Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Manger of my heartt

This morning I received one of the daily emails I receive from the Bible Gateway Website. This particular email is called encouragement for today.

Today's offering comes from Renee Swope, who notices that as the dayes get shorter, how easy it is for us to let our time spent with God go the same way.

She wrote the poem below a few years ago, to help her keep her focus on God at this busy time. NAd I share it with you because I find it helpful!

This Christmas, Lord, come to the manger of my heart.
Fill me with Your presence from the very start.
As I prepare for the holidays and gifts to be given,
Remind me of the gift You gave
When You sent Your Son from Heaven.

The first Christmas gift, it was the greatest gift ever.
You came as a baby born in a manger.
Wrapped like the gifts I find under my tree,
Waiting to be opened, to reveal Your love to me.

Restore to me the wonder that came with Jesus' birth,
when He left the riches of Heaven and wrapped Himself in rags of earth.
Immanuel, God with us, Your presence came that night.
And angels announced, "Into your darkness, God brings His Light."

"Do not be afraid," they said, to shepherds in the field.
Speak to my heart today, Lord, and help me to yield.
Make me like those shepherd boys, obedient to Your call.
Setting distractions and worries aside, to You I surrender them all.

Surround me with Your presence, Lord, I long to hear Your voice.
Clear my mind of countless concerns and all the holiday noise.
Slow me down this Christmas, let me not be in a rush.
In the midst of parties and planning, I want to feel Your hush.

This Christmas, Jesus, come to the manger of my heart.
Invade my soul like Bethlehem, bringing peace to every part.
Dwell within and around me, as I unwrap Your presence each day.
Keep me close to You, Lord. It's in Your wonderful Name I pray.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Have we lost the plot?

Over on AOL, they ask the question is it okay to tell kids there is no Santa? They talk about the recent Littlewoods advert, that shows a nativity style school assembly, talking about the presents they and the family got, and asking who bought / got them for them ... the answer being "my lovely lovely mother". Aol has decided it is a good idea to try and wind people up (as they often do) by implying that the advert is denying the existence of santa and suggest the advery should be banned.

Reading some of the comments, people are really getting their knickers in a twist! Some are furious that they dare show the advet, others are just plain rude (sadly as often is the case especially on AOL) - but others are annoyed at the advert because it only mentions the more expensive items. Others slate it because it has no bearing to the real meaning of Christmas and that is brilliant to see but although I haven't yet read all the comments (and don't intend to!) there seems to no question of the idea that Littlewoods, if indeed they were trying to prove that point, were in fact telling the truth!!!

It's amusing that people can wound up about the fact their children might learn the truth about Santa - when they have brought it on themselves by telling the lie in the first place.

When I was young (and not so young - okay even now) .... I loved the whole drama around santa, but we always knew he didn't exist. We didn't miss out on anything, but probably had even more fun, because our parents wisely told us not to let on we knew the truth, because others didn't!

Like others who commented on AOL,  I like the littlewoods advert - because the kids are cute and whether it denies the existance of santa or not, it certainly implies that the "lovely mother" has responsibility for buying presents.

However having just looked back at AOL - the most recent comment, seems to be denying any personal responsibility - it says "I think its terrible, my daughters 11 and still beleives. Infact I had a dilemmia just recently she wanted to know why Santa didn't give presents to the hungry children in African, since we have to and so is her school sending gifts, I am still looking for the answer myself. Maybe its because large companies fail to share their profits with the people and corrupt people in power have large bank accounts. Its easy then for them to forget about Santa.. a very sad world indeed.
I still believe..."

What hope have our children got when parents deceive them, and even put the blame on large companies for the lack of believe in santa. The children in Africa, do not have presents because they don't believe in Santa, or because large companies show a particular advert - they do not have presnts because we (and that includes large companies) are too greedy and don't take responsibility for the rest of the world. The bible says that when God created people he gave them responsibility for the garden and everything in it ... it is up to us as God's creation to take responsibility for the whole world. But does that really mean, we can't tell people truth about Santa, because others may be upset about it?????

Sorry rant over ......

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Now but not yet!

I share my sermon from last Sunday morning - I know that it has already spoken to a few people and hope that God may speak to you through it. Praying for all those in the now but not yet season!

Readings:          Isaiah 40: 1-11 & Mark 1: 1-8      

We are now in week two of the season called advent. A time which traditionally is a time of waiting - but we always seem to be waiting for something - and often we see that as a negative thing. Whether it’s stuck in the queue at Morrisons, waiting for a bus, sitting in the doctors surgery waiting for your turn in the queue, or sitting on the A1 for 6 hours waiting for the police to clear up an accident, like I was a couple of months ago – it’s not usually a positive happy time.

 In fact waiting can be very frustrating – the other morning, I was sat at my computer and trying to catch up in the news through the internet – when the system froze and a message came up “waiting for a response from the webpage….” I ended up having to reboot the computer before I could carry on.

 But this isn’t the sort of waiting we mean when we describe advent – I think it’s more like the time, which I was only talking about the other day when I was at Wesley College in Bristol.

 It was only a few months before I was due to move up here to York, and the college decided that I had to write my dissertation before I moved and gave me 6 weeks to do it – the problem was that at about the same time the last Harry Potter book was released and I had pre-ordered it and was looking forward to reading it. But I knew that if I even looked at the book the dissertation would never get done… and so before I had even opened the package – I asked another student to look after it and told her not to give it to me until I had finished the work. I longed to read that book, and within about 10 minutes of the dissertation being handed in, I had started reading the book!

 Although I longed to read the book, and it was frustrating knowing it was there, it was essential waiting! Advent can be a bit like that – we know that at the end we get to the joy of Christmas, but there is plenty we need to do before we get there – not only practically for Christmas day, or for setting up our Christmas Festival (which as an aside – went really well yesterday – and the church looks lovely – and I would like to thank everyone who contributed before and on the day!) but in preparing ourselves by going through this season of Advent.

Isaiah chapter 40 brings about a shift in emphasis in his prophecy – for the first 39 chapters carry the message and warning of judgement for sin, to Judah, Israel and the surrounding nations. They tried to live godly lives, but in their hearts they were corrupt – Isaiah’s warning to them were intended to get them to understand God’s true nature and message and to purify their hearts, turning back to God. Chapter 40 is the beginning of some words of comfort, bringing a message of forgiveness and hope, which looks forwards to Jesus; coming to earth.

The first words of the chapter say “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”

 Here we see that the waiting appears to be over for those nations, for a merciful God shows the tender side of his character. The people have done their time for their mistakes, and God has called time in their misery. They had waited a long time for their waiting to be over, and finally the thing they longed for the most had come to them. But this message is not just for people who lived many thousands of years ago, for Isaiah’s message still speaks to us powerfully today.

Many people still spend long periods of time in despair or have tough times that seem like to go for ever, but in verse 4 of that chapter, we read – every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low, the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places plain” In other words those things that distract or hinder us, will one day be removed, but in the meantime we have to wait – and although it seems frustrating or sometimes painful, it is essential waiting for God speaks to us through that time.

 This time of Advent encourages us to wait – and talks about waiting with courage, with patience, for joy and with faithfulness. Advent is bound up in excitement and hope, and like a cake baking, a little boiling or paint drying, we have to wait for a process to happen.

John the Baptist was a man who knows about waiting … he, like many Jews were waiting for the messiah to come and save them – although unlike others, John knew that the messiah was Jesus. But in his waiting, he also preached, taught and warned people that they needed to repent and be baptised in preparation for the messiah’s arrival. When John challenged the people to confess their sin individually, he signalled the start of a new relationship with God – a relationship that we too can have with him today.

 Think back to that doctor’s waiting room we mentioned early. Patients may arrive with a sense of anticipation knowing that they may receive healing or the answer to the problems ailing them, or they may be anxious because they are unsure if they can be healed, or worried that they will never find the problem. There is nearly always a wait – regardless of whether the patient is on time for the appointment. This is the “now, but not just yet” situation that gives rise to mixed emotions.

When we wait patiently there are outcomes; the patient will see the practitioner; Christmas does eventually come; God does respond to our needs. However, unlike the arrival of the doctor or Christmas, there is no precise appointment time for God’s interventions in our lives. It is much harder to wait for something when we do not know the time scale. But if we nip back into the book of Isaiah, verse 5 of that passage we heard says that our wait will be rewarded when the glory of the lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together. It is important to wait, but also important that we are together in our waiting so we can encourage one another.

 We are in the “now, but not yet” place but when Christmas comes this year, our advent wait will be rewarded, but before that happens, we need to spent this time reflecting on our own relationship with God, and see whether there is anything we need to do during this time, to ensure we are ready for Christmas in a spiritual, as well as practical way.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A reality God!!!

The recent news that Frankie has been kicked off X factor seems to have had more interest on social media than the deaths of those involved in the M5 crash at the weekend.

But what amuses me most, is the fact that people start their comments with "There is a God afterall ..... " ... it is amazing what needs to happen to make people beleive in God ... they don't acknowledge his creation, how he loves and works in the world or the fact that his Son died to save them .... but Frankie a young , rather silly young man leaves a reality tv programme and suddenly the revelation happens.....

The question for us as christians I guess is how do we help them realise that God really does exist in reality as well in reality shows!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday morning blues?!

It was a good week in some ways - the first proper full week back at work in 3 weeks after recovering from a chest infection, and although I am still not 100% better it was really good to be back in the pulpit on sunday morning with one of my churches where I had not been for 8 weeks .... I had missed being with them!  

This week was also our 3rd wedding anniversary and we we out for a meal on the day, a trip to a 60's concert later in the week and even went out for a but one get one free all you can eat breakfast with the extra hour yesterday......but in fact I'm tired.... .not only physically but emotionally and spiritually too.

Although I don't feel greatly stressed about the stationing process which happens shortly... the constant questions (from people who I know are genuinely interested and concerned and want to be as supportive as possible) is tough but I think that it's the not knowing that makes it tough - not so much not knowing where I am going, but when I am going to visit - it's like my life is on hold and I can't plan to do things for about 10 days "just in case"  but in that there is as much - if not more work to do than every - especially running up to Advent and Christmas. My to do list is potty (but then I suspect many others are too!) and I am weary even when I look at it. On top of that, we need somehow to make our house respectable enough for new ministers to come and look round - and with the amount of stuff we have - it  feels like an uphill struggle...

I'm sure it'll work out okay (past experience has shown that it does - thank you God!) but for now I plod on .... and remember the words I spoke in a service last night when I said that I loved looking at water (Sea, river or even a mucky ditch!) for it seems to bring me closer to God, help me sort out my problems and inspire me to do things

And so I am looking forward to a long weekend away in Devon from Friday - Where I intend to rest, to walk along the beach and spend time with God (as well as Andrew, his sister and husband) taking strength from Jesus' words ....

"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 - 30)

And I'm glad to say, that even though the list is long - I don't feel in the slightest bit guilty for going away .... I know it will do me the world of good and give Andrew and I the rest and strength we need ready for those visits (whenever they are!)

The pictures below are not of Devon ... but water I have watched and enjoyed!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


I've been introduced today by the idea of eahc person having an internal garden, which helps us feel closer to God. As someone who loves gardens but not so fond of gardening ... this sounds like a great idea... will reflect on it more - but in the meantime some pictures of things that would definetly be in my garden - but what would you include???

Sunday, July 24, 2011

On being critical ...... .sermon for today based on Nehemiah as we launch the E100 challenge ... but reflecting on the weekends events

I’m sure you won’t disagree that the events of the last couple of days, have shocked the world … We’ve seen pictures of children and others at death’s door in Somalia because of famine, we have seen one man causing devastation in Norway as almost 100 people, mostly youngsters being killed in the bombing and shooting attacks on Friday; We have also heard of a devastating train crash in china killing at least 32 people and injuring many others and then there was also the death yesterday of Amy Winehouse a musician who died at a young age of 27; and then only this morning we wake up to the news of another murder - this time of a women in her 20’s found in Nottingham and another shooting, this time in America.

So many people and places in the world who are suffering - many tragic and devastating events happening – not only for those involved, but for many people across the world. As I have been watching the news there have been many tears and lots of questions. Questions such as why did a young talented songwriter and singer feel the need to use drugs and alcohol? What was it about her life that she tried to blot out? Why when the western world is so rich, are there so many people in Africa starving to death? Why would someone who claimed to be a Christian kill up to 100 people for no apparent reason – and these are just some of the thoughts and questions going through people’s mind and being vocalised on our news and the social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

These are questions that we may never know the answers too – all we can do is pray for those who are most affected, for those who have lost loved ones and those who have committed crimes. Yet I am saddened by the fact that there are so many people – both Christians and non Christians, who use these tragic events as an excuse to judge others. Already I have read of some people who talk about how Amy Winehouse deserved to die, because of the lifestyle she chose – they have no thought of those who are left behind, no thought of showing compassion for her friends, family and fans and no thought of asking the question – what it is about our society that puts so much pressure on those in the public eye that they are not able to cope. Sadly Amy will be remembered by many because of her battle with drugs and alcohol rather than as a gifted talented song writer and singer.

There will also be people who want to attribute blame to God and organised religion for both the events in Norway and in Africa – people who will call for the end of all organised religion simply because of the work of one man, who has deluded himself that killing is right even though it’s against everything Christianity stands for – and people who claim somehow that the people in Africa deserve everything they get – because it is a punishment from God.

The problem is that the world and church is full of self proclaimed prophets and armchair critics. It’s easy to analyse, scrutinise and talk about all the problems in the world and attribute blame to others – we call it putting the world to right, but in doing that we absolve ourselves from any responsibility. What the world needs is people who will stand up and take action – not people who just discuss or complain or be judgemental about a situation. And there’s where our reading from Nehemiah comes in.

Nehemiah saw a problem and was distressed. However instead of complaining, attributing blame or wallowing in self pity and grief – he took action. Nehemiah knew God wanted him to motivate the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls, so he left a responsible and well paid job within the Persian government to do what God called him to. Nehemiah knew that God could use his talents to get the job done. From the moment he arrived in Jerusalem he organised, managed supervised and encouraged people, he met with opposition, confronted injustice but kept going until the walls were built. Nehemiah was a man of action.

I’m going to give you a quick summary of the book of Nehemiah, before we look specifically at Chapter 9. As the start of the story Nehemiah is talking with the Jews who had reported that the walls and gates of Jerusalem were in need of repair. Nehemiah then takes on the burden of rebuilding the walls, and when the time is right he goes to his king – the king of Persia asking for permission to leave work and go to Jerusalem. The king agrees and so armed with royal letters, Nehemiah, sets off and meets up with those who will help him. In chapters 3 – 6 we read the story of how the walls were completed, and the work that went into it as well as hearing about the opposition that they had and how Nehemiah dealt with it. In Chapter 7 Nehemiah continues in his leadership role, and organises the people, taking a registration and appointing gate keepers, Levites and other officials. In chapters 8 and 9 Ezra the scribe leads the city in worship and bible instruction which leads to chapters 10 and 11 where we see an affirmation of faith and religious revival as the people promise to serve God faithfully. Finally in chapters 12 to 14, Nehemiah concludes with a listing of the clans and their leaders, the dedication of the new wall of Jerusalem and the purging of sin from the land. 

Going back to chapter 9, that we heard earlier, we see the Israelites on the 24th day, when they spend ¼ of the day hearing God’s word and ¼ of the day confessing their sins. The Levites pray and retell the whole story of Israel, and chapter 9 gives us a brief outline of the story of God’s faithfulness to his people throughout the ages. Verse 6 talks of creation, 7-8 God’s promise to Abraham of land and the covenant with him; verses 9-12 talks of God’s faithfulness during the Exodus, Verses 13-15 talk of the giving of the law, 16 -18 talks of how even when the Israelites worship idols and disobeyed him, God did not desert them and gave his people numerous blessings and remained faithful to them.

A few words and things in particular jump out at me when I looked at this passage - firstly the willingness and determination of Nehemiah to do what God called him to, even though it meant giving everything up. Each year we say the covenant prayer together and this is in essence what we are praying when we say the words of the prayer –Put me to what you will … put me to doing – put me to suffering – let me employed for you or laid aside for us …. In other words we are willing to do whatever God asks us to do no matter what the consequences.

The second thing is God’s faithfulness to the people – his faithfulness to them when they were in exile, when they were rebuilding the walls which was completed in just 52 days, and also throughout their whole life. God didn’t abandon them because of their wrongdoings, but remained faithful to them even allowing them to renew the covenant he made with Abraham and others, when they didn’t keep to their side of the bargain. God remains faithful to us always, and will not abandon us – we are reminded of this each time we share together in the communion meal. That passage we heard from Mark’s gospel, record’s the origin of the Lord’s Supper which we celebrate today. Jesus and his disciples’ ate a meal, sang psalms, read scripture and prayed. Then Jesus took 2 traditional parts of the Passover meal, the passing of bread and drinking of wine, and gave them new meaning to represent his body and blood, explaining the significance of the cross. If we read the rest of the chapter, we see that this takes place about the time that Judas agrees to betray Jesus and at the same time that Jesus predicts Peter will deny him. Even though he knows that 2 of his closest friends and disciples are going to turn away from him in their actions and words, Jesus does not give up on them – but continues to be faithful to them, and gives them a way of remembering him and all he has done for them by initiating a new covenant between and his people – a covenant that no longer replies on the sacrifice of animal blood, but one that, through Jesus, means we can have a direct relationship with God.

And the third thing that jumped out at me was that when the Israelites confessed their sins, and reaffirmed their faith promised to faithfully serve God, there was religious revival. It wasn’t down to one or two people to do this, the whole community was involved.

If as a church, we want more children and young people or even adults to come to get to know God better or even to come to church – we all need to be involved in doing that. It’s not the job of the leadership team or those who already have jobs in the church – each and everyone of you needs has a role in it, by using your gifts and talents to help the whole church and community in the work that God calls us to do.

If we want the world to be a better place, it starts with each one of us – as individuals and as a church - we need to stop trying being so outwardly critical, for our thoughts and comments influence others, but we need to take action – action in prayer, action in showing compassion and action in helping others see God in the middle of their and the world’s suffering.

Michael Jackson, sang a song called man in the mirror – the chorus says “I'm starting with the man in the mirror - I'm asking him to change his ways - And no message could have been any clearer - If you wanna make the world a better place - Take a look at yourself and then make a change!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Post Holiday blues

Having returned from holiday (which was brilliant) just yesterday with a stinking cold, I'm feeling a bit bleuuurrrggg (and yes that is a word!) ... I am really struggling to get back into work mode. I've caught up with a few people, piddled around with some admin and meeting date planning - but not really feeling as if I've done anything really constructive.

Last week I went to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and gazed for hours at the sea ... I took many photo's including this one...

As I sit and look at that photo, I can see myself in it ... either as the piece of wood in the sea - with the sea dancing around it - but it still not moving ... or alternatively the other pieces of wood which are standing around waiting for something to happen (as the tide comes in they also are engulfed in the sea). Either way, I feel as if's I'm in a waiting game ... and not particularly because we have decided to leave York next year (I'll blog about that later!)

However, I have learnt that when I feel like this - the best thing to do - is to find time to be with God as it's often that it has been a while since I did so. People might think it strange that having spent a day on Holy Island - I need to do that, but I was with Andrew and whilst I would completely agree that God was there, and it is a spiritual place, it was something we did together. I haven't got a very busy couple of days (helped by my cold which means I'm not visiting people) and sunday is already sorted and so it is easy (for a change) to carve out some time to read and reflect .....

And so I've begun by picking up a book written by David Adam (of Lindisfarne fame!) called the Rhythm of life ....  and turned to the Friday lunchtime liturgy which includes the following readings:

"For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us"
Romans 5: 6-8 (NRSV)

 "He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account. Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. Isaiah 53: 2-5 (NRSV)

Both passages, for me a perfect reminder of God's love for me and my reason for being ... There hasn't been a flash of lightening and I don't feel any different at the moment - but i'm off to ponder and reflect on those verses ... and his love for me and simply enjoy the time and space to be :-)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Labryinth (from a friend!)

With many thanks to Sally for the poem (and God for inspiring her as well :-)


I enter in,
and though twigs
and roots
obscure the
way ahead
and threaten to trip me,
I move forward,
and forward,
seeking the centre,
my centre,
stones scatter
under my feet,
and the way is
not smoothed
out before me,
but I move
forward, inward
and forward
seeking the centre,
my centre…
There is a way out,
but I must press on,
I must press in,
my heart leads me,
and though I may pause
to admire
a wildflower
as an unexpected jewel,
my way is forward
inward and forward,
seeking the centre,
my centre…
my steps
are burdened,
and my heart beats
loud in my ears, and
as I seek you,
as I place one foot
before the other
my way is forward,
inward and forward,
seeking the centre,
my centre…
and there
I find you,
and at last
I find myself again,
I am centred,
and at peace,
and I rest here
with you,
 I lay my burden down, for
I have found you
my centred
but you call me
yet forward,
and I must go, must respond...
but I do not
leave alone, for
you go with me,
you are always with me,
my centre
and my Lord…
only help me to find you,
to meet you
day by day
on both the inward
and outward steps
of  my faith's

Testimony I am sharing at church this evening!

Last week Andrew and I went to Darlington for the Testimony service of a friend of ours, who is a Methodist minister, being ordained later this month. The preacher, at one point said that in ministry there are times that are good, times that are no so good, and times where you just want to run away and give it all up.

Being honest, I would say that up to a few weeks ago, I was in that third category! The final straw I think for me came a few Sunday’s ago, here at Lidgett Grove when we had a baptism in the morning service; whilst I an usually quite laid back about these things … I found myself getting more and more annoyed with the father of the baby, who not only turned up 10 minutes late but talked and laughed all the way through the service. It was when the thought of doing violence towards him, went through my head that I knew I needed a break! I was feeling drained, both physically and spiritually – my love for God, the world, the church and in fact myself was at an all time low, and I really did just want to escape.

Fortunately the very next day I headed off to Boston, to go on retreat to Launde Abbey on the Tuesday. It is in a beautiful area in Leicestershire, and has extensive grounds. My plan was to find some time for physical rest but also spend time with God and get the spiritual rest needed to kick start my relationship with him. There is plenty at the Abbey to help you do this, for the staff have worked hard to create areas in the gardens which will help people rest and relax but also to reflect on their life and relationship with others and God.

One of those areas is a fairly new addition – a labyrinth. Before you enter the labyrinth there is a sign which included words from psalm 111 which says great are the works of the Lord, who is like God – creator, Lord. In awe we worship you. Although I had been in the labyrinth before, something really struck with me, and I really did feel that the further I went in, the closer to God I got. I was determined to get into the middle, but noticed on the way, that there were lots of things to distract me; there was piles of dead leaves and areas that looked that wild; there were stones and tree roots that you could trip over, there were gaps in the stone path outlines where you could escape if things got too difficult, but there was also some beautiful things like flowers to stop at slowing down the journey.

But I was determined to get to the middle, and apart from taking photo’s, managed to avoid the distractions; when I got to the middle there was a large stone plinth with a cross made out of smaller stones on top of it – a reminder for me that Jesus needs be at the centre of my relationship with God. It was really difficult to leave the labyrinth for I felt closer to God than I had in a long time, but it was essential otherwise I’ll still be there! But as I left that place, there was a reminder at the exit in the words of another psalm – I will bless the lord of all times – and that God’s will is goodness, and loving kindness, and good are his paths he leads us on.

We are all on a journey, a journey to become closer to God, and a journey on the paths that he leads us on. At times though there are also things that distract us on the journey, for being a Christian isn’t always easy. Like the flowers growing in the labyrinth, there will be times that are good, like the dead leaves and tree roots, there will be things that aren’t so good and things that will trip us up, and then there will be times that we just want to escape!

I’m sure the disciples in the reading we heard earlier (Mark 16: 15 - 20) could say the same about their journey with Jesus. And here they were at a time where they probably wanted to escape and leave everything behind them – for Jesus was leaving them again … but before he left Jesus gave them instructions about the path God was leading them on.  Jesus told them to go into the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Elsewhere in the gospels we are told that they wouldn’t have to do it on their own, for the Holy Spirit would come to them and give them the power they needed – but having the holy spirit is not an excuse for us to do nothing or to forget that in all we do, we need to work on our relationship with God, and allow Jesus to be the centre of all we do.

Before going on retreat, I had got caught up with the stresses and busyness of life and ministry, that although in fact I needed spend more time with God, I allowed things to distract me from being in God’s presence, but the labyrinth and a later visit to a very small chapel at Launde Abbey, where God’s presence hit me as I walked through the door, helped me start to get back on track.  

I wonder what distractions there are in your life that affects your relationship with God. There are so many things that can distract us and for a few moments now, in a time of silence, I’d like to offer you the opportunity to reflect on those distractions, and ask God to help you pass them by as you travel together on the paths he leads you on. 

The photo's below are of the labryrinth

Sunday, May 8, 2011

it's been one of those weekends!

Yesterday I was at the York and Hull district Synod and was mainly good - the highlight being hearing Sally's testimony prior to her ordination. Before that though we split into groups and had a "conversation" about ministry, mission and money. The groups we were split into were too big, more than 20 in the group I was in and so people couldn't really hear what other people were saying... however (in our group anyway) it turned into almost a competition of which church gave away most money. The mission and ministry part of it was almost forgotten - what was discussed was the same things churches have talking about for years....

From that we went in Sally Testimony service - it was a great and needy reminder for me (thanks sally) that ministry is about people and their journeys, rather than debates about whether a church roof should be fixed or not. During the singing of Beauty for Brokenness - it hit home... surely our conversations should start there:
"God of the poor
Friend of the weak
Give us compassion we pray
Melt our cold hearts
Let tears fall like rain
Come, change our love
From a spark to a flame"

It was compassion I needed this morning, when I really struggled in worship this morning ... mainly because of the attitude of the Father of the child was was being baptised. He arrived about 15 minutes late, and we started without him. When he did arrive he sat right in front of me, and talked and laughed all the way through the service ... It was at the point I felt  like smacking him, that I knew I needed a holiday!
Not that today has been all bad - we started a Youth Alpha today with 4 of our young people, and I hope that it will be a good time for them and those who lead them, and that together we learn lots...

It's how ministry goes, and I know that had this been anyother weekend, I wouldn't be feeling the same way ... but I am exhausted - physically, emotionally and spiritually ... fortunatley I am away from work for 9 days now - -- firstly on retreat then a weekend off a few days holiday. I fully expect to come back rejuvinated, inspired and excited about ministry.

And my prayer for this week reflects the prayer Kate and William wrote for their wedding ... help me lord to keep me eyes fixed on what is real and important in life" - for me that's Jesus and I look forward to some quality time with him in the coming days!!!

O Lord hear my prayer....

Friday, April 22, 2011

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

The following was written for church newsletters!

Recently Andrew, James and I went to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and had a lovely afternoon off, wandering around the 500 acres of woodland, and looking at the different sculptures. The picture shown here is part of a exhibition by an Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. It’s a picture of a man in an rocking chair, and a man with a bicycle, they are connected by what looks like two ribbons. You won’t be able to see, but on one of the ribbons are the words  ‘Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.’ 

It struck me, as something appropriate for the church, for often we are asked and called to take a step of faith often into the unknown.  In the book of Joshua (3: 9-16), we read:

“Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the LORD your God …… See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the LORD—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.” So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho.”

In order to cross the Jordan, the priests had to take a step of faith – for it was only when they touched the water, did it stop. They had to trust in God that he would do what he promised, and their faith was rewarded.

I wonder whether God is asking you to take a step of faith at the moment – maybe it’s something in your personal life, or in the church. I strongly believe that God is asking us all as the Church to take a step of faith together as we consider what the future holds for us. Let’s be like the Israelites and trust in God, and take the first step even when we don’t see the whole staircase.’

God bless you all.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Thoughts on today ..

It's been a good day - we tried something new at church this morning - the service was based around the godly play story "The Mystery of Easter" .. .(ably led by one of our sunday school leaders) --- using the colours purple and white to reflect on the sad and happy, purple and white of easter  and the fact that in the midst off  the sadness celebration of eater, comes joy. We then gave people time to reflect in word, thought or craft. The majority of the response to the service was positive with some good constructive comments about how we could make it better NEXT time we do it....

The rest of the day was spent at a 30th birthday afternoon tea and then I took an evening service in a small village, asking them to reflect on their own jouney through Lent, as we journed with Jesus from His baptism, His time in the wilderness, the calling of the disciples and how Jesus made a difference to Matthew the tax collectors life.

It has been a good day ... except for one part ... which I'm not sure I'm annoyed or gobsmacked about... during the morning service whilst people were talking or being creative .. I wandered around the room to see how people were getting on ... I went to one table where a mum and very new baby were sitting ... when a man at the other end of the table lent over and said - it'll be you next Rachel ... meaning having a baby ... This is not the first time he has said this to me .. the first time was just a few weeks after our wedding...

If people want to make a comment about the service - that's fine and I am pleased with the conversations I had with people who found this morning helpful and those who didn't ... but I find this type of personal comment offensive... . he doesn't know me or my circumstances... nor will he every hear them .. but people should really think about what they say before opening their mouth.... I was very controlled - but made the comment that he really ought to think hard before he comes out with comments like that in the future ... but came close to wanting to hit him,

What I wonder is it because I'm "young(ish)" or because I'm the "minister" that people feel they can make such personal comments .... and do they really realise what they are saying .. or think they can get away with saying anything because I'm the minister... I also wondering whether I should now ignore the comment or let him know why I find his comment offensive.. or whether I'm just being too senstive!!!

Oh well, I'm sticking with the positives of the day and thinking that it has been a good day ... and thanking God for all he has done in it.