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Have you ever picked up a beautiful stone at the beach, its colour and patterns glimmering in the sunlight, only to find that once dry, it has lost its allure?DSCN1830 blog The other weekend, we walked the beach, eyes peeled for interesting stones as we enjoyed the warmth of the sun on our backs and the feel of wet sand underfoot. As usual, we chose a couple of pebbles that piqued our interest, significant in some way that connected their history with ours.

Once home, dried out from the salty sea and dulled of the summer sunlight glinting on their façade, I realised that I felt just like these stones…. parched and dry. It’s not just the relentlessness of the UK heat wave these past few weeks, but more a sense of feeling spent; lacking sparkle and colour; a dryness of spirit, as I negotiate all the “must-do’s” on my seemingly never-ending daily lists. I need refreshing so that the colour and sparkle in me returns…

I began to wonder what these little pebbles could teach me; what pertinent nuggets of wisdom they might offer the dryness in my soul…and realised several things…

Refreshing Beauty

The beauty of pebbles and stones is so much greater when wet within the water and highlighted by sunlight.

So, I wonder…

  • What might I need that refreshes my life, making it more beautiful?
  • Is my life refreshed and rejuvenated by being immersed in God’s Holy Spirit, so that my life may shine like a sea pebble in the sun?
  • How might I bathe in the light of the Son of God, so my life shines with good things?
  • What good things in my life might I want to highlight? What might I wish to release?

Each unique

IMG 0133 cropped enhanced 40 sized for blogEvery pebble is unique, with its own story to tell, beautiful in its own way, with a place where it has functioned best. Over time, those functions evolved and changed, as it navigated its often-difficult way across time, yet each bears the hand of God within its narrative.

So, I wonder…

  • What changes in my life have helped to form my unique story?
  • Can I see the hand of God in the narrative of my life?
  • What might I need to change in my life now, as my roles change and evolve?

The Power of One

On its own, you would think that a pebble has little impact, yet one small rock may contain a valuable diamond, or a newly discovered element within, with potential to transform technology. If we recall the pain of a tiny stone in our shoe or consider that we are able to fall and break a limb simply by tripping over a small stone, or that a stone propelled with force can do great damage, we will realise that every small stone has the potential to make an impact. Just think of the story of David and Goliath!

So, I wonder…

  • Partnering with God the Creator, what impact has my small life?
  • How might I hone the power to do good with my one life, rather than cause others to stumble?

A man’s steps are established by Yahweh. He delights in his way. Though he stumble, he shall not fall, for Yahweh holds him up with his hand. Psalm 37:23-24

Stronger TogetherDSCN1825 blog

Together, however, stones provide great strength or majesty as they gather naturally to create swathes of long beaches, rock escarpments, or are humanly fashioned into functional and great buildings. As God’s people, together we have the potential to do so much more than we could ever achieve alone. We are “Living Stones” …

…built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5

For Christ is our living Cornerstone, chosen by God but rejected by many.

So, Lord, may I embrace the role of Living Stone, submitting to the Holy Spirit’s flow in and through me, to bring refreshment to my life and others. With Christ as my light and foundation, may I shine again, offering my life to be built alongside those of your people to further and strengthen your Church. Amen

Juggling Hand pexels mochammad algi 4436470I have been struggling with the juggling of the past couple of months, trying to make the number of things that I’m working on look as elegant as watching an experienced juggler. As usual, I have failed miserably!

Juggling is fine for a short time, as the juggler skilfully manipulates the balls to great effect for an admiring audience, but it requires such concentration to keep the balls in the air! Juggling, after all, is simply a time bound performance. It may be exhilarating when we start but it is folly to think that we can maintain such an illusion for any extended length of time…

…and yet, from time to time, I still have a bad habit of taking on more than I can reasonably hold, so that instead of being a graceful vison of competence, I am left exhausted from the experience.

I wonder if you often take on more than you can manage, leaving yourself drained and depleted, unable to give of your best to anything?
For me, it’s never usually that all the things I have taken on are unmanageable or stressful. In fact, the attraction is often that the things are all really exciting. The difficulty is that I have chosen to take them on all at once.

Honouring God
Scripture explains that all we do, including our choices and work, is supposed to honour the Lord.

"Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3: 17

So, when I go my own way, choosing to take on more than I can reasonably juggle, I am dishonouring the One in whom I try to trust. I am not being a faithful witness when my own choices give way to weary grumpiness. Instead, my choices in all things (including work) are meant to encourage Christ-like characteristics that embody a better way…

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Wholehearted
Scripture explains that our work should be wholehearted.

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

If I am over weary, then I can hardly give of my all. It is easy to forget that, in our work, as in all things, it is Christ we serve. Self-care that allows for sensible rest and restorative Sabbath moments throughout the rhythm of our days, actually allows us to live wholeheartedly, enabling us instead to give our all.

Easy Yoke
The Lord does not expect us to bear a load that is too heavy, nor juggle endless balls. Often, when I find myself feeling over-burdened, it is usually the times I have gone my own way, choosing busyness over doing business with God.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 

The yoke that God gives each one of us, is unique to us… individually designed that we might be the people he has made us to be - so that we are able to fulfil our true potential with a greater ease, as we place our trust in Him.

Juggling Man juggler g49486a683 1920Seeking God
So how might I achieve these three things in my life, and avoid struggling with the juggling? I think that it is about not going my own way, thinking I know best but simply seeking out the whispers of God’s voice in my ordinary daily life and following the voice that leads to restoration and rest, alongside fulfilment of a unique purpose.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

It’s not an easy task… and I, for one, need the constant reminder that God has got this. Struggling with the juggling is the world’s way, and yes, I often get it wrong. Yet the Lord is the God of new beginnings, so when I get it wrong, I can return to Him, to begin again, anew, tackling only that which God has in mind for me.

I’ve spent much of my life in the past, thinking in negative terms; believing that I don’t have the right amount of skills/ tools/ space/ time/ abilities/ confidence……to get on with whatever is on my heart, but as I’ve aged that opinion has gradually changed.

All too often, we choose to live from a misaligned view that relies totally on our inadequate resources instead of trusting in the all-sufficient provision of God.
We bemoan the deficiency we perceive in our lives, instead of making the most of what is in our hands.

So, in keeping with these thoughts,I’ve been looking at the New Testament parable of the talents, and wondering "What's in my hands?"

The Parable of the Talents

For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.
He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more.
But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money...
Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.
Matthew 25: 14-30, ESV version

Hands and TalentsHere’s what I’ve been pondering as I stitched the hands of the Master generously gifting the eight denarius to his servants…

We all have access to different things alongside a range of individual skills and talents, but the point is that whatever they might be, we have each been entrusted with something and are expected to be astute to make use of all that we have.

When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required. Luke 12: 47-49, NLT version

The parable of the talents, at first reading seems harsh, but there are several things to consider in this analogy of God, as the man who goes away entrusting his servants (us) with differing value of gifts.

Each is given according to ability...
One talent doesn’t seem very much on paper, but apparently a talent was worth 6,000 denaraii, and one denarius was the value of a days labour. That means that a single talent alone, was worth 20 years labour! Imagine the value in todays terms to realise the amount of responsibility given to each servant! What would you do with the gift of twenty years wages? Spend it, hide it, invest it…or something else?
What are we each doing now with our generous God-given gifts?

Receive the gifts you’ve been entrusted with...
Nothing we have is ours…all is entrusted to us by God, the Father not just for safekeeping but for utilising to its full potential. As it says in the response after the offering in the Anglican liturgy “Everything we have is yours. We only give you what is yours already.” We are caretakers and stewards of all Gods gifts.

Act swiftly to embrace all you’ve been given...
Embrace and accept all you’ve been given and give thanks. It’s all too easy to resist our own gifting as we look at the perceived better gifts of others, or hesitate so long in acting that our procrastination means we end up with no more than we started with. The astute servants acted “at once”, knowing what to do. We have enough. We are enough, for all that God has set before us. Life is for living, and putting to good use all that we have been given.

It's our Choice...
When we embrace and use what we have, our gifting grows and our spiritual life thrives, as we recognise the abundance we have been given. If we spend our time grieving over what we do not have, we can easily become resentful, living from a place of scarcity rather than abundance.

With opportunity comes responsibility...
We are to steward our gifts responsibly; managing and look after them, not just collecting them like trophies, but sharing them and using them for the good of the community around us and those in need.

Hands Talents Seeds of Growth

Invest in your gifts...
Growing and improving gifts often takes hard graft, and may involve risk of failure or loss, but this does not mean that we should be satisfied with the status quo. Just as an athlete, artisan or entrepreneur works hard to improve and hone their skills, so too are we expected to invest in our God given gifts. We don’t improve our skills by not using them. It takes practice, application, hard work and experience to get better at something. We learn by making mistakes, not by hiding our talents for fear of getting something wrong.

Be faithful and honest in your dealings...
As we work to improve our gifts and talents, we are still expected to be honest and faithful to God, not walking over others to get where we want to be, but enabling others and working alongside them with kindness and humility.

Be accountable...
God will call us to account for how we have utilised our “talents” to further His Kingdom. We are warned that here will be a reckoning, which feels a bit scary….but we can trust in our loving Lord, that if in obedience, we act prayerfully to sow the seeds of our talents, wherever we walk, then he will enable our actions of planting, nurturing, stewarding, and investing to grow into something of great spiritual worth.

We have enough to complete all that we are expected to do; all that God has laid on our hearts.
We are given generous gifts that are to be invested in and stewarded astutely.

We are to live from a place of abundance not with a scarcity mentality, for God has given us all we need. What He has asked us to do may not be easy; it could well be risky but if we believe fully the life we are called to, then we can look forward at the end of our journey for our Lord to welcome us home with the words "Well done, good and faithful servant."

IMG 3786 enhanced 2MP for blogPsalm 23 is a great comfort to so many Christians, but I must admit that it isn’t usually my go-to Psalm, so I’ve been wondering why that is…

Perhaps the fact that it is such a popular Psalm means that I shy away from it, preferring less well known ones…
Maybe, since I’ve always enjoyed being unique and different that I’m reticent at being considered a sheep and part of a flock that follows the herd…
Or, possibly it may have something to do with the fact that I often struggle to “rest”, encouraged from a very early age to always be “doing” something…

After pondering on this for a while, I’m still unsure. No doubt there are a myriad of complex reasons!
However, the fact is that God sees his people as “sheep” and Jesus as the Shepherd, so just perhaps I need to start to “be more sheep” …

I wonder how I might do this and ponder the Psalm for further illumination…

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.”

Do I recognise the authority of the Lord as my personal shepherd, one who provides all that I need at various stages of my life?
Do I live my life open- handed, fully accepting and offering to others all the Lord provides- from a place of plenty or a feeling of lack?

 

“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.”

Can I surrender to God’s directing rather than insist on going my own busy way?
Do I miss the quiet pastures of refreshment and time spent with the Shepherd when head down, I allow my weary body and soul to bypass much needed rest, thinking I know best?

 “He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Am I trusting enough to stay close enough to God, allowing him to be my constant guide and lead me through even the most difficult terrain on my life’s journey?
Does my confidence in the Lord as my Compass, Confidante and Comforter, able me to leave my fears with him, knowing he is both Rescuer and Redeemer?

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”

Can I accept all the good things that God has prepared for me?

“You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Do I acknowledge that God has accepted, equipped, and lavished me with all that is needed in the specific role he has chosen for me?

“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
Am I happy to be pursued by God, choosing to not hide from him, but run to him and abide with him wherever he leads?

 IMG 3785 2MP for blog v2

Sheep thrive best when tended, cared for, and pastured well by a Shepherd who knows each sheep individually from birth.
They thrive best when they follow, trusting the Shepherd's leading.

So, I will try to surrender and learn to “be more sheep” maintaining my individuality whilst joining the flock to follow the Master's lead, enjoying the focus and care of the ultimate Good Shepherd.

How about you?

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me…” John 10:14

Begin Intentional Journey for blog smallI’m really good at procrastinating … whether it be in delaying difficult decisions, putting off a task I’m not looking forward to, or postponing a problem I can’t solve.

Yet, avoiding things or putting off something that needs to be completed, in the vain hope that it might not need to be done is, in my experience, simply a way to increase stress levels, as the inevitable deadline looms nearer.

It is only when we turn around to face the fear, look it in the eye, and start on whatever it is we need to begin, that often, our fear loses its power.
We may find that the task we procrastinated over, is not as difficult as we built it up to be, after all.
For, in beginning a task that is unachievable in our minds, we start to dismantle its enormity by tackling it one small step at a time.

We may find that, yes, that decision, that problem, is indeed hard to tackle, but in facing it, starting the processes that will see it completed, we diffuse some of the difficulty, and begin to see the issue for what it really is, rather than the momentous task we have invented in our anxious minds.

When I think of beginning things, I always recall this fabulous quotation (often attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, but actually written by William Hutchinson Murray, from his 1951 book entitled The Scottish Himalayan Expedition.)

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

So, as we begin Lent this year, consider:

What are you avoiding facing or confronting?

What do you need to begin?

Whatever this might be, as Christians, we do well to recall 4 things:

So, whatever it is that you are putting off, why not today, place the whole situation before God and ask for help from the One who is always with us? Let us each...

Step Out cropped for Journey med

 

 

Step out...

               Start…

                         Begin … 

                                               One small step at a time…

 

…and before we know it, whatever we have been putting off, will no longer be looming in front of us blocking the way, but be dismantled behind us, duly completed in His strength, not our own.

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