Learning through Life

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Hampshire, United Kingdom
I love how our day-to-day life can teach us lessons to help us understand our past, challenge our today, and inspire our future. We can learn through experiences, situations, conversations, songs, books, nature ... the list is endless! Live with eyes ready to see, ears ready to hear and a heart ready to be touched.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The one with the sore hip

On Thursday I went for a walk along the beach with Jesus. 

The wet sand sparkled in the sunlight, and stretched far into the distance until it met the sky. The tide withdrew, creating space for me and my beloved companion to meander at will. We walked, sometimes in full conversation, other times in silence. It didn't matter; we were together. I enjoyed the company, I enjoyed the fresh sea breeze, I enjoyed the warm Autumnal sun, and I enjoyed the exercise! I had nowhere else to be, no one else to look after, and no set agenda.  I hadn't spent 'us' time like this in such a long time. It was perfect.
The Witterings

We talked about all sorts. His creation. His love. His forgiveness and acceptance. I asked for direction and confirmation. I prayed for others and I had a little rant about how life seems so unfair at times; but it was no surprise to him, he already knew how I felt.  He let me off-load, question and ramble. He let me be me.

Today, all my time is yours, Lord. Let's keep walking.

I felt free. I felt loved. I wanted to capture the feeling like multi-coloured sand in a bottle and screw the lid on tight.

As I continued, the sand beneath my feet started to soften, challenging the gentle pace I had been enjoying. Gradually the steps became strides and required a significant increase in effort. No big deal, or so I thought, but it wasn't long before my right hip began to feel a little uncomfortable. Ignoring the strain I pushed on, determined to make the most of this special time with God.

The pain increased and I was forced to find respite on a sandbank. Gutted. However, a short break and then we would continue ...

We did continue, but so did the pain. I eventually admitted defeat and turned around to begin the journey home.

After a short time I realised that in order to dampen the pain, I had started to limp. I discovered that if I kept my right knee slightly bent then my hip didn't hurt as much. It worked, until my knee began to hurt too. Again, I pushed through it, after all, what choice did I have? I had to get home somehow! So, with my right hip and knee complaining with every step I fixed my eyes on the destination and quickened the pace. I wouldn't let it ruin my day. But the truth was that my conversation with Jesus had been drowned out by an internal (and yes, the occasional external) 'ouch!'.

Through forced experimentation I learnt that leaning on the outside of my right ankle lessened the pain in my hip, and took the pressure off my knee. Relief. Until, yes, my ankle began to hurt too!

Enough of my moaning! Eventually I made it back to the car, drove back to the caravan and rested!

The pouring out of my heart and mind to Jesus might have decreased as the pain increased, but that didn't stop him speaking to me....

As I sat in the caravan I realised that ignoring the pain in my hip had led to problems elsewhere. It resulted in added tension and pressure in both my knee and my ankle, and as my hip still throbbed with the pain, it hadn't solved the problem at all. It would seem that one part of the body rarely suffers in isolation.

How true this is of the body of Christ!

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In 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 we read how we are all part of the body of Christ, and if one part suffers, every part suffers with it. Therefore, we need to work together, look out for each other, and support any part of the body that might be struggling. I think this concept also extends to the different ministries and groups within the church. Ignoring issues rarely solves the problem, but adds to pressure and tension elsewhere. God wants to build the whole church up, not just a part of it! If we want to see this happen, we really need to recognise the importance of other people, and different ministries, and do all we can to ensure they are fit and healthy and functioning as they should be. 

If one part of the body hurts, get it fixed - ignoring it will only lead to problems elsewhere!

May God continue to build his church!

Monday, 21 October 2013

Three Years of Regret

Today, my own (honest and real) words remain locked away, in a place that is too painful to draw from.  But this begins to say it for me ...

(Kris Allen, Live Like we are Dying)

Sometimes we fall down, can't get back up
We're hiding behind skin that's too touch
How come we don't say I love you enough?
'Til it's too late, it's not too late

Our hearts are hungry for a food that won't come
And we could make a feast from these crumbs
And we're all staring down the barrel of a gun
So if your life flashed before you, what would you wish you would've done?

Yeah, we gotta start lookin' at the hands of the time we've been given
If this is all we got, then we gotta start thinkin'
If every second counts on a clock that's tickin'
Gotta live like we're dying

We only got 86 400 seconds in a day to
Turn it all around or to throw it all away
We gotta tell 'em that we love 'em while we got the chance to say
Gotta live like we're dying

And if your plane fell out of the skies
Who would you call with your last goodbye?
Should be so careful who we left out of our lives
And when we long for absolution, there will be no one on the line

Yeah, we gotta start lookin' at the hands of the time we've been given
If this is all we got, then we gotta start thinkin'
If every second counts on a clock that's tickin'
Gotta live like we're dying

You never know a good thing 'til it's gone
You never see a crash 'til it's head on
Why do we think we're right when we're dead wrong?
You never know a good thing 'til it's gone

Yeah, gotta start lookin' at the hands of the time we've been given
If this is all we got, then we gotta start thinkin'
If every second counts on a clock that's tickin'
Gotta live like we're dying

We only got 86 400 seconds in a day to
Turn it all around or to throw it all away
We gotta tell 'em that we love 'em while we got the chance to say
Gotta live like we're dying

If you love someone, take every opportunity to show them.
Mum, every day I am sorry I never hugged you or told you I loved you whilst I had the chance. x

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Communion Thoughts - (Nicola Ayres)

Way back in the Summer Holidays I emailed Nicola Ayres, a friend and member of our congregation, and asked her whether she would be willing to lead us (Wessex Christian Fellowship) in Communion on the 13th October.  The response ...

'Umm, eek, heart just sunk! Will think about it, normally I say yes cos take it that when I'm asked God normally wants me to do!'

Despite Nic's fear of speaking at the front, and concerns over getting emotional when doing so, she bravely and obediently agreed to step out of her comfort zone and lead us in The Lord's Supper.

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Last Sunday, half way through the service, Nicola stood up, took the mic ... and with an honesty and openness that can only be respected, led us on a journey that encouraged us to reflect on Christ's love and death in preparation to take the bread and the wine.

Yes, she was nervous, and as she suspected, she did get a little emotional, but her words, her passion, her thankfulness and vulnerability before the Lord were beautiful.

Today, as many of us meet once again to share at the Lord's table, perhaps Nicola's words will also inspire and encourage you ...

(Copied from Nic's notes)

'Before I start my thoughts on communion I'd like to say I wrote it a good couple of weeks ago with the intention to revisit it over the weekend, but with the exciting news of the baby, Shaun being away and the children having friends to visit it got overlooked til this morning. 

When I read my words I wondered if they were to strong and was about to edit but on my bible app the verse that flashed up upon opening was James 3:13- 'who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom.'

I'm not saying I am wise but I will be obedient and for this reason I shall read what I wrote.

This simple command that we follow most weeks is possibly at times taken for granted.

Translating communion into our daily lives is often the tricky part, daily life can often be a roller coaster of chores and needs and before we know it God hasn't entered our minds.

I'm not suggesting we break bread everyday but communion is the perfect time that we set aside where we communicate with God and thank him for the opportunity to have relationship with him. That opportunity was God's plan, him sending Jesus and Jesus following instructions even though those instructions were unjust and painful.
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I cannot imagine knowingly and willfully accepting what Jesus took on.  His death on the cross is truly beyond words and something which I am thankful for.

So, just as Jesus did in Matthew 26 we shall take bread and drink wine as we have been shown to do and I would just like to pray a prayer of repentance.
Please take my prayer as yours if you like or use this opportunity to commune with God.

Please forgive me Lord where I have failed and I am sorry for any disappointment this has caused, sorry for not spending as much time with you as I should, for not always doing the things that I should and for sometimes choosing the wrong things to do. My words will never be enough to express gratitude for what you did,  I praise you and thank you. Please continue to work in me and help me to see you in my everyday life, help me to glorify you in all that I do and may my daily coming and goings be testimony to you and what you mean to me.


Today, be reminded that God loved you so much, that he sent his Son Jesus to the cross for you, for the forgiveness of your sins and because of Jesus' obedience and sacrifice you can once again enjoy a beautiful relationship with your Creator.  Be blessed!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

The one with the soggy dog

Today has been an amazing day for me; a day shared with God. No agenda set, at least, not by me. I had a lazy morning in God's presence (are we ever not?) and made my way to Wittering for a walk along the beach. Wittering is a special place for me and I couldn't wait to hear what God would say to me whilst we walked.

God, it's over to you ...

I walked down the stones and onto the sand. The tide was out, the sun shone, and the breeze was surprisingly warm for October.  Hands in pockets, ipod playing Rend Collective into one ear, I set off.

I tried to empty my mind, to lay aside my thoughts, to allow God space to speak.

I failed. Well, sort of ...

You see, something had grabbed my attention on the walk to the beach and I just couldn't shake it. I tried, I tried really hard, but still it dominated the emptiness that I had so sincerely promised God.  'God, I'm sorry, I really want you to speak to me ...'  I tried to clear my head; it was no good. Not even my prayer of repentance had worked! My head still fought with the image. It was nothing exciting, nothing spectacular, and certainly nothing I imagined God would speak through. And yet, with each step along the beach the image seemed to become clearer, larger, louder.

Could God already be speaking? Could he have jumped ahead of schedule and started the revelation before we even got to the beach? Could he? Well, I guess as he is God, then anything is possible!!

What had I seen?

That's it.

Nothing else, just this sign outside a cafe. Not exactly profound is it? I don't even like dogs (sorry!) so why was I wasting my head space on this?

But I gave God a chance, maybe he saw something different.

'All dogs welcome' - in a cafe? And, soggy ones? Really? And they think this promotes their service?  Ew ... no thank you! I would pass right on by.

But, what about the (soggy) dog owners? I guess this might solicit a different response from them. A cup of tea with *insert dog name* allowed in instead of being tied up outside? Yes please!

And there I recognised the voice of God. Not audibly, just a prompting to allow him to take my thoughts to a new place, and a new level of understanding.

The owners of the cafe took a risk. The 'Dogs Welcome' board would have sent potential customers away. I am proof of that. And yet, this didn't stop them from placing it on the pavement. Why? Because they knew that it would stand out to others. The proprietors chose to appeal to a certain group of people. They understood the risk, and knew what they were doing.

Was this about dogs?

No. It was about making a choice, taking a risk, and acknowledging that you can't please all people all of the time.

Be clear about who God wants you to reach (serve, teach, encourage, bless...) and aim your service (passion, time, energy) towards them. Don't water it down in order to please others. Know your potential customers (clients, congregation, friends, students ....) and do all you can to provide something that will enhance, develop and change their lives. 

Know who you lead, why you lead them, and where you are leading them to!

Leave those that may walk on by for someone else; there will be another cafe down the road for them.

And now for the rest of the walk ...

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The one with the snot

I have a cold.  (Sympathy welcomed!)

After a bad night's sleep (or lack of!) - I am sitting up in bed surrounded by used tissues, a bottle of Lucozade, and a tub of Vapour Rub. My voice is croaky, my head is heavy and I also have a VERY red nose! (If sympathy wasn't offered before - then perhaps now is a good time?)

Why share this delightful information with you?  Because in my sleep-deprived-semi-delirious-snot-filled state (ok, enough of that now!) I think God may be showing me something ...

'Stop that sniffing - get a tissue and blow it' - can't we all remember being told this when we were younger? I can understand it; sat in a room listening to persistent sniffing can be incredibly irritating! It is right up there with someone cracking their knuckles, biting their nails, clicking their pen, rubbing hands across synthetic trousers, *insert own irritation*.

However, there is more to it than just something that gets under our skin, or up our nose (ha!!)

Sniffing snot isn't good for us!  When we are ill snot (mucus for the proper and polite) traps debris, bacteria, viruses etc and expels them from our body.  When we get tired of blowing our nose and start to sniff we encourage germs to stick around! So why do we do it?  A few suggestions ...

  • Habit - we have become so used to sniffing that we don't even notice we are doing it.
  • Effort - perhaps we don't have a tissue in our pocket and it is just too much effort to go and get one.
  • Appearance - blowing may cause our nose to become a little red (not a good look!)
  • Discomfort - as well as turning a little red, our nose may also become sore. 
  • Disgust - the snot that comes out of our nose grosses us out!
  • Embarrassment - we may not want to draw attention to the fact we have a cold, and fear that blowing our nose may give it away.

Perhaps you may have other reasons for not blowing your nose up your sleeve (ha!!) but I think the above pretty much covers it.

Why share this with the world today?

Because I wonder how many of us sniff certain issues back down when we know God wants us to start dealing with them.  God knows the thoughts, attitudes, hurts, fears, experiences etc that hold us back, preventing us from living a full and purposeful life with him.  But often, when He begins to take various issues on a journey of expulsion from our lives, we sniff them back down again in a panic. 

Why would we do this when we believe God knows best?  Why would we want to do anything to get in the way of God working in our lives?  Let's revisit our 'blowing' excuses and look at them from a different perspective ...

  • Habit - we have become so used to pushing the issues down again that we now 'sniff' without even realising we are doing it.
  • Effort - perhaps we don't have the required tools to hand to deal with the issue. We may need to find a counselor, a trusted friend, a book to read, a journal to write, forgiveness to seek, a different route to take etc - but it may all seem like a bit too much effort.
  • Appearance - we fear that dealing with our issues may alter our appearance for a while. We may become a little sensitive, distant, or find ourselves on an emotional roller coaster. 
  • Discomfort - allowing difficult experiences, hurts, fears etc to surface may cause temporary discomfort.
  • Disgust - we may find the issue that God wants us to deal with is surrounded by negative feelings / experiences such as disgust and guilt. 
  • Embarrassment - we fear that allowing certain issues to surface may draw attention to ourselves when we would much rather keep under the radar of others and carry on as usual.

In the middle of a cold, I am sure you can understand that this sniffing analogy is particularly pertinent to me at this time. But behind the cover of a box of tissues and a very red nose lies the reality that I know God has started to bring damaging bacteria and restricting viruses out of their hiding place deep within my soul.

Colds may seem to appear in an instant - but linger for a while. I know this journey God has me on wont be cured with a sip of Lemsip. It will take time and it is likely to get a little uncomfortable.

I want to allow God to expel the rubbish that I have been holding on to - but the truth is - I really want to sniff.

Perhaps you too are a sniffer? Are you prepared to join me as I reach for a box of tissues and try to resist the temptation to sniff it all back in again? God is bigger than the colds we experience and has the ultimate cure for them - but we have to stop struggling and allow him to administer it.

And if you notice a quick sniff coming from my direction - please feel free to nudge me and give me 'the look'!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

40 days of blogging

After a fantastic day with the Youthwork Magazine Team on Monday (I am sure you will hear more about this shortly)  I have decided to attempt to blog every day for the Lent period. I can't promise that the posts will be long, profound, or even interesting for that matter - but it's something I believe I will benefit from personally.  I love writing, but I lack confidence in my ability and am painfully slow at creating each sentence.  So, my hope is that as I force myself to sit down and write a little each day, I will learn how to 'create' at a slightly more productive speed without getting too tied down with each word and allow the sentence or even paragraph space to speak for itself.

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I am thinking over the writing advice of Ernest Hemingway to 'Write drunk, edit sober.'  Interesting. Whilst I don't intend to engage in a cheeky drinking session before writing, the concept of sitting down and just letting thoughts flow without scrutinising every word that appears on the screen intrigues me. I think it could work. 

So, this is the plan.  Write away.  Don't over-edit during the initial process but let the mind and fingers dance together with a great degree of freedom. The choreography can wait. 

I'm too tired to write any more now - but before I 'failed' at my attempt to write every day for Lent on the first day - I thought I should at least post a very brief introduction to this series.  Now that is done, I can quickly add this short piece to my blog, and tiptoe quietly away.

Tomorrow, when 'sober' I will no doubt read over these words and cringe.  But that's tomorrow, and I will deal with it then!

Time for bed.  Goodnight.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The one with the conflict (updated in memory of Sam Yates)

I stood at the crossing- coat zipped, hood up, headphones on - staring straight through the traffic that passed by at speed.  Each car came with a gust of wind that blew cold into my face, but still I stood, perfectly motionless, eyes fixed firmly on the other side, where my journey would soon continue.

I thought I heard God. Nothing loud. Nothing clear.  But a tiny, quiet whisper, almost drowned out with the noise of the traffic.

'What if the blur that stood between you and your fixed destination mattered to me?'  I thought of the people in the cars, heading out to collect the kids from school, going to the shops, carrying out their work, visiting friends.

Waiting for the lights to change, I thought: Was God reminding me that there was a hurting world out there, that can so often be forgotten about as we focus on our own plans and purpose? Had I become a bit preoccupied with my own desires at the expense of those around me? We are told to go into the world, make disciples, teach, correct, love and serve others - had I lost sight of this?

The lights remained the same. My thoughts concerned me. Had my life become too much about me?

And still I stood, staring into the distance. And then I thought I heard God. Nothing loud. Nothing clear. But a tiny, quiet whisper, almost drowned out with the noise of the traffic.

'What if the blur that stood between you and your fixed destination remained firm in my hands and would continue without you?' I thought of the people in the cars and their determination to arrive at their own destination, whatever that may be. And the likelihood of this happening without me interfering.

Still waiting for the lights to change, I thought: Was God reminding me that He is in control, not me.  Had I become a bit too preoccupied with what goes on around me - in my family, in church, in the community - at the expense of taking time out and enjoying God's presence?  Even Jesus at times withdrew from 'stuff' to spend time with his Father.

The lights remained the same. And again, my thoughts concerned me. Had my life become too much about my 'doing' - my involvement in what goes on around me?

The lights changed and I continued my journey.  Confusion!  Had God spoken to me?  Had he dropped a few simple thoughts into my mind and heart to teach, challenge and develop me?  I want to say 'yes' - but would that be foolish?  After all they seem to be in conflict with each other! Could God be nudging me to focus more on those around me AND take more time out to spend with him?

God's Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path and yet it seems to illuminate two different directions!  How can I walk both paths at once?


* Sunday night I experienced the same. A pulling in two different directions. Unsure which way to turn.

I should pray for God's will.  'Your Kingdom come, your will be done ...'  He sees the big picture, of course I should pray for God to have his way, his will, to do what he wants in the situation. For his plan and purpose to be fulfilled.

But I wanted him to hear my heart's desire and that of so many others. That is okay isn't it?  'Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart'  Please God, please.

But what if, on this occasion, these two approaches weren't in harmony? What if God's will and my desire were in conflict with each other? What then?

Could I be so bold as to focus on the story of the persistent widow and try to 'change' God's mind?  God, I really want this to happen. You can do it. You can perform a miracle. You can restore health. You are a powerful and loving God. Surely you hear the cries of our heart?

Frustration, disappointment, pain, anger ... but deep down, the underlying truth is that I know God knows best.

What can we do when we are caught in the middle of a laser show with lights directing us in many different directions?  I don't have the answer. I struggle with it. I can see 'A' makes sense - I can see 'B' makes sense.  Neither go directly against scripture and both seem right.

But I do believe that God directs the path of the righteous and to me that speaks of movement. A path goes somewhere. So, I guess the only wisdom I can offer in situations like these is to pick a path and see where it takes you and trust that God will direct each step until you are walking in his perfect plan for your life.

Sometimes it is true that both or all directions are right, it's just a matter of balance and keeping God involved and being prepared to change direction when he tells us to! Maybe that is what God was saying to me at the crossing?

And perhaps on Sunday night it was more about being persistent in prayer, in dwelling with the Creator God, than choosing the 'correct' approach? I will still pray and I will still believe!

* That Sunday we prayed for a beautiful young woman and much loved friend Sam Yates to receive a miracle in the form of new lungs. Sadly, this didn't happen and on the 14th April 2013 Sam lost her battle with Cystic Fibrosis. Beautiful Sam is now breathing easy, and dancing around in the presence of her Saviour Jesus. Whilst she is and always will be so incredibly missed, we still have to believe that God knows best. This is hard. But the legacy that Sam left will change lives here on earth. She fought hard and selflessly to raise awareness of organ donation, in order to significantly increase the life span and quality of others. Two years on and that legacy still continues in many different ways - (one of which is a short documentary called 'A Love Worth Giving' directed by James Newton - please check it out - https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jamesnewton/a-love-worth-giving )

She really was a unique individual whose short life will always impact this world! Help raise organ donation awareness - sign the register and speak to your loved ones about it.

Sam, your love, your trust in Jesus, and your passion for life has and always will be an inspiration xx

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