Tag Archives: peace

Traveling The Valley Of Shadows

I gathered with loved ones to see a star. A star whose light was changing but was still beautiful and at times younger somehow. This star shone despite death’s dark shadow which loomed over the valley where we were, like storm clouds forming in the distance we each knew what was coming.

The line in psalm 23 The Lords My Shepherd, speaks of such a valley, the valley of the shadow of death. This psalm that is still fresh in the memory, one that we see written on cards or spoken at funerals. This is not a valley I am particularly familiar with, though I have repeated the psalm many times. There is another line in its narrative that reads.

“his rod and staff guides me…”

This line gives gives me a sense of forward motion, that it had a purpose. God knew my questions and heartache. Within such moments scripture was read, in the quiet prayerfulness of my private space, it was like holding onto the actual staff of the good shepherd. Just as a child holds it’s parents hand, walking and moving in synchronicity matching the gait of the step and each twist and turn.

To my surprise the valley was a place where love deepened. The shadows had not halted the growth of these precious blooms. Love was experienced in the nurses and doctors care, in the embrace of family, the quiet kiss good bye on the forehead, of the one whose starlight was passing from our awareness to something beyond. Love shone in the glisten of tear filled eyes, and the vigil kept day and night.

As we journeyed together there was occasional laughter, and abundant generosity, where people showed up the best of who they are, to pay respect to the one who was leaving so soon.

Silence would settle like a warm blanket between conversation, people lost in their own thoughts, or listening for the slightest change that indicated that her light was changing.

She was the star in the room, those gathered loved the star that was changing before our eyes, until we could no longer perceive her light anymore.

I am grateful for her light that guided me. However her light carries onwards, into the place Jesus prepares. We can discern the light in our relationships, in the reasons behind the choices we make, in the gifts we share. Giving our lives shape, depth of meaning, and teaching us values of substance that lead us forward.

Farewell Irene.

Retreat Is Not Surrender

stressed

The phone is ringing constantly, I am being overrun by e-mail, my diary is full to bursting, I am stressed and, to my horror, on looking ahead in my diary I see that the entry for the next day is blocked between 10am and 3pm as a spiritual retreat with my wife (not that spending time with my wife is a bad thing!).  I instinctively wonder where on God’s green earth do I have the time for that!?! I begin frantically to think of excuses so that I can cancel this and keep my nose to the grindstone, enabling me to do God’s work for the church he has placed me in.

Yes, I get to that place all too often within my schedule when I’m generally too busy to pray, read the bible, spend time with my family, eat well and actually relax – or indeed any of the aforementioned in a way that is satisfying.

It doesn’t even seem to matter that a few weeks ago my body tried to teach me a lesson and took matters into its own hands! It was as though my body had decided upon an intervention to make me stop. It collected a nasty flu bug, breathed it in deeply and nagged me over the following week that if I didn’t rest I was done for – and indeed I was! By Thursday evening of that week, after I got back from my second funeral that day, I only had only one option, which was climb into bed and stay there for a few days. I cancelled my services and appointments, rested and wasn’t really myself until the following week.

But back to this retreat in the diary… what was I to do? Well, do you know, I didn’t cancel and went on it – just me and my lovely wife.  We talked, prayed, ate snacks and looked at the beautiful view. We even did an entry in our couple’s devotional bible that we have been doing sporadically for our 13 years of marriage; we are in Nehemiah! We both experienced God’s peace, his holding, realigning our perspective to his, a reduction in stress and a reorientation to the path the Lord is leading us on.

My workload hadn’t diminished, but somehow taking that space and time to focus on who I work for rather than on what my denomination demands of me made the jobs and the need for inspiration a little easier, putting life more in perspective. The gospel of Matthew reminds us in chapter 6, verses 28-34 to live first seeking the Kingdom of God.

Sometimes the last place we go to is the place where we should start. I encourage you to make time for a retreat, not out of weakness but because of the need to seek God.  Lean on him, trust in him, deepen your walk with the only one who sees the whole picture and for whom the present storm that you’re experiencing is already history.  Then step out in faith, not leaving God behind but lifting your head to look at what is coming, together with the one who loves you more completely now than he has ever loved you.

 

rocky beach “And why do you worry about clothes?  See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”.

 

The Gift of Peace

A panorama of Peace

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is   the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You. Psalm 139:17-18 
The image, is void of clutter, expansive in its vista, and vibrant in its colour. Take it into your hours to come, and cherish the gift of peace it offers.  

Heavens Life Lesson

Sometimes success is found by looking back, by looking at the footprints in the sand of life we might just glimpse the Lord at work in the detail, in the narrative of our existence. However this is not how society is wired as we travel in life.

As a child generally we desire to succeed at school, as a grown-up that same desire develops. Each of us finds, that there is always something more, something that is just out of reach, to earn, wether that’s in a relationship, work, or in general life. Sometimes we attain it, sometimes we don’t. For me when I miss my target, I get up and go again, or sometimes my walk with God takes me in a new direction.

The quest for more of everything, has blossomed many industries, such has the self help industry, you only have to walk into a book shop to see how popular that genre is. Furthermore on YouTube the most watched videos are online self help gaming tutorials. Earning the creators of these videos many thousands of pounds, and celebrity status in certain circles. In particular Google has become a worldwide database of self-help solutions. The only problem is there are so many solutions it’s hard to filter out, the good advice from the bad.

In all this striving to get ahead, to know more, to be better, we sometimes forget to look back, sometimes wisdom and personal growth is not found in a book, or youtube clip, but by reflecting on our own story. Sometimes its only when we look back as the poem footprints in the sand suggests, that we can see God at work.

Its these moments that are the subject of today’s post, in recent years I have attended the bedside of a few  people who have been close to crossing over into eternity, people of faith and not.

Of those whom could speak, they spoke of having lived a life of service for others, they didn’t want to tell me how much they had in their bank balance, how big their house was, or the name of their cat or dog. They wanted to tell me, the focus of their life had been outward not inward.

Moreover for those who could not speak, it was evidenced by the number and quality of friends and family they had around them, that they had invested in the important things of their lives, not a financial portfolio, but invested in the lives of others in the love and care they had shown them. 

If we looked back today rather than ahead, if today was our final day, what would we say to the minister who visited? How have we lived our lives? These moments with the dying, a poignant, difficult, and an incredible privilege.  

These brilliant people in their dying breaths, cause us to reflect on our own journeys through life, not that it will always be perfect, or that we will always make the right decisions.

However when all is said and done, I hope I  can say to the Minister at my bedside, that I lead the majority of my days outward looking, caring for others, investing in kindness, Love and forgiving quickly. Then as I cross over from this life into the eternity that Jesus prepares, I’ll count myself as having lived life well, as God intended.

Ultimately death causes us to look ahead, at how we are living our lives outward in the service of others, defined by how much God loves all people both those who have passed through the veil and those who exist around us.

God Bless And have a good week

Last weeks post: The Know It All

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Outing Myself

I don’t know if I was born this way, or if it was the environment. Either way people have looked at me as different. Others have perceived as less somehow, there was a word for what I am, but when I was a kid it wasn’t I widely used.

The badge I wear, is not one I revel in or openly address. In the church, I have not always found acceptance, instead sadly the opposite has at times been true. I know God loves me, but for some reason, he has allowed me to be this way and wants me to serve him all the same!

My name is Andy and  I am dyslexic, the written word is  somewhat a challenge to me, I find it almost laughable that, despite a significant weakness I feel called to the written word, I would love to be an author some day. It is well documented that the dyslexic brain is wired differently apparently and there is nothing I can do, but live with it.

Interestingly we also say that the homosexual brain, is wired differently just as I am with dyslexia, yet my brain chemistry will not lead be to be dammed by others or God, or excluded from other places and churches.

My brain chemistry won’t lead me to be ridiculed, bullied, abused. My brain chemistry won’t mean I struggle with identity and theological opposing arguments, that tear my sense of self to shreds. None of those things will be my experience. Of course though some would say it’s the act of homosexuality not the homosexual that people have issue with.

To that I offer an illustration. I and we don’t have two brains, just one. What i mean is that when I write a sentence my non-dyslexic brain doesn’t assert itself, because its not there! In the action of writing  I can’t always write in perfect sentences with grammar and correct spelling, unless of course the computer helps me, and sometimes it even struggles with what I am trying to articulate. In those moments, I use google search and my dictation software. Putting it simply it is impossible for me to be dyslexic and not act dyslexic. How then can we ask our homosexual kin to change their ‘wiring,’ if that was even possible.

I believe God is bigger than all of this, that his grace is sufficient and his love brings justice, not reproach. Not for the few chosen ones who love him, but for all people that love him. I struggle with what Scripture says, and can’t unpick the cultural, moral bias, and human fallibility from what God is saying in and through scripture. It just isn’t all that clear to me.

However one thing is clear, the world is watching how we treat on another in Gods name, and on this issue to name one, what the world too often sees is shameful. It doesn’t come close to how jesus defines the christian, that definition being, ” They shall be known by their love for on another.” (John 13:35)

Last Post: Beautiful To Me

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Heading Into The Waves

A boat that has never had the waves crash its bow, is in dry dock, or perhaps just a drawing or concept of an engineer. It has not lived as a boat, at all, it has not reached its full potential.

There is a part of me that wishes to be in dry dock, to exist amongst the simplicity of lines on a page or an artists imagination. The page or dry dock, is a safe space to be, unencumbered by the unpredictability of water crashing over the bow, or  traversing the deep swells of the rough seas. But life lived in that way whilst healing for a time, isn’t living! Faith founded and lived in the dry dock is untested, by the storms of doubt and discontent, or the piercing silence of the calm before the storm.

We follow one who walked on water, who calmed the storm, but even peters leap of faith landed him in the waves. So perhaps it is the waves that the Lord is calling us into, out of the dock into open water, it would be lovely if it was allways a flat calm but that’s not how I have experienced life.

More often I experience the lords call into the waves of life, and in those waves i am tested, sometimes battered by the winds, other peoples words and self doubt. Yet I keep going navigating towards the things of God. Attempting to serve him the best I can, seeking to draw people deeper into the things of the lord.

In God the peace we seek is not external but internal, it is that inner assurance that no wave is too big, no sea too rough, that keeps us navigating the seas of life. As we chart a course we do not do that in isolation, but with others and together we reach our destination, of that great harbour in eternity.

Tomorrow each of us heads out into sea, some of us rough seas await and for others its calm perhaps before a storm. May wherever we are, atop the waves or recovering in dry dock, know the grace, healing and love of God, the guidance of the holy spirit and the deep peace of God that keeps our hands unshaken on the ships wheel and our hearts at a steady beat like a propeller on a boat pushing us through lifes waters, bless us, keep us and shape us.

Last Weeks Post:

Offer Hope Not Criticism 

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Offer Hope Not Criticism

There is a story of a man who killed himself, he was valued by so many yet he was his biggest critic. That self-criticism was his undoing, he believed utterly in that voice and chose to escape it. Leaving people shocked and confused.

I belief in an afterlife, that there is something more, other, liminal. I do not think we are the sum of our psychology, intellect or physicality. I do not believe as the church once did that if you end your own life you go to hell. 

When Jesus walked the earth, he vanquished that kind of consuming torment, he brought liberation and hope. So I wonder if for that poor soul who can only do one thing to escape themselves or their situation, whether that is to jump across the chasm  from this life. I believe they leap into a better place a, a space that Jesus prepares. Where torment is no more, and peace resides.

There are organisations that do amazing jobs with people who wish to end things, there are many successes, but possibly just as many tragedies. So today why not resolve to be the difference.

You don’t know who or what might be going on behind the backdrop of someones eyes, or  their    smile.  Behind those eyes, could be all kinds of darkness, self loathing and shame. Let us love our neighbour in such away that God might use us to vanquish the darkness, or walk the lonely journey with those who are trying to make sense of the question beginning with the word, why.

Finally if its you who is on the edge as it were. Know that you are known, you name your personhood is valued and has value, both in this life and the one to come. I pray that help will come. 

Last times Post: How To Pray Bruce Almighty Style

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The Peace Baby

‘I can’t forgive you.’ Is the kind of statement that separates people, divides communities and causes rifts that last years, perhaps life times. The words signify a break in that relationship, a fissure opens up between you and they.

When I face my tormenter, I can’t forgive from my own wellspring of strength. No matter how much I work out in the gym or look inwards. Instead it is only when God supports me, and reminds me, that he loves the person behind the torment that there is a bigger narrative! Only then can I find the strength to have compassion, the strength to stand and not be his victim anymore.

This christmas the birth of Jesus could be seen as a peace offering, the beginning of a way back to God and a deepening of our walk with him. It is said of a primitive tribe in some far flung place on earth, that part of their culture when one tribe is at war with the other, the offering of a peace baby could be made, in this ritual the chief offers his own baby to his enemy to be raised as one of them. As long as this peace baby survives peace remains intact between the warring sides.

God put his son into the hands of those who didn’t truly understand who the messiah was, to people who were impoverished in so many ways. God entrusted his sons care in a simple act of  trust that is reciprocated. In that simple trust the cosmic rift between us and God begins to be healed, closed and shut for good.

Gods lullaby to us is of a love that transforms, Joseph into the most understanding husband ever, that his betrothed would be pregnant by God, this love transforms a peasant girl into Mary mother of God, Shepherds into the first evangelists, and wise men into the first christalogical scholars.

I wonder how Gods lullaby might transform us with our internal struggles, and how this song might lead us to a new place of healing and understanding. Of a God who will literally go the distance for us. I wonder would we at least, in his strength, go the distance for one another.

My children sometimes come to me affronted by the other who has wronged them in some way, all too often as parents we hear the line, “they started it!!” After which forgetting how young they are I  try to explain, that if no one steps up and becomes the bigger person and breaks that cycle, when does it stop. He looks at me blankly and replies, ‘but she started it!’

We find in the christmas story that God breaks the cycle, which begins with birth and ends in resurrection. God begins a 33 year peacemaking programme with humankind with the people of Mary and Josephs time. As we celebrate Christmas this year we are reminded of his peace initiative, God’s olive branch his peace baby who doesn’t stay dead, that the rift between us and God might be healed and peace maintained forever, by a baby born in a manger in Bethlehem, who is called Jesus.

Merry Christmas.

Does Peace Even Have a Chance?

Day of Peace_web banner_FINAL_940x165

“World peace is an idea of planetary non-violence by which nations willingly cooperate, either voluntarily or by virtue of a system of governance that prevents warfare:.-wikipedia

Sunday was the United Nations world international day for peace, I didn’t even realise it had happened, did you?

The day didn’t even make the news, which heralded the latest footage of violent clashes across the middle east, and in the divided Ukraine. One might have hoped for an coinciding announcement some political agreement on unprecedented financial backing, to train peace makers over and above that of training peace keepers?

As a christian sometimes I find it hard to know what to pray, or indeed do, when there is such hatred and commitment to conflict in the eyes of those who would kill us to get there way. So perhaps I might hold the big picture of a world in chaos before God, remembering that there are moments when peace can break out even ever so briefly.

Such a day was 25th December 1914. The history books recall that the day before German soldiers began singing christmas carols, this lead to conversations between the warring sides, leading to the moment on christmas day, where soldiers tentatively trusted that the other side wouldn’t open fire, as they walked onto mans land, and together the germans and british shared gifts and played football.

But as I hold that wide picture before God, I set about seeking God with the vision of my local situation. Trying to answer the question of how I can be a peacemaker in my own back yard? Whether that is the class room, work place, family or church. How can I enable change in those who slander, or spread the cancer of cynicism and violence?

Make me a channel of your peace, where there is hatred, let me bring Your love, are the opening lyrics to the famous hymn of the same name. When it talks of Gods love, I do not think of his love as being soft, but instead, tough. The harder than nails kind of love.

A Love that demands sacrifice, that compels us to challenge those places where violence has become the norm. To restore peace, to bring about a rediscovery in the innate God given value in humanity and the individual right to live, life in all its fullness and potential.

Lets pray

Jesus may we have the courage to be a peace maker, that those through circumstance, the conviction of others or themselves may choose life above death, words above the gun or bomb. Finally lord if I am ever faced with the opportunity to inflict harm on those who  harm my own, compel me to choose peace.- Amen

The secret to peace

My daughter is for ever telling on her older brother for is apparent wrongs, no matter how minor, sometimes she will even throw something at him if he annoys her a lot!

When your wronged what would you like to do to the person who hurt you? Seek revenge or seek to forgive? Which I wonder is harder the latter of the former, which brings the most rewards, the most peace, but also perhaps is the most costly?

The act of forgiveness doesn’t so much affect the perpetrator. It doesn’t mean they don’t have to deal with the consequences of their actions or live with their guilt.

Forgiveness releases the victim, brings healing to the one who has been wronged. Forgiveness gives us a choice, to draw a line in the metaphorical sand of experiences. To say to ourselves I will not let him or the situation define me, shape me, cripple me more than it has. I will not let it break me more than it looks like it has done.

So should we forgive someone’s involvement in the the pain of another or indeed ourselves? Not that we allow them to reoffend, but set them and us free to flourish rather than be rooted by the ball and chain of guilt, shame and the realities of there crimes and our sense of victimisation.

There may be situations in our lives that have needed a serious effort to forgive. Not just once or twice, but every day. I find I can’t do this on my own, but Jesus helps me, to such a point that forgiveness over a long period becomes a habit, a line in the sand which I don’t step over, and god stands with me on that line. However if I or we step over into the darkness beyond the line, Jesus takes our hand and gently leads me back to the light.

Forgiveness isn’t cheap, nor is it easy, but it is a journey worth traveling as the best journeys often are. Forgivness enabled Nelson Mandela to work with his former white oppressors, it helped Martin Luther king push the agenda of racial equality. There are so many other examples, and when we look at the issues of Syria, or Ukraine, with the unwillingness to forgive, leads to the hell confusion and human degeneration we see on our TV screens. The unwillingness to forgive in Northern Ireland challenges the future of the peace process. A lack of forgiveness challenges our ability yours and mine to receive healing and move forward free people.

This day this moment, ask the Lord to help you begin the road to forgiveness and ultimately your personal peace and salvation.

 

 

 

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