Monday, 22 May 2017

Whispers of Rest - wonderful new book by Bonnie Gray

I first came across Bonnie Gray when she started blogging as Faith Barista; I joined in with her 'one word' writing prompts. I loved her coffee analogies: getting a 'refill' of faith; Beloved BrewsBible EspressoCoffee Break For Your Soul PodcastDecaf PleaseEveryday Faith BrewsSoul Mocha Videos ......

Then she wrote a book: Finding Spiritual Whitespace. I was privileged to join the pre-launch team, and so eagerly joined in again when I discovered she was bringing out another: Whispers of Rest.

Bonnie says: "Everywhere I go, women line up during book signing to ask this one thing: But, how can I get practical about rest when I go back home? How can I take better care of myself and feel close to God everyday?
Today, I am so happy to share the top 40 ways that has helped me to become God's beloved with you in my new book Whispers of Rest: 40 Days of God’s Love to Revitalize Your Soul
As women who pour out to love others – with checklists to do, meals to cook, emails & deadlines queued up, let's prioritize our well-being with God's love and rest!
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden
and I will give you rest.” Matt 11:28"  
I have been taking part in a 21 day challenge, where Bonnie has given words of encouragement to focus on: pause; listen; breathe; rest.....The book Whispers of Rest offers similar ideas, one a day for 40 days.

40 days is such a wonderful, Biblical period of time. Jesus's 40 days in the desert is the first which springs to mind, echoed in 40 days of Lent; I've taken part enthusiastically in 40Acts, 40 days of acts of kindness and generosity throughout Lent.

Of course, I try to do 40Acts all year long: it's not just for Christmas Lent. Similarly, Whispers of Rest is not necessarily just for 40 days, but a book to dip into, a page to linger on a while.  It will, I think, take me a while to learn to just breathe.... or rest....just listen... pause and see...

Bonnie's book is sensibly organised into six different sections, all focused, really, on realising who we are: Beloved.

Each chapter contains a personal reflection; directed Bible study; prayer; space for personal reflection and application, with a one word focus; and a practical suggestion to follow.  It is incredible how much Bonnie packs in - it certainly seems like much more than 40 days' worth.

The more I read, the more I find in others' hearts the desperate need to know they are beloved. Whispers of Rest offers ways of doing this.
So...I don't need to say more. There would be too many words to write: each page is filled with wisdom and encouragement, an invitation to linger and listen to the still small voice inside our hearts...
Words to help us just BE...to CHOOSE...to DREAM...to HEAL...to DARE...to SHINE... as God's beloved.

Practical and poetic. 

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Nearly halfwaythrough

Nearly halfway through the #whispersofrest challenge from Bonnie Gray's forthcoming book. 21 days of a different reflective activity a day.

It has been surprisingly calming and restoring. From just 'breathe' (day 1) to 'encourage', the words have been both self-directed and other-directed, while always the focus is on God.

Breathe in His Spirit
Appreciate someone
Write a word of meaning from a Psalm
Say 'Yes' to time with God
Journal for ten minutes...or twenty...or perhaps thirty
Rest.
Let go and live loved - my answer of what I let go too personal to put here
Pause and see... beauty. a sunrise. Goldfinches on the bird table
Encourage a friend. Or even a not-friend. Or even an 'enemy'.

Words to remember and live by, to interpret according to a season, a situation, a supplication.
Words of calm.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Taking ten.

I began #whispersofrest at the beginning of this week, when everything seemed somewhat frazzled. But, miraculously, I have survived the week more than unscathed. Issues from last week have been resolved and, even though my workload has increased again, it has all been manageable. Conversations have been good, plans have been made, relationships have been strengthened.

Through it all, through it all, my eyes are on Him...beautiful words from Kristene DiMarco at Bethel music.


"It Is Well"

Grander earth has quaked before
Moved by the sound of His voice
Seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
It is well with me

Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can't see
And this mountain that's in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well
B
So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name...

It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul

But my eyes have not been on Him all the time, though my heart has been steadfast on His love and promises. I have been distracted with busyness and thoughts, with work and relaxation, with 'oughts' and 'shoulds'.

Bonnie's words have helped anchor me. Breathe. Appreciate someone. Write one word that speaks to me as I read Psalm 119. (Only one?!  That is the longest psalm there is!) Say yes to enjoying something refreshing with God. Journal for ten minutes.

I have had rest just lying on my bed, quietening my breathing.
I have had rest in enjoying my relationship with my husband.
My word from Psalm 119 is 'blessed'. God has indeed blessed me abundantly.
I have had rest in listening to beautiful worship music.
And now I rest while writing thoughts from the week. Taking ten minutes...and a little more.

Resting and rested. Mmmm.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Rest. The beginning.

I've said that I would take part in promoting Bonnie Gray's new book. Whispers of Rest, and am part of a facebook group, following on Instagram and Twitter, and getting daily emails.

It's all about Rest. Quite honestly, I feel too busy and frazzled to do it. I just don't have the time and energy to go to the effort of resting. How bizarre is that?

Someone on facebook talked about savouring a cup of coffee. Pausing. Taking a moment of rest, even though she had been so distracted that even when reading her daily devotional she was "Scarfing down words"...well, yes, that's me as well. I have so much going on that the prospect of HAVING to rest seems exhausting! One more thing to do! I'll think of this lady, though, when I too am pausing over that first morning cup of coffee tomorrow. I'll choose my special cup, blue and yellow Portuguese china, which my friend Lisa gave me, and pause and rest. I think this 'enforced rest' is going to be just what I need...

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Singing. Good for the soul.

If you are one of those people who love to sing and are blessed with a beautiful voice, you can stop reading right now. This isn’t for you.

No, I’m speaking for those of us who have struggled to hold a tune, were never picked for the school choir and who have learned, from a very early age, to mouth the words whenever there is the chance that someone else might hear them.

I’m one of those women. That’s why I like to worship with a large and very, very noisy band. I don’t like to hear myself attempting to singI LOVE worship songs - the lyrics, the melodies and even the (sometimes) seemingly endless repetition of some of the choruses.

But I still wish I could sing properly. I carry the tune in my head, where it is faultless, but what comes out of my mouth is sadly lacking.  My voice is quite low-pitched and often I can’t sing with other women. My best singing experiences have been in a large formal church setting where there was a choir with a number of bass and tenor singers. It was a satisfying experience to growl along with the men.

But, as that doesn’t happen very often, I have learned to sing silently. It’s just kinder to everyone else.

Until one day I came across these Scriptures:
I, even I, will sing to the Lord; I will praise the Lord, the God of Israel, in song.” Judges 5:3, NIV.

Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name.” 2 Samuel 22:50 NIV

And so on. And on. The Psalms are full of sung praises to God. Out loud. Singing in the Bible was never in silence – it wouldn’t have been singing, otherwise.

I realised that it wasn’t enough to just sing in my head and my heart, good though that was: I actually had to sing with my mouth. Ouch. I mean, I don’t even like the sound of my own voice.

But I did sing. Alone, where no one could hear me.

As I sang out loud, I began to discover all kinds of benefits.

Singing aloud aligned my heart to God. I experienced a deep sense of peace and release from worry as I entered the workplace.  I usually felt calmer and, often, more joyful: Psalm 71:23 says, “My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you – I whom you have delivered.
Singing was a deeply satisfying way of connecting my heart to God’s.
I experienced the truth of Psalm 63:5, which says: I will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.”

Singing aloud changed my attitude. When I was finding my relationship with one of my bosses challenging, I read 2 Chronicles 20:22: “As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.” (NIV)  Singing praises to God defeated the wiles of the enemy. My boss didn’t leave, but something shifted and I no longer felt harassed by her.

And, amazingly – because I never expected this – I found that my singing improved. As I sang, the practice released inhibitions and I was able to begin to pitch my voice more correctly. I learned to choose the right key in which to sing and began to gently harmonise when my voice’s range did not enable me to reach high notes.

I extended the practice of singing loudly in my car to singing quietly when I walked or cycled. The spiritual benefits far outweighed any potential embarrassment!

So, join me, even if – especially if – you think you can’t sing. You can. And you, with the voice of an angel, who has just read to the end of this despite the Health Warning at the start? Please sing whenever and wherever you can – loudly and enthusiastically. You are a blessing to the world and I thank you.

Even if a little part of me is still a tiny bit envious. I’m working on it.

This was my second attempt, which I submitted to incourage.me.  Unsuccessfully, but never mind, Writing is good for my soul, too. I might try again next time....

Listening. in silence. with grief. and thankfulness

A couple of weeks ago, I thought I'd have a go at becoming an incourage.me guest writer: an ambitious undertaking at which I was not successful: they chose 22 submissions out of 150. (Which was not as much as I thought, but nevertheless...) 

So now I am free to post my little attempts. This is the first:

To the lonely, the grieving, the newly-orphaned, the empty-nesters. Words of comfort.

It catches me unawares, this sudden grief. It deluges me as I pack the Christmas ornaments away, each little memento reminding me of Christmases past when my family was together. When we were all younger and the veil of Past Christmases casts its rosy glow over my memories.

Or I am flooded with regret, as I look back at relationships now gone for ever, as family members have passed on. The Shouldhaves shout loudly at my bruised heart which aches from lost opportunities.

And then there is simply the loneliness as a friend moves away or a spouse is lost.

And I, too, am lost. Sliding down a helter-skelter, buffeted by feelings.

I sit, alone, in a silent room. And start listening.

My heart brings Scripture to me. Psalm 34:17 - 18: “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the broken-hearted  and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

He does? I think. I know that what the Bible says is true. It doesn’t feel like that, though, so I grab the words with my mind, hanging my thoughts onto the precious words. I repeat them to myself, again and again. The Lord is close to the broken-hearted. He saves those who are crushed in spirit. I am crushed. He saves me. He saves me.

And the still small voice inside my heart whispers: “Be thankful.
And I remember:

But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you;

may those who long for your saving help always say, ‘The Lord is great!’

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Christ in us; the HOPE of glory

I’ve been reflecting, as so many have, throughout Advent on what I hope for. REALLY hope for. And though I can list many ‘hopes’, I know that there is really only ONE hope and that is Jesus.
Christ in us the hope of glory.”
The hope of glory. The hope of living in a beautiful, perfect world of ‘no more suffering, no more tears’. The hope of being with Jesus, the most perfect and beautiful man who ever lived. A man who has brought hope and healing to all, whoever and wherever they are.
I’m constantly challenged by a wish, a stirring, a hope of doing more. A deep need within me to grab hold of a life of sacrifice for others because of Jesus. A holy unrest.
But what can I do? I think of a time in my life when I lived more simply and humbly, serving in a rural community in Kenya. I look at my daughter and son-in-law, among others, serving refugees in dark places. I consider my life now – my easy, comfortable, every-day-without-danger-or-inconvenience life – and recognize how my selfishness get in the way of my serving. For who REALLY wants to put themselves out for others?
My ponderings are brought short by a blog from 24-7, where there is a quote from a refugee on Samoa: ‘This complaining will only bring you deeper darkness”.
I ‘complain’ to myself that I’m not sure of my calling. Or I don’t know how to practise it. Excuses and complaints.
I am not in a position to do the ‘big’ things any more (read: at the moment; who knows what the future may bring?) but I can do the ‘little’ things.
Simple hospitality – inviting colleagues to my home; befriending whoever crosses my path; mentoring, sharing what God has given me with others; welcoming the stranger. Taking time.
And as Linda Sourris says in this blog, as she talks about inviting refugees into her home: “So when we open our home, we try most of all to bring them Jesus.
THAT is a calling. To bring Jesus. Whenever, wherever, to whomever.
Jesus. The hope of glory.


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Sharing

Stewardship  - a charity which encourages generosity - reflects on the wonder of the incarnation and Mary's response in the wonderful hymn of praise she sings.

The reflection at the end caught my eye: 
"Do we sing songs of gratitude when we give? Here is Mary, a young teen, receiving the gift of a son, but with serious strings attached. This was not a child that she would be able to keep to herself; he was to be shared with the world as a saviour, a living sacrifice to reunite us with our God. And Mary sings in praise and thanksgiving."


Not a child she would be able to keep to herself. I have been reflecting on a Christmas without any of our children at home, which is the first time ever. Son at in-laws, daughter also at in-laws on the other side of the world. And, quite frankly, have been feeling sorry for myself, battling sadness in what is supposed to be a joyful season.

But none of us can keep our children to ourselves. They are God's gift to us, gifts to be shared. We rejoice when our children share their lives with a soul-mate in marriage. We are pleased and proud when they make choices to serve others in their work and in their play, giving generously of their free time. We admire our son and daughter-in-law who pour themselves out in teaching children who have had a much poorer start in life. We watch in wonder as our daughter and son-in-law choose to work among the neediest of this world, refugees in a war-torn area.

We have been privileged - for which we praise and thank God - to have had these amazing people living with us for much of their lives. Of course, we are still in close relationship - just not physically present. We do well to remember that we should not expect to keep God's gifts to ourselves, nor is it good for us.

And so we can join in as the Stewardship reflection finishes with a prayer:
"Today, we pray that Advent may be a time for us each to kindle, or rekindle, a spirit of gratitude and praise to God to be evident as we give to and receive from one another."

Gratitude and praise. Simple.

Amen.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Advent. Fifth Day.

"Broken for me, broken for you..." so the communion song goes as we remember a soon-to-be-broken-on-the-cross Jesus.

This Advent I find myself, also, breaking. But Ann Voskamp has encouragement for the broken us:
"“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
Devotion Graphic
When I feel like we’re drowning in all of life, our daughter Hope and I will go up to the lake and feel the waves pound, sense the serene fury of water.
As the waves break against the earth it quakes the inner cochlear, and there’s nothing else to hear but the breaking. Hope stands there with windblown strands of hair across her face, the electrical energy of each breath of wet, briny air sparking something in her.
“Is there anything lovelier, really, than the way waves keep touching the shore no matter what tries to keep pulling them away?” I lean into her and say it over the sound of the wind, of the crashing surf.
Hope tucks her hair behind her ear, “Love’s like waves — it keeps reaching out, no matter what tries to keep pulling it away.”
She and I stand there in the battering of the elements, watching waves, eyeing how the light catches in water, how the waves move like the earth’s own pulse, like our own heartbeat.
“You know — a pool isn’t like this.” I say it slowly, watching the waves, seeing it for the first time: “It has no power, no life — because it has no breaking of waves … Strange how that is: It’s in the breaking, there is life.”
What did my husband say again and again? “Never be afraid of being a broken thing … Unless a seed breaks, there is no life.”
All down the shoreline, the waves keep crashing and breaking … and living.
Hope slips her arm through mine.
All of life’s losses break us, break through us, scar us. I want them not to. Frankly, there are days I’d like to hide my scars and the jagged edges of my brokenness, days when I wish there were no marks to bear. But if losses don’t leave their mark — how can we say we were ever marked or shaped by love? Scars are signs that show the way we loved.
Hope’s hand rests on mine.
You’re famous for helping; God, give us a break.” (Psalm 79:9, MSG)
Give us a break, God, in the midst of overwhelming stress and the pounding of waves, the storms of life.
And I don’t even realize I’m saying it out loud: “When you’re hit by the breaking waves, break deep.”
You’ve got three options when breaking waves hit, when you feel like you’re drowning.
Either let fear make you run hard — but fear never makes you safe, fear just makes you fall — and fall hard.
Or, fall back on your pride and try to stand against that wave breaking over you — and it will break you.
Or lastly, when you’re hit with a breaking wave — you can break deep. You can break deep into that breaking wave and let yourself be moved by Living Water and transformed and formed by Christ and remade by the rising current of His Love.
The only way through a breaking wave — is to break deep into the wave.
The only way through the overwhelming waves is to break deep into the roiling water and dive into the depths and stretch out both arms through the fathoms and let yourself be made into the shape of a cross.
That’s all there is: You can either be broken by fear or broken by pride — or you can break into the surrendered, cruciform shape of Christ.
Break deep. Break deep, and break free.
I turn to Hope — I kind of feel baptized. She and I — we can face stress, the waves coming from every side, because we can break deep into the wave of whatever comes at us, arms opened wide and choose to live shaped like a cross, cruciform. It feels like surrender. When you choose to break deep into the breaking waves — when you break the surface of the water again — you can feel born again. Remade into the image of Christ.
When you’re in over your head, you can touch the depths of God.
Hope turns to me. “Hear it, Mama? It’s like every crash of the waves is echoing it.”
Break deep — break free.
Lord, when waves of stress rise and threaten to overwhelm, cause me not to be broken by fear of being overwhelmed or by the pride of standing in my own strength. When I feel stress, cause me to break deep — break deep into whatever is coming at me, shaped like Christ, acting like Christ, formed like Christ, broken and given and surrendered like Christ, cruciform like Christ. Cause me to break deep today — and break free. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Ephesians 4:24, “And then take on an entirely new way of life — a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” (MSG)
RELATED RESOURCES:
Longing to live a life that’s fearless of brokenness? Ann Voskamp takes those who carry their own unspoken broken on a journey into The Broken Way — a fresh, authentic way into more time, more meaning, more abundant wholeness — a literal way to shape your days into the abundant life.
CONNECT:
Enter to WIN a copy of The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life by Ann Voskamp. In celebration of this book, Christian Book Distributors is giving away 5 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here. {We’ll randomly select 5 winners and email notifications to each one by Monday, December 5.}
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Think of one stress today you are facing. What’s one way you can break deep into that wave, surrendered and living Christlike?
- See more at: http://proverbs31.org/devotions/devo/the-way-to-break-free-of-stress/#sthash.RrgdeVgr.dpuf"

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Advent. Fifth day.

Thoughts turning towards Christmas. Advent 'calendar' up at school - a puzzle of Nativity pieces to put together, one each day, with a 'good deed' to go along with it.

And a little go at a Christmas song...
In King David’s city a Baby was born
As prophets and sages had said (that) He would be
A King in a stable, in Bethlehem’s dawn
The Good News appearing for you and for me.



The shepherds were eager the glad tidings to share
As angels shone o’er them as bright as the day.
Wise men from the east made a journey with care
The signs in the stars shone to show them the way.



We too, now at Christmas, rejoice in His name
And share in the joy with all those who adore/in accord.
We remember the reason the little Babe came
He is our great Saviour, Christ Jesus our Lord.

And then we look up and we say “Thank you Jesus”
For all you have done and for what lies in store
Your presence is with us, you go on before us
We thank you and praise you for Christmas evermore.

We wait and we wonder with Mary and Joseph
A babe is a-coming, and what will he be?
Messiah, Redeemer, a King and a healer
The Saviour God sent to save both you and me.

A stable is home for the King of all Kings
Born into a family of lowly esteem
Rough men hear the report that the angels will bring
A message to bring them the news of their dreams.

So let us now wonder and go to that stable.
Join in with the shepherds, worship and adore.
Remember he’s with us to love and to guide us
Our saviour, King Jesus, now and evermore.