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 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
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
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  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 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!’