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Time on our Hands

Tightrope WalkerI don’t know about you, but the isolation was okay at first. I am used to working on my own, and being responsible for my own timetable, so with the unexpected exceptional gift of hours, I settled easily into getting on with tasks that I had put off or abandoned a long time ago, but as weeks have turned to months, I have struggled.

I’ve completed the easier tasks, that needed little effort but some application. Now there are still tasks that I must do...plenty of them, but they need concentration and I can’t seem to settle. I’ve spent most of the week procrastinating, doing very little, except to be frustrated with myself at the end of each gloriously sunny day.

Like most of the world, I am struggling with time, no longer juggling it but learning to walk an unfamiliar tightrope that doesn’t seem to have a platform to land on at the other side. 

Maybe in these unfamiliar times, some have been struggling with how to occupy vast swathes of unexpected time, not quite knowing quite what to do with it all amidst restrictive rules. Conversely, others may be grappling with how to fit in expanded work hours amidst the chaos of the unknown, risking their lives to save others.

We never know what is just around the corner; how one small thing can change the course and predictability of our lives in an instant. But as Christians, even when we do not know the outcomes for the future, even when there seems no way back to the times we knew before, and the only way is forward into the unfamiliar and unknown- we can believe in these words...

“But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands...” Psalm 31: 14-15a

The Time of our Lives

Although measured with great accuracy, time can be an elusive, slippery character, shape shifting to suit our perceptions and fill out the space before us. As we get older, we realise that time has the fluid ability to seemingly both drag slowly and heavily but also to whizz past, years passing us by in an instant.

We know that the more absorbed we are in the moment; the faster time will go. Research confirms that time proceeds more slowly in empty intervals, yet speeds up when episodes are crammed with activity, especially when we are absorbed in the moment.

The Gift of Time

cropped square part hands

 

 

But can we trust the Psalmist who tells us that our time is in God’s hands? Time is such a precious gift, and we each have a limited amount on earth. It is all too easy to let time slip by, frittering it with immediate short-term goals rather than long term vision.

So, firstly, we must open this gift, use it wisely, share it with others, ensuring God is at the centre of each day, but how can we risk putting our whole life ; all the time we have on earth- into the hands of God?

These hands of God... are they really a safe pair of hands? How can we be sure?

 

 

What Makes a Safe Pair of Hands...?

1. Hands to Trust
Nobody puts their hand in the hands of someone they do not trust. David, the psalmist who wrote these words, tells us “You are my God”. He knows God personally, enough to call him my God, as we would acknowledge my friend, my child, my husband, wife, partner. David has learned to trust God over time and God has never let him down. We, too, can trust God, inviting him into our lives, and confidently laying each minute into his hands.

2. Strong and Powerful Hands
Bible pageThe hands of God are often described as being strong in the Bible. That sounds reassuring to me, for I so often feel weak, fearful, and anxious.

“Your arm is endowed with power; your hand is strong, your right hand exalted.” Psalm 89:13

“I am the first and the last. My own hand laid the foundations of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens...”. Isaiah 48: 13

Think of the strength of the hand of God, through all he has done. God created the world, and acts on behalf of his people. He sent floods and rescued his people, parted the seas, broke down the walls of Jericho, closed the lions’ mouths, stilled the stormy waters, defeated his enemies. The rules of time and space do not apply to God. His times are not our times. 

“With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day.” 2 Peter 3: 8

Yet, time and again, Scripture shows how God acts with strength and power for the sake of his people, often in unexpected ways. Let us trust our lives to his strong and capable hands.

3. Hands that Protect & Sustain
Strength and power can often be characteristics to be afraid of...but not with God, for he also equips us with strength to sustain us, too.

“It is God who arms me with strength.... you give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me.” Psalm 18: 32-35

He is the Good Shepherd, who, when we follow him, protects us.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. “ John 10:28-29

4. Generous Hands
As parents, we long to give good gifts to our children. We long for them to have their hearts desire. So, how much more to us, is the overwhelming generosity of God our Father. From the many gifts of creation to all we are, we have much to be thankful for, and every reason to trust God with the times of our lives.

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:11

 “A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” Ecclesiastes 2: 24-25

5. Loving Hands
God’s very nature is love. It is the essence of his being. He acts in love, with the ultimate action being of sacrificing his Son, Jesus for each of us. When we look at the scarred hands of Jesus, we see the loving hands of God. How can we not trust him with our days, when he has sacrificed so much already for us?

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3: 16

6. Gentle, Supportive Hands
At times in our lives when we need most support; those times when we struggle through life, bowed with burdens, desperately needing rest, or the days we plough on in our strength, straying far from the nurturing hands of God, it is then that we can surrender ourselves to him, knowing he will scoop us up in his arms and rescue us, if we come to him.

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11 

“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.” Matthew 11: 28-29

7. Gods Hand is with us
Throughout time, amidst the minutes, hours, days and years of our lives, God is with us. His name is Immanuel, which means simply “God with us”, so it is that we can rely on him, each day and when all else fails. When we do not know what is next, we can safely hold on to God, our hand firmly in his trusting he will safely lead the way.

“The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.” Acts 11: 21

8. Submitting to God’s Hands

My Time is in Your Hands

Yet if we are to trust our time into God’s hands then we must bend and yield to him, submitting to his way. Humility is not a very fashionable word, but it is what we asked to do, as Christians.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
1 Peter 5: 6-7

We are asked to yield to him, not to be squashed and flattened under his mighty hand but to creep under it, so that under his hand we may each find protection and safety.

In these dark and unpredictable times, may we each learn to draw close to God and truly be able to say these words…

“But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God. My times are in your hands...” Psalm 31: 14-15a

IMG 1520 cropped enhanced web sizeRainbow Remembering
One of the advantages of having projects cancelled, is that I have been able to complete several abandoned projects! One of them is a now completed design started several years ago during my “Dwell” series of artwork. Back then, it emerged unexpectedly after creating “Promises”, for which I had fashioned many different coloured knotted pieces of fabric to create the effect I wanted. 

I found that there were lots of left over fabric knots and It seemed a shame to waste them, so I stitched them into a colourful crown of thorns, and began to use seed stitch to create symbolic representations of the many promises given to us as part of the Biblical narrative of the redemption of God’s people. It wasn’t a difficult design to complete but, oh so tedious...! I’m not particularly good at repetitive tasks, so I abandoned it for more interesting things...

Three years later, with a global pandemic creating enforced isolation and a need for something that didn’t tax my brain, I have found solace in the repetitive stitch, recalling the many promises contained within God’s word.

Harnessing Hope

IMG 8992 cropped square web sizeAs I stitched, it occurred to me that the rainbow nature of the crown is reminiscent of rainbows in many windows across the world just now, depicting the simplicity of our hope for the future. For Christians, this hope is embodied in our faith: in the God who can redeem the darkest and seemingly impossible times - into a story of life and renewal. We have seen this in the pages of Scripture many times, when all seems lost, God rescues his people from the brink of extinction. We can see God’s heart for his people in the New Testament where Jesus overcomes storms with calm, darkness with light, disease with healing, the guilt of sin with forgiveness, death with resurrection.

"Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him." Psalm 62:5

"For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer" Romans 12:12

Casting our Cares
In my design, the base of the crown of thorns, created from twisted black thread and representing the pain and darkness of the crucifixion- seems at this time, too, to represent the dark days we are living in.

Perhaps with honesty, we can come before our Father God to admit the pain that we are carrying at this time. Perhaps we may bring it all to God, leaving our dark days and interminable questions in his hands, so that he might take the burdens from us. For we are not meant to carry our burdens alone. Scripture tells us to…

"Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken." Psalm 55:22

"Leave all your worries with him because he cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7

Rainbows from Rubble
Rainbow thorns on the crown depict the belief that, just as God created life out of death and  resurrection from crucifixion, so too, can God transform this global situation; that out of the darkness, pain, and brokenness can come beauty. From the sacrifice of many- kindness, gratitude, love and wholeness may emerge. Both are a costly sacrificial process, but so many of us have already been inspired and brought to tears by the simplest acts of kindness and solidarity shown by so many across the world. In the darkest of days, communities have come together to collaborate and share what they have, practically living the fruits of the spirit, creating rainbows from the rubble and ruin of this terrible situation.DSCF3217 cropped

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law… Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." Galatians 5: 22

"We are called….to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion –
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes…" Isaiah 61:1-3

Plethora of Promises
IMG 8992 cropped seedsThe myriad of stitches around the crown of thorns reflect the plethora of promises peppered throughout passages of Scripture, to all Gods people, some of which we see fulfilled in the pages of the Bible, some of which we still wait for.

Adversity often comes before change, and many before us have also seen terrible suffering and pain, yet we are encouraged to:

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” Romans 12:12

Through it all, however hard, we are asked to stand firm; trusting in these many promises of God….
- to be still and know that He is God
- that our God is Immanuel- God with us 
- that Jesus is Lord of all 
- that this, too will pass

"For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

I wonder which Biblical promises help you to keep going in the face of such difficult days. Perhaps you would like to share them?

Small Seeds
Each stitched promise may seem like such a small thing yet combined they depict the breadth of God’s love for us all.
Small things matter, as many have found in these isolated times. Small seemingly insignificant seeds hold the potential to grow into great things. We are asked to pay attention to the small things; to do what we have been given to do where we are right now...no matter how small, or seemingly insignificant... the potential of small actions seem embodied in the actions of Captain Tom in these last few days. With seemingly little to offer, he did what he could, with what he had, where he was, and in doing so captured the attention of a world grieving and searching for something positive amidst the global, bleak news.

This is all we are asked to do…. To be faithful in the smallest of things, offering to our communities and the world what we have been given, doing what we can, where we are. This is enough.

IMG 8992 cropped square vignette"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much." Luke 16:10

Do not despise the small things we have each been given. They may not seem much now, but it is the smallest action offered in kindness that can reduce us all to tears of gratefulness.... I wonder, what is your “small thing”? What small gifts can you use to create seeds of hope in the empty space surrounded by the crown of thorns; the empty space in each of our lives created by this terrible pandemic?

I pray that we may each be mindful of the present moment and use whatev er we each have, no matter how small for the good of others.
Let us each strive to live the rainbow that God intends us to live...

 

IMG 8942 croppedLessons from Geese...
One of the things that makes me happy this time of year, is when I hear the geese flying back for the warmer season. It’s a sign of better weather coming, and really makes me smile, lifting my spirits in expectation of warmer summer days.

We have a lot to learn from geese. They are social creatures and look after each other through many a difficulty...

1. Learning to Uplift Each Other
As each goose flaps its wings it creates an “uplift” for the birds that follow, so by flying together in that classic “V” formation, the whole flock adds around a 71% greater range than if each bird flew alone. This is how geese manage to fly such great distances across the world.

So, if we share a common sense of direction and are part of a community with others, this means our individual efforts can work together to reach shared goals quicker and easier. In traveling together, we can uplift one another too, sharing the strain of the journey.

I wonder in these strange times, how we can each uplift one another?

2. Learning to See and be Seen
In flying in a “V” formation, every goose is visible, and can clearly see the way ahead. The leader can still see those at the fringes of the flock, fanned out behind them. Those at the end of the formation can still follow the leader. Every goose matters, creating greater visibility as a collective.

If we stay together as a group, then we become more visible. We are seen better and able to see better.

I wonder, if we are feeling particularly alone in these unprecedented times, is there a group that we can create or join or draw close to (even if not physically)- perhaps online, or via phone, so that we can both be seen, and notice others better?

flying geese 4913534 19203. Learning to Give & Receive Support
When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

If we can stay in formation with those headed where we want to go, our journey is likely to be easier. Being on our own for too long, with no support from others restricts our ability to fly.

I wonder, in this global crisis, how we can support those who are feeling the weight of “flying alone”, and when they are ready, welcome them back into our midst. I wonder, how we each might learn to lean into the support from our Heavenly Father?

In the Bible  it says...“but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40:31)

4. Learning to Share the Burdens
When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the front position. Each goose that is able, shares the responsibility of leadership.

None of us can remain at the front of the helm all the time. It is helpful to take turns doing the hard tasks and to share the lead. In this way we don’t end up burnt out, and unable to reach where we want to be.

I wonder, right now, how we can each support our governments, as well as those in the emergency, healthcare and social care systems who are having to spend longer than usual at the frontline of this global pandemic?

word 1940813 19205. Learning to Encourage
The geese flying in formation communicate by honking, to encourage each other to keep up their speed.

We need to make sure we too, encourage each other through our conversations and actions, for where there is greater encouragement, the more likely it is that people thrive.

I wonder how we can specifically encourage each other to carry on, in these uncertain days? Perhaps some could write texts, emails or letters of support? Or phone family, friends or vulnerable local neighbours in isolation, or something else?

6. Learning to Support
When a goose gets sick or wounded, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. There they stay until it dies or can fly again. Then they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.

Surely, this teaches us all to stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.

I wonder if we are prepared to go out of our way to support and stand with those who are sick or struggling, in practical ways? What might that mean, specifically..?

blessing 1261935 19207. Learning about what makes us human
Twice a year, many geese migrate, making the same journey across the globe to where they need to be to survive the change of seasons, supporting each other to travel distances beyond our comprehension. Each flock travels the same journey, even when the original birds have been replaced by their offspring. The journey route is innate, a deep purpose written within each birds’ DNA.

Perhaps we can each consider what our core purpose is, that which is inherent in the depth of our being? What is it, that we cannot, not do…?

I wonder, in such a time as this, if we can each look inside ourselves and question what is written there, that amidst such uncertainty, is simply natural to our humanity, that we cannot ignore. I hope that some of those things we find might be love, care, compassion, kindness, gentleness patience, self-control…because we are made in the image of our Creator, to travel together in community.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-3)

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6: 26)

Prayer:
Lord, in these unprecedented and uncertain times, we thank you that you care for each one of us, both in sickness and in health.
May we trust in the certainty of your provision for us and learn to unselfishly care for others in the same way.
Amen

sky 1525902 1920

6 Lessons from the Sea

Over the last few months, after the blessings of a lifetime of good health, I’ve had a run of unexpected physical health issues, that have had me visiting a plethora of hospital departments. Thankfully, none of them so far have been life threatening, but it has unnerved me, and at times I have felt in the midst of a circling, stormy fog of grey, further exaggerated by the severe seasonal storms we have been having lately, across the country. My experiences have made me think...

stormy sea on rocks

 

Unexpected...
Unlike our ever-improving meteorological weather forecasting, the storms of life often come when we are least expecting them, and we may feel completely unprepared for the demands that they make upon us. So, what keeps us safe, when turbulent tempests roar unwelcome, into our lives?
It seems to me that as in the case of a real storm at sea, preparation may be the key...

 

web size 2 love 3061483 1920

Some enjoy Valentines Day as a way to show how much they care for someone they love, but equally many find Valentine’s Day a difficult one, especially when supermarkets and shops relish turning red each year as they roll out an increasingly commercial festival with blatant emphasis on couples.

So let’s get some things straight...

  • Love is not limited to couples. Love is for ALL...regardless of marital status, age, ethnicity, size, ability, gender or anything else....we all need to receive love, and to give love, but there are so many ways to do this.

  • The word “ love” in the English language is terribly restrictive , when there is so much more depth to the word. We can all love each other in different ways, to make our communities and the world a better place.

  • Love is often not pretty or surrounded with flowers. It can be difficult, complicated, and messy, but it is strong and when we are betrayed in love by one person then it can be the love of others, in friends and family and the love of God that strengthen and enable us to go on.

  • Human love is fallible, but God’s love is not. What amazes me is that, despite my flaws and faults God not only loves me but sent his Son to die for me. “...God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

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