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Faithful on the Ocean

O Lord God of hosts,
who is as mighty as you, O Lord?
Your faithfulness surrounds you.
You rule the raging of the sea;
when its waves rise, you still them.

Psalm 89:8-9

Last weekend a friend sent me a link to a song, saying God had placed it on his heart to send to me. It’s a song I knew, but in that moment the song was just the thing I needed, and I’m so grateful I received it.

We’ve just begin lent, which we often begin by reminding ourselves of Jesus’ period of solitude in the wilderness. We may imagine a deserted, desert like place – where there is little sign of life and furitfulness – where Jesus is temped and tormented after his Baptism.

For me, my wilderness right now feels less of a desert and more like an unchartered ocean, as we continued to navagate the unchartered waters of pandemic, it’s longevity, it’s impact on community, church life, on relationships and human connection.

In some ways, now that we’re almost a year on from the first lockdown here in the UK, it feels like I may be cracking an old nut going on abour the unchartered waters of pandemic. Surely we’ve got beyond some of the new-ness and unexpectedness of the pandemic, we’ve learnt to use new technology, and while we’d still prefer to sit across from one another with a  fresh coffee, we’ve got used to spending more time on the phone.

But despite how long we’ve been navigating these unchartered waters, the storm is continuing, and while there are signs of hope, past signs of hope have already been knocked back by new, larger waves crashing onto the deck.

Despite being about a year into the pandemic, life and ministry still feels to me like a journey in the unknown. While each week holds within it joys and blessings, there is still a common feeling of muddling through and making do. Trying to be satisfied when I feel that I’m not serving grieving families with the ’best’ I can offer, despite knowing I’m doing all that I can within these restrictions. Knowing how much people long to be able to gather face to face and share fellowship, yet having to live with burden of reality that the fellowship we really want, where we can sing and talk with one another is just not possible at the moment. That’s all without even beginning to think about all the uncertainties about how to lead and shape future ministry as we emerge from this pandemic sometime in the future.

That’s why the song I received last weekend was so helpful for me. The whole song is filled with a reminder that life can feel like a stormy voyage on the ocean, but whether water is still or raging God is faithful – always. God is guiding us – always.
God is with us – always.

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

I encourage you to take a few moments today to listen, and draw close to God who is faithful to you and says to you ‘you are mine’.

In the unknown, in the wilderness of this Lenten season and as we continued our voyage on these unchartered waters, may you find God’s unfailing grace strengthening you, encouraging you and upholding you.

I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever;
with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.
I declare that your steadfast love is established forever;
your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

Psalm 89:1-2

Downloadable PDF

(Without Song)

Why ‘Shrove’?

You may or may not be like me, in sometimes wondering why we use certain words for things… and this week I was wondering why today is ‘shrove’ Tuesday.

A quick bit of research (Thank God for Google!) has discovered ‘shrove’ is another form of the word ‘shrive’, meaning to be absolved of sins through confession and penance. We talk little about penance these days, because we’ve come to understand more of the faithful, loving character of God, rather than one who wants us to suffer for our missteps and misgivings. 

But one thing this meaning may highlight for us is that Shrove Tuesday is a reminder to us reflect to on our own lives and ask God to guide us in how to live our lives differently that we may further grow spiritually.

Lent as a season of the Christian year holds within an important emphasis on self-examination of our life lived with God, and our shared discipleship as communities of faith. That’s why Lent courses are often common place (remember our Lent course is coming up! – please do sign up if you can, we’d love to see you!) 

Our girls have ben asking for about a fortnight for pancakes, they have been counting down the days in anticipation. I wonder if we approach Lent with that same anticipation? Are we excited to reflect ourselves on how God may be speaking to us, challenging us and encouraging us? 

However your shrove today, I pray that as we enter Lent 2021 you will know yourself shriven – covered in God’s grace and absolution, and feel the strength of God’s Spirit as you continue your journey of faith. 


Love, No Distance

This week I talk about God’s love for us and how Jesus came because God wants to be close to us.

Last week was exciting in our houshold because I became an Uncle for a second time – and had a wonderful video call with my second niece, who at the time was just one and a half hours old.

Even through a video call, we just wanted to reach out and have a cuddle, but of coruse we can’t. We’re in lockdown, and our niece is in Ireland, sadly it’s going to be some weeks before we are even able to begin conteplating the idea of a visit.

We heard the news of the pregancy on a video call, we saw the scan pictures by messenger, now we’ve seen her on video calls, but we’re stuck at a distance and can’t reach out our arms and hold her. We can’t feel her heartbeat, or feel hands wrap around our fingers. Yet.

One of the most familiar verses in the Bible is John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.                 

Because of God’s love for the whole world, God was not satisfied with our feeling that he was at a distance from us – and so sent Jesus, to be close to us, and not just close to us, but to live as one of us, to experince human emotion and feeling and relationship.

Through Jesus coming to live with us on earth, God makes crystal clear that his heart is first and foremost for the world, and for us. God is interested in us. God wants us to believe in him, to experirence the fullness of life we can experience with him – now, and in eternity. God loves us, with depth and care.

The following verse in John 3 is perhaps a little less well known:

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.                                   

  John 3:17

There’s sometimes a belief that God sits up at a distance from us, on a throne somewhere in the clouds, pointing his finger at us – but that’s just not the truth I find in the bible, and in my relationship with God.

God sent Jesus not to bring condemnation, not to point a finger, but to save the world – because God loves the world, and God’s heart is to love us too.

If you want to know more about God’s love for you, or have questions about God, church or faith, please get in touch on any of our media channels – we can’t promise to have all the answers, but we’ll listen, and we’ll try.

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Puddles

I had to go out for a walk in the rain with the girls this week, and so our youngest was desperate to go out in her wellies – which she did. She walked through each puddle and watched the water rise up around her toes. As she jumped and splashed her smile was oen of those smiles that beam with joy from cheek to cheek.

Seeing her joy at what before that moment had been to me a mundane and slightly frustrating task – having to go out in the rain – brought me up short. She found joy were I had seen only wet, grey and mundane. But in that moment, through her joyful splashing in puddles, I had been splashed with joy too.

What we do, and how we live impacts others. It’s the way God made us, it is our human nature to be relational, connected beings.

But God has also made each of us unique, and it is through that uniqueness that I believe God has place in each of us a uniqueness and blessing that only we can bring to the world.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Romans 12:6-8, NIVUK

So whoever you are, whatever your gifts and passions and skills, use them, and splash with them – because through you, God will bless others too.

Downloadable PDF

Book Suggestion: At Home in Lent

This lent we’re inevitably going to spend more time at home than many of us might like to. So here is a suggestion of a different sort of devotional for this Lent. ‘At Home in Lent’ by Gordon Giles wants to help us discover that there is much in our homes to feed our faith and journey with Jesus – if we keep an eye out for it.

Through 46 normal, mundane objects and places many of us will find in our homes, Gordon takes us on a Lenten joruney to find God in the normal routine of our day to day lives. From keys to kettles, toilets to televisions, each one can be a doorway through which God can speak to us and encourage us.

Buy At Home in Lent from BRF: https://www.brfonline.org.uk/products/at-home-in-lent-an-exploration-of-lent-through-46-objects?_pos=1&_sid=89ff6c163&_ss=r

Frost

Frost.
Winter’s paint brush.
Earth’s Creator, Maker, Artist,
Displaying their skills,
As the familiar colours of our environment,
Are covered in hews of white.

The world, this place we inhabit,
looks different,
for now.

Windows are patterned with natural beauty,
As fingers of ice reach out to one another,
Swirling into into a masterpiece that will not last till lunchtime.

Earth’s Artist,
Offering a unique work of art
that is for our eyes this day, this moment.

The white frost captivates us,
We are made to notice the beauty of the simple things,
The things we too easily take for granted.

Cobwebs, frozen into lines of white.
Leaves, tinged with flecks of ice.
Grass, sprinkled with silver as sunbeams turn dawn to day.

Earth’s Creator,
Calls for our attention.
Saying “see, I made this. It is good.”

So we slow our pace,
Step onto the grass,
And hear the crunch underfoot,
With each stride we take.

Icy paths slow our footsteps
Make us pause,
take our time,
to enjoy the moment we have,
In this glistening white wonderland.

Earth’s Maker,
Saying slow down,
be still for a while,
rest in this moment.

We breathe out,
And as the warmth of our breath touches the icy winter air,
Our breath becomes obvious to us.
Visible proof that there is life within us.

Earth’s Creator, Maker, Artist,
Saying the beauty I breathe throughout this world,
I also breathe in you.

Downloadable PDF

Snowdrops

I wanted to share these snowdrops with you. Over the few days more and more of these beauties have been appearing.

I always look out for them each new year. My Grandparents would always look for the first snowdrops of the year, and as a farmer who was always out first thing every morning Gramps would usually spot them first and pick a few to bring into the farmhouse to show Gran as evidence that spring was on the way.

What I find most intriguing about snowdrops is how fragile they look. How easily they can be trampled, how vulnerable their drooping blooms appear.

Yet, they are among the first flowers of the year and despite their fragile appearance, on the inside they are strong and able to withstand the cold weather and harsh winds of winter.

In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul has been writing to the Church in Corinth about his ‘thorn in the flesh’, something that is tormenting Paul, and makes him feel weak.

We don’t know what – probably not an actual thorn, maybe some sort of health issue, or something about his character he doesn’t like.

Whatever it is, Paul has pleaded with God to have rid of this thorn.
Yet God says:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” 1 Cor 12:

2 Corinthians 12:9

Paul discovers that in weakness, God’s power and strength are made perfect.

I would quite like God to get rid of the thorn that is coronavirus. I’m wearied by the constant challenge of living within restrictions, the sometimes heavy burden of responsibility I feel and bear with others, the vulnerability and fragility of life that this virus takes advantage of.

Yet through these snowdrops God has reminded me that things are not always as they appear. While things make appear fragile and weak and vulnerable, inside God’s power and strength is made perfect.

While the darkness of this winter may still bear heavily upon us, spring is coming, and hope is with us – because through acceptance of our vulnerability, God’s power and strength is made perfect.

May you know the hope and strength of God in your life today.

Reflect

What do you find is a thorn in your flesh?

Where do you feel weak or vulnerable today?

Pray, and ask God to help you know his strength and power being made perfect in you.

Downloadable PDF

Follow me, come and see

Have you ever struggled to decide whether to believe something or not?

I saw an advert for what looked like a really good deal on some Lego sets the other day but wasn’t sure whether or not the advert was legitimate. I’m usually quite cautious but this time as I weighed up my desire for the Lego with the uncertainty of whether or not it was legitimate – I placed an order. I’m still waiting to know whether I should have steered clear rather than getting involved!

In the early stages of Jesus ministry, as John’s gospel tells is, Jesus finds Phillip and says ‘follow me’. (John 1:43-51). Phillip seemingly does, but not until he’s gone off and invited Nathanael too.

‘Nathanael, we’ve found the promised one, the one that law and prophets wrote about, Jesus from Nazareth – he’s here’.

‘Nazareth? Phillip – can anything good come from there?’

‘Nathanael, come and see…’

The texts tells us little about Nathanael, but it seems to me that from the little we do get, we see a man was struggling to know whether to believe the murmurs he was hearing. Perhaps he was nervous about putting his hopes into this Jesus bloke he knew so little about himself. Weighing up the situation – steer clear or jump in? Believe, or hold out for certainty?

Phillip’s invitation makes its impact. Nathanael does jump in – though how much he believed at that moment is not clear. Then Jesus sees him coming. 

‘Here is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ says Jesus.

‘How on earth can you day that?’ Asks Nathanael, ‘you don’t know me!’

‘I saw you, even before Phillip called you’ responds Jesus.

‘You are the Son of God, the King of Israel’ declares Nathanael.

Nathanael seems to move from scepticism to declaration of believe at an inconceivable pace. Seemingly through Nathanael’s coming to see, he discovers that Jesus knows of him, and that is enough for him to believe Jesus is the Son of God.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that this short story about Nathanael comes in the first chapter of John’s Gospel. This invitation: ‘follow me, come and see’ was not only an invitation to Phillip and Nathanael, but to the readers and hearers of the gospel – and to us as we engage with the text today.

The call to ’Come and See’ invites us to make that choice to get involved, to read on and discover the signs of awe and wonder that the gospel serves as a witness to. To discover who Jesus is and that Jesus does not steer clear of us.

At the other end of John’s Gospel, after the resurrection, we read Thomas’ story. Thomas had missed Jesus’ first appearance in the upper room and declares ‘unless I see, I will not believe’. A week later Jesus appears before Thomas and he declares ‘my Lord and my God’. (see John 20:24-29)

Thomas and Nathanael are characters I think many of us can relate to – struggling with weighing up our own tussles between belief and certainty. For both Thomas and Nathanael Jesus offers signs that give them confidence to believe.

Jump in and get involved.
Hear the invitation – Come and see.
Hear Jesus voice saying follow me – giving confidence to believe.

Reflect
When has Jesus offered you signs that lead you to belief?
Think about Nathanael – How have you chosen to ‘jump in’ and get involved with Jesus?
Think about Phillip – When have you invited someone to ‘come and see’ Jesus?

Respond
How are you getting involved with Jesus?
How are you inviting people to come and see Jesus?

Downloadable PDF Version