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.

 

Protecting the extraordinary.

I’ve recently been reminded of the cycling adventures I had as a teenager.
Balancing conversations whilst cycling hands free and eyes closed.
I remember on one occasion my lovely friend combined hands free cycling with hair brushing. Simultaneously I combined hands free cycling with eyes closed cycling. I trusted my friend to guide me. She trusted me not to trust her when she needed to brush her hair.
Needless to say we lost our balance and wobbled into each other and we both ended up a tangled heap in the road.
I remember our laughter and tears. Both battered and bruised we picked ourselves up and continued our journeys home. Neither of us prepared to explain to our parents how we came off our bikes.
I still cycle hands free but with my eyes open. I still cycle with my eyes closed but keep two hands firmly on the handle bars.
The other evening I experienced worship which was “ hands free “.
No service sheets, all responses where said by one person on our behalf.
No words to read, or misread, no responses to stumble over. It really was a place of freedom full of love and possibilities.
This paper free service took me right back to my teenager years of hand free cycling.
It reawaken a crafted space that in its simple creation allows myself to go deeper with God.
To step back on the path of discovery, to ponder the words that echo around me drifting to a place of awareness.
A place of wordless, imageless prayer.
It’s this place that I seek when I pray. That draws me inwards to God. This place might be cycling hands free, digging the garden, or just simply sitting in my own home.
I used to believe that prayer was words. That all prayer had an audible sound, a solid firm shape. A pattern of compulsory words. Yet the more I journey the more I learn that prayer is more than words. It can be the thin places that God has gifted us. My thin place will differ to another’s. A place from which I feel the radiant transparency of love, infused with a deep moment of silence from which all unspoken words and concepts are tidal.
It’s a place I Instinctively and habitually return to. My own personal place that protects my extraordinary. Opens the doors to the most
inaccessible places on earth, weirdly these places can almost be the most accessible places of my mind.

The spirited wind that ruffled my hair as I cycled hand free as a teenager was the early beginnings of a transformative spiritual practice that would sustain me .
Two risk taking teenage girls cycling hands free, have guided each other, supporting each other into adult life.
I have realised this friendship has prepared me and helped open myself to Jesus. It opened for me a path of adventure to follow my my deepest desire.
To understand that our risk taking may end up not as planned. I think back to myself and my friend in a tangled mess of bike and bruises. The gap of silence in which our tears turned to laughter. The unspoken words from our parents when we returned home battered and bruised. Those inner words of love that are parents never spoke.
I’ve come back as a adult to the thin places that feed the gentle gap between thoughts and words, a place to rest with God.
An inner silence, a stillness reinforced by a familiar habit of searching for a deeper stillness.
The places that taste and smell of creation. A conscious return to a unconscious place. Where my imagination traces pictures that have yet formed words.
A precious rediscovered energy, a gathered moment in time that held my breath and ruffled my hair.
A physical reminder of the breath of God that breaths within me. A tactile sensation of the wind blown Spirit. A mysterious force that guides my heart to prayer. That generates a core of outwardly focused energy.
When I stop focusing on what’s expected of me. When I follow my heart I bring myself to God. Letting go of the patterns of life that dampen my imagination, the words that confuse me, letting go of the handle bars that balance and guide me.
Closing my eyes I Listen to a silent love that prepares my soul ready for a purposeful action. A risk that’s so empowering it’s wrapped in love. A love that in which ordinary people can do ordinary things.

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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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Muddy footprints saturated in love

Marginal plants are those which grow around the margins of a pond where the water is shallow. They usually have their roots and crown underwater, and sometimes their lower foliage as well.

This is especially true of the skunk cabbage ( Lysichiton americanus ) . You very quickly learn to see past it’s unpleasant smelly yellow flowers, and it’s unflattering name. It really is a magnificent wonder of a plant .

Many years ago I purchased two small skunk cabbage plants . Planted with love and care in the best environment I could create within my garden. They survived have produced some insignificant flowers and have no significant growth. I ignored my horticultural inner voice of reason. Followed my eyes to desire a plant that would never grow well in my garden.

The reflective pools and springs in the Bishops palace gardens, provide the perfect conditions to grow marginal plants. Architectural leaves of the Gunnera , bright yellow flowers of the Skunk Cabbage, Ferns, Hosta’s, Primula all carpeting the edges of the reflective pools / wells.
The still waters bouncing back the images cast by these beautiful plants perched on the waters edge devoured my thoughts and held my emotions.

The deafening silence that surrounded the waters edge was profoundly comforting. My heart was plunged deep into the soil inviting me listen and follow.
Freedom to travel within myself to the edges of the well, to those that lived on the margins.
Wondering with Jesus into a fresh beautiful individual way of learning. journeying with the one who knows and loves me, looking no further than my heart.
Listening to the familiar voice of the head Gardner. The voice of love calling and challenging me to go to the margins to those living on the edges of our society .

This unique environment is not self sustaining, it’s unpredictable fragile and vulnerable .
God already loves those on the edge, on the margins. When Jesus walks with us to the edge we reflect Gods love .
God’s love is sustaining and supporting everything that exists in the universe – every person, every plant or creature, every mountain or river or sea, every planet, star or sun, every moment of every day. All of it is held together, sustained and supported by God’s love.

Love

God’s love lifts the blinders from my eyes and shows me his presence and activity in the world. LOVE that holds everything together.
It’s slippery muddy and dangerous on the edge. I need to learn to tread carefully and thoughtfully as I walk with love. Balancing on the edge is dangerous and often ugly. This is never going to be an easy walk.
When I look beyond the danger I see the God’s LOVE who has brought all this into being and who is now holding it and caring for it. LOVE that never changes. LOVE that never fails us, forsake us, or forget us.
It’s Gods remarkable love that transforms and changes lives. It’s the voice of reason that outlines my shadow . Listening and walking in Gods love will sustain me as I tread gently in the boggy ground.
As I learn to plant seeds of full of endless possibilities . Leaving muddy footprints saturated in love.

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John 4-14
Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”

Cotyledon / first leaf.

In my last blog I wrote about waiting ( I was waiting for the outcome of the Church of England pioneer panel). The wait is finally over and I have been approved as a pioneer within the Church of England.
This amazing news was shared with me by a phone call, followed a few days later by a letter from the Bishop. I was delighted, relieved and excited to have this news confirmed to me.
It’s the word confirmed that has made this news ever so scary. It’s the realisation that others see and maybe even understand how passionate I feel about mission. They not only possibly understand some of my heartfelt ideas, they actually believe in them and in me. Attending the pioneer panel has been such a positive experience in which I have felt understood; my strengths and weaknesses fairly identified.
I feel like a seed that has just grown my first seed leaf (cotyledon).

There’s a recognition of my growth and potential. The classification of my future ministry has been identified but yet the shape is not yet fully obvious.

The presence and type of seed leaf is also important in determining the classification of the plant that will grow. For instance, monocots have only a single seed leaf, which often stays in the ground. Dicots, on the other hand, have a pair of seed leaves that usually appear at the top of the growing stem and are then replaced during growth.

Most seed leaves are almost identical regardless of the type of plant. These narrow leaves are delicate and fragile. Its an embryonic leaf supporting and providing nutrition for the growing plant. Theirs so much strength in the leafs weakness.
These first leaves are supported on a stem so fragile if handled incorrectly the plant may perish. The total utter weakness of any newly germinated plant is its greatest strength.

My weakness has not been a barrier or an obstacle, it’s not blocked out or stopped me following my calling to God; instead, it’s the heart of my calling, the very thing that has allowed God to work most effectively through me.
There are times when I focus on my weaknesses and inadequacies, my failures and sins. They try to overpower my thoughts, taking me to places I’d rather not be.
The beautiful reality is these weaknesses are often my strengths. They are gifts from God, a constant reminder confirming to myself that I need to give myself completely and wholly to God, looking for God’s greater strength to do in me what I cannot do myself.
It’s overcoming my weaknesses and trusting God that has pushed me and drives me. It’s God’s strength and love that has grown me.
Strengthened by his love and power at work within me. Taking each passing moment as an opportunity for surrender to God’s Love. To give thanks for my strengths and weaknesses. To show others the joy I feel spending time with Jesus. The relationship I embrace is not just an emotion I feel; it’s an action, a calling, of who I am meant to be.

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Galatians 2:20 New International Version (NIV)
20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Time For A Rethink .

lent 2017  I challenged myself to blog every day. The theme of each blog was inspired by a word from the bible societies lent challenge.  Here’s the link to my posts, in case you want to know more about what I got up to last year.

Writing 40 blogs helped me to form a deeper relationship with God. Allowed me time to hear that I am being called. I want others to feel that love too. I need to find a way to push myself to tell others the Good news “ We are loved “. unconditionally always and forever.
Its the new life that comes with this beautiful love that I want to give to others. I want my actions to show that Gods love is real and has no limits.

Lent 2018 I set myself  an outside challenge  walking with friends and family. Prayer walks and social walks, walking  with those  that  I often don’t spend enough time with . I planned to walk at least 40 miles a week  with as many different people as possible.

Feeling confident and ready, a list of fellow walkers drafted  up. All I needed was fine weather.
Not sure  we  are ever ready for  the challenges that life brings to us. I certainly was feeling confident in my challenge . Excited about the  conversations / prayers that we would might share as we walked and journey  together over  the next 40 days .

Today  walking is very far from my mind. Battered and bruised and feeling the full effects of  gravity doing what it does best.  A high temperature caused me to lose consciousness.
Gravity took me to the shortest route to the floor. This route would have been straightforward were it for the obstacles in the way which in my unconscious state I hit before  landing in the most undignified heap .
The  planning has rather gone astray but nursing my soreness the last few days I have been drawn to  last years lent journey and how important it was to me.
I have been thinking about all the people that have challenged, changed  and influenced my life.
How we often forget to say thank you to them.
So with a  total  change of plan lent 2018 I will once agin be  blogging on   a given word for the day set by the  Bible society
I will be reflecting  on the people that have shaped and changed my life.

Each blog will be accompanied by image not of the person but my visualization of them . Although similar to last years challenge its still an exciting enriching time and I’m looking forward to this journey with the joy of anticipation that it will bring.

Hoping in time to get some walking in too.

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John 8:12  When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

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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