Monday, 7 July 2014

Finding quietness... whitespace again

In church yesterday, we were challenged as to whether we had become lukewarm and indifferent to the things of God. If we were going through the motions - serving, attending a small group and church services, etc - but not really connecting with God. The minister asked us to raise our hands so he could pray for us.

But I didn't raise my hand. The heart is deceitful above all else, of course, but I didn't feel I WAS indifferent. I DO actively strive to connect with God, to rest with him, to encounter him... but I AM busy.  It is busyness that is the distraction, and Bonnie's book 'Finding Spiritual Whitespace' calls me aside to rest.

That is my challenge.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Finding Spiritual Whitespace: The Review


Gray_FindingWhitespace_3DFinding Spiritual Whitespace by Bonnie Gray at http://www.faithbarista.comBookArt7_Jesuswhispers

Bonnie Gray is the writer behind Faith Barista.com, a lovely blog on spiritual topics themed to all things coffee: quirky and imaginative. She has written the book Finding Spiritual Whitespace about her inspiring, heart-breaking journey to find rest, which garnered Publisher’s Weekly starred review. You can get a copy HERE. I have just finished it, but this is not a book to read quickly: quite the contrary.
I need to start over. I need to re-read - especially the pages, the many many places,  I have pencilled in notes and underlinings and reminders to stop. and think. and revisit. 
Bonnie's book is a journey she has taken involving revisiting painful events in her life. She bravely shares the messiness, the pain and the subsequent healing of memories buried so deep that she didn't know they were there. 

But her body did. She carried those hurtful words and experiences for four decades before she realised how they were affecting her. She became so broken, afflicted by post-traumatic stress disorder, that she could no longer function normally. In the hurt and pain, she rediscovered Jesus' spirit deep within her.

This book, however, isn't just show and tell. Bonnie speaks as friend, inviting the reader in to discover healing and wholeness with her. She speaks of reawakening the soul through stillness and rest and discovering Jesus in new and deeper ways. Facing questions of desire and loss; feelings of desolation; going beyond the obvious.

Bonnie writes tenderly from many different perspectives as she draws us into discovering Jesus in fresh new ways. She encourages the reader to take time to rest; to listen for Jesus' voice; to rediscover innate creativity; and above all, to revisit painful memories in the loving companionship of the Spirit of God. This is not self-indulgent, but healthy. We all need to face those things we have buried long before, learning to cope, to live with shame and hurt that has been buried but affects us without our realising it.

Words cannot do justice to this gem of a book. I found myself sinking in, like drinking a frothy cappuccino through the cream to find the strength of the coffee beneath. This book IS strong: its words offer hope and healing and an invitation to a deeper, more intimate spiritual life.

Beautiful, poetic words. Words to retain, words to inspire, words to encourage. A gift and a jewel from a brave heart.






Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Whitespace. Stillness. Listening.

This post is part of the  “Finding Spiritual Whitespace Blog Tour” which I am a part of, along with a group of soulful, journeying kindreds. Bonnie has sent me a copy of her book to review. To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE!  

For reasons that I don't wish to explain in detail,  I find myself tripping over/falling into space and silence and stillness wherever I turn.

Bonnie Gray's 'Finding Spiritual Whitespace' has been the greatest place to start, but I have been 'encouraged' by emotional meltdown and comments in sermons about being overwhelmed and numb and... oh, all the things Bonnie explains in her book. The knowledge that it is only with Jesus that deep deep hidden wounds are healed into wholeness.
BookArt4_brokenbeautyBonnieGray_WhitespaceBadge_150findingspiritualwhitespace_book
This search for relationship with and the presence of God in my life meets me at every turn.

Today it was through Lisa Burgess as she talks about:  "...it’s his presence we crave, even when we don’t know it. And it’s in his presence we’re most loved, even though we can’t see him.
“Just the privilege of fellowship with God is infinitely more than any thing that God could give. When he gives himself he is giving more than anything else in the universe.”- Frank Laubach
But how can we tap into that fellowship with God, especially in the everyday moments?
It’s a concept that’s intrigued me for years. I’m not alone in this quest. Not now. Not ever. Whether straight from scripture, from a monk in the 1600s, from a missionary in 1930, or from a friend in 2014, there’s much to learn about being more mindful of God in the now, of intentionally grasping God’s hand in this moment, in this thing.
I find motivation every few years when I reread Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God. And now I’m finding it also in finally reading Frank Laubach’s Letters by a Modern Mystic....
...Enjoying God’s presence is knowing that in this hour, this situation, this relationship, we are never alone.
“If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”
Psalm 139:9-10 "
I love Beverley's comment on Lisa's post: Occasionally when i think that God has forgotten me and is no longer listening to my anguished prayers, he speaks! He speaks through the mouths and actions of others, the gentle breeze to cool the heat of the day, the smell of a wild rose, almost forgotten. When we feel forgotten all we have to do is wait and God will always arrive.
I have sat with those who are passing from this life to the next and the one thing they all want is one more…touch, hug, kiss, minute, moment…morning. So many people that i have nursed in these moments have waited for the morning to arrive before they have found the courage to leave.

And so, as I study Sally Clarkson and Angela Peritt's book You Are Loved with Good Morning Girls, I am learning that I AM loved by Jesus. That prayer and Bible study and good works are all well and good, but that it is in his presence that I am fulfilled.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39

And so I look for Him in everyday life and to Him in the quiet and listen, listen for His voice in the silence and the stillness of my heart.
Cartoon - Have you found Jesus? - Look closely.PS: another form of stillness is going for a walk: notes on seeking quiet every day as a way of refreshing the brain. 

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Finding spiritual whitespace

Finding Spiritual Whitespace by Bonnie Gray at http://www.faithbarista.comfindingspiritualwhitespace_book21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace
It is a long time since I wrote here. A time of business and absorption in all manner of things... good things, God things but not time with God.

So it's not a coincidence that Bonnie Gray's book has come out as I embark on a new Good Morning Girls study: You Are Loved.

I needed to set aside the time to know this:


"Christ went to great lengths to demonstrate His love for us….he died on a cross.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”- Romans 5:8
Christ’s death is proof of His unconquerable love for us. He went to such great lengths to demonstrate His love so that we will be secure in knowing we are loved by Him.
“A person who feels loved, lives with relief that they do not have to perform. They live with joy to know they are acceptable as they are. They live with hope because they are not alone.”- Sally Clarkson, You Are Loved
You are not alone.
You are loved."
week 1 memory verse
We can know this in the quiet, in the rest, in the whitespace times...what does 'whitespace' mean? Ask read Bonnie!

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Intentionally focused...on ministry, hospitality and PUTTING OTHERS FIRST

Peter says (The Message, 1 Peter 4:1 - 2) "Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings* as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want."
*sufferings:
aka my struggles, difficulties, little problems, inconveniences...

So: "take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit..." (vv 7 - 11)

Baroness Cox wrote this week: "While we might like to think that generosity is largely about what gets given from our own hands, the truth is different. Generous people understand that giving is inseparably linked to receiving, that we can only begin to be used by God to meet another’s need because we have begun to allow Him to meet our own."
Romans 12:3 puts it like this: "it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him."

Proverbs 31 extols the virtues of the Good Woman.
"When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly.
She keeps an eye on everyone in her household, and keeps them all busy and productive.
Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise:"
Hmm.  I ALWAYS feel incompetent and all the other in- and un- words which tell me that I don't measure up, can never measure up to this Impossibly Perfect Woman.
BUT.
I CAN do what I can with what I have. I might never, will not ever, achieve her perfection, but I can aspire to be more like her. Also, I am comforted when I think that, perhaps, this is also a picture of the church. Because, together, we CAN achieve all this and more.
"So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t." (Romans 12:4 - 6)
Good Morning girls postedWe aren’t aiming for perfection here but rather a heart of serving and loving those who enter our homes. I’m sure it’s not an accident that hospitality and hospital come from the same Latin word meaning healing. When we open our homes and hearts to those who are hurting, God uses our act of service to begin healing hurting souls.

Who can you open your home to today? What about the single mom down the street who is needing adult conversations and for someone to look her in the eyes and ask, “How are you really doing?”, or what about the widow whose husband recently passed away from your church? Maybe it’s the co-worker who needs to hear that they matter to God...

You see I think as Christians we have bought into this big lie that satan is selling us. (and yes, I have purposely typed a lowercase “s”) We think God only wants us to do BIG things for Him. That only the BIG things count. Big things like becoming missionaries and moving overseas, adopting 100 children, selling all our belongings or going into full time Christian ministry. You know, the BIG things.

But what if He’s not telling many of us to do those things? What if that isn’t His plan for many of our lives? What if His plan is even better than that?

What if His plan is actually to multiply our reach by each of us individually becoming intentional and purposefully, using the homes He has already blessed us with to reach those people He has sent us… by opening our doors and hearts to them?

What if we are just called to help those who are lonely feel welcomed by offering a simple meal and an open seat at a well-worn kitchen table?

God is amazing like that, you know. When we reach out to bless others, to open our doors and place an extra plate at the table, many times we end up being the one who is blessed.

So what if? What if we dream together and think about the possibilities of change God can do in our homes as we embrace our call to be hospitable? What if we push aside the temptations of perfection, the unrealistic expectations and instead offer real homes, simple meals and loving hearts? How can God move through these simple acts of obedience?

And so: "Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality."

I've heard it said that hospitality is not about homes and hearty dining, food and feasting - though it can be. No, hospitality is about inviting others into your heart and blessing them with what you have. It is about adaptable attitudes, selfless serving and generous giving.

Is that really so hard to do? Take the first step - TODAY.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Journey


It is quite some time since I joined in with Faith Jam Thursdays. Now, at the beginning of Lent, I am prompted to jump in again.
With the theme, today, of Journey.

Journey. The word
conjures excitement
and trepidation.

When I was younger
a journey was 
a wondrous thing
opening doors
of adventure

but

now I am older
a life journey
seems fraught
with fearsome
possibilities

life is full of 
the unknowns of
retirement and 
living other places
and health.

But with Jesus
the journey of life
can be, shall be
one of joy, deep satisfaction
and promise.

Dare I step out,
join in,
embrace 
with open heart
my Journey?


Saturday, 1 March 2014

Intentionally focused - on children

When I read about bringing children up biblically now, I mostly feel overwhelmed with guilt; the shouldhaves/oughtas/ifonlyI'dknown thoughts... even though my children have turned out to be wonderful, godly young people who live sold-out lives for Jesus.

But Moses said: This is the commandment, the rules and regulations, that God, your God, commanded me to teach you to live out in the land you’re about to cross into to possess. This is so that you’ll live in deep reverence before God lifelong, observing all his rules and regulations that I’m commanding you, you and your children and your grandchildren, living good long lives.

Listen obediently, Israel. Do what you’re told so that you’ll have a good life, a life of abundance and bounty, just as God promised, in a land abounding in milk and honey.

Attention, Israel!

God, our God! God the one and only!

Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got!

Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder;


So we did. And so I try to do, with the children I teach and meet. We can be - and have - spiritual parents, learning from those who have gone before and passing on God's wisdom to those who come after:

Stories we heard from our fathers,
counsel we learned at our mother’s knee.
We’re not keeping this to ourselves,
we’re passing it along to the next generation—
God’s fame and fortune,
the marvelous things he has done...
Then commanded our parents
to teach it to their children
So the next generation would know,
and all the generations to come—
Know the truth and tell the stories
so their children can trust in God...

For children are God's best gift. (Psalm 127:3) Children teach us that "Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when (we) receive the childlike on (Jesus's) account, it’s the same as receiving (him).

“But if (we) give them a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, (we'll) soon wish (we) hadn’t. (We'd) be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around (our) neck. Doom to the world for giving these God-believing children a hard time! Hard times are inevitable, but (we) don’t have to make it worse—and it’s doomsday to (us) if (we) do.

We are to be like children: simply trusting God.

Now, as Lent approaches, I am encouraging our children to take part in 40Acts. To grow in generosity, with me, together.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Hope

I loved this post from Lisa Burgess:

When we need hope, "the real source of help is that the Spirit of the Lord is among us.
It is God’s presence that matters most.
His presence is more powerful than any prayer I can lift. His presence is no daydream or illusion but a fact and  my reality. He is here; he is with us; he is present.
And there is my hope: in the power of his presence.
Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!Psalm 105:4
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.Psalm 16:11
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.Romans 12:12

Friendship

Friends. We all need them.Ecclesiastes has the idea of friendship right: two ARE better than one... 
It’s better to have a partner than go it alone.
Share the work, share the wealth.
And if one falls down, the other helps,
But if there’s no one to help, tough!
By yourself you’re unprotected.

With a friend you can face the worst.
Can you round up a third?
A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped
.
Ecclesiastes 4:9 - 10. 12

How lovely, to have a friend looking out for you, working hard with you...

And Jesus says...he says, again and again...  that love gives and gives, even to the point of giving even life itself, embracing death for the One loved, the Friend...

Look at his words:
This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. John 15:10 - 14

Command. Such a strong word. It means to give an order : to tell someone to do something in a forceful and often official way; to have authority and control over a group of people, such as soldiers.

Loving one another is NOT OPTIONAL.

And so, when we think of friendship, this is how we do it:
Be even-tempered, content with second place,  quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Colossians 3:13 - 14

Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.
.
Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:29. 31 -32

And how do we do this? A little verse slipped into the middle of the advice in Ephesians tells us:
Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted. Ephesians 4:30.
Just stay focused, then. Keep my eye on The Main Thing. Loving God, loving Jesus, loving His Spirit in me.

And what is love? When I love my family, my husband, my children, my friends, I find myself obsessed with their welfare, rejoicing over their gifts and talents, happy they are in my life.

So too I can be obsessed with the Spirit's 'welfare' in me, taking care not to hurt in any way; rejoicing over the many ways the Spirit works through a multitude of gifts and talents, happy to have the Spirit in me, in my life...Loving.

And so, as I consider how to better love my friends, I read:

Wounds from a friend can be trusted,but an enemy multiplies kisses. Proverbs 27:6
I can trust a friend, knowing that they have nothing but the best in mind for me.

Just as lotions and fragrance give sensual delight,
a sweet friendship refreshes the soul.

I can rejoice in the refreshment and recreation a friend gives me.

Don’t leave your friends or your parents’ friends
and run home to your family when things get rough;
Better a nearby friend than a distant family.
Proverbs 27:9 - 10
I can rely on a friend to be there for me.

You use steel to sharpen steel,and one friend sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
I can be sure that a friend might spark against me at times in a clash like hard metal, but that this will be for my good.  A friend sharpens me up: makes me grow; spurs me on to become more fit for purpose.
Because a blunt knife is useless.

So when our friends annoy us, or unintentionally hurt us, how do we bear with them, build them up and keep on believing in them?
How deep is the friendship?
Is it worth fighting for?
What do we do?
1 Corinthians 15:33 says: Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” We need to be sure that our friend IS truly a friend. If not, can we let go of the friendship?

Jen at Good Morning Girls notes:
"Not all friendships are beneficial. There are some people who will drag us down, bring out the worst in us, and tempt us to sin. (1 Cor. 15:33)

We need to surround ourselves with people who will make us better Christians, encourage us in our marriages, cheer us on in our parenting, and will speak the truth when we are wrong. Who will love us through it all.

“He who walks with wise men shall be wise; but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Pro 13:20).

We will not only be influenced by the company we keep, we will be known by it. This makes it important to seek out friendships with people who will lead us to walk with and become more like Jesus. And let me give you some good news. It is not common interests that solidifies a friendship, but a common Savior. The bond we have with Christ trumps differing personalities, styles, passions, and hobbies so that we are able to have strong, deep friendships with other sisters in Christ.

Not only do we need to seek out godly friends, we need to learn how to become this kind of friend ourselves. This is something many of us neglect. We want good friends, but do we want to be a good friend? Jesus calls us to this. Of course a good friend will point other to Jesus, but here are a few things necessary to being a good friend that leads others back to the gospel.


Being a good friend will mean:

1. Giving up our own preferences
There is no room for selfishness in friendships. We need to be willing to give up our own preferences for the good of another person. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3, ESV) A good friend will seek to honor and bless those around them.

2. Speak truth kindly
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Pro 27:6)

One of the responsibilities of a friend is to reprove when it is needed. But doing this well requires grace and wisdom. It is not our job to become busybodies, but it is our job to gently and kindly correct if we see our friend walk in a way that is dangerous or in conflict with God’s word.

This means we must also be friends who are willing to hear and accept the reproof of a friend. This shows great spiritual maturity. While it may hurt our feelings we need to remember that truth spoken in love will be used by God to bear fruit in our lives.

“Let a righteous man strike me — it is a kindness; let him rebuke me — it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it!” (Psalm 141:5)

“Yes, rebuke a wise man, and he will love you” (Pro 9:8)

3. Be Wise
Bring a good friend demands wisdom. Without it it is easy to overlook sin and danger, or become overly critical. It’s not just reproving that we must care about, but how we reprove. Can we discern the needs of our friends? What will effectively encourage them in their Christian walk? All of this, and much more, requires wisdom.

It costs to be a good and godly friend. We see the ultimate friendship in Christ. He is wisdom personified. He spoke the truth, and is the truth. And his friendship toward us took him all the way to the grave, for our good. He did more than lay aside preferences, he laid down his life. “Greater love has no man than this: that a man lays down his life for his friend” (John 15:13). Are we willing to lay down our lives for the good of another?


But this cost is the very gold of life!
It is the only antidote for selfishness!
It is the way of Christlikeness!
JR. Miller"

Some more questions to think about from Good Morning Girls:
In this fast paced, technology-driven world, I wonder if the face-to-face, intentional “coming alongside” kind of friendships are becoming more and more of a lost art.


Are we replacing real-life relationships with online acquaintances? 

Are we hung up on the imperfections of others, or are we quick to encourage, forgive and love generously in our friendships? 

Even more, have we isolated ourselves to the point of hindering the gospel?

And some more questions, from an incourage post:

Do you have people in your life that help to give you an unobstructed view of yourself?
Do you have friends who challenge you, inspire you and broaden your view of eternal things?

Are you that kind of friend?

Monday, 17 February 2014

As I read of Eve's creation,
to be helper to her Adam
holding fast to him
to be as One together:
I know that
I too can be like her.

With the help of Jesus.

As I read of Eve's betrayal:
her pride and wilfulness, her
desire for wisdom, her
simple greed -
I know that
I too am her daughter.

Yet Jesus had saved me.

As I read of Paul's teaching
that a wife should defer
to her husband just as
the church defers
to the Christ
who loves us

I know I am helpless alone.

As I read of how I should
be respectful in my behaviour,
setting a good example
for younger women
so that others
may not disrespect the Word,

I want to do my best.

As I read of the Perfect Woman,
skilled I'm all matters of wifehood,
motherhood, skill
and business,
I am reminded
of my own inconsequence.

And so, I live only through Jesus.

Him alone.