Hashtag Prayers for a Heartbroken World…

shutterstock_136339277

I don’t know about you, but when things happen of such vast incomprehensible magnitude that we are shocked to the core, my response is to pray.

I pray because, to be honest, I don’t know what else to do. Sometimes there is nothing we can do. I mean what can we say in response to the news of Paris, or Beirut, or Syria? What can be said of those 132 innocent lives that were lost so violently in Paris? or to those killed by the Beirut bombs or those fleeing indiscriminate horror in Syria? What can we say when we don’t personally know someone involved? We still stand shocked. We are uncomprehending. We are scared. We wonder why.

…oo0O0oo…

What can our response be? 
There is nothing. Nothing that can make sense of it all.

Even if we know who did it, or why. Even if we know how & where they planned it. It still makes no sense, because no person in a sound mind would do that in the name of God, or for any other reason.

There is no sense to be made. So, we flounder. We share our shock in tweets and posts and conversations, we add a pic to our profile. We read never ending conjecture-filled news reports.

But still no sense can be made. We weep with incomprehension.

12239625_10153081676735303_673062163948098523_n

…oo0O0oo…

This weekend #PrayForParis has been trending worldwide and not just amongst those with faith. Why is that? I think, because we all want to do something. We just don’t know how to respond. It happens time and again, when something like his happens, a ‘pray for’ hashtag starts and people jump on to it. I’ve prayed for, and with, a lot of people over the years and I can only remember 2 who said they didn’t want prayer. Just 2. Whatever people believe, in times of great tragedy, fear and heightened emotion, they want, hope even, that there is something greater, someone greater, who can make sense of it, who can reach those who suffer and mourn, who can comfort and guide all of us who struggle to comprehend. Whatever ‘God’ means to any of us we need him to intervene. And if perhaps we can’t bring ourselves to pray, perhaps asking someone else to, or even just sharing a hashtag, can be enough. After all I believe that prayer can be many more things that just words shared aloud. So why not a simple hashtag? The hashtag #PrayForParis has been retweeted over 10 million times in the last few days. If God hears our prayers then he has to be hearing us crying out to him right now for our heartbroken world…

Post Godly Surgery #PostOp


DT1

Last weekend we went to David’s Tent – billed as ‘an adventure in worship’, it is basically 3000 or so Christians gathering in a field to worship for 72 hours. There is something very special about it, having been before, I always experience when walking into the big top for the first time, a tangible presence of God, like walking into Him. So, I walked into that atmosphere on Friday evening, ready, prepared but with a slightly distracted mind. 10 mins later I was weeping as I felt God pouring out waves of his love on me. Walking into that atmosphere is like something you have to encounter and get used to, then it becomes ‘normal’ for the weekend – until you have to leave of course, and then there is an almost grief to have to leave it.

On that first evening a word was given (in very American style!) about people having had ‘bummers’ this year. Whilst I don’t think I’d call my back experience a bummer as it’s been a total blessing, as he said it I just felt a total release. Frustration and pain falling away from me.

DT3
When I’ve talked or written about how God has been with me in this time of incapacitation I have given glory to God for his presence with me in it all, for his blessing upon me – it has truly felt like a blessing, and for all He has taught me through this. But then I had to come out of that place. A womb-like, fuzzy warm place, full of love and peace, where the stresses of life don’t exist. Emerging from that was tough. I did not want to come out. Why would I? Getting to spend all day every day with God. Not having to think about my responsibilities. It was wonderful, of course I didn’t want to come out! So the last few weeks have been a transition, learning to step back into my actual life and embrace it, rather then heading back inside that warm place.

It’s taken me a while to get my head around it all. As I said recently in a talk, I think this time was a precious gift that I may never have again. And that’s how I have been trying to see it, as a gift. Something that won’t be taken back but just will be seen, used, experienced, differently as time goes on.

 

IMG_20150831_151750

So this time at David’s Tent God spoke to me about this season of change and transition that I am in.

I keep using ‘ #PostOp ‘ when tweeting or talking about my back. It’s obviously short for post-operative – post surgery, post having stuff dealt with in your body, post knife, pain and stiches.

And this weekend God showed me that Post Op means so much more than post surgery for me right now. It means:

Post-encounter with Him

Post-blessing

Post-God’s operation on my heart – His surgery, His knife, His stitches.

That’s the gift. That His presence with me was not just for that season, to get through, but something that will stay with me. Something that I will continue to learn from, something I will treasure but also know that I carry with me.
We sang the words ‘I am never going back’ one morning (a song by United Pursuit). They just stuck with me. Whatever happens I am never going back to before. Whatever happened in that time with God, has changed me. Just like my surgery, my body will never be as it was before, but neither will my heart or my mind…

 

IMG_20150831_100617

 

 

Shoreham

shoreham1

Shoreham Harbour at Dusk

A few nights ago my husband and I visited the bridge of flowers at Shoreham. We used to live just a few miles from here (and in fact are not that much further away now). We have spent many an afternoon on the beaches at Shoreham and Lancing and of course visiting the airshow, even being stood very near the crash site in previous years. This year it was a last minute decision not to go and for that we are incredibly thankful.

So, we just had to go. Just to be there. In a small way to stand with those who are grieving and with a community in shock. And to pray.

It was late when we arrived, the sun going down and a storm in the air, but there were a lot of people out doing the same as us. We walked onto the bridge, quietly chatting and taking a few photos. But as we walked along, a silence descended over all who were there. As people stopped, read the words written, looked at the flowers, words became surplus to requirements. 

shoreham2

A girl in front of us walked gently from candle to candle, relighting those that had gone out in the rain.

On that bridge we saw and felt an outpouring of pain but also of love. People have come from far and wide to leave flowers, or a tribute, to leave a note, a poem or a prayer.

As we walked the sun went down and the rain began. Bit fat heavy blobs like Godly tears.

As we got into the car, the wipers began and the ipod sprung into life with this song. It was incredibly poignant. Because God’s love is strong here, despite the terrible tragedy. The churches are seeing streams of people come through, lighting a candle or just sitting and pausing, reflecting for a moment. The Chaplains and clergy are facing something I am sure they hoped never to deal with, but are going about their work sharing the love of God, a word, some comfort with those coming to terms with it all.

As we walked and prayed I felt to speak life and love over the town. This will not be a town defined by tragedy but by their response to it. As the media have drifted away so this is a town becoming defined by the outpouring of love and a community pulling together.

shoreham3

A storm looming over Lancing College

Imagining a mother’s loss #Syria

Everyone is talking about Syria today. My Twitter timeline is exploding with outraged people. And outraged we should be, but the situation is no different to 2 days ago, it’s just that as a nation we can no longer ignore it. Like many people I saw the images yesterday of that tiny little body laying on a beach and wept. There are no words, just the pain of imagining a mothers loss.

So I prayed, I drew…

 

Syria_Rose

I cannot understand those who can still say: no more refugees.

We have no idea, we really don’t, of what those people are fleeing from. What would make people so desperate as to leave everything they know to come to a foreign nation where they know no one, have nothing, cannot speak the language and on top of that risk not just their own lives, but their families too just to try and get there? What would make you even consider that?

As I prayed this morning I just asked God, where is the love in this?

They are fleeing evil, hate, terror and need to find love. Jesus told us to love people as he loved us. That’s a pretty tough standard to live up to, and right know as a nation we are nowhere near it.

Discovering Sabbath Rest

IMG_20150719_130510I’ve been struggling in the last few weeks to find my rhythm. Having been in a wonderful place of resting in God for weeks on end, suddenly I have been dragged from this bliss into ‘the summer holidays’. Cue loud crashing organ music ‘dun-dun-derrrrrr’…

Normally I have planned for the hols with military precision, as we are both working this means organising our diaries very carefully, deciding who is taking which days off, when can the grannies help out, what activities they can be booked into, and so on. This year it was only when my son announced ‘we break up in a week’ that I actually became aware it was about to happen. In fact my response was. ‘no you don’t you’ve got about 3 weeks yet’. Apparently not, as they are now buzzing around the house daily with the joy and exuberance of ones only just released from the monotony of school for 8 long weeks. This is of course a delight and actually it’s more of a delight this year as I get enjoy more of it with them. However the thing that I’m struggling with is the immediacy of going from one extreme to the other. I didn’t really have time to prepare myself mentally or otherwise, and as I’m still having to rest a lot, my days now need to be carefully structured around the kids to avoid boredom setting in, rather than being structured around God. So now I’m at the point of struggling to work out how on earth I can keep hold of this amazing peace and presence of God I’ve been wallowing in, in my daily life, and it’s not easy!

…oo0O0oo…

I recently signed up to Sabbath Society – a group of people committed to finding sabbath rest each week. It’s run by Shelly Miller who you may remember I met at the HTB conference last year as, in a God-incidence, we ended up sitting next to each other and became friends, keeping in touch ‘virtually’ online. This week’s email was my first one and boy did it resound with me, as Shelly talked about a ‘new normal’. She says this:

That new thing God is doing in us cannot be accomplished by continuing to live in the way we’ve always done it. New seasons, new calling, new purpose – they require new rhythms, new risk, new levels of surrender and sacrifice.

We cannot enter into God’s intended rest by continuing to add things to our lives and then pretend life is as it always has been. It’s idealistic and may I suggest, self-sabatoge, to think you will be able to Sabbath when _______.

 

So, I guess I have been trying to work out how life will continue from here. September is looming when things shall truly be ‘back to normal’ in the sense that I shall be back in the office, the kids will be back at school, college will start again and not only do I have to manage that in terms of looking after my back, but I also have to squeeze in new things like: going for physio, doing my back exercises, getting to the gym, all to make sure I don’t injure it again. PLUS the fact that I am determined to retain some of this precious time with God (which actually is no.1 on the list).

and, so, err, HOW ?

…oo0O0oo…

IMG_20150719_130353

This little corner of my garden has been my refuge in recent times (note my wonderful new ‘back friend’ chair support – so comfy but I do feel like I’m about 90). Being stuck indoors for long periods of time, I have carefully chosen my allotted ‘sitting time’ each day and sat outside whenever I could. From this view point I have watched the garden come into bloom, especially sitting almost amongst the lavender. I have watched as new shoots have appeared from its autumn prune, new vivid lime green buds have appeared and finally the flowers have begun to open. Lavender is a funny thing because it doesn’t so much as bloom as just waft scent into the air. The flowers are so tiny and hardly seem to come out at all so you generally just see the recognisable seed shaped purple ‘pods’. But as I’ve sat watching this plant come into it’s own, I’ve really appreciated seeing the changes each day and this week seeing how much the bumble bees adore it too. This morning I sat for 20 mins waiting to get a shot of a bee on a flower, my phone filled to bursting with blurred yellow and brown streaks as the moment I clicked the bee would be off to the next flower. So busy. Isn’t that the saying, busy as a bee? And yet such a simple life a bee has. It has one goal and it fulfils it with rhythm and with purpose. Growing up I lived next door to a bee farm and one of the joys of my childhood was extracting time when we would go next door and sample bits of honeycomb, still with traces of honey dripping from them, fresh from the hive. But I digress…

IMG_20150719_130248
Our lives are always so complicated aren’t they? not just one purpose, as many. So much is expected of us, but we expect so much of ourselves too. And as Shelly noted in her Sabbath post, how we can totally overestimate what we can capably do in any given time slot.

…oo0O0oo…

So the challenge for me is to discover a new normal. I don’t have any idea yet what that will be like and I guess it will evolve as I begin to recover, rather than just being something I decide upon. But as I sat watching the bees this morning I realised that God has it all under control. If I have become the kind of person who can sit for half an hour just watching bees, in the space of a few short weeks, then with God I can accomplish anything, or in fact accomplish nothing, it doesn’t actually matter. I don’t know if my Sabbath rest will be something I can ‘schedule in’ or whether it will simply be a new rule of life,  but one thing’s for sure, things will never be the same again.

Bottles of Tears // Colouring Sheet and meditation

Here’s the latest Colouring Sheet – I decided to try and make these a bit more constructive – like a meditation or just offering some guidelines on how you could use each sheet. So here goes, and as always I’d love feedback, either here or via FB or Twitter. What would you like to see on these sheets or how can I make them better?

What ?

I love the scripture Psalm 56:8, which reflects how God mourns with us. In the NLT version it reads:

You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.

What a wonderful picture this gives, and has always made me think, I wonder what that would look like? collecting our tears. What would the bottle be like? Where would it be? What would He do with it? is it actually just one bottle? (Ok so I know the word is actually singular, whether translated as scroll or bottle but go with me…). Or how about what would the tears look like? Do they look different when God has them, or would they just be like liquid? just one big bottle of salty water?

Why ?

Well, if you look at things God creates they are usually beautiful and I just had this picture of each tear being like a beautiful jewel, a bit like how snowflakes are individual and just stunning in their design. I came across this article recently where a researcher, Rose-Lynn Fisher, had looked at tears under a microscope and found that in different circumstances they actually look different. Have a look at the docs in the article, it’s fascinating stuff!

So this picture came from thinking on those questions, I pictured everyone having their own bottle, some would be fuller that others, maybe each persons tears would look different. My daughter said, it looks like bottles full of marbles and I guess that’s a bit like what I saw. I love how marbles can be so beautiful in each design and yet together create something more lovely.

Tears_sketch2This week I also came across ‘Colour Collective’ on Twitter, where designers and illustrators are encouraged to draw or create an image each week based on that week’s colour, then everyone tweets them at the same time on Friday eve. I thought it was such a fab idea and having been creatively rekindled recently I thought I’d take part. This is my offering for this week, under #CyanBlueAzure, but do check out the hashtag: #colour_collective to see all the others.

How ?

So I’ve done this sheet a bit differently. There’s lots of scope to make it your own and I really envisaged it being more of a prayerful experience so here’s my suggestions of how to do it.

1) Find a quiet space. I have a feeling this might be the kind of sheet you want to colour in your own space away from others – not one for the train for example!

2) Spend a few minutes just in prayer and giving the time to God, asking him to show you what the tears on this sheet represent.

3) Think/pray about how you want to start. Is each bottle a person or are they all yours? Perhaps each bottle is a season in your life or a difficult time, an experience you have encountered? Or is each tear representing something? The bottle labels are blank for you to add whatever you feel.

4) Don’t forget tears aren’t always sad (see the article highlighted above!) sometimes they are in joy, at an amazingly happy occasion, or they can be at a time of change or uncertainty (or even chopping onions).

5) Take time as you go, allowing God to lead you in your colouring. If you are focussing on your own experiences, think through each situation as you colour, allowing emotions to flow and questions to be raised. When you feel ready, then move on to the next tear or the next bottle.

6) Equally it doesn’t have to be all about you – maybe you could focus on the experiences of others? A sick friend, or a loved one having a difficult time, or a wonderfully joyous time! Again, take time for God to guide you, perhaps praying for each person as you colour each tear.

7) I have deliberately left the last bottle empty for you to fill in as you feel led. You might want to finish with this one, allowing God to lead you to it. Perhaps it represents your life as a whole – are happy tears a different colour or a different pattern to those of sadness and difficulty?

8) When you have finished, don’t rush off. Offer it back to God in prayer, a simple prayer is below for you to use or find your own words as you feel led.

Father God,

I thank you for being with me as I colour this sheet. I thank you for helping me to find my way through the emotions and situations you have raised, as I colour. As I finish it now, Lord I offer it back to you. I lift up to you the people and situations I have thought through and ask for your continued presence with them. You are the God of creation and I thank you for this gift of creativity, enabling me to draw closer to you.

In Jesus name,

Amen.

tears_bottlev4JPG

 

 

 

Talk 12/7/15 // John 14 // Trust in God’s promises

I usually blog the notes from my talks but I didn’t really have full notes this week it was just a list of points to talk about, but if you want to watch it it’s below.

Based on John 14, I talked about how I felt God with me in the last 2 months whilst I’ve been going through the mill with my back issues. We can trust on his promises…

 

Back Update // Week 4 Post-Op

IMG_20150708_141119

Small pleasures, brand new ‘TOMs’ for walking in…

Another update on my back…

So this week is week 4 since the op and it’s been a week of two halves. People told me at week 3 I’d start to feel a lot better and that was true, last week I felt I really turned a corner, stopped taking all pain killers (woop!) and was able to do quite a bit more. The result of this was (which I was also warned about) that I did too much and then was exhausted and in pain again. And when I say overdid it, I mean just a few outings of about an hour each. So then, Tuesday this week became a write off as I pretty much went back to bed. I’ve been quite taken aback just how tired I am and how the simplest of things takes so long to do. I get up, have breakfast or a shower, then have to go back to bed for an hour. Get up for a walk, then go back to bed… and so on, that’s the pattern of the day. Apparently this is normal but I still wasn’t prepared for it. Pre-op Googling that suggested some people were back to work after 2-3 weeks! frankly, they must have been lying…

On top of all that but last week we made the final decision to cancel our holiday, which was gutting as we had booked it a year ago and would have been going with friends. But to be honest it would have been too much of a risk and based on what I can do at the moment would probably have set me back in my recovery. So then we thought we’d just find somewhere local, maybe hire a cottage and just hang out together somewhere away from home. We miraculously found somewhere near the beach and then a day later (also on Tuesday) the owner decided they wanted it that week and they cancelled our booking. Gutted again.

So, Tuesday I think was the lowest point so far. Funny to think of all I, well we, have been through and it was 4 weeks post-op that that point came. I guess it was just a culmination of all these things, doing too much, being exhausted, the holiday fiasco and as the kids have now broken up from school too, realising that I was going to a pretty dull Mummy this summer.

Henna fun

So, in all that where was God? Of course right next to me as he always is! But I have to admit, I had a few moments of wondering. In the end all I could do was to go back to my iPod, and the ‘epic worship playlist’, set it going and fell asleep. Yet again the scripture ‘Be still and know that I am God’ has been my comfort. When all I could do was lay down and cry, I know that he was right with me. I refuse to give in to the enemy, whatever is thrown at me will just draw me closer to my heavenly Father. Matt Redman did an interview at our church a few weeks ago (available online here) and he talked of those tough times when you just pray ‘help me’, but also how important it is to also pray ‘hallelujah’. That’s what I choose, to seek him and praise him, whatever I ‘feel’.

I’ve been delving into John this week, I really love his more spiritual approach, and I’ve been struck in Chapter 3 where Jesus says again and again ‘I tell you the truth’, and finally in verse 21:
IMG_20150710_174725

‘but who ever lives by the truth comes into the light says it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God’.

The only way I can remain positive, full of faith and upbeat, is through the truth of Jesus Christ and who he is in my life. 

So, with that in mind, the positives… thankfully the week has improved and I have to remind myself (again) it’s only a few weeks since the op. I am now walking up to 1 1/2 miles each day and the weather is beautiful so this is a real joy. I mean it would be a joy anyway having been cooped up for so long but in the sunshine it is doubly so! Plus I can walk with the kids as they are off, stopping off at the village cafe for an ice cream each day. I’ve enjoyed spending time with the kids, playing card games in bed, watching cricket with them on the ipad (Hashtag TheAshes !) and having fun with henna with the youngest.

20150704_193600

Date ‘hour’ on the beautiful South Downs.

We also managed a date night (or date hour) for the first time in weeks having some time to hang out and chat with my lovely husband without discussing back pain, surgical intervention or how we would manage the week ahead. Chips on the South Downs, just for an hour, but lovely…

And finally I got my nails done this week! When I was first off I decided to get gel nails (never had them before) as a treat to cheer me up. Then I found out I couldn’t have them for the op, then I found I couldn’t sit long enough after it, so finally I got them done this week and they look fab – thanks Kim!

IMG_20150710_115646

funky nails!

I have also taken a decision to really focus on my health – if that’s not an obvious thing to say after all this! – but I realised having totally lost my appetite after the op I hadn’t yet re-gained it and just wasn’t feeling hungry, let alone enticed by any food. So I’ve set myself a little programme of healthy snacks and things to give me energy, and tried to get excited about cooking again – which I can now do to a certain extent (with the help of kids now on summer hols!) plus I’ve started talking multivitamins too.

And another big achievement this week (well it will be, as not yet happened!) is that I will be at church preaching on Sunday – all being well. My Vicar told me not to worry when he realised I was on the rota, but I really want to do this, simply so I can stand up there and give glory to God for all he has done in the last few weeks. I won’t be able to do the whole service but I am really excited about this!

So there were are. Still rather up and down but I am improving and God is still good!

Miraculous Peace

Found a few quiet mins to vlog about the peace I feel filled with at the mo. Just want to say, and I know I say this in the video, but I don’t want this to be about me and my experience, but about what God is doing within it, so hope it comes across like that!

Also, got to be honest, was a teensy bit conscious of the neighbours so it’s a bit quiet – turn the volume up!

Quick back update

Thanks again for all the nice emails/cards etc, here’s where I am up to…

2015-06-23 16.07.29

Selfie on my (short) walk

So it’s 2 weeks tomorrow since the surgery. Amazing really, seems to have flown by. Got to admit the first week was pretty grim, I was really struggling with the after effects of the anaesthetic and drugs etc. Since then it has been rather up and down, I guess I expected a gradual improvement but it has been very varied. However in the last few days I seem to a have turned a corner. I’m only taking paracetamol (and the occasional ibuprofen when needed), and I’m walking further. In fact today I walked round the field behind our house, it’s probably about 1/2 mile in total and included a stile (or perhaps ‘style’ as in my slightly limpy, incredibly slow walking way). It seems crazy to be measuring progress in such small steps but considering I haven’t been able to walk more than a few yards for 6 weeks, this is a massive achievement! I’m still spending a large amount of time lying down and I think I will be for some time yet, but at just 2 weeks post op I’m ok with this. Plus, I still feel an amazing amount of peace in all this, God is soooo good! (I’m planning to vlog about this peace thing in the next few days, much easier than typing at the mo!)

So, I’ve been measuring each day by making a list of small achievements and nice things in my journal so that I can remind myself when I’m having a bad day pain-wise of how far I have come. Here’s some of my faves so far…

  • The early days – spending hours listening to my 8 hour worship playlist on the iPod This totally got me through!
  • Managing to take a shower unaided! (on day 5 – oooh smelly)
  • Saving a bumble bee (day 10) (It was dying stuck by a window so I gave it a spoon of sugar water and it revived and flew off, made me feel so good that I had been able to do something useful in a time when there’s not much I can do!)
  • Being unable to sit for long I’ve been missing the sunshine, until I realised the garden table was the perfect height for lying on – hey presto makeshift bed in the sunshine :) (day 9) Of course it has pretty much rained ever since…
  • Realising I can put my tea mug in the top rack of the dishwasher (day 8) 
  • 2015-06-17 16.09.42Getting to grips with the ‘nimbus 2000’ (right) which enables me to do all sorts of basics (like putting on knickers which had been a tricky one!)
  • Errr, how can I put this, there was ‘movement’ on about day 5, which post op had not been happening… such blessed relief! (sorry for TMI lol!)
  • Praying for prophetic words for people and sending notes with them.
  • Watching all the Darren wilson movies – so inspiring
  • New coloured pens… the simple joys
  • Getting creative again for the first time in years
  • Discovering ‘suits’ on Netflix and that there’s several series to watch :)

So there we are. 2 weeks in and I’m improving, that’s about the size of it. I did a little vlog for my church family here if you want to know a bit more (foolishly shot in portrait, clearly my brain is not quite back to normal…)

If you are the praying type, please keep praying, I really do feel covered in it. Thanks.