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IMG 0067Would the Spirit have come
Had they not waited obediently,
Staying together
When likely they felt bereft and confused,
Wanting to give up and go their separate ways?

Would the Spirit have come
Had they not listened,
Attentively attuned
To hear the bold beginnings of that Holy hurricane…
Had they not been alert
Watchfully waiting
To see the fiery fulfilment of this brand-new baptism?

Would the Spirit have come,
Had they not been still,
Settling into silence
To feel God’s gentle power rest on each elected there…
Had they not been open,
Surrendering selves
To be refilled and replenished to overflowing with spirit?

Would the Spirit have come,
Had they not been rooted,
Grounded and growing
In God’s word
And powerful promises
To be witnesses, enabled and empowered to explain events?

Would the Spirit have come
Had they not traded mistakes
For fully forgiven
clean starts, new hearts and a faith to follow when all else eludes?

Would the Spirit have come,
Had they not faithfully focussed
Eyes on eternity
Permitting new births of pioneers and prophets, witness to wonder
Voices for the voiceless; a people passing on God’s promise into the future?

So, may we know, LordIMG 0072
Like your disciples before,
We can wait with others for Your Spirit Gift...
Obediently open,
Expectantly Still,
Rooted in forgiveness and the familiarity of Your Word...
Or remain
Huddled alone
In our upper rooms of ease…
For unless we are ready to receive;
Surrender agendas
To willingly wait with others;
Abandoning wanton ways
Into Your wounded open hands
I suspect you may not come…
for there would be no room for your Spirit to enter in,
No room for You in me.
No room for life,
Nor living free
Nor opportunity for adoption.

So, Come, Lord, come ...
Let Your Holy Spirit, come...
Transform us, too…
Make room for miracles
In us...

 

from Acts 2: 42-47

The Power of the Spirit...to live

dark dawn desert 2479501 Photo by Al Butler from Pexels“Send us out in the power of the Spirit to live and work to your praise and glory”, so we pray at the end of the communion service.

I love the sentiment of this line. It always fires me up, anew, and in the moment I say “Yes, Lord...send me!” but I wondered today, not for the first time, how earnestly I really want this, or believe this, or accept the unfettered power of God’s Holy Spirit in my life?

How about you? Do you ever wonder some days, where on earth the power of God’s Spirit is in you? It all seems so possible, stood amongst God’s people in the warmth and wonder of acceptance and forgiveness...until the moment you leave the comfort of communion to step into the demanding, often pressurised requirements of daily life and begin to rely on your own strength instead of His....

So, I have been pondering on the powerful coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, that displayed itself so vividly in tongues of fire and aural accessibility to all, alongside the transformative power that changed a motley collection of confused and lost disciples into changed people. This encounter with God’s Holy Spirit transformed those waiting into empowered and missional individuals who travelled the world, often in the face of much opposition, as witnesses to the power and resurrection of Christ giving praise and glory to the One who sent them...

Where does that leave me? Where does that leave each of us?

The Power of the Spirit....given to us

Despite how we might feel some days, as Christians, God’s Spirit is in each one of us. Each of us is a temple of God’s Holy Spirit...

“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? ...” (1 Corinthians: 6:19, NLT)

We have in us the Holy Spirit: Counsellor and Comforter, eternal, free, good, Spirit of might; grace and truth, knowledge and understanding, wisdom and prophecy, life giving; promised for so long , eagerly anticipated and faithfully bestowed by God upon his waiting people in the story we know in Acts 2.

God himself lives in us! This means we have ALL the power we need to get on with whatever God has given us to do. Wow! So why don’t we trust in this awesome power within us?

Is it because the Spirit of God seems so untameable and free that perhaps we are afraid of the letting go of ourselves to allow God free reign in us through His Spirit?

clouds dark lightning 1118869 Photo by Johannes Plenio from PexelsAre we over cautious about plugging in to the immense power of God’s Spirit; harnessing the potential energy of that lightning bolt energy ...fearful of being disturbed from the comfortable course of our lives; terrified of God’s transformational effect? Yet, if we are to live and work to God’s praise and glory, we cannot go it alone. We are to trust the One who made us and rely on the power of His Holy Spirit in us, to give us all we need. This is how God intends us to live well.

The Power of the Spirit...a spark within us

Paul encourages us to do just this, by igniting the power of the Spirit of God in our lives....

“For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1: 6-7)

Amazingly, this tells us that the spark of what we need is within us. God has planted the spark of his Spirit in the hearts and souls of his people. All we need to do is to get the bellows out and fan into flames what is already there.

God has been affirming this to me again and again, recently .... We have all that we need. God does not ask to do something without equipping us.
All we need is a tiny spark inside us, for even a spark, when given the right conditions can create a great fire!   

When we fail to allow Gods spirit to dwell in us, fill us, work freely in us and through us, we stunt the growth of the fruit in our spiritual life. When we do not put our trust in God and deny His sovereignty in our lives then we also deny the effect that the spirit may have through us on the lives of others....I fail when I try to go it alone.... when I pursue the good ideas that are not God ideas; when I ignore the nudge of God and turn away from saying “yes”, or when, having said... “ yes God, send me”, then fail to summon the faith to risk and step out in the power of the Holy Spirit... “

The Power of the Spirit...fanned into flame

So how can we each encourage Gods spirit to burn brightly in our lives; to fan into flame the gift of God in us? 

  • Thankfulness... for all God has givenblue burn fire 45244 pixabay at pexel
  • Confession... for our wrongful thoughts and deeds
  • Acceptance…of God’s forgiveness of us
  • Forgiveness...of others, as God freely forgives us
  • Listening to God... and obeying His voice
  • Trusting God... that He will provide all that we need
  • Fellowship...with others seeking God

The Power of the Spirit...a spiritual weapon in our hands

  • Reading His Word... and living by its precepts

In addition, we are gifted the Word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit. (Ephesians 6:17) The words of the Bible, used well, can defend us against the devil’s whispers that we are not enough, and attack all that is thrown against us. God’s Word can be a spiritual weapon in our hands and lives.

The Power of the Spirit... to bear fruit in us

apple tree apples colorful 54629 pexels

 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24)

When we fail to allow Gods spirit to dwell in us, fill us, work freely in us and through us, we not only stunt the growth of the fruit in our spiritual life (Galatians) but deny His sovereignty in our lives and the effect that the spirit may have through us on the lives of others....

 

The Power of the Spirit...for harmonious living

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5: 25)

When we walk beside someone we know well, we find that we keep in step with them. So, too with God’s Spirit. If we ensure that our daily journey is led by God’s ways, not our own, then our keeping in step can bring about the freedom to enjoy the dance of life.

The Power of the Spirit... to conquer fear

God has not given me the spirit of fear but of power, love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:17)

So, when we feel small, weak and ineffective, perhaps we can take our eyes from ourselves and our human inadequacies, and look to God, trusting the gift of his spirit in us. Can we let go of the reigns, yielding to the Holy Spirit and after that initial burst of fear, feel the exhilaration of being born on wings like eagles, and seeing the world and ourselves from a different perspective?

My prayer would be that of the words in the moving song... IMG 0057 “Consuming Fire”, by Tim Hughes

I encourage you to listen to it and make it your prayer too...

Artwork
This tells of the narrative of the Coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 with God at the centre of the twelve disciples sending out his power onto his waiting followers and beyond. Tongues of fire alight on the heads of the disciples, but the flames reach so much further, igniting all God’s people with all that we need, then and now. The background is blue…springs of eternal life flowing from the Creator splashing and radiating outwards, pouring over God’s people; refreshing our thirsty spirits.

The Problem…anxious black and white blur 568027 1 resized for web
I’ve always been the sort of person who likes everything sorted to the nth degree but over the last few years, after several traumatic events, that desire for order has transmuted into a knot of anxiety that often threatens to overwhelm me. It’s on disquieting days like these, when the weight of agitation and tension rise, that I feel most vulnerable, unable to think straight or work properly. I’m sure many can identify with these feelings and we each have our own way of coping until the feelings subside.

The Solution…
Have you noticed, though, that when near to the edge, surviving each day only by fixing the mask of capability firmly to your face whenever in public scrutiny, that it is often something very small that melts the hitherto immovable false facade we bear?

care caregiver deal 45842 1 resized for web

I know from past experience that at the hardest times of my life, when I am my own worst enemy, self-sabotaging my day with endless tasks and barricading the pain and difficulty inside - that it is kindness that floors me, bringing me to tears and to my knees.

“Most people think that it is servile to serve but it is not. It is noble.”

Last month I stayed with a couple, who had interesting life stories. He told us that he loved to make people feel important and the above quote is his. It is a phrase that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
IMG 5250 2 web smallThis wonderful philosophy towards life has stemmed from an experience as a young child travelling with his father in a first class dining carriage. Mistaking the button near to him, for one that opened a window, to his horror the young boy summoned the waiter. His father jested that the last time someone had done this, they had thrown the boy off the train! However when the waiter arrived he addressed the boy rather than the father. “ Sir, can I help? Did you need something?” Red faced the boy explained “ I just wanted to open a window...!” “Of course, sir” replied the waiter and proceeded to open the window “ ...and would you like a glass of orange squash as well, sir?” This seemingly small act of attentive service and respect has affected this person’s entire outlook on life. I wonder what our own attitude of service is...? Service today is often seen as servile. Yet we know that throughout the Bible, God’s people are called to serve others. Jesus came to serve and taught that as his followers, we too are called to serve.

Potential in the Present
It is all too easy to live a life of “ if only’s “. “If only this or that hadn’t happened..” if only I had..., if only I could...., if only it was different so that....". Yet we can miss so many opportunities by spending our lives looking backwards remorsefully rather than grasping the opportunities that are present now.- both for ourselves, and in service to others. We can lose sight of potential in the present if our hearts are full of resentment and unforgiveness . 

In the Old Testament, Joseph could so easily have spent much of his life ruing all that had been dealt to him in life. Resented, despised and hated by his brothers for being the favourite child, he was thrown into a pit and sold into slavery. Just as things seemed to be looking up for him, his masters wife accuses him of adultery and he is thrown into prison. Yet, Joseph does not despair nor get bogged down in negativity. He trusts God and knuckles down to offer what he has in whatever circumstance he finds himself.

Embracing Circumstances
Wherever Joseph finds himself - in whatever circumstance or position in life- whether in slavery or in prison, as cup bearer or governor ; in good or bad times , he appears to continue to trust in God, using whatever gifts he has been given to bless those around him... So how does he achieve this? He lives a life of service.
“The Lord was with Joseph so he succeeded in everything he did as he served...” (Genesis 39: 2)

The key to Joseph’s success is his attitude of service to others, using the gifts he has been given by God to serve well.

"Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ." (Colossians 3:23)

Blessed to be a Blessing
God blesses Joseph because he is willing to serve ... and in doing so, this blesses others, and they too prosper. Joseph is willing to seize the opportunities presented to him by simply using what he has been given wherever he is.

Using Gifts Given
Joesph does not despise his gifts but exercises wisdom to use his different gifts at appropriate times, acknowledging to others that these gifts come from God. 

Patience leads to Possibility
It is all too easy to spend our darker days despairing of our situation yet Joseph embraces his difficult waiting seasons. For a long time he languished in prison but does not lose heart that God will provide. His positive attitude to his circumstances profoundly affect his ability to cope.
“The Lord was with Joseph and showed him his faithful love.” (Genesis 39:21)
Rather than bemoaning his fate or complaining about the unfairness of the situation, yet again Joseph seizes opportunities to serve in the situation he has been placed.

Trusting in God’s Strength
As Joseph climbs the ranks of responsibility, he never loses sight of His God who enables him. Joseph exercises wisdom and trust in God’s ability to provide him with all the skills that he needed in the situations he was entrusted with. His strength is not in his own ability but in the trust he places in God.

Restoration rather than Revenge
It would have been easy for Joseph to have sought revenge for the brothers who had ill treated him but instead he recognises that God has strategically placed him in this situation so that his people may be rescued. Despite his past hurt, Joseph seeks restoration rather than revenge, recognising that he is to play a small part in the story of the redemption of God’s people.

From Deepest Pit to Praise
Difficulties in life can prepare us for future roles. So it is that the darkest times in our lives can, if we allow God to work in us and through us, prepare each of us for so much more than we could ever dream of.

Can we each offer up all that we have ever been through - along with the difficulties that we are currently going through, in service firstly to God and also to whoever we find ourselves sharing life with. Like Joseph, can we trust God to deliver us from the deepest pit and restore us to praise? It’s not an easy task, but God does not expect us to cope alone. It is in the darkness, when so often we cannot cope, that we may know his strength in us. So I pray that as the Lord was with Joseph, that He may also be with you, so that you may succeed in everything you do, as you serve.

Textile Explanations
IMG 7977 cropped 480 x480 for web

The centre of the design focuses on the coat of many colours, spread out to form a cross, refering to the fact that Jesus is a direct descendant of Joseph. Over this is a circle depicting the pit Jospeh was thrown into, and by extension, the dark places in which we may find ourselves. The prison bars are behind the coloured cross/ coat.The crystal at the very centre represents God, who is with us all even in the midst of suffering. The background is desert like, reminiscent of Middle Eastern and Egyptian terrain with four palm trees at each corner, with the fruit showing how God can bring fruitfulness from our lives of suffering and service. The twelve strands that run from the centre of the picture outwards, reference both Joseph's life of service that extends to all he meets as well as the twelve tribes of Israel that stretch beyond the story of Joseph. Each has a golden thread beside, that tells of God with us. The golden sheaf of corn at the top of the picture is Joseph with 11 sheaves of corn bowing to him in a circle, as in the dream of his youth. The sun moon and stars are also an indication of a similar dream that so incesed his brothers and caused the chain of events that led him to Egypt.

Stitched Prayer with Bible

I like stitching! As a textile artist, that’s probably a good job! I earn a living through stitch, but much of my stitched artwork is a form of prayer. Stitch enables me to focus on God’s Word, as I try to work out what God may be teaching me as I stitch. If I create a commission, then my stitches are sewn with prayers for the recipient. On creative quiet days and retreats, I aim to enable others to draw closer to God through stitched prayers. For me, stitches are more than just useful. They are a tool that draws me closer to God.

So, this month, as I stitched the story of Hannah who prayed in anguish for a child, and whom God answered by giving her the desires of her heart, I have contemplated the analogy of stitches and prayers… 

Prayer: Piecing us Together
Stitches are so versatile; such clever little things! Individually they seem so innocuous yet together they can be incredibly strong. They may be small and hidden, preventing fraying at the seams or bold and overt, adorning our clothing. Stitches can hold complicated pieces of fabric together to create a garment or used as sutures to assist healing and save lives.
Like stitches, prayers are amazing; a God-given tool. To a non- believer they may seem innocuous or irrelevant, yet prayers are incredibly powerful. Prayers may be small and hidden, but for many the ongoing use of prayer enables us to be held together in the love of God, as we seek to mend our often-frayed lives and develop relationship with the King of Kings.
Prayers that are bold and overt, may be prayers of grateful thanksgiving, or like Hannah in the temple, prayers of supplication, emboldened by a fierce passion or concern for a situation in our lives, our community or our world. Like stitches, our prayers can help hold complicated pieces of our lives together and create in us patience and understanding. Amazingly, God hears our prayers, answers and through them can also bring healing of our mind, heart and body.

Prayer: Variety for All
Stitches have such diversity. They can be very simple...like the humble, straightforward running stitch...or incredibly complex. They can be used by anyone whether it be a sewing novice or an experienced embroiderer. Their names (like the Holbein stitch) can even give insight into history!
Prayers, too, can be so varied…. simple or complex, silent or said, painted or danced, liturgical or free. Our prayers may also be rooted in a historical tradition- Celtic, Benedictine, Jewish, for instance. Prayers can be very simple...two-word arrow prayers, such as “Lord, Help!”, “Praise God!” …or incredibly complex - and they can also be used by anyone at all, anywhere- novice or veteran! 

Prayer: A Powerful Tool
stitched hem and buttonsOne strong stitch alone, with the correct thread, could be practical and useful enough to hold on a button, draw together a wound or be a colourful decorative addition to a beautiful design.
One prayer may be strong enough to change a lifestyle or habit or make someone whole, yet may be vivid enough to encompass liturgy, poetry, music, dance or visual art.


Prayer: Strength Together

Stitches can be small and seemingly insignificant- yet when used together, create endless opportunities to fashion garments, shoes, bags, books, sails, furniture and soft furnishing...
Likewise, our individual prayers may seem small and insignificant yet when combined with others, can be powerful tools to achieve things beyond our understanding. “For when two or three are gathered together…”

Look around you and consider how many things might be held together with tiny unseen stitches that we barely ever consider... and then consider how much stronger our own lives might be if they are bound and stitched together with a rhythm of prayer.

Textile Reflections
IMG 7572 cropped and square etc resized for webThis is the narrative of Hannah, who prays in anguish to the Lord for a child. The silhouetted hands are those of Hannah and God, with the foetus in the centre representing the boy Samuel. There is deliberate ambiguity as to whether God is giving Hannah the child or receiving the child with open arms. This is because in the book of Samuel, both acts of giving are key to the narrative. The centre of the design depicts Samuel, the gift who is at the centre of the story. Around Samuel are 18 little coats of varying sizes, portraying the yearly ritual of Hannah stitching her son a coat to take to the temple when she visited each year. I cannot comprehend how hard it must have been for Hannah to gift her longed for child back to God, when she had waited so long for her firstborn. Yet God acknowledges her sacrifice of dedicating Samuel to God, by blessing her with future sons and daughters and blessing Samuel as priest and prophet of his time. I wonder how brave we might be in dedicating back to God, all that he has gifted us?

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