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.

 

Love that drives knowledge.

Undeveloped, disorganised, immature, lacks direction and fullness would be a fair description of the end of my garden. Yet this part of my garden has great potential. Its a place that one day will have cottage garden boarders. A meadow rich with native flowers, fruit bushes and fruit trees all giving a plentiful harvest. The glass house will be organised, uniformed, seedlings labeled, cold frames full of young plants getting ready to be planted out into the boarders.
Their will be an ambulant aroma of herbs ranging from the bitter to the sweet.
I can only see the faults in this part of my garden. I can only see the plants that have not thrived. I can only see what needs to be done. I can see it’s faults and in them my own.
It creates a restlessness, I fidget constantly drawn to the things that do not really matter. While often missing the things that do matter.
The garden moves and changes as I try and understand what this garden needs to be. The paths will one day find their direction. I will one day blend the colours seamlessly within the boarders. The fruit trees will fruit and the meadows will be a drift of pastel colours. But just not yet.
Something’s we are just not ready for, we can’t rush our growing or our learning . Wisdom and knowledge does not only come with age and experience it comes from love.
This weekend I meet the most magnificent Mulberry tree. The genus name of the mulberry is Morus derived from the Latin word mora meaning “delay” because the mulberry tree is one odd the last trees to bud in the spring. The mulberry could possibly be the wisest tree of all waiting until the frosts have pasted before safely budding. It’s a wonderful tree that is indigenous to Persia (Iran).  A tree that teaches me its ok to be slow. In the slowness their is a delayed beauty, a slowness of learning that I need to embrace. It’s a knowledge that needs to be felt as much as learnt, to dance in its mystery to journey in Gods love.
I learn when I climb over barriers to hug an accident mulberry tress. I grow when I watch the sun rise. The knowledge of love is in the cinema, it’s in my messy garden, it’s in the people that I meet and the encounters we have Jesus.
A timeless love that waits for us to flower. It’s a love far greater than knowledge. It’s a love that I surrender to, a love that brings knowledge alive.
Without love the knowledge will die, Its love that drives me to knowledge. It’s not knowledge that drives me to love.
Like the majestic mulberry tree I am also slow to bud. I am slow in understanding the written knowledge of Scripture. I am slow to write and slow to read. But it does not mean I won’t flower. It does not mean I don’t understand or love.
Wrapping my heart and arms around Morus nigra ( mulberry ) connected me not only with God but to myself, to be myself. To stay true to the love that grows in my heart. A love that makes me hungry for knowledge. Love that is rooted and woven within me and the community in which in live.

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Luke 17:6
6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

Wrestling with compost.

It’s strange how certain activities trigger memories that unlock a world I have yet to understand. Physical actions gently push my mind, nudging my world closer to the words that I struggle to comprehend. Words that need to find a place in my heart. Require a practical understanding so I can relate to them in my own way. So I can learn to pronounce, remember and recognise them. To understand what they mean to me and others. I need that word to become visual almost tactile to revival something of it’s self to me. It’s a slow often frustrating way of learning. Taking time with just one word, allowing it to guide me in practical way.
The word Koinonia came into my life this week. I must have heard it before but for some reason I locked onto the word and tried to unpick what it means to me.
I discovered my answers while wrestling with a large heavy bag of compost. It sounds the most unlikely of places but together my faith joined my gardening world and made their magical connections to Koinonia.
I was taught at horticultural college to shake, turn and mix a bag of compost before opening it. It’s hard heavy work that I often question. I wonder how many other people get hot and bothered turning over these brute sized bags? Theirs no written notice on the bag “ exhaust yourself by shaking and mixing bag before use”.
Yet I know by putting in this effort my seeds/plants get the best compost to grow in. In the wrestling I mix all the nutrients and soil types within the bag. Ensuring my little seeds have everything they could possibly need to grow.
I never lose the wonder in planting seeds. It’s the endless possibilities, a unison between the creator and creation. My role is to mix compost, seeds, water and love together.
It’s that mixing that connected me to koinonia. It’s a community of love in which we grow. Its a seamless interchange of mutual love which unites the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The more we live in communities of love, the more we can grow into the image and likeness of God who created us.
It’s that powerful incredible linked togetherness with others and God, at the same time being profundity at one with nature.
We are together as a family, as community. Expressing our need to be feed nourished fed and healed by God who is a community of love.
When wrestling with my compost bags, I mix love. Providing that micro community within my glass house. A community that loves, feeds and nurtures my seeds.
We are not as good as we could be at mixing ourselves. I never realised just how much we must move and mix within and outside of our community in order to grow.
Sitting in the same seat in church each week, doing the same things can slow down our growth, and the growth of those around us.
Sitting in the same seat has a lot todo with habit. When we do the same nothing changes, we expect the same.
Moving and mixing is difficult, it challenges us to sit among different people. To get to know someone new, to see a different perspective, to notice things we have never seen before.
When I walk into church this Sunday, I will sit somewhere different. Challenge myself and those who sit with me to change seats each week. Making us more open to change and growth. Mixing with those we do not know.
Maybe in that mixing we will build a stronger community. A Community that together can reach out to heal our wounded planet. A Community of love that grows flowers and fruits in likeness of God who created us.

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Hebrews 10:24-25 The Message (MSG)
22-25 So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.

laughter and legend.

The community that greeted me the other Sunday morning, gave me a real sense of belonging. It was exciting to be in such a warm and openly friendly place. It felt liberating to be part of a community that I could openly share with others the week’s failures and successes.
The best part is they wanted to listen, they were sympathetic to my problems. Knowledge was shared with simple storytelling involving laughter and legend.
After introductions were exchanged we shared simple food and ate together.
This community overflowed with one common love and one common passion that contagiously spread throughout. We all spoke the same language we all choose to belong to this like-minded group of people.
I will treasure my first Sunday morning on my allotment.
When I asked “ how do you see the future church? I will think of myself on the allotment muddy and happy sharing bitter tasting salad leaves.
I will hold onto that openness and excitement in my memory for a long time.
I know that the allotment community won’t always be like this. Problems will arise, someone will use someone else’s wheel-barrow, allotments will become overgrown and this will all cause fiction between allotment holders: It’s real life.
All communities have their ups and downs, our church communities are no different. It would be so wrong to think we are perfect because we are Christians. We are people, annoying, funny, angry, happy, sad, flirtatious, depressed people and despite our differences we place ourselves and each other before God.
That’s what excites me about the church community we place ourselves and each other before God just as we are. When we meet as Christians we need to be real with each other. We need to be able to live our faith in our community’s as we are. Loved on our good days and bad days.
The church I belong to is a kind loving welcoming community. I value the teachings and the wonderful congregation that has supported our family for over 4 generations.
The allotment community just took it all to another level. My Sunday on the allotment felt like church, My little patch of mud is a God filled space overflowing with love and potential.

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1 Corinthians 3:5-7 Good News Translation.
5 After all, who is Apollos? And who is Paul? We are simply God’s servants, by whom you were led to believe. Each one of us does the work which the Lord gave him to do: 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plant, but it was God who made the plant grow. 7 The one who plants and the one who waters really do not matter. It is God who matters, because he makes the plant grow.

Beyond my Boundaries.

Gardening is a massive part of my spiritual life. Its a commitment to a simple way of living, searching for a more sustainable lifestyle. This has drawn me closer to the idea of getting an allotment.
It’s being sustained both physically and spiritually, by what we grow and how we grow it.
It does seem a rather bonkers idea to take on an overgrown allotment right now. But it seems so right. Almost significant and defiantly something to celebrate.
My garden teaches me to look for God in all my daily activities and encounters. It reminds me of how we change from season to season.
The garden takes away the complexity of life that fills my mind. It’s a place that I don’t fail, It’s a place that forgives, it’s a place that grows. It’s a place that shows me the love, beauty and diversity of God our creator.
It opens my eyes to the smallest weed and allows me to see its beauty. It tells me God will never abandon me. However small and weedy I might feel my garden gives love and shows love.
So where is this allotment going to fit in? How will it differ from my garden?

My allotment has no fences, no visible boundaries.

It’s taking what I know outside of myself ( outside of my garden ). It’s time to start sowing seeds beyond the safety of the fences, beyond my boundaries.

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Ivy-  Hedera helix – Hedera  a classical Latin name for ‘ivy . Helix is derived from Greek helico- (spiral) meaning ‘screw-shaped coil, winding around or twisted’

It’s new.
It’s fresh new soil, new beginning. Gods grace forgives, allows me to start over and over again. I feel this little patch of mud is a new beginning. I’m not sure where it’s going, it’s new and exciting, the first physical seeds are still yet to be sown.

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Growing with that community.
It’s almost as if this allotment is a stepping stone. An opportunity to prove to myself that I can join a new community. I can sow and grow outside the comforts of my own garden. I can grow with confidence knowing God is with me.
I cannot hide on my allotment, my efforts, my disasters, are their to be shared in the community of gardeners.

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Using my gifts
I always feel so confident when I garden. It gives me a glimpse of the person that I could be.
This little patch of earth will teach me to take the strengths and gifts that God has given me out into the community.

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Love
You need love to grow. Telling someone they are loved is something I never do often enough.
Growing flowers and giving them away is something I can do. One small part of this little allotment will be for cut flowers. Flowers Grown to be given away, grown so people feel loved.

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Sweet pea – Lathyrus odoratus ” The Bride 

Maturity.
My garden is in a few places is reaching maturity. It requires light maintenance a couple of times a year.
It looks good and feels amazing to see my vision growing, being almost self-sustaining in places. So I do have time for this exciting new venture.
Allotments are a place of conversation, community, companionship, sharing the harvest, sharing my love for creation.
It’s a perfect place to share my love for Jesus. It’s the first step to sharing what burns inside my heart in a place that I feel comfortable, passionate, and connected.
A place by its own nature is rooted in love.

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2 Timothy 1:7 Good News Translation (GNT)
7 For the Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid; instead, his Spirit fills us with power, love, and self-control.

Bananas May Contain Children.

When I imagine a drive in movie, I think big American, cars rock n roll, poodle skirts and the movie Greece.

I don’t really think much past that image . Until I saw a shared post on Facebook . Cardboard box cars all lined up containing children watching a film. This allowed me to not only reimagine it but when shared it become a reality . On Saturday our community had its very own drive in movie night.

Its such a simple idea, children make cars out of cardboard banana boxes adding embellishments. With plenty of imagination the boxes were transformed. After making the cars and parking them up a tea was provided . The children soon settled into their cars and enjoyed the film.

It has made me think how we label and stereotype often not being prepared to see past what we already know.
The children sat in boxes clearly labeled bananas. To everyone in that room they sat in cars.
The boxes had been beautifully crafted by the children. Adding paper wheels, some even had cup holders. Cars were unroad worthy some even multi occupancy but they were obviously cars.
Sitting enjoying the film my mind started to wonder. It made me think how Jesus does not label us, and how much we label .
On the outside boxes are clearly labeled bananas . So we should expect to find bananas on the inside.
Why would we find anything else? Its obvious why we have to label boxes.
But why are we so keen to label people ?
No one wants their identity boiled down to one thing, even if the label is a strength, a talent, or a gift. Even positive labelling restricts us . Puts us in a box that’s hard to get out of.
The way we label people is something I have always felt strongly about even in my teenage years it frustrated me . Caring for a little person with additional needs and finding my faith has strengthened my feeling about the way we judge and label people without much thought or consideration to them.
We can make decisions so quickly. Putting people into categories because of their jobs, looks, religion or race. It’s easily to do, we have all done it. It’s only by getting to know people and genuinely wanting to be with them understand them do we remove those unwanted labels.

Labels can really hurt, keep you from being who you really are.
I need to live my life by what I feel inside. Not the labels that others give me, or even the labels I give myself.
The labels I have carried and given myself are no longer significant, they no longer limit me in the way they used to . I am learning to see and live beyond my labels.
Jesus set me free from my labels allowed me to peel them back.
I am so much more than a label. I am a child of God and that’s all I am and who I am.

We could have described our drive in movie afternoon afternoon as “A fresh expression of church lead by an evangelical team ” it could equally be “Community family drive in movie night” .
Its was all those things but it was just simply to me one thing God at work .
Its being involved in lives of the families in our community.  It’s The conversations we have, love we have for them, the love of Christ that we want to share with them. Jesus loves us and that’s the message I want to share. “ you are loved “ . Loved without labels, loved on your good days and bad days . It’s good to loose the long words that not everyone understands and think just about what’s at the heart of what we do.

Psalm 139:14Good News Translation
I praise you because you are to be feared;
all you do is strange and wonderful.
I know it with all my heart.

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Thy Kingdom Come.

Holiest places: pray for all those making a difference to the lives of our most vulnerable children.
“Save The Children” helped 22.1 million children in 2016

I pledge to pray for families; children in the care system and those involved in adoption.
When I first read on the “Thy Kingdom Come” website find some extreme places to pray and film yourselves doing it. I thought of all the beautiful places I could pray: high on a mountain, in a darkest cave, under water in the depth of the sea, riding my bike through the countryside.
When I read it again I realised that I can see God’s beauty and creation in all of these places.
But to others these are not places of beauty but are the extremes of their lives.
The forgotten families and children of our society, often out of sight and unnoticed.

Dear Father God.

I Pray for the charities; churches that support foster and adoptive children.
Wrap struggling families and churches together to offer support where it’s most needed.
Bless those who put ideas into action to make a positive difference in lives of our children.
Shine your light of love so brightly in me that others can see it to.

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Amen.

 

Pray to close the gap

Day thirteen –  lent challenge – hunger
We live in a area of mass expansion , the village I grew up in has become a town , a place where Strangers live , a place where I no longer say hello and know many of the person I meet and it’s somewhat lost it’s community as it gets divided up further and further.
The schools are over subscribed and our infrastructure is buckling under the strain of mass development many local people live in poverty .
Some of the congregation of our church where born in a village and find themselves living in a ever growing town almost oblivious to the expansion and the way lives have changed for the people living and working around them.
Yet in our town people will be hungry , mums will be going without food to feed their children , the food bank becomes a vital support for families without enough money to buy basics.
People we pass in the street are anonymous to us, we are blind to them often refusing to believe that in our town people are hungry and living in poverty.IMG_5554
Just because we live a good life in a beautiful location we need to keep our eyes open and help those in need on our doorsteps.
We need to build stronger communities, stop hiding in our church buildings and loose the fear of meeting ordinary local people , listen to people around us, serve them as Jesus did , understand the reality of their stories and believe that as individuals we can make a difference .

Romans 12 “11-13 – The Message  Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.”

Please have a look at to find out what you can do – http://www.church-poverty.org.uk/