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Creative Mess web sizeOrdinary Living 
For a long time now, it has felt as if there is little pattern in my life. The job that I do as a freelance artist dictates that every day is different, and there seem to have been so many family crises of varying degrees of importance for so long that I have all but forgotten what "ordinary" looks like. Yet after twelve years, what I crave right now is a lot more ordinary. I never thought I would ever say this, but what my life needs now is much more routine.

So, "I'd just like a bit more ordinary..."

Living ordinary lives is terribly underestimated, and in a world that promotes excitement and endless activity, ordinary is often side-lined as undesirable. From where I'm looking, right now, I would disagree...

The Joy of Ordinary Living
For a variety of reasons, many of us have lost the joy of living ordinary. 

Living ordinary...in patterns of self-care, creating a home, caring for other people, honest work, simple leisure activities together with a rhythm of prayer and focus on God and an emphasis on community and hospitality seem to me at this stage of my life, to be all that is needed right now.

butterfly close up cocoons 63643 for webFor when we accept with grace, the often mundane aspects of our ordinary every day, workaday lives, and commit to them in an attitude of reflection and worship there is the potential to be transformed by them. Though it often doesn't feel like it, amidst the humdrum of the ordinary, God provides each of us with the daily potential for personal growth and transformation.

Benefits of Ordinary Living
Living ordinary, enables us to deal with the extraordinary when it comes along. Living ordinary gives us a groundedness, energy and gratefulness to enter into the difficult days when we are challenged with barriers to living joyfully- the human struggles of illness, family crises, unemployment, financial difficulties, anxiety, bereavement...the list goes on

Living topsy-turvy, precariously balanced for long periods of time, on the pinnacle of extraordinary, makes me ill...wired, weary, anxious. I'm feeling that it would be so much better to be more grounded in the solid basis of prayer, and the simplicity of ordinary days. 

"This is what the sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says: only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it...so the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help..." (Isaiah 30:15-22)Isaiah 30:15-22)

So, this year I'm trying to immerse myself in the ordinary ...trying to allow myself time for the pattern of ordinary to be imprinted onto my life, so I can draw upon strength gleaned from the rhythm of my ordinary days to manage and cope with the extraordinary and difficult times ...

Testament of the Ordinary
In extraordinary Old Testament times, Daniel chose to live an ordinary life; one grounded in the patterns of learning, self-care and Godly living. Living this way, gave him strength in a foreign land to live and work faithfully and prayerfully; acknowledged and respected for his knowledge, wisdom, discretion and trustworthy attitude.

Daniel lived a godly life, which was countercultural to the attitudes of the people of Babylon where he found himself, yet he was respected when he stood up for his faith.

Whilst accepting of some things in this unfamiliar place, Daniel draws a line in the sand when it comes to eating. He is not afraid to put God's way to the test and over ten days proves that the pattern of a simple diet and lifestyle ordained by God, has great health benefits.

What strikes me in this incredible Old Testament book is firstly, Daniel's determination and choice to follow ordinary patterns of Godly living, amidst the alternative possibilities of an incredibly lavish lifestyle. Secondly, it is the maintenance of this lifestyle that both gets him into and out of extraordinary situations. 

Daniel accepts his situation as a captive yet chooses to allow his ordinary pattern of living to transform his life and those of others. He is brought into the royal court, to translate dreams, decipher strange handwriting, affect the course of history ...all the time acknowledging God as the source of his abilities and strength. The simplicity of a life grounded in ordinary faith enabled Daniel and his friends Shaddrach, Meschach and Abednego to survive extraordinary things through the grace of God... survival in a fiery furnace, extraordinary protection from being thrown into a lion pit.

Most of us won't experience such extreme trails, but we will have things that from a human perspective, seem impossible to overcome. Daniel trusted his extraordinary situations to God because he lived a life of ordinary; grounded in self-care, fellowship with others, caring for one another, commitment to work, alongside a rhythm of prayer; focus on God and emphasis on community and hospitality.

bridegroom business businessman 8115 web smallTransformation through the Ordinary
It takes a long time to learn the steps of a dance so that we can dance to the beat of the music without having to think about what our feet are doing…so, too with any new pattern of living that we try to instil into our daily lives. They say that it takes an average of 66 days to develop a new habit, so I’m hedging my bets and allocating the entire year to focus on, savour, settle and rest in the ordinary aspects of faithful Christian living. Like Daniel, I pray that God will transform our ordinaries into the extraordinary miracle of living life with Him. 

 

Daniel IMG 7397 square web large

 

Textile Reflections
In the centre of the picture is a crystal, representing God at the centre of Daniel’s life. The circle depicts the line that Daniel drew regarding adherence to his faith. Within the circle are images showing fruit and vegetables and scrolls of learning. They are the basis of Daniel’s ordinary life of faith- observing God’s word and ways set out for His people. It is Daniel’s faithful obedience to God that enables him to survive extraordinary times. The flames at the bottom give reference to the fiery furnace that his friends were thrown into and protected from. The background of night stars and full moon give reference to Daniel’s God-given ability to interpret dreams. The lion is symbolic of Daniel’s connection to the tribe of Judah, the lion’s den that Daniel was thrown into and survived, as well as a reference to Jesus as the Lion of Judah, and Daniel’s vision in the book of Revelation. The foreground shows the silhouette of Daniel, adhering to his daily practice of prayer to Yahweh, kneeling before the open window in defiance of the edict to only worship the Babylonian king of the time. The piece is a reminder that having the rhythm of ordinary faith as the basis of our lives enables personal transformation and witness in our communities, empowering us all to encounter and survive extraordinary things, through God.

 


8 Questions & Actions to draw closer to God, based on the story of Zacchaeus IMG 7125 cropped for web

New Beginnings...
New Year is often perceived as the herald and inspiration for new beginnings of our own; an incentive to throw off old habits and pledge new ways of living as we turn our backs on the old year to fully embrace the new. 
January 1st is not an unexpected occurrence. It arrives inexorably, after the last day of December, yet after the cosy fug of Christmas indulgences, it often catches us unprepared for new beginnings. So, before we have had time to think about the opportunity to pledge ourselves to something new and meaningful, we find ourselves knee deep in February, continuing in exactly the same way as we began the previous year with all hopes of new starts abandoned along with the memory of Christmas.

As Christians, what we often forget, is that each and every day is a marvellous opportunity to begin again; every sunrise proclaiming a fresh start, and a chance to be reorientated by Christ the compass of our lives.

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV)

post it notes-slow down, calm, rest, sanctuarySeven Lessons from Two Sisters

Deep within my soul, there is an urgent call to slow down; to do less and embrace the calm which calls deeply to my life. There is a profound longing to move away from all that exhausts, to seek sanctuary and hide- far from the frantic, the too much. I long to be a Mary…and yet, at heart I am a Martha, distracted by the tyranny of the perceived urgent; the self- imposed deadlines; the self-sabotage of endless work, rather than worship and self- care.

1. Open or Closed?
When Jesus came to their village, Martha opened her home, yet Mary opened her heart. Jesus is always with us, but never enters our lives uninvited. I am left wondering if, in hankering after hospitality and the work that inevitably goes with that, I am missing Jesus’ invitation to open my heart as well as my home…

IMG 6949 resized 321x250Open hands; open heart

I am in the midst of muddle, attempting a long overdue clear-out of studio materials. I confess, like many creatives, I'm a bit of a hoarder, hanging on to things that have long ceased to be useful to me, but this season I am learning to loosen my hands and hold things more lightly, allowing older things to fall away naturally, like leaves in the autumn breeze; making space for Jesus to act anew in my life. I am finding that letting go can be a positive thing as I make way for new opportunities. For if our hands are full or closed then how can we receive? I am slowly discovering that open hands are the evidence of a heart and mind open to the possibility of God in action in our lives, trusting him for the future when we really cannot see an obvious solution ourselves.

The Provision of God2018 09p1

During my travels this month, I have been very aware of the changing seasons as field upon field, with swathes of golden grain ripening to perfection, become bleached by the sun’s rays and ready for harvest. The quiet diligence and toil of farmers to harvest the abundant grain and bale the dusty yellow straw for winter has been evident in the numerous tractors and trailers around my hometown, trawling grain and dusty bales across county borders.

So my thoughts have turned to the harvest story of Ruth in the Old Testament; a story that is grounded in the sadness and struggles of everyday lives...a glimpse into the journey of an ordinary migrant family through the eyes of one person who experienced hunger through famine, the grief of losing husband and sons through early death; resettlement and return; yet throughout was supported and befriended by her foreign daughter in law. Throughout, this short powerful story is threaded through with evidence of Immanuel; God-with-us through all things, his provision for us conquering all.

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