough to say yes.

May you be brave enough to say no.

May you be hopeful enough to keep asking.

May you stay with the hard and holy things with brazen/bold/barefaced/shameless/unabashed/audacious/unashamed hope.

May your community be wide and deep and rich in all the good things.

May your joys abound.

May your children sleep through the night.

May your children return safe from the night.

May sabbath guide your days and lead you to better rhythms of life.

May you never carry your sorrows alone.

May you know life in all its fullness.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

Grace, peace, love and hugs x x

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