Friday, 24 March 2017

The Valley Experience

Having travelled to Scotland on several occasions, one thing that stood out for me, were the winding roads that took us to the Highlands. Sometimes these roads seemed to lead into nothingness, other times we saw light, and life in the distance.  Sometimes these roads were straight, narrow, and high, other times it seemed that we had sunken into a valley, shaded with thick trees, and obscuring the light of the sky.  How dark they were, and quite uncertain. 
The valleys, though mysteriously attractive, prompted an unspoken haste to drive through them quickly.
Sometimes,  life is like a valley. What happens in a valley? more to the point what happens in your valley?
Amy, a young woman found herself in a valley. After being married for several happy years, hopelessly in love and faithfully committed to her husband, she was shocked to discover that for the last year he had been having an affair with her sister.  Amy's world was rocked, she wondered how she would get over this situation, if ever.  She realised that what she thought she had, a loyal loving caring and committed relationship was not that after all, and not only her husband, but the father of her children had left her life in pieces. What was she to do?  She found herself in a valley, what would now be the valley of decision; and that is where we find our selves at times. 
It can be related to anything, in Amy's case it was her relationship, her marriage, her family, dedicated years of investment.  In your case it could be an unwanted pregnancy, a major geographical move, a cut off from abusive family and friendship groups,  but something you have no control over, you have been forced into that valley, and how you will get out, and what you will do is unclear, and you might think that it is up to you only; or is it really? 
The valley roads to the  Scottish Highlands, leads somewhere, they do not stop in the middle of the valley, they take you to a clearing, and will keep you in that clearing until you reach your destination.
Although you may not know the final outcome, the shadows will clear. 
King David talks about the Valley experience in Psalm 23.  I remember watching a movie as a child, where  frightened victims of war  recited those words as they walked through thick darkness, anticipating a clearing and a brighter view....."Though I walk through the darkest valley, I will not fear" (NIV).
What ever your  valley experience is, know that God will take you through to the clearing, know that He will give you  peace that surpasses your understanding  (Philippians 4:7)....He will take you, lead you, comfort you
and carry you out of the valley.

Friday, 17 March 2017

'Paint it Grey'

When was the last time you consulted God about your decorating ideas? Strange question? No; not really.  Proverbs 3:6 tells us that we should not lean on our own understanding, but in 'All our ways we should acknowledge God, and He will direct our paths'. 

We have had some work done recently in our home and are at the stage of choosing the finishing touches, paint, paper etc. I decided I wanted to paint the interior of a particular area in a light teal.  I was set to start shopping for the paint.  I walked into the room, looked at the area, and 'something' said to me 'paint it grey'.  That  'something' was very strong, and I found the idea of painting it teal, unpleasant.  I like teal, my other soft furnishings are teal, but that particular area must not be teal.  Now that 'something' I know, could only be God. The feeling, the message, the instruction felt very strong.  I thought,  God really is interested in the colours of my home, in my d├ęcor, and what it looks like. .... so you are probably reading this, and thinking;  'yes! we hear that, we know that, but what's the real issue here, why would God tell you to paint it grey?
It's not the colour, it's not even the instruction, it's the recognition and obedience without question.  I don't need to know why, or the future details, I just need to obey, however I cannot if I don't recognise the voice of God. 

When He speaks, it is unusual, it comes, but you can't quite place your finger on it, where it comes from; and that is why so often we hear One say, 'something told me'.
As you begin to develop that quietness, where you tell yourself that you want to tune into the right frequency and hear from God, it will begin to happen.  You may wonder when, and what  He will say to you, but when He does, you will know that it is from Him.  You may think that He will only talk to you about 'spiritual matters' but don't forget that if you are living in the spirit, you are walking in the spirit, Galatians 5:25, and the walk is daily, hourly, minutely, and of course,  in every second, so don't be surprised if God tells you that you should have two eggs for breakfast, wear your boots instead of your shoes, take a different route to work; shop at Sainsbury for your fruit, and tell the fellow shopper that they look lovely. 

This is how we remain connected with Our Father, we don't need to guess, or say; 'something said to me', because we will know who that 'something is' We will recognise Our Friend's involvement in every area of our lives.  We will be content with our choices, and we will develop a constant conversation approach with Him. 
So the next time you are choosing something....anything.....big or small.....personal or general.....tell Him first, and listen out for His choice, because if you're tuned into the right frequency you'll know it!

Saturday, 4 March 2017

13th February 2017

I am sat in Manchester Church.  I am at the funeral service, celebration of the life of Pastor Devon Williams. Cynthia and Valerie have brought in two wreaths. The mood is not sombre, but there are exclamations of joy at seeing and meeting.  Some are busy, some are sitting, some are waiting, some are reflecting.  How do I feel? I'm quiet, not chatty, I'm not sombre, I'm reflective.  More flowers.  Howard is walking  with one of our Eldest Pastors.  Pastor Campbell, they'll be walking behind the coffin. More flowers.  More people, more activity.  Photo's of Pastor Devon's life and family are on a slide show. The music plays quietly in the background. More voices, more people, raised voices.  More flowers.
Devon's mother has arrived, how sad to be burying your child.  I cannot imagine what it must feel like.  I cannot imagine laying my child to rest.  The ushers do their job, so organised in harmony- together as they orchestrate and maintain organising. When will they feel the day?
More flowers.
Yet more flowers. 
A familiar face, expressions of love, faces that have not been seen for a long time. 
They knew him, and they loved him. The family have arrived, they're standing.

I feel the draught-all is silent.  Still the photo's slide.  'Soon and very soon' rings out- we all stand.  Bill walks in - Pastor, and elder brother- "the grass withers..." a muffled tear.  A declaration of Praise.

President, Overseer, He died in hope- a better life to come, presence greatly missed. We are grieving, we believe there is a better life to come, God knows our heart and as humans we have emotion.  Praise and lift Him up, Jesus, we will be helped throughout the service.
A joke, "no tugging on my jacket, that's what Devon would've done, enjoy the service, be happy"
'At peace with Jesus now'
We sing, but sadness permeates the air.  God knows, He sees, He understands.  We must allow ourselves to feel, to express, to be comforted, for Jesus comforts. 
They keep coming, loved ones, friends. all who loved Him.
What now? what next?.
Thanks be to God who gives us victory through Our Lord Jesus Christ.  1st Corinthians 15.

Silence from God

'When God is silent, it means He is planning His next move, so be patient'.  I heard this profound statement recently and I reflected on it's full meaning to me.
My daughter shared with me recently a conversation she had with a young pre-schooler.  They were in deep discussion talking about the things pre-schoolers talk about; questions and answers batted back and forth, and then suddenly the young person went quiet. My daughter waited for him, when her brief patience ran out, she urged him to respond to her; his simple response was..'I'm thinking', and remained in silence, as my daughter resumed her exercise of patience.
That is what is required from us as God's people, waiting until He's sorted it, instead of trying to 'chivvy' Him along, God's timing is not ours, and though at times we may think or believe He has not heard us, He is in fact sorting things out behind the scenes. 
This reminds me of the story of Abraham and Sarah. God told them that they were going to be blessed with a child. (Genesis 15:4). They waited, and ruminated, and nothing happened.  In Sarah's haste to 'make things happen' she facilitated a sexual union between Abraham and Hagar, her maid. (Genesis 16)  Things went downhill after that between  her and Hagar, the relationship went sour, and the once peaceful homely supportive environment, became unpleasant to bear and so Hagar was sent away. 
God is not like man, He does not withhold blessings out of spite, or deny us the things when we need them (or think we need them) because of a grudge.  He is a God of love who sees the future, and therefore He knows what will happen, when and if.  If He is silent, it's because He is working things out, and we have to learn to wait and trust Him.  Wait and trust Him, this is what comes to me so often when I say...'God...what?, when?, shall I...?.'
I am reminded of what I learn in the garden with my God.  I planted some tulip bulbs in October of last year.  Each day I looked at the soil, I waited, and I wandered. 'Were they healthy bulbs? a good choice?, will they begin to grow? and sure enough after the silence of the soil, the leaves began to protrude as the soil was pushed out of the way, and they are now growing rapidly....5 months later.  Habakkuk 2:3 says: 'The revelation awaits an appointed time.....though it linger, wait for it, it will certainly come, and will not delay' What you may think is delay, is actually God's perfect timing.  Learn to be still...God is silent, planning His next move for you.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Who am I?

I woke with that question this morning, and I am still asking it of my self.  It is one of those questions that requires some deep reflection and thought.  It is a question that leads one into a path of exploration and discovery, one that cannot be answered straight away, one that requires length of time. Why? because it is what I would call an incisive question, incising refers to 'cutting into something' and when that is done, then comes the exploration, somethings to be removed, some to address, some to re-address, and some to repair, and I guess that is where I am at the moment, hence the question 'Who am I?'
If you have never asked yourself that question, maybe now is the time to do it. Think about you, where you are, where you sit. Think about the family you are part of, or have cultivated, think about the job you do, and the influence you have or do not have.  Why your choices? why your decisions.  Are they your decisions, and choices, or are they God's?  Of course God allows our autonomy, He is not a bully or pushy, He demonstrates UPR, unconditional positive regard, and allows us to find ourselves.  The core element of the Person Centred Approach to Therapy is non-directive. Pushing or manipulation, coercing or  enforcing does not take place, instead the individual is allowed to make discoveries about themselves,  and from time to time, God takes us to that place, the place where we ask the question, 'Who am I'  He doesn't answer the question for us, what He does is tentatively, lovingly, walk alongside us as we make the discoveries ourselves and begin to answer that question.
For some of you reading this, the song 'Who am I?' may come to mind, Jason Crabb asked the question, 'Who am I that a King should bleed and die for' , then goes on to say 'the answer I may never know' so in searching for that answer, indicates we may struggle to  find out who we are, however we don't stop searching, or seeking to find out a little bit more about ourselves, because as we do, we make discoveries about how we think, why we do what we do, how we relate, why we relate the way we do, we make discoveries about ourselves, and begin to open the blind area of our Johari Window.
As God speaks to us, and enables us to make those discoveries we begin to evolve, and change and hopefully mature into fully functioning individuals.  I certainly want to be a fully functioning individual.  One who understands me. One who is assured that God loves me for who I am, regardless of my brokenness, one who is confident enough in God, to know that when I ask the question who am I?, the answer will come back,  The Lord knows them that are His, (2 Timothy 2:19).
So what do you have to do when that question pops into your head, and troubles your mind and your spirit? Stop; be still; enable an incision; question; explore; search; ask of God, be congruent with your self, challenge your integrity. If you are His, then this will be confirmed when you have done the work.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Without sin?

I love what I do. I love what I do, because it is humbling, and I learn so much about me, from my learners.

As I teach, they learn, as they learn they teach... me.  

I am no longer satisfied with the mundane existence that tries to present itself to me from time to time, curiosity heightens knowledge, and, knowledge heightens curiosity.  So when my learner says to me, 'one does not really know that they are prejudice, unless it is pointed out to them' yes, she has captured the essence of what I am trying to teach, and we are now in the synchronous state of learning, for I too, have engaged in learning. 

For some reason, this  reminds me of the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery, (John 8:1-11).  Who caught her, and what were they doing in that vicinity, were they spying?, did they set her up? 

That scripture is often looked at as a test for Jesus, Jesus doesn't need tests for He is Divine and perfect, He always gets things right, so was it a test for the spy, those who set her up? Is it a test for us?

In the story, she is 'caught in the act of adultery', and dragged scantily clad into the temple court and made to stand before Jesus. The accusers are there waiting, looking on and waiting. How does she feel? I wonder, guilty? confused? ashamed? exposed?. How do they feel, triumphant? victorious?

The prejudice that emanated from those scribes and Pharisees, must have burned through her core being as she stood there exposed to this Man whom she may have heard about but did not know. She knew that she was wrong, but what about the man whom she had been caught with, where was he, why had he also not been brought to justice?  She may have began to panic, knowing that this Man who stood in front of her could give the go ahead to end her life, as the tears began to flow, and her breathing increased rapidly, she became acutely aware of his silent movement towards the ground;  'what was he doing she wondered, was He going to throw the first stone?' Then he began to draw in the ground, something.  By now her eyes were flooded with tears, she could not see clearly, but she heard his words.  'He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her'

She breathed heavily, bowed her head with hands to protect her, bracing herself for the first hit, permission had been given, she knew that she could not escape this, and so she waited.  She waited, but nothing happened,   had she heard '....without sin...',
When, what seemed like a tormented hour, though only a few minutes, she  raised her head, she found herself alone with this Man.
It was His tender eyes that she noticed first, the gentle approach, and the warm demeanour.  This man seemed to be accepting, she felt no prejudice from Him, no judgement.  Her intermittent tears, now allowed a clearer vision of this person.  His question brought her back to consciousness, 'Where are your accusers'  It was then she looked around, her response was quiet, almost inaudible, but Jesus heard, offered a heart of compassion, no judgement, and good advice'.

It was the 'conscience' bit that stopped those scribes and Pharisees in their track.  It is so easy for one to judge and condemn another, to right them off as unworthy, a 'no good sinner', but we are all sinners really,  however if you have accepted Jesus' forgiveness, you are no longer condemned.  The prejudice and judgement you experience can be eradicated knowing that Jesus Loves you and accepts you just as you are.
When someone stands in front of you, and say...'Look at me, I want you to be like me'  remind yourself that Jesus wants you to be like Him.

Saturday, 17 December 2016


I was reflecting last night - or was it yesterday? anyway I was reflecting how much we walk around with our 'stuff.' Our 'stuff' walks alongside us, behind us, before us, within us. Our 'stuff' is our past hurts, trauma, present problems, difficulties- they don't go away, they are there, present; so how do we cope? how do I manage them.  Sometimes they are numb, I can't feel them, they pale into insignificance, they are temporarily forgotten.  Then something happens, a voice; a memory; a phone conversation, a trigger, and they jump, the 'stuff',  right in front of my face- what am I supposed to do?
What do I do? because they are my stuff!  I don't pretend that they are not there, I don't put my hands over my eyes like a child- count to 10 and hope that when I uncover my eyes they're gone- that's an unrealistic expectation, so I deal with my 'stuff' I challenge it, argue with it, explore it, rationalise it, normalise it.  Then I carry on with my journey, my life, they're still there;  my 'stuff'; I've just learned to manage them. God helps me too- He's my BIG STUFF, controlling all the other 'stuff' so I live with my  'stuff'.  I accept that my 'stuff' is part of me- but I, with God's help, manage my 'stuff'.