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Journeying with Paradox…

2016 01p1I began 2015 with a strong sense of journeying, certain that God was moving me on to a new physical location. Paradoxically, as I begin 2016 it feels as if I am being called home, a feeling that has intensified over the year.

What began as a desire to journey away has circuitously brought me back home, into a better understanding of the spiritual journey, more aware of my own inadequacies and the need to walk in the footsteps of the Perfect Guide.

Never content…

We are never happy are we…? Wherever we are, it seems as if we always wish for something else….During the last few months I have felt stuck, struggling to escape from travelling in circles; this month it feels as if I am being propelled downstream, harem-scarem back into the fray & flow of the rapids in the river and I want to be back in my little eddy pool surrounded by safe rocks!!

2015 12p1Caught in the Flow…

An increased flow of work has given momentum to my previously settled state, and I have become dislodged; jettisoned, propelled even….into the turbulence of the river and I find that I do not like it. I do not like it at all. I have lost control. Too much is happening too quickly and I feel out of breath, propelled along paths I have either not had time to choose or had time to enjoy. I had hoped that after release from the feelings of going round in circles, I would find myself meandering through leafy paths, having time to relish the journey.

Going Round in Circles…2015 11p1

So often in life, it feel as if I am going round in circles, stumbling & bumbling along all too familiar routes; encountering the same problems I have always struggled with; revisiting the same old sinful routes; wrestling with unhelpful habits and routines.

Consequently, there often seems to be the feeling that not only am I not going anywhere, but that I’m not achieving anything either. The illusive perfect pathway always seems either completely hidden from view, impossibly difficult to climb or beset with difficulties and dangers that I deliberately choose to bypass.

Meaningful Encountering…

And yet, there is a way to ease the frustration of the journey and brighten the struggle, if we choose. On every path that we take, we encounter others, some with their head stoically bowed as they pursue their own pathways; some travelling with joy; those resting from their travels; others in pain.

We can decide on our own actions as we encounter others on life’s journey, and it is our reactions to those we meet that both define us and deepen our breadth of understanding both about ourselves and of life itself.

Being a blessing to those we meet…

As I have been contemplating “encounters” this month, it has occurred to me that every encounter is an opportunity to shine…to bring specialness to the meeting; to be a blessing to those we meet…and to be blessed by others.

Now for those of you who are extroverts, this may come as no surprise but for me, encounters (particularly with new people) can be a cause for anxiety and on days when I would rather hide away in the studio then meet with anyone at all, it is good to be reminded that encounters can be sacred space and a source of growth.

Fellow travellers and friends along the way are the antidote, the remedy, the prescription for taking the worry away from my introspective anxiety.

Modelling ourselves on Jesus….

We only have to look at Jesus to confirm the importance of encounters with others. It is said that you can tell much of a person’s character by their response to others, and Jesus is no exception.

Jesus met with so many different people on his journey from birth to the cross. Yet in each one, He responded with whatever was needed. With godly insight and human emotion, he met people where they were, often getting to the heart of the encounter in a few words or actions…

When Jesus met people, he did not go in for pleasantries, scratching around on the surface of conversation, as we so often do. Jesus connected with others in a way that met their needs and left them in no doubt as to whom He was and what His ministry involved. He was sure of His journey and the embrace of His Father throughout.

Whether it was the compassion of the healer, grief at a friend’s funeral, anger at the Pharisees, berating the hypocrites, forgiveness of a tax collector, authority over the elements, instructing and admonishing his disciples, teaching the crowds, encouraging his followers, or treating the broken with gentleness, he met people with understanding and love.

When people met Jesus they encountered God … even the evil spirits knew who he was. There was no pretence, no attempt to skim the surface.

2015 11p2Shine like Stars…

So, when people meet us do they encounter Jesus…? It’s a hard challenge.

Can we shine, in each encounter with others on our journey-from the checkout staff in the supermarket to the homeless man on the street, from a familiar hand in ours to the disagreement with a church or family member?

How can we best encounter others? What is needed at each intersection with another at a particular time? The Bible tells us to “Shine like stars.”

“…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.”
Philippians 2:15,NIV

Or as The Message version puts it:

“Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns.”

or: “Men and women who have lived wisely and well will shine brilliantly, like the cloudless, star-strewn night skies. And those who put others on the right path to life will glow like stars forever.”
Daniel 12:3

Easier said than done, I know but perhaps if I spend more time looking at Jesus and learning from Him, than at my own shortcomings then maybe I can learn to shine Gods light into my everyday encounters.

Five Ways to Shine…

  • Jesus led a life that was steeped in prayer. He was close to God and so God was close to Him
  • Jesus was always present to the moment. He was completely aware of the situation and those around Him.
  • Jesus knew what was needed. He was practical and wise, both receptive and responsive to others, knowing when to act and when to listen.
  • Jesus responded to encounters that were part of his ministry- and left alone those that what were not.
  • Jesus responded with genuine emotion…compassion, tears, grief, anger, frustration and ...

He was God in human form- the hands, eyes, ears and feet of God- extending light and love to all He met.

Journeying through life can be a complicated business but so much simpler if we learn from Jesus and allow God to shine through us….

2015 11p3Encounters in Textile

In this month’s textile piece, the swirls of colour depict the feeling of my own journey going round in circles; the intersecting pathways behind are those of parts of other people’s journeying, each of us travelling through a variety of landscapes and terrains. Where my journey crosses the paths of others there is a small crystal, depicting the desire to shine the light of Christ into the lives of those I meet. Not every intersection has one, in recognition that this is not possible for every meeting. It has made me realise that despite my feelings of going round in circles, if I carry Christ with me on my journey and in my encountering, then that is enough.

2015 10p1Feeling Stuck…

It has been a turbulent month and one in which I have felt terribly frustrated and anxious most of the time. I can’t see the way forward in my journey. I feel stuck; like a twig caught in the eddy of tumbling rocks in a flowing stream, moving backwards and forwards but not getting anywhere or a lone leaf on an autumn tree being blown to and fro in the gusts of breeze.

Comparisons…

This is like when I have an idea or a piece of work, sketch it out and then cannot think of how to resolve the design into a finished piece….ideas going round & round, backwards and forwards, getting nowhere. It is often not until I accept that I haven’t a solution right now, leave it alone, let time pass for a while and then come back to it & actually start working practically with the materials that I have that I begin to resolve the issue…

Desiring a Better Way…

August has been a busy month and it has taken its toll on my soul. I have not yet found my ““good way” of restful barefoot meandering beside still waters.”

2015 09p1

When exciting work opportunities clamour for my attention, I often forget that I am human with finite energy, and convince myself instead that I can do it all…I know that I need to rest…soon, I tell myself, not yet…..when I have finished “this”. It will be fine, fun, manageable because after all, I really want to do all these things. But of course, the reality is that the vulnerability of my humanity means I get ill, anxious, stressed.

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