Tag Archives: Life

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Last weekend I ventured out of the safe haven of the Cronx to fields of green and barley - or something like that.

Lets go for a walk they said. It will be fun they said.IMG-20160130-WA0003

What started out a nice plan to stroll through the glorious English countryside with a quick pit stop at a cake shop (obviously), turned into an epic and perilous trek through hills, mountains and ravines of mud, mud and more mud.  It was just like going on a bear hunt - we couldn't go over it, we couldn't go under it, so o flip flopping no we had to go through it.

I spent the better part of two hours terrified I was about to slip, fall and then trudge back to the car covered head to toe in mud, my shame at falling witnessed and judged by every other walker, sheep and cow that we saw. I'm all for natural facemasks or whatev but face full of sheep crap mud? Save it for the next Hollywood skin care gimmick, I'll give that a miss thanks.

I soon realised I  was letting the fear of a possibility of discomfort rob me of the joy of enjoying green fields, blue skies and horizons - yes, real life horizons with trees. It's not a myth, they do still exist.

And then, as you do when you have a realisation, the soundtrack kicks in. This one was The Fear by Ben Howard -

Oh, I've been worryin' that my time is a little unclear
I've been worryin' that I'm losing the ones I hold dear
I've been worryin' that we all live our lives in the confines of fear

And then it hit me like a wrecking ball of cold wet mud in the face - Have I really? Have I really been living my life in the confines of fear? Particularly the fears of failure and discomfort? What did my fear cost me? Where might I have been if I'd pushed on through the fear? Have I been making decisions based on fear not faith?

I would like to say at this point I threw caution to the wind, threw off the shackles of fear, embraced potential failure and stomped through the mud like a child rejoicing in puddles.

Ha! No. I hate being cold, wet and muddy - you can thank three years of school PE lessons playing rugby on top of a hill in  winter for that. I actually made it back to the safety of the car crying for my mother, holding on to all fences and trees that might keep me upright, eating some excellent coffee & walnut cake and when no other option seemed possible simply closing my eyes, saying a quick prayer and leaping across the puddle/river/reservoir of mud. Not too different from surviving PE actually.

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But actually, life is for living yo!

Life in all it's fullness has more power than we could ever imagine over the limiting confines of seemingly small fears that steal and destroy.

Life in all it's fullness has immeasurably more potential than we can dream.

Life is for living yo!

Last Sunday was my birthday. Another year closer to retirement and the cancellation of my student debt- Yay for me!

It also marked four weeks since my Grandmother died. For the first time I received a birthday card without her name in it - “With love from Grandad."

The following day one of my best friends had her first baby. Welcome to the world Connie!

Loss and Life.

The week before my birthday I went to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I saw some great theatre, some beautiful theatre, some duller than golf theatre, some hilarious comedy and some so poor I can’t even call it comedy comedy - more of a painful, never ending lecture. I laughed more in those seven days than the last seven months. In case you missed it here's the joke of the fringe: "I just deleted all the German names off my phone. It's Hans free." – Darren Walsh

For the first time I can't visit my Grandmother and tell her all about it.

Loss and Laughing.

I used to love this C. S. Lewis quote because I thought it was Beautiful and True. I now love it because I know it to be True and Beautiful. Word order is important people –  Chips and fish? Coffee & Tea?

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”  C. S. Lewis

Life, Loss, Love & Laughing.

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It's supposed to be simple right?...

Love God. Love people.

And then...

Serve refreshments after church. Live intentionally. Read your Bible more. Pray more. Seek first the kingdom. Don’t worry. Pray more. Youth group. Home group. Kids’ work. Be missional. Be a supportive friend. Be a supportive colleague. Honour your parents. Lead by example. Breathe & repeat. Love God. Love people. Serve refreshments after the service. Live intentionally. Read your Bible more. Pray more. Seek first the kingdom. Don’t worry. Pray more. Youth group. Home group. Kids’ work. Be missional. Be a supportive friend. Be a supportive colleague. Honour your parents. Lead by example. Oh yeah, spend time with Jesus.

Ever found that in-between all the things of life the yoke gets harder and the burden heavier? Ever felt like drowning someone in a sea of your to-do list when they ask you why you look tired?

No? Just me? Not likely.

I’ve heard the story of Mary and Martha a million times – literally, I’ve counted. But I’ve only just understood it.

As Jesus and his disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he taught. But Martha was worrying over the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said “Lord doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her “My dear Martha you are upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it – and I won’t take it away from her.”

Hold. the. phone.

There was Martha, slaving away over the hot fire trying to prepare a feast for Jesus and the many many people in her home. As the fire gets hotter and there’s more and more to do she notices that the person who would usually help her is casually sitting round listening to Jesus. Of course she would be frustrated. She was trying to serve God. It's not every day the Son of God rocks up to your house.

Last Christmas I gave you my heart but the very next day my Sister & I took control of our kitchen to avoid the usual Holmes family dramatics over an oven that's simply too small to provide food for 15-20 people (you just can't be dealing with burnt stuffing and soggy roast potatoes on Christmas Day. It's not acceptable). We delegated all meat cooking to various family members to do at home, smiled and told everyone that we had it all under control when we didn't have a clue what we were doing but it was teamwork only that got our feast to the table before New Year 2015. If my Sister had been sitting around while I was running through the kitchen looking for the pastry knife I would have been all the names of purple furious. So I can feel Martha's pain - the oven's hot, people are getting hungry, it's an important meal and there's no-one to help.

But Jesus turns to Martha and says,

“You are upset over all these details. There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it – and I won’t take it away from her.”

Now I’m not sure Martha wouldn't have classed all her food prep as mere detail, but that's what it was.

So what was it that Mary has discovered?

Look back a few sentences - Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he taught.

Mary was spending time with Jesus. Listening to what he taught. Even though Martha was running around to serve Jesus - it was still just detail compared to spending actual time with him.

It's not that the cooking wasn't important. I'm not saying that we should stop serving God through activities at church, outside of church etc. But the main thing was spending time with Jesus.

So this week. In all the busyness of life I will try to remember that there is really only one thing worth being concerned about.

Because if the yoke isn’t easy and burden not light then surely we haven't received what Jesus offers.

Last last weekend I ventured into the wilds of Basingstoke-shire to see some of the East London crew.

It was a weekend full of the usuals and the unexpecteds:

The usual apprehension about trips to the country:  no street lights, axe murders hiding in the trees, no phone reception when being chased by said murderer, amazement at big open green spaces and seeing an actual live cow. A real cow. Not a burger.

Some of the unexpecteds: managing  to eat celery and mushrooms without crying, wifi,  & going for a walk by myself in the country without getting lost and/or murdered by a mad axe man (win win).

I was reminded of why I found leaving Bethnal Green so sad. I was reminded that my story, though important, is not the only one. Let me break it down for you...

Mary and Martha were friends of Jesus and their brother, Lazarus was dying. So they did the most logical thing when someone you love is seriously sick and you happen to have a friend who can heal - they sent Jesus a message to let him know. They probably hoped that Jesus would come right away and heal their brother – bringing an end to the pain and anxiety of Lazarus being on his literal death bed. (Read John 11 for the full story).

But Jesus arrived four days after Lazarus had died.

Four days late you could say. Four days of heart wrenching grief. Four days of pain and sorrow. Four days of so many tears you have none left. Four days of so many tears you think you have none left but somehow they appear from somewhere over the rainbow. Four days of wondering how Jesus could have stood by and let this happen to you. Four days of wondering why you even bothered to tell Jesus what was happening – because apparently it made no difference. Four days of wondering if Jesus didn't even care. Four days of people trying to say the right thing and making it worse. Four days of people saying the right thing and bringing some comfort. Four days of wondering what the future holds. Four days of wondering why it didn’t turn out as you hoped for with all your heart. Four days of unanswered questions. Four days of trying to remember that death is not the end. Four days of clinging to the hope of resurrection and heaven. Four days of heart wrenching grief.

Ever been there? Hope deferred and heartsick? Ever wondered why what you hoped for with all your heart is as dead as Lindsay Lohan's music career?

The thing about Mary and Martha was that God had a bigger plan than just healing their brother. God had a bigger plan than just restoring their family and ending their pain by bringing Lazarus’ back from the dead. Their story was not the only one.

Many people had come to mourn with Mary and Martha, and many of them were at the tomb when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. As a result of witnessing this miracle many of them believed in Jesus. They were still talking about it a few days later in Jerusalem.

So when Jesus first heard that Lazarus was sick he could have gone straight away and healed him. And maybe only a few people outside of their community would ever have known – and maybe few of those would have believed that it was true.

But God’s timing meant many people witnessed the miracle of life being brought back to a dead man. Many people outside of their community heard about it.

It was never just about Mary, Martha and Lazarus. They were part of a bigger story.

Ever been there? Hope deferred, heartsick and wondering why.

I would like to promise you that if you stick it out, just have a little patience, God will do the unexpected when you have lost all hope. Maybe He will. But maybe its just like my invite to Beyonce's next party - got lost in the post and never gonna happen.

Or just maybe you’re part of a bigger story that though painful will mean much to many others.

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. John 16v33

We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. Romans 6 (The Message)

The Stone Table
"...when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards." The Lion, the witch and the Wardrobe

So, it’s been six months of Exile already. Time to stop collaborate and listen pause and reflect.

There is much to be learned in Exile.

I’m learning new ways to block out that annoying thing called light when you’re on your way to work.

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Using time wisely

I’m learning that celebrating International Womens' day by choosing to spring clean my bedroom and buying myself flowers is just as revolutionary as not shaving your legs (or armpits if you're Madonna) – because I am privileged enough to make my own decisions about how I live my life (thank you Destiny's Child and the Spice Girls for lessons in being an Independent Woman). But there are millions of women and girls who do not have that privilege, here's why its important...

I’m learning that one of the purposes of Exile is to show God’s provision. There can be new life, new meaning, new dreams, new routines and new community in Exile. There is life in the seemingly barren places.

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I’m learning that not everyone has a problem with clipping their nails on the DLR whilst on the way to work.

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Eww

I’m learning that in the same way that faith produces good works, Love Does. Love doesn't stop at thoughts and feelings. Love takes action. Love enriches others' lives. Love Does. Bob Goff has this down to a T.

I’m learning that life without risks where you have no option but to depend on God, is boring, stagnant and uncomfortably comfortable.

Shout out to Jessica Hagy for this creation.

I’m learning that revolution in the suburbs isn’t always that subtle – don’t like the fact that they’re digging up half the street to change the electrics or something? Simply don’t move your car.

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I’m learning that though the love of money can be the root of all kinds of evil, the joy of generosity can overcome it.

I'm learning that dancing in the hailstorm is so much easier after you've praised Jesus first.

I’m learning that streams in the desert and ways in the wasteland can be hard to find, but once found, following the path and drinking from the stream brings Life, in abundance. Hallelujah.

As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life.

He has called us to receive his own glory and goodness!

And by that same mighty power, he has given us all of his rich and wonderful promises.

He has promised that you will escape the decadence all around you caused by evil desires and that you will share in his divine nature.

So make every effort to apply the benefits of these promises to your life.

2 Peter 1 v 3-5

People often ask me how I'm doing now that I'm exiled in Zone 6.

I tell them "it’s ok, I’m ok." And I am.

But I am also scared.

I am scared that before I know it I will slip into a living coma of a comfortable & complacent suburban life.

I am scared that I’ll begin to confuse the lines between want and need.

I am scared that I won't even notice when I begin to think that neighbours parking outside the wrong house is a crime punishable by getting lost in IKEA for an eternity.

I am scared that I’ll have a 9-5 office job that I don’t really like but am too afraid to leave – because without that I wouldn't know who I was?

I am scared that living in anything but a house with a garden will become unimaginable.

I am scared that I'll start reading the Daily Mail.

I am scared that as I get lulled into a false sense of security my dreams will start to shrink, as will my reliance on the God I love and try to serve.

I am scared that Waitrose will become the norm not a luxury.

I am scared of a life of  No Adventure

I am scared I will get Stuck.

I am scared that one day Jesus will put me in a group with my fellow goats – Matthew 25 y’all, I don’t actually think I’ll turn into a goat, bah!

I am scared that I’ll become a goat and not even care.

I am scared that one day I will realise how comfortable I have become and be too afraid to change it.

I am scared that I will no longer believe that Jesus is enough.

I am scared that I will trivialise the concerns and worries of my fellow suburbanites.

I am scared that I will blame the suburbs for my own laziness.

I am scared that I don't really understand the meaning of perfect love casting out fear (1 John 4 v18).

I am scared that I over dramatise everything.

BUT I do know that God is with me always, even until the end of the age (not infact a LOTR quote but Matthew 28 v 20). So really what is there to be scared of?

What about you, are you scared of anything?

The Sing Team - Satisfied in You (Psalm 42)

I have lost my appetite
And a flood is welling up behind my eyes
So I eat the tears I cry
And if that were not enough
They know just the words to cut and tear and prod
When they ask me “Whereʼs your God?”

Why are you downcast, oh my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
I can remember when you showed your face to me

As a deer pants for water, so my soul thirsts for you
And when I survey Your splendor, You so faithfully renew
Like a bed of rest for my fainting flesh

When Iʼm looking at the ground
Itʼs an inbred feedback loop that drags me down
So itʼs time to lift my brow
And remember better days
When I loved to worship you and learn your ways
Singing sweetest songs of praise

Let my sighs give way to songs that sing about your faithfulness
Let my pain reveal your glory as my only real rest
Let my losses show me all I truly have is you

So when Iʼm drowning out at sea
And all your breakers and your waves crash down on me
Iʼll recall your safety scheme
Youʼre the one who made the waves
And your Son went out to suffer in my place
And to show me that Iʼm safe

Why am I down?
Why so disturbed?
I am satisfied in You