I was walking the dog on Conwy Beach this morning looking toward Deganwy and felt God speak to me as I was looking at the basalt column that rises above the down. He felt Him say “on this rock I will build my church” so I asked for a bit of explanation as it’s a verse we all know well and have often been told it means the confession of Peter that Jesus was the Messiah.
As I was walking I kept thinking and chewing this over. Basalt columns pushed themselves up during a time of great volcanic upheaval, not a peaceful time. The rise above the surrounding area because erosion has stripped away all that may have surrounded them. This is how my faith feels. My faith came up during a time of upheaval
for me – single mum leading a lifestyle that focused around drinking, drugs and random people staying at my house. When it started it was surrounded by loads of supports, theologies, rules, etc but all those have been eroded away.
I went to the funeral of a dear friend last week who’d died at 43. A lovely, crazy, opinionated friend who sometimes drove me to distraction who had argued through her Christian faith. Gone way too soon. At her funeral the vicar read I Corinthians 13, the love chapter as it is often known. Whilst listening to it I could feel something stirring in me but wasn’t sure what. The walk today revealed what it was. Everything has been stripped away. I no longer care about whether it makes you a “proper” Christian if you speak in tongues or prophecy or say the right prayers at the right time or whatever silly ideas I had. I’ve been watching Gunpowder [and have studies this period too] and it amazes me how people were willing to die or to take the life of another for a believe which I’m not sure God even cares about. I may not have been that bad when I first came to faith but I know I lost friends because of my dogmatism. That has all been stripped away. Now very little remains but I stand – not so much tall but I stand like the basalt column.
What is left? Faith – A faith that God is bigger than anything I ever hoped or believed and that He is always there for me whatever I walk through and that I will stay with Him forever. Hope – that God is bigger and that those who’ve died before me will be with Him, that those who don’t profess to knowing Him on this earth will be with Him at the end [see I can’t believe that if we are all made in the image of God – and that we don’t just become made in that image when we “pray the prayer” – that God will take what He has made to be with Him . But that’s another thought entirely ] Love – that God loves me, loves those I love, loves those I don’t love too, and that I must learn to love too.
Faith and Hope and Love that is all that remains but I feel that God said to me today that this is what He’s building His Church on and I need to stand on that no matter what more the storms have to throw at me.
For a week of mornings whilst out walking the dog as I walk past the park there have been a group of daffodils who’s faces are turned toward the sun, expectant of the day to come. I kept meaning to bring my camera and take a photo because they said so much to me about looking to the source of light and being expectant and ready for the day. Of course I forgot and now they are gone. It looks like someone has picked them. We have loads of daffodils in and around our park and often people pick them to take home. I hope these expectant daffodils have gone to a good home.
But it got me thinking – how often are we expectant for something, looking to the source and then get snatched away from it? At my church this Sunday we’re doing a little play based around Matthew 23:37 where Jesus wants to gather Jerusalem to him like a mother hen gathers her chicks. A mother hen will spread her wings wide when she sees danger and gather all her chicks under her wings to protect them from attacks by birds of prey. She is willing to give her own life for her chicks. I think so often we think of God as someone we go ask things from and “look to expectantly” but don’t let him cover us from attack/being picked/disappointment. This verse, and many others in the Bible, do say about God being there to protect and support during times of hardship and distress. I’m not sure there are any, or maybe a few, that say He’ll make the bad times go away yet too often the Christian message is “God will make things wonderful and life will be great” and then wonder why people fall away when life doesn’t work that way, when prayers don’t get answered, people don’t get healed, we get “picked” after diligently “looking at the source”.
I’ve just seen a post from a friend of mine who talks about life’s realities sometimes not living up to one’s expectations. With the things I do – the room rentals and the writing workshops – so often things don’t turn out as expected; I don’t get as many coming to the workshops as said they were, or those who come take things off in a totally different direction, or with the rooms people say they are coming for a certain time and then change their minds. We have just had it with the rooms that a couple and a single person both said they were going to be staying for a while. The single then decided that what she was doing here wasn’t for her and left and then the couple found a flat to rent quicker than I’d expected. For both sets of people this is great news, and I am really happy for them, but what it also means is that things have to lived up to the expectations that I had. Things are changing. It felt a bit like I was looking to a certain way of life and then got “picked” and its all change again.
So we need to be willing to accept the changes, go with the flow and also be kind to ourselves and accept that this can be exhausting, and like the daffodils can bring about major changes in our circumstances. And be willing to just hide under the shadow of His wing.
So last night was our wedding anniversary and we drove for one hour fifty minutes one way and one hour thirty minutes the other to go to a small coffee shop in Manchester -going via Chester to pick up a friend to share this time with. Why did we do it? To see the most amazing group of young musicians that we know – Orphan No More.
What makes them special and worth a trip like this on our anniversary? We met Josh and Kara, the founders of this gathering of musicians not so many years ago when this was just starting and we believed in what they were doing so have been supporting them since. So we know them that’s one reason – Relationship. The key to so much.
Why go via Chester adding half an hour at least each way to our trip? To pick up a friend that I went to university with who moved back to her home in Chester only weeks before we moved up here to North Wales. She came with us when we saw these musicians perform a couple of years ago when we all lived near Bath and I knew she’d enjoyed them as much as we had. Again – Relationship.
Talking of driving a long way for Relationship, my facebook memories tells me that this time two years ago we did a similar long journey to see my daughter in a play when she was at university. Relationship! And that was the reason we went all the way to Iceland for a wedding in September, and actually went to Oregon, USA nearly 10 years ago for another wedding. Relationship! I think there could be a whole blog just listing the miles we have driven or flown for Relationship!
Last night was not just about Relationship bur also about talent. The set was only about an hour and a half long but was so gifted. We saw Sophia do the hardest bit of being the opening act. She has the most amazing voice and sings about her life from her heart. She did really well to pull the crowd in and get people listening. Definitely a lady to watch. She was then followed by Tom Bishop, a spoken word poet and his alter ego Bish, a rap musician, who made us sit up and think as he rapped and spoke about Palestine, refugees and also our love for our homes. Amazing man and made us all think. (Unfortunately can’t find links for him so you can check him out. Will edit when I do) And of course headlining was the main man – Josh Luke Smith and his band. I must say I am always so amazed when I see talented singers like Kara Ann Marie and Rachel Jane will to be backing singers when they are amazing in their own right. As always his song “Carry Me” left me in bits. A song about a young person hurting their mother which hits me on many levels being both a mother and a daughter.
It was an evening that touched my heart in many ways. It was church in a different form. There was preaching as Tom told us to think about migrants, as Sophia got us thinking about relationships, as Josh reminded us who we were are and how we should be. For me I could feel God speaking and moving through it all. Yes we heard the words of God in a way that was fresh, real and deep. We didn’t get told how to behave but got challenged on how to think. There is so much more I want to write and probably will as I start to unpack what I heard and saw last night.
But for me this morning the thing I woke with was the importance of relationships and why I am who I am, why Ian and I are who we are, which actually has been echoed in the likes, comments and reactions to yesterday’s post. Relationships are hard but often worth driving to encourage.
Today I’m doing a reading in church. Just a regular reading. No performing. Nothing special. I’m now on the reading rota at the church we’ve been going to almost since we arrived here. I like the place, I like the people and I like reading. So of course being me I won’t just say it I’ll put inflections into it and make it lively. Not performing but just being me.
And this is why I think this passage, esp the first line is so amazing and I think will be my word for the year. Along with a few others I’m gathering but … what a great start to the year, to sit in church and hear that it is time to Arise and shine. Wow! Especially on this dreary day when the town is shrouded in mist here is God saying “Arise and shine” Wow!
So what does that mean? Well I think it has to come with the second phrase too. “Arise and shine for your light has come.” How can I arise and shine? Because my light has come. How has my light come? Well Isaiah 60 says “and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” What does that mean? Well I think it could mean that actually you have realised who you are and have let the Lord – or wherever you get your strength from – rise upon you.
Without trying to be blasphemous I think you could substitute “Lord” for confidence, for strength, hope, reassurance. Almost anything. I really don’t think that one can let the Lord rise upon and around you unless you have confidence in yourself. I know of a friend who went through an awful tragedy but I can hear her sobbing “Just one touch of the King changes everything” but she had to let herself be touched for Him to be able to change everything.
If we can be willing to believe that, even though it is dark and misty outside, even though 2017 is looking like being a worrying year, we are able to arise and shine and let your light shine then we can be part of changing things. We can let our assurance, confidence, strength, hope rise and so shine light into this year.
The passage goes on to say about how the world is in darkness but that people will come to the light. We are not be inert but by worrying, being anxious, being fearful we hold the darkness in place but if we go with confidence knowing that we can do our bit to bring light to our sphere of influence then those in need will be drawn to us.
It always takes me a while to get into the fact that its a new year. Others around me come with resolutions that they can present at midnight on 2016/17 but I need a run up to it and some thinking time. So for me though I will put aside worry and also put aside false hope and I will arise. I will shine. I will let my light shine in my spheres of influence. This is my resolution for 2017.