Church is People.

Sitting in church with my mum trying to imagine what was church means for both of us.

A fertile field, an empty pew.
Ploughed, polished
Majestic oak rooted, harvested and carved.
Emerging growth, traditionally planted.

A muddy field, a quite pew
Scattering seeds, row upon row,
Self seeding, hybrid T’s.
Free-draining, managed soil.

An open gate, a heavy door.
Porous, water tight.
Weathering the seasons, heating on.
Exposed , sheltered
From the shared storm.

Coloured skies, painted roof.
Natures palette, hues of glass
Dog eared pages, carefully read.
Weathered cold and well feed.

Muddy footsteps, clicking  heals.
Boots and suits.
Kids that dig
Babies that scream.
Those that talk
Those that say nothing at all.

Flasks of coffee, teapots and cosies.
Picnics,  biscuits on china plate
A tree stump, a chair.
A shared conversation.
A friend.

We are all church
God’s  gathered people
Loved.
Growing.
In our own way.
Our own pace.
Same space.
Church is people.

 

What’s in a Tear.

Officially it’s a drop of water, containing elements which gives tears their characteristic salty taste.
Emotional tears also contain hormones which can improve our mood or ease our pains.
Tears release stories and emotions, expressing what our heart cannot say.
One single tear released in love is more powerful than a thousand tears cried in anger.
Just one single tear powerfully acted in the film “ Joker “ realeased me from the person I used to be.
In the opening few moments of the film before the story even starts, we watch the artist ( the clown ) applying his craft.
We see that familiar white clown face, with a coloured Blue  diamond painted over the eye.
Than a solitary tear escapes from the clowns eye. This single tear travelled through the perfect hues of White and Blue. Leaving behind it’s own imperfect trail. A tear trail …
God spoke so powerfully to me through this single tear locked into a frame of film.
It was in that moment that I realised  that this tear held the person I once was.
I was once a makeup artist. I would have scrutinised this tear from a technical view.
I would never see the true tear.. I saw the actors craft and the makeup artists skill. I saw lighting and editing. I saw film.
I questioned the products used, always looking for makeup continuity errors.
As that tear rolled I was released from thinking that way. Releasing me from the person I used to be.
In that one single tear; I saw emotions, I saw pain. I wanted to know the story behind the tear. Each tear holds more than we can ever imagine, more emotions more pain. Some tears hold stories that are just to painful to be told.
That one tear encapsulated my story. It was a tear that I was unable to cry myself . In the cinema God took that one tear and cried with me and for me.
I don’t miss the person I once was . Today I only see a life with Jesus . Sat in the cinema I said my goodbyes to the person I used to be.
It was not a time of my choosing, or a film of my choice. God spoke to my heart through the Jokers tear.
A tear that confirmed to myself that my recommendation for ordination training was real, realistic and from God
To serve God is a freedom thats full of creative energy, to serve is to remove chains and release love.
It is LOVE that inspires me and drives me to serve God . Only love can make such a choice. How different it is to serve another for love’s sake than it is to serve out of obligation or duty!
Jesus comes into the world not to be served, but to serve. He comes not to do his own will, but the will of the One who sent him.  He “empties himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness.” He does this for love.
When we love we want to serve. We long to be given some task that will contribute to the good purposes of the one we love.
A mother longs to serve her children – out of love. We willingly set aside our own desires and preferences, we lay down our lives, for the sake of those whom we love.
I am a chosen servant of Christ.
I will make the wrong choices, I will mess things up, I will cry, laugh and seek those on the margins of our community. To be a voice of comfort and a voice of truth. I will freely and willingly give all of myself to God’s creative purpose.
Only love can make this choice.

James 2:5

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters. God chose the poor people in the world to be rich in faith. He chose them to receive the kingdom God promised to those who love him

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Ackiba’s creed.

WE BELIEVE in one master weaver.
Who shapes and intertwines
The stories of the Gospels held
Within our chocolate vine.

We are woven into creation.
Rooted in the ground .
We are the princess of the mountains .
Walking towards the promised land.

We have held Moses in his basket.
Journeyed down the Nile.
Long tendrils lead us to your vision.
Signposting us the way.
Reaching for the light.
Through him all things were made.
We have held bread and fishes.
Shared the jug of Red wine.
Please listen to our story.
As we weave through your time.

These are stories of salvation.
Of prophets, people and kings.
And all of the one God that knows everything.

Dancing through the seasons.
Weaving flowers, leaves and vines.
We might not always see .
Just how these weavings intertwine.

Supported by the Trellis of Pentateuch.
Hang Chocolate leaves of Grace and Goodness.
We believe as we climb through the Gospels.
Are woven into the psalms.
You weave us to your completion.
It’s your shape, your stories .
That we intertwine.

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Choose life.

This is the first of five blogs;  Reflections from my retreat weekend at Hilfield Friary.

Hilfield’s vision statement shares and reflects many of my own personal values. It’s a place that’s Rooted – seeking to live simply and gracefully, caring for the land that we have been entrusted with.
It’s Christain – Following Christ caring for the poor and marginalized of our society and all of creation. It’s Family – welcoming all people and creation.

These values are choices that we choose to live by.
My first reflection is from a guided time of prayer “ choose life”

Choose a vision.
Choose a cause.
Choose a different way.

Choose to respect the past and the present.
Choose to look for the little things in the places you would least expect to find them.
Walk bare footed in dew laden grass.
Choose to plant.

Sow in context.
Choose to wait.
Choose new paths.
Choose to see what happens.

Choose to love those awkward shapes.
Choose to listen.
Accept we all make bad decisions.
Choose to change.

Keep pathways open for conversations.
Choose to stop .
Choose to ask for help.
Choose to be fruitful.
Choose to accept gifts.
Embrace the hidden path ways of the journey
Choose to be rooted and grounded in love.
Choose God.
Choose life.

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Should we risk Creating?

God birthed creation, birthed breath-taking beauty of earth and sky. Some of this beauty we may never get to see. The fish that swim in our deepest oceans or the flower of Queen of Andes  that blooms every 100 years. Yet we can be blind to the beauty that’s right in front of us.
It takes only a little effort to see Gods creative beauty that surrounds us ; dazzling metallic colours of the dragon fly , ewes nursing their lambs, sticky horse chestnut buds in springtime .
Creativity is the ability to make new things, to reflect God’s love in all we do.
Creativeness takes time; a dragon fly life cycle completes in six short months . The ewe carries her lamb for 145 days . The horse chestnut tree takes 20 years to grow just 8 meters.
We can stop this process of growth, but it’s so obvious that we should never stop this beautiful expression of God’s love for us and creation.
It would be unjust to kill the dragon fly Larva, to stop this insect before it could dazzle us with its beauty.
It would be inhumane to stop a newly born lamb from bonding and suckling from its mother.
It would be nothing short of vandalism to deliberately up root a horse chestnut sapling. We know its wrong.
Equally why would we want to restrict someone from learning? Supporting a loved one through grief and pain. Is it right to find ways to restrict their creativity ?
When I share and cook a meal, pray, dance or write poetry. When I paddle in the sea or plant a seed: I create.
All of us create or think new things.
Creativity is risky, uncertain, open-ended, painful and extremely uncomfortable, possibly hurting or costing more than we could imagine.
Yet I don’t stop.
I trust in God; listen and discover the journey with all the twists turns and dead ends that happen to all of us.
Gods Creativity reveals more than I will ever know or imagine about the world and myself. New concepts, perceptions, and knowledge, giving love, life, hope and meaning.
I need time to create and to be creative. To pay attention to my passions, to grow my relationship with Jesus. To connect with creation, to connect  with the mud ( earth ) it stirs and awakens me. It sparks my imagination.
I am always improvising making this connection possible where ever God sends me. Touching the leaves of a growing sapling on a busy road. Wrapping my arms around a large mature tree in a national trust park. I use what’s available . Constantly changing my direction, morphing new ideas, each encounter is unique . It’s my prayer time.
Connecting God through my passions creates and awakens me to a world of hope and unlimited possibilities .
Protecting this creative space is costly and risky. It’s this space that reflects God. Helping broaden and expand the world and myself.
We all require a space so we can hear the whispers of our creator. Our personal journey’s and stories are revealed when we risk creating.

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Romans 8:28
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.

Getting ready.

Train tickets purchased, overnight accommodation booked. Reading material has been sourced and journal purchased. A large selection of coloured pens are displayed on the coffee table.
Supplies are plentiful, tea, biscuits and a glass of wine for the evening. Best of all I have time to read, make notes and prepare for the one day pioneer selection panel (Pioneers are people called by God who are the first to see and creatively respond to the Holy Spirit’s initiatives with those outside the church; gathering others around them as they seek to establish new contextual Christian community).
I’ve made colourful notes comprising of an individual mix of badly drawn pictures and mispelt words.
I’m doing what I feel is expected of me. To study, gaining knowledge before I attend the panel . What I am reading is far from dull, the text is rich bold and exciting. My chosen method to study is dull and unimaginative. The typed text that I read remain as words that move from text book to my journal.
So over nourished with Christmas I find myself curled up on the sofa reading and writing. It’s easy to stay in my pjs and fluffy festive socks, it’s comfortable and warm.
I crave this warmth that the inside brings. It’s the inside that’s blurring my vision, it’s being inside that’s consuming my energy an dulling the imagination.
It’s time to squeeze my feet into Wellington boots (which seemed unusually tight due to my reluctance to remove my fluffy festive socks) and spend some time in the garden .
Outside my colourful notes become fully formed pictures. The energy that had been locked way was released into the space that is my garden. On a cold winters day this space is full of warmth and love.
A horticulturalists winter garden is full of anticipation of what’s to come. Impatient excitement holds God’s garden in this time of preparation and waiting.
The garden is waiting for the days to lengthen and the sun to warm the sleeping bulbs. The surface is littered with decaying leaves and a few hardy plants some of these plants could be called weeds.
You see weeds are just plants that don’t fit in.
People are not weeds but can be treated as if they were; pulled up, displaced never being given the opportunity to get their roots down.
I am not called to the fruitful, or the colourful, but to those that live on the edges of our community’s. Those that feel unvalued and misunderstood. Those that hold onto life in the most unusual places. Living in extreme conditions unable to grow.

As a gardener we remove the weeds in favour of plants we want to grow. It’s us controlling what grows in our gardens. What happens if we listen to God and start to grow Gods garden?( you might like to call what we grow a church).
When I imagine God growing my garden it changes shape, colour and direction. It becomes a garden with no boundaries a living breathing community full of mystery that some might even describe as chaos. Beautiful chaos that is diverse, a chaos with a sense of humour, a chaos that loves unconditionally, allows us the freedom to explore who we are, love that allows us to question . The garden would be and expression of God’s love for us, expressed through things like forgiveness, kindness, mercy, and gentleness.

When we garden with God we create the right conditions to grow a community that shows someone they belong and matter, not just to God but belong to one another.
In these conditions we grow and Flower.

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Looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross…”
Hebrews 12:2

Tree of Love.

My garden in no Eden, it’s certainly not paradise. It’s far from prefect. The makeshift bamboo trellis bows and bends under the weight of the overgrown kiwi plant. Wobbly uneven brick paths weave their way through the borders, rotten fences, cracked patio slabs all give my garden a natural unkept look.
These imperfections can only be found in the hard landscape of the garden. The landscape that is created and chosen by me. The soft landscape is living part of my garden; plants ,mulch, dirt, lawn, trees and shrubs all make up softscape.
The soft scape is that perfection that we often long to achieve. Perfection in such abundance cannot come from us. It can only come from our creator.
A magnificent Yew tree punctuates and dominates the soft landscape of my garden. Its hidden treasures are the Red berries ( Arils) each encasing the seed.
The yew tree has a strong christian heritage. It’s a tree that regenerates, it’s branches reach down into the ground to grow new stems, which then rise up around the old central growth as separate but linked trunks. After a time, they cannot be distinguished from the original tree. This self renewal is a symbol of death and rebirth, the new that grows out of the old.
It’s bark is distinctly Red, especially when wet from rain. The Red heartwood and White sapwood, symbolise the blood and body of Christ. It’s a tree that is full of stories mystery and folk tales.
The yew that grows in my garden has woven itself into my life story. It was under this tree that I was reborn, renewed found that love that comes from knowing Jesus.
I see this tree as my tree of life. I am not seeing it as the tree of life in Genesis and Revelation.  To me personally it’s a tree of new beginnings it’s a tree that loves.
Under its protective evergreen canopy my world changed. Its soft branches in the coolness of an April morning created a space filled with an abundance of love. A space that I received the love that come from Christ . It’s this love that changed me and changed my world forever.
There is nothing more powerful or joyous than the love that comes from Christ . To know this love is to live abundantly.
My yew tree lives abundantly in my garden and in my heart.
When we live abundantly our lives change, we see things that had until that time remained hidden. I see the perfectness in creation.
I see the Red Arils on my Yew tree and stop, pausing long enough to see God at work in my life and in my garden.

This weeks six on Saturday is a little homage to Taxus Baccata.

 

Genesis 2:8-9 The Message (MSG)

8-9 Then God planted a garden in Eden, in the east. He put the Man he had just made in it. God made all kinds of trees grow from the ground, trees beautiful to look at and good to eat. The Tree-of-Life was in the middle of the garden, also the Tree-of-Knowledge-of-Good-and-Evil.

I choose you.

I choose you.
I dug you up and moved you.
I knew you would take over, I knew you would spread and thrive in my garden.
You are greedy, feeding, chocking indiscriminately you grow.
Excluding light, depriving nourishment, yet I let you grow.
I choose you. I planted you.

I have spent the morning weeding my garden. One particular troublesome plant took up most of my time. It’s a plant that I desired and wanted. I knew it was a bad idea when I planted it. My want was bigger than my horticulture knowledge. My want was bigger than the hours needed to maintain this thug of a plant.
Removing and reducing this plant I was suddenly stuck how it was like forgiveness.
The plant was a problem that I was able to deal with. It has to be dealt with otherwise it will outgrow and destroy my garden.
It will stop other plants fruiting, it will prevent seeds from forming, it will overpower.
Kneeling in the garden digging out its invasive roots the power of Gods grace was overpowering.
That connectedness to the soil, to life and how fragile it can be. How much we need to nurture and hold creation.How God is in everything we do.
Removing this plant, decreasing its size, is not about control. It’s about acknowledging it’s spreading nature. Understanding that its roots run deep. It’s a woodland plant not really suitable for the garden. It’s doing what it was created for, to grow and survive.

In reducing its size I make space for light and fresh growth.
Reducing this plant was totally for my benefit ( not the plants ) Just as forgiveness is not for the other person but for me. Forgiveness gives me space, that allows me to grow. Forgiveness removes the choking thoughts and emotions, it breaks me free from the roots that trap me. Forgiveness allows light and warmth back into my life. Forgiveness is not an emotion but a choice that I must make. As with the gardening, it’s a choice.
My plant will keep coming back, keep trying to take over my garden. I will never stop having to reduce it. Just as all my life I will need to turn to God and ask for forgiveness. Without forgiveness, my heart will harden and I will fail to trust and see the beauty that surrounds me.

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Matthew 18:21-22 The Message (MSG)

21 At that point, Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?”
22 Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.

Providing the right conditions for growth and then we the wait.

Day 37 – lent challenge – Wait
Today’s blog is for my college lecturer. His enthusiasm, passion and love for growing seeds.
He taught me the basic principles of horticulture. Which today is igniting me to grow faith in others.
Seed dormancy, germination, growth, fertilisation , cross fertilisation, companion planting, weeding, pruning, gardening, nurture, growth are horticulture terms.
The more I explore and learn about faith the more my world of horticulture and my God worlds join up.
Before we even grow seeds we need to prepare the ground. The more time and effort we put into preparation the higher our germination rate.
Ground prepared without love care and attention might produce some growth but it’s not producing healthy robust plants.
It’s the plants we buy in supermarkets as opposed to plants grown by ourselves or local nurseries.
The supermarket plants are grown to look good, be showy. They are not always grown for a long and fruitful life. If you look closely at them they are all very much the same, no individualism, trained and pruned to grow at optimum pace.They often have poor root structure and are not able to sustain themselves long term.

The plants grown ourselves or at a small nursery are growing in conditions that are familiar to them. Climate is local and encourages growth, they have not been stressed by moving around. They have been grown with love in conditions that remain constant to them. They are often plants that show some individual traits.
Individualism is something the gardener wonders at. Sharing with other gardeners the diversity of nature. As a gardener, I get so excited when my plants do something out of the ordinary. (I mean flower early or a colour I did not expect ).
If the supermarket plant showed such individualism it would be lost in quality control.
I was taught to grow seeds with passion, to sow in the correct medium/ soil according to the seeds needs.
Seed compost contains little nutrients, we want our young seedlings to be hungry for food. Looking for food they put down lots of strong healthy roots. Roots that will sustain them.
Roots are key to growth. I always marvel how you can chop some plants down to the ground and yet it can regrow. Often that new growth is stronger than before.
Plants that are allowed to grow quickly often flower early and die. They put all their energy into flowering instead of developing roots. We need to encourage roots to look for nourishment, to grow deep to ensure survival.

Roots are the key to growth holding and storing energy/love for growth.
I was taught when buying a plant however wonderful it looks if possible remove it from its pot and check its roots.
A plant roots to me is like our heart. The stronger Christ makes our heart the more it can withstand. The more love it can give and the more fruit it can bear.
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I love this image that shows the roots of a tree spreading out. They never stop growing, never stop providing nourishment. Spreading out beyond the canopy of the tree.
God is working in our hearts growing and changing us. It’s that growth that we cannot see that I find so amazing. It’s on that growth /faith that we rely on.

My faith is still at the stage of putting down lots of roots. Still in the seed compost, hungry and growing. A few wobbly shoots have appeared but need support.
I am excited to see what happens when I get planted out in the garden of creation.
That’s something that does not happen in my timing, it happens in God time.
Gardening/faith is all about providing the right conditions for growth and then we the wait.

1 Corinthians 3:6 Good News Translation (GNT)
6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plant, but it was God who made the plant grow.

 

A mother’s longing.

Day 22 – Lent challenge – Longing.

Today’s blog is for a family broken and destroyed by a mother’s longing to have a 2nd child. They had very little support and life spiralled out of control.
Pregnancy loss, miscarriage, grief, still birth are all words that consumed my friend. They become her everything and in doing so cost her everything including her own life.
I spent a lot of my time as a child and young adult with this family. Being alongside them, caring for their daughter as they battled with grief and loss. When the second child they longed for was born post natal depression took away the joy and the happiness of bringing home their miracle baby.
Unknown to me at that time, pregnancy loss and that longing would not be stranger to me either. I too would experience that deep personal lonely pain when your baby dies.
I remember one day feeling totally consumed, grieving by yet another miscarriage. I asked myself why aren’t you satisfied with one daughter? Why is one child not enough for you? Through my tears grief and pain I thought of my friend and her family. Her daughter and son growing up without a mother, a husband without a wife. It made me realise that this last loss threatened to totally overwhelm me. That repetitive loss snowballing the pain into something bigger than ever before. It was affecting my ability to be a mother to our child.
I started to think that I should look at what’s in front of me rather than what I longed for.
The reality of a pregnancy that would last more than 12 weeks was now only a very dim hope.

Tomorrow is mother’s day and this family will be in my thoughts and prayers.
This mother’s day our church is having a mother’s day runway service. It’s is the first year that I have a space to acknowledge my babies on mother’s day. A safe space to grieve to runaway from the flowers and the smiling mums. To be with people that find mother’s day hard for whatever reason.
The hour long service will include liturgy, poetry, music and stories acknowledging the bittersweet emotions surrounding Mothering Sunday. It’s a space to hold and be still, share my pain and the pain of others with God. Inviting the God who loves us into our stories of struggle.

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Psalm 40:1-3  The Message (MSG)
1-3 I waited and waited and waited for God.
At last he looked; finally he listened.
He lifted me out of the ditch,
pulled me from deep mud.
He stood me up on a solid rock
to make sure I wouldn’t slip.
He taught me how to sing the latest God-song,
a praise-song to our God.
More and more people are seeing this:
they enter the mystery,
abandoning themselves to God