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spiritual fitness Feb 2022 Facebook PostSetting the Pace
At the start of last month, I took an extra week of rest and refocusing with the intention to “offer myself, this New Year, the gift of kindness…” It worked well, and I came out feeling purposeful, positive, ready, and equipped…

However, only four weeks on, and I find myself, breathless from the breadth of my well-intentioned planning for the year, struggling to keep up with both my business and personal goals.
I have started the year with a sprint, forgetting (yet again) that the year is a marathon…

Sprints are for covering short distances, expending energy quickly that will need replenishing before the next race.

With marathons, energy needs to be conserved, controlling output so that a good pace can be maintained throughout…

I find that I’ve been trying to sprint through January (which is fine if I’m going to rest in February- but I’m not able to do that!) so I think I need to slow down, pacing the journey, to maintain energy and focus throughout the year.

Endurance
Scripture tells us this:

“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith...” Hebrews 12:1

Pace and perseverance are needed to endure the length of any race, but equally we are to throw off all that hinders our travelling, only carrying what is necessary for our journey.
We are also urged to keep our eyes fixed firmly on Jesus, our own personal coach, looking only ahead to where He leads us.

So, I wonder, what do I need to let go of to pace my spiritual journey and ministry this year?

If I’m struggling already to keep up with all that seems to need to be done, might this be because I am looking to my own ways rather than the Lord’s leading?

I’m not sure… what I do know is that all this talk of running makes me feel weary. Is there a better analogy for my own journey this year?

Travelling a Different Way
How would I love to travel through this year?

Personally, what immediately comes to mind is that I think I would rather dance, than sprint or run a marathon, so perhaps I will keep this in mind throughout 2022… it sounds lighter, less exhausting, and much more fun.

DANCE IMG 2025 resized for blogDance, explains Encyclopaedia Britannica, "is the movement of the body in a rhythmic way, usually to music and within a given space, for the purpose of expressing an idea or emotion, releasing energy, or simply taking delight in the movement itself."

This sounds a perfect way of moving through the year, I think!

I wonder what your analogy might be for this year?

I’d love to know…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dancing my Days

I’m sure Jesus did run,
But in Scripture,
Mostly he
Walks willingly
with purposeful paces,
meandering missionally
Aware of and at one with his surroundings
Responding in wise words
with practical kindness-
love left lingering in limbs
and hearts healed.

Perhaps, we too are to walk this way through the world.

There will be a time for running, likely
at the end as Jesus steps out, hand held out
inviting me home,
but until then, Lord,
As your emissary,
may I stroll

Slowly enough to
savour small shoots of spring sprouting in people’s lives

Slowly enough to
see the faces behind the facade

Slowly enough to care about the
cracks in lives that cry out
to be filled
with the wholeness of your ways,
welcoming all encountered
extending Kingdom care and kindness
To all.

May I weep with the wounded
Join with the joyful
Rhythmically
Dancing my days
With your hand in mine

IMG 3285The New Year comes inexorably, whether we are ready or not...
I have relished the extended space between Christmas and New Year, but this year I’m not sure that I’m ready for embracing 2022 with any great fervour.

Indeed, last night, whilst many waited without, prepared and ready to celebrate with family and fireworks, from within I greeted it grumpily having been roused from my warm, cosy slumber.

New Year is synonimous with new resolutions, new starts, a resolve to embrace whatever the infant year brings, yet the reality for many is very different.
The truth for me this year, is that I simply don’t feel ready to return to what was before; unprepared for the work that has been left undone, the unfinished tasks that await my return, not ready to create enthusiasm for the new things I have planned. I'm not ready to leave the cosy nest of rest; not yet ready to fly again...
It's not that I want to journey a different way. I'm just not ready to return.
I haven’t yet completed my usual post-Christmas sort out and life-laundry that helps bring me clarity, focus and resolve at this time of year.
Everything still feels cluttered, unclear, clouded…            girl under duvet picture resized

In fact, I recognise I’m still weary. I’m still hesitant and apprehensive about the immediate COVID-encased future that seems to be increasingly and insidiously rooted around every encounter and excursion; every daily decision that might minimise risk.

I’m an over-thinker at the best of times, so in the worst of times, after many previous years of living in a body that has been constantly alert for the next crisis, the long term effects on my body seem simply exhausting!                  

The last two weeks of living a slower pace has made me realise how spent I feel; energy-sapped and exhausted. Perhaps the solution is to offer myself, this New Year, the gift of kindness, simply extending the space I have had, taking time out over another week or so to continue reseting my body and soul. Perhaps this is enough….to greet the New Year, not with party and excited expectation but with quiet thoughtfulness, wrapped in a cosy blanket.

"He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint."
Isaiah 40:30-31, NIV

2MP boat adrift on starry sea PixabayI’ve been struggling this last month. Anyone else?

There’s no one specific thing that’s contributed to this. A busy November with lots of overlapping work projects, the endless weariness of COVID inflicted parameters, damaging a tendon in my ankle which I’ve been told could take up to a year to heal properly provided I rest it enough... (meaning I can’t walk very far -which is usually my go to way of helping my overactive brain.) I feel somewhat adrift, numb, stagnant, and unable to think or work at full capacity… and I’m constantly, oh, so weary. Consequently, I’ve not stitched for weeks, and I’m beginning to feel a little stir crazy, especially with the longer nights and darker days stealing the daylight hours.

I’m not quite sure how to counteract any of these things, except rest…. and I’ve never been very good at this!

Often, throughout my life, when I’ve ignored these quiet urgent whisperings in my body to slow down, I find that something happens that means I must stop. This time, it’s the tendonitis that is slowing me down... but it’s also making me sad. It feels as if my wellbeing reserves have been all used up…and I’m struggling to motivate myself, and struggling to make decisions…

I’d quite like to hibernate for a few months and emerge in the spring, full of vitality and energy for whatever is in store next!

In the meantime, I’m hibernating as best I can…returning to the slow, quiet ways that feed my soul again, the reading of books, noticing the texture and patterns as I chop cabbage, the small pleasure of baking a cake, the unexpected rainbow in the stormy sky.... like small stars in a grey world, lighting my greyness.

2MP StarsThese sad feelings will pass, I know. I only need look at God’s past faithfulness to see that these winter feelings in my soul are natural.
I can look to spring, but more importantly, it will help if I look to God to provide for me in the now, not focusing on my own finite resources, but instead, dwelling on the infinite Morning Star in my life, recognising where and how Immanuel, God with me, illuminates the dark places of my soul. Poetry, like stitching, often helps me to express this, enabling me to look away from myself towards a faithful God...
2MP Joy vignette

Stars
Seemingly such small specks
Shining through deep darkness's-
Diamonds in the dusk and dark of days
Beauty beheld beyond the night.
Lights Inspiring wonder
illuminating infinity and proportion to my world
that despite my unimportance,
my inconsequential inhabiting of this world
and small greyness
Yahweh reaches out to me, my
Creator communicating through the cosmos
Trailblazing Good News
That God is with me,
Immanuel in me
Father for me.
Roah residing in me
Bringing consequence and illumination
To my little life through the smallest of things…
Stars in my soul…
Lifted and loved through Light;
Light of Life

 

 

Those who know me will attest to my lack of skill where numbers are concerned, even to the extent of not being able to recall my own children’s age and year of birth and often having to work out my own age! But this year and month is different, for I have a significant birthday, so it’s easy to remember…and difficult to forget! It’s got me thinking on the theme of significant numbers…

Living by numbers

IMG 9089 cropped square 2MP

Our lives are often measured by numbers. As children we count the days until we are older; as adults we wish we were younger. Time inexorably passes. Sixty seconds per minute, sixty minutes to the hour, twenty-four hours in a day, seven days each week, twelve months every year. Time ticks…

Yet time is a gift, enough for each day if only we could live each moment the best we can, trusting that the accumulated small moments of living well, will equate to a life lived well. We often think we have plenty of time, deferring our dreams in favour of mediocre living yet none of us knows how many days we each have. As people of faith, we believe that our lives are in the hands of the Lord.

“My times are in your hand.” Psalm 31:15

So, in the light of this, perhaps all we can do is to live each moment the best we can, creating space for everyday rejoicing, making time to love, and be loved, whilst contributing to our community, trusting that the small moments of living well, will equate to a life lived well- however many days we each have.

Digital Numbers

Our lives are recorded digitally by significant numbers; our identity illuminated in integers and documented by digits. Whether it’s our NHS number, our social security number, bank details, phone number, postcode or house number, our passport, number plate, driving licence or travel pass, each integer adds extra detail to who others think we are.

No matter who knows all my digital documentation, they cannot know me as God does.

“Yahweh, you have searched me,

    and you know me.

You know my sitting down and my rising up.

    You perceive my thoughts from afar.

You search out my path and my lying down,

    and are acquainted with all my ways.

For there is not a word on my tongue,

    but behold, Yahweh, you know it altogether.” Psalm 139:1-4

Weights and Measures

IMG 2906 2MPWe are surrounded by dimensions, for numbers provide scale to our understanding of the world. From measuring the smallest of atoms to the speed of light, and the number of stars in space (at least 200 billion trillion if you are interested!) scientific discoveries attest to magnificent numbers, beyond our comprehension, and numbers like the Fibonacci series and The Golden Ratio provide order, form, and pattern to the natural world.
Yet God knows and understands for He is the instigator and Creator of Calculation. Indeed, over the last few years our world has finally come to recognise how finely balanced our global system is, and how easily altered when we abuse and misuse earth’s natural gifts.

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,

and marked off the sky with his span,

and calculated the dust of the earth in a measuring basket,

and weighed the mountains in scales,

and the hills in a balance?

Who has directed Yahweh’s Spirit,

or has taught him as his counsellor?” Isaiah 40:12-13 (WEB)

Quantified by Equations

Besieged by numbers, we can all too easily wonder if we measure up in our globally connected and perfectionist orientated media. Organisations, who do not see the whole of our lives, who measure only a small part of what we amount to, quantifying our suitability in a variety of ways that cannot hope to express all we equate to as a human being, miss out on appreciating the whole of who we are. Sadly, all too often, it is the material things that are measured, rather than the inner things that make up the essence of our humanity. No amount of paperwork that counts, calculates, and evaluates our supposed worth in the world’s eyes can possibly express our immeasurable, individual value, as people of God created and loved unconditionally.

“He told them this parable. ‘Which of you men, if you had one hundred sheep, and lost one of them, wouldn’t leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one that was lost, until he found it?  When he has found it, he carries it on his shoulders, rejoicing. When he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbours, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’” Luke 15:3-5

No matter how lost we are, how damaged, God goes out of his way to both seek us out, rescue us, and bring us home to himself.

Numerical Conclusions

So, I am content to appreciate the complexity and pattern of numbers that pervade my life, without needing to understand them. Instead, I will aspire to a simpler way, living my life lifted to an audience of One:

   - Living a life of grateful thanks to The One God

   - Caring for and contributing to our One World

   - Living fully and joyfully this gift of One Life

   - Celebrating and making the most of One Moment at a time

Concentrating on the power of One is a simpler way of living…

God in the OrdinaryIMG 2316 cropped sandals 2MP
There is something both profoundly ordinary yet spiritual about taking off our shoes and standing barefoot on the earth; allowing the soles of our feet to savour the soil, sand or grass and connect deeply to our soul. Perhaps it is because our feet literally ground us each day, that unencumbered by protective soles, their sensitivity helps to ground us spiritually, too.

God in our Regular Routine
I think this is why I love the story of Moses’ encounter with God through the burning bush. For God shows up in the midst of Moses regular routine, creating circumstances that are difficult to ignore, executing extraordinary amidst the ordinary surroundings.

Acting on What we See
Moses sees, responds, and goes to investigate. It is only then that he hears God call his name. We are known by God, but will we hear him when he calls our name, or choose to respond?

IMG 2315 cropped bush 2MPHearing Gods Call and Answering
Moses acknowledges and responds to the voice of God, giving the Almighty all his attention with the words “Hineni” Here I am, Lord. Are we able to respond in the same way?

Acknowledgement of Holy Ground
In declaring that this previously ordinary piece of earth, can now be considered holy ground, God makes way for miracles to happen, and asks that Moses too, takes off his shoes in acknowledgement of the Sovereignty of God.

God Making Himself Known
God reveals himself to Moses as “I am”, declaring his omniscience, both seeing the misery of his people, and hearing their cries. He intends to come to their rescue.

God’s Assignment
If Moses was getting exciting about God’s intervention and rescue, he is soon to be disturbed by the news that Gods rescue plan is in fact an assignment for Moses to go, acting as God’s envoy. The fact is that, often, when God lays a problem on our hearts, he intends that we join in with him to create a solution! Answering and acknowledging God’s call often leads to sacrifice.

The Questioning
We can understand Moses hesitation and hear the incredulity in his voice when he asks God, “Who am I to go?”. It’s a mammoth task for one man! Does this reply, I wonder, sound similar to our own responses when we sense that God is calling us to a new thing?

The Reassurance
Yet Almighty God is adamant that the assignment not only stands but will be successful because “I will be with you”. There follow specific instructions and signs to look for- that all is as the Lord has promised Moses.

The ChoiceIMG 2312 cropped 2MP
At this point, Moses could choose to accept and go with this daunting mission or turn away and run a mile! Thankfully, he held his nerve, and trusted in God rather than in his own strength. We. Also, have the same choice. What will be our response? Will we accept, delay, ignore, or walk away?

The Connection
So, every morning, I try to remember that each day is God given Holy Ground and that if we ‘take off our shoes’, show up, embrace the day, treating it with reverence and the hope of possibility, then even when I’m struggling or full of self- doubt, there is still hope for miracles to happen if I am alert to the call of God’s assignment, open to his reassurance and choose to be equipped with his strength.

On the right,  is my latest piece of art, depicting the story of Moses encountering his mighty God through the burning bush, and where all my pondering began…

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