Thursday, 29 January 2015

Plumbing the depths

Just a few simple words. Nothing more, nothing less.

Sometimes, that's all it takes to make or mar a day. A drop here and there.

When words rise to our pool of consciousness and hover a while close to the surface, it is well worth asking God if these are ones He wants us to pay particular attention to.

Although God mainly speaks through Scripture, He also invites us gently to notice our lives, heed the world's sounds, and hear Him in the everyday, e.g via books, blogs, poetry, music, films and the spoken word.

These had a life of their own, shimmering with vibrancy like ripples in a pond spreading wide to touch others.

My breath caught as they reached to my core. Here were words to confirm the 'word' I'd received for 2015 and set me thinking soul-deep.

They came from a new book, 'Centering Prayers:A One Year Daily Companion for Going Deeper into the Love of God' by Peter Traben Haas.

These words (underlined) were part of a contemplation:"I begin the year with the simplicity of silence. Resting in you, I become myself again" which were simple but profound, with echoes of eternity in them.

As I pondered their significance, I reflected how my early life experience had already revealed the world to be a place where I invariably felt lost, drowning under the weight of expectations and pressures, splintered and fractured, fragile and out of sync.

To have a chance of becoming and feeling whole (and safe) again, I needed to connect to God. And I feel so blessed He called me to faith as a late teenager so I could spend all my adult life getting to know Him. 

Because, not only do we find God the Father in relationship with Jesus, we also find our true selves.

Become more fully human and fully alive than ever before.

Become more truly who God created us to be, beautiful in Him.

Function more freely with the flexibility of grace.

Fulfil God's greater plans and purposes for our lives as we co-labour with Him.

Discover our full potential.

Embrace our new identity In Christ.

Waken to our worth as God's beloved child.

See ourselves, via eyes of faith, as already healed, restored, beloved and forgiven.

Rest in the knowledge of being united with The One who knows us inside out and loves us just the same ~ even as He's transforming us from the inside out.

In some inexplicable way we grow to become more like Jesus as we learn to live and abide in Him on a daily basis.

Yet, amazingly, we also become more of ourselves, more true to the essence of God's intended blueprint for us.

All this from one line or two, just a few words? Yes, indeed. Words have power to change a life.

And I wouldn't mind guessing that I have only touched on a small fraction of what it means to "become myself again" as I rest in Him. 

Many words have been inspiring my soul lately as God has been speaking to me, and I'm sitting with them for a while before sharing, letting them rest in me and do their work.

Because I have all year (a lifetime?) to plumb the depths, to mine for treasure and discover the riches of resting in God.

And you, dear reader, can learn along with me as we share the journey of faith together.

Linking here with BonnieJennifer and friends

Over to you:

What words have greatly impacted your life recently?
How hard do you find it to see yourself as God sees you?

Please feel free to join in with the comments below. I really appreciate your input. Your words matter. Thank you.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Painting beauty with ashes

I sat on the bed, desultorily dusting the few objects I could cope with while my energetic friend breezed her way around the room, almost knocking things over in her enthusiasm to get the job done.

Our soul conversation more than made up for any lack of application on my part.

She grinned as I pointed out the family photos, recalling births, marriages and proud family moments in my life.

And we pondered on the passing of time turning me from young woman to grandma and her to wife.

Finally, she reached a set of drawers where much paraphernalia is stored.

Pulling at them one by one, I revealed their contents and why they'd sat neglected for many years.

Here lay gifts from family and friends to aid my creativity. Long before I painted pictures with words I put pencil, brush and paint to paper for another purpose.

I drew, sketched, dabbled with pastels, felt-tip pens, ink and coloured pencils, painted with water-colours.

Here lay treasure, if only I could remember how to mine for it again.

Somewhere along the way I lost my true self, and the hope of my beloved family and friends was that these things might somehow 'restore me' again.

The very real fear of failure kept me captive to all but creativity.

Captive to shame. Captive to deep emotional pain. Captive to the past. Captive to fear itself.

How could I risk further proof of my incapability? This would only be evidence of shame and failure once again.

So these gifts were received with a shy, watery smile, tried out briefly then placed together in this cabinet, pushed away out of sight and out of mind.

I sighed at the waste but believed it to be confirmation of my ineptitude.

Now, what to do? As I marvelled over this unexpected treasure trove I felt a pang in my heart. And a 'What if?'

What if I actually dared myself to try again, to pick up these parts of me, dust them down and use them for the purpose they were created for?

Prior to opening and revealing the contents I would have felt it was a 'no go' area, a Pandora's Box to steer well clear of.

Who knows what it would unleash? Most likely guilt and sadness. 

But what if also freed up a fresh wave of hope and optimism? A desire to start again?

Maybe you have a similar drawer or space like this in your life to reclaim?

Maybe the enemy of our souls has persuaded you it's too late, it's time to move on?

Maybe there's an emptiness inside where creativity seems to have died?

I thought my creativity was lost until I began expressing it writing poetry and prose on a blog, and taking snapshot images to make memory markers of my days. It feeds my soul to read, to write, to capture, to create. 

So, have I picked up where I left off, brandished brushes and pottered around with paint?

Erm... not quite. This uncovering occurred a few weeks ago and I've been in the throes of flu for almost a month. But I am determined to make a start when energy and inspiration are there.

There have been too many years sitting by while creativity slowly died, too much time already wasted to want to waste another second.

All it takes is the ability to be willing to start over again. I'm trusting God to help me with the rest.

We can allow God to paint beauty with the ashes of our lives as we busy ourselves being creative.

The same is true for you too. As we venture forth in faith God leads and guides us into the places where we can be most effective for him and become all He intends us to be.

Sometimes He will sit and smile as we make progress; sometimes He will point out the way ahead, maybe instruct us how to add a touch here or there, and sometimes He might just hand us the brush to paint new things on the canvas of our lives.

I've got my metaphorical brush in my shaky hands. In time (not too long, I hope) I will wield it again and lose myself in the art of making art with my life.

Are you ready to wield yours too? Willing to become open as a child again? 

Revisit the art room as eagerly as we did before we got too grown up and self-conscious. Become reacquainted with our inner selves and the expression of them.

Let's learn to press pause on perfectionism. See beauty in all we're still becoming.

The reassuring thing is, God still approves of us no matter what mess we make. He gives grace upon grace to start over again.

Our task is to see ourselves as already pre-approved, rest in believing we're beloved Just As We Are. Because that's a beautiful thing in His sight.

Linking here with Bonnie, Holley, Jennifer and friends as we share what feeds our soul, provides coffee for our heart, and encourages us as we live out our faith in the telling of His story.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Resting in the Father's love

When life's challenges knock us sideways, instead of rocking ourselves back and forth with worry, we need a solid Rock to lean on.

A breathing space.

A place of shelter.

A refuge from the storms.

A haven of rest.

A place of dependency from where we are enabled to grow strong, become free.

Someone who we can rely on above all others.

We need a Saviour. We need Jesus. We need His joy. We need His peace.

We need grace to see, believe and receive how much God loves us beyond words, beyond our wildest imaginations, beyond life itself.

It can be so hard to believe we are the beloved of God when calamities come strong against us, can't it?

It can be hard to stay stable and remain calm in the mud and mire of our mess and miseries.

To fight the urge to give in to discouragement, to give up in despair.

To avoid cynicism creeping in. 

To stay more focused on God's face and His amazing grace to help us live as overcomers, instead of pointing to our problems.

Much depends on what or who are we listening to. 

Voices crowd our mind from our inner fears, from the past, the world, the enemy, from those who have hurt us.

Yet it is the gentle whispered words of Holy Spirit which our souls most need to listen to.

And His is the one voice we tend to lose most easily in the daily grind, in the swirl and whirl of noisy sound all around.

How might it look if we had a revelation of how much God loves us?

How might we live in the light of that knowledge?

I'm not sure yet. But I hope to find out in the months ahead.

Currently, my body needs more physical rest than usual as I recover from having flu, and my mind craves it too.

I'm aiming to devour God's word, meditate on its soul-transforming truth, seek more spiritual whitespace, embrace all that assists the process, and gradually learn to draw aside from all that hinders me from being fully at rest in Him. 

As I try to rest grateful on His grace, rest in knowing who I am in Christ, rest in being a daughter of the King of kings and a woman of God, maybe I will grow to live more at ease with accepting how deeply loved I am by Him. 

It would be so freeing to do that, wouldn't it? Maybe you have struggles in this area too. Let's share and learn together, shall we?

The song below is a great reminder of how our heavenly Father rejoices over each and every one of us and stills our anxious hearts with His love.

"The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing" ~ Zephaniah 3:17

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Entering His rest

There's something special about listening for God's voice. Making way for the mellow moments of sacred pauses in our days.

Something infinitely precious when He speaks so hearts can hear Him and draws us close to His beautiful, compassionate and loving, Father-heart.

When I received 'Listen' as my one word last year, I found myself spending all of 2014 trying to hone the skill, and I ended the year still awed and amazed when He whispered close with words He longed to impart.

There wasn't a predictable pattern. God cannot be boxed. He is calm and loving but also gloriously wild and free. The Spirit goes where He wills.

Most times, I sat expectant with Bible, pen and prayer journal at the ready, at others He spoke soft during the mundane, messy moments of my day ~ whenever He had something vital to say.

The more we practise the art, the more we become a little bit accustomed to His voice and better able to discern it above all others.

Those times of quiet listening bore fruit inwardly, teaching greater inner restfulness, peace and patient endurance that He knew I so desperately needed, and still do.

They also yielded fruit to share with others in the form of 'Prayer Whispers' to help, encourage and bless. Some have made their way into the blogging arena and others I hope to eventually make more public via a compilation to share.

So you might think I was getting seasoned in the ways of listening to God and easily able to tell what He was saying to me, wouldn't you? If only...

Well, yes, occasionally that was the case. But my own wayward heart, doubts and fears so often tripped me up... just as they're doing now.

Because, after praying for several days, I was no nearer hearing God's 'word' for me for 2015 than I was before. Various thoughts played themselves out in my head then slid silent away.

Eventually, one word made its presence known more strongly than the others.

And I was quick to reject it as a mis-hearing, because it felt wryly ironic to be hearing 'Rest' shaping itself as my defining word for 2015 while laid up in bed with an unexpected, unwanted Christmas gift of a ferocious, fluey cold virus!

I prayed, doubted and prayed some more. Gradually, God penetrated the thick mucus curtain where my brain seemed to be lodging and made Himself known. 

Yes, there was no mistake. Far from being just my usual state as an M.E and chronic illness sufferer ~ where rest and pacing are the order of the day, and a particularly necessary one right now ~ rest was going to be a strong feature of the year ahead too.

Only... I had to appreciate its nuances more than ever before. Rest means different things to each one of us.

At this early stage I can already see the type of rest God has in mind for us is so much more than a Sabbath break in our week, ceasing from physical activity, putting our feet up, taking a nap, being on vacation.

His plans for us are complete, holistic, changing from the inside out. I sense rest is no exception.

My soul needs to learn how to rest easy in His word, truly believe who it says I am in Christ, lean peaceful on His love and grace.

Maybe discover how to actually live like I'm freed from guilt and anxiety, stay rooted and grounded in faith, develop trust that replaces tension.

Rest in the finished work of Christ rather than relying on self-effort and works to somehow complete the deal.

Rest in seeing myself as pre-approved, deeply loved and called to make a difference.

Quite a bit to mull over here! No doubt more will be revealed in time to come.

And it feels as if my main priority is physical rest right now as I seek to recover from the horrible cold symptoms and try to claw back some precious energy.

Perhaps priorities will loom large as I endeavour to save energy for all I am called to do rather than all I may want to do.

Maybe there will be encouragement to make room for more spiritual whitespace, for contemplative prayer, for continuing to listen to prayer whispers and to seek His face?

I hope so. 

My soul craves deep rest; my body cries out for it and my mind desperately needs it too.

One way or another I hope to enter His rest, in fact I long to; I need to. 

One thing I am certain of:as God gives me inspiration and strength I aim to be sharing the journey here and over at 'Poetry Joy', just as I did with 2014's word 'Listen'.

Here's a 'Prayer for Rest' that you can take and make your own. Feel free to pin or use as you need to:

Over to you:

Have you had benefits (as well as challenges) from listening to God?

Has God given you a new word to ponder over for 2015?

Whether or not you've heard a 'word' yet, what do you think your main focus will be for the year ahead?

As always, I really appreciate and welcome your input here and would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.