Whose Hand are you holding … ?

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Apparently you can estimate a woman’s age quite accurately by looking at her hands! Mine are fairly small (I can only fit the tiniest marigold gloves!) and aging not too badly, despite a bit of sun damage. They fit nicely into my hubby’s much larger ones, quite enveloped in fact, which is a nice secure feeling.

As children we naturally hold onto our parents’ hands especially when we could be exposed to danger (busy roads perhaps) or in unfamiliar situations, and this continues ~ for some of us longer than others, depending on our feelings of vulnerability and need for independence. Later we may hold a lover or spouse’s hand as a sign of our closeness and partnership with them, or reach out a hand in friendship or to comfort someone. Conversely, there can be negative connotations such as: ‘she needs a lot of hand holding’ when somebody takes time to settle into a new job perhaps.

Life is busy just now, we have just had an offer accepted on a house, we have plans to let one out, my hubby thinks a job change/semi retirement would be a good idea!, if achievable. Work is busy and 2 of our 4 animals have been unwell this week plus I have just bought a newer car as my existing one will not go through the next MOT (it needed welding last time!) Things can seem overwhelming but I like the fact that God’s hand is available to hold onto:

Isaiah 41:10 says

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

and in The Message:

Don’t panic. I’m with you.
    There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
    I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.”

That firm grip is what I need. Can honestly say I’ve felt guided by Jesus step by step in recent days as I have endeavoured to pray about each and every significant thing and ask for His help. It won’t mean complete perfection or the easiest of circumstances every time but it does mean I can trust the outcome completely into His hands as He keeps hold of mine and I know that whatever He has planned for me will come to fruition and there will be blessing, whatever my feelings or circumstances may try to say.

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How I like to see Him …

Jesus-Laughing-with-Children

This is what I think Jesus is like, He who told his disciples to allow the children to come to Him … I actually think they probably jumped all over Him and there was much laughter and fun. Here was God Himself who loved them more than anyone else ever could, and it’s no wonder they wanted to run to Him. And this is how Jesus IS .. still … continually.

Recently as I have experienced a real renewal in my faith, I have found myself wanting to picture Jesus more. I know there is no definitive image of Him, but there are many depictions/artist’s impressions that are a real aid to worship and to my faith personally. I think the above representation is probably quite accurate for a young Jewish man in the Middle East of His day. I like that fact that it shows Him as so much a man and so at one with the children. Of course there are more seriously reflective images as in a cross or crucifix in church, which encapsulate all He has done for us as well as who He is. But the above picture  conveys  for me a strong sense of intimacy and authenticity in my relationship with Him.

I have a lovely postcard by Margaret Tarrant called Lesser Brethren shown here:  

Lesser Brethren

I see Jesus as looking rather more holy, clothed all in white and so representing to me, His divinity. It’s lovely to see how the animals and birds He created respond to Him, as I’m sure they will do again one day, within a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1). I recently purchased another Margaret Tarrant card of Jesus as the Good Shepherd:

margaret-w-tarrant-loving-shepherd-of-thy-sheep

This one depicts His protection and care of His people and reminds me of where my true safety and security lie. My devotional notes this morning spoke about Jesus being the cornerstone (Ephesians 2: 19, 20). In architecture, this stone keeps all the others, in fact the whole building standing, just as Jesus keeps us His church strong and upright. As Shepherd He is also that source of strength for us and also our guidance as He leads us.

Finally I have a little card in my Bible with helpful verses on the back relating to varied life situations, but on the front is this drawing:

Jesus - how I like to see Him

It’s quite old as a friend gave it to me at Uni, I remember rather embarrassingly, that I asked if I could have it! Having recently come to faith at that time, something  attracted  me to the image of Christ on the front, someone strong and who is gazing upward, intent on doing what His Father would have Him do, yet someone whose safe hand I could imagine grabbing when I was afraid.  This little card remained in an old Bible until a few weeks ago when I decided to put it in the one I’m currently using.  

We have a God we can truly know in Christ and I have come to value these visual images of Him and it’s a joy being able to share them.

 

 

 

 

Faith journey

spirtual journey

Have probably said this elsewhere, but I do think that the development of faith in one’s life is linear and not a fixed experience. I wasn’t brought up in a Christian family, although my parents had early church connections and I have since found out that I have a couple of Methodist minister ancestors! As a child I occasionally went to Sunday School but this petered out, then it was Brownies and a ballet class held in the church hall. So was the sum total of involvement for me until I attended a church youth group for a while in my teens, having been invited by a school friend. With hindsight I know her family were  praying for me, I always enjoyed visiting their home and her mother became a sort of spiritual mum to me, and also a dear friend as I grew up. I always acknowledged God as existing and liked to envisage the prospect of an afterlife, but I had no concept of faith in Christ, nor of a redeeming relationship with Him.

At University it all fell into place, I realised my need of Jesus and suddenly the whole point of life became clear, the Westminster catechism puts it well: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever’ Of course faith is a gift and it’s attainment is different for everyone. My own coming to faith wasn’t dramatic, but was very definite. At Uni I had made friends with several Christians (no coincidence!) and they encouraged me hugely as we began journeying together. Prayer (or conversation with God) became a natural part of life and the bedrock of all my experiences. So my roots were Evangelical, with a gentle charismatic aspect as I began to believe in and experience supernatural aspects to my faith. 

Then a couple of years after Uni I definitely went on a detour! New relationships began to dominate, I had my head turned on several occasions and subsequently fell away from  a daily Christian walk, although not from faith in God. I still asked Jesus to answer my rather self-centred prayers for unsuitable boyfriends!! but I wasn’t prepared to really listen to Him nor to examine whether these relationships were truly worth it. There are many memories of that time I cringe at, but in all honesty, some good ones too and a couple of these people remain on my Christmas card list.

The turn around came when I began a new job with a Christian organisation, made new friends and met my husband. Normal service was resumed somewhat, but of course God had never abandoned me, He’d simply been waiting for me to go the prodigal route. Around that time I also received two ‘words’ from God delivered during times of prayer and ministry, and transcribed by my flatmate at the time.The following years have also been something of a searching time. We joined what seemed to be an exciting and ‘different’ church which  actually proved to be very elitist and  fundamentalist, however at the beginning it yielded friendships and lots of involvement, so the less healthy (cultish) side was obscured until, after two occasions when the church split, with accompanying conflict and departures, we called it a day. I have never regretted this, I didn’t realise  just how ridiculous and unhelpful to others my beliefs had become, and their insidious influence has still had to be resisted occasionally but I think now has all but gone.

Perhaps as a reaction I spent a few years with an  awakening interest in a more contemplative  faith, going on a silent retreat to Holy Island, joining a Julian group, following set daily prayers and visiting a couple of convents. I resisted Evangelicalism and totally turned my back on the charismatic movement for a time. Slowly but surely the journey has been progressing onward and after a more recent transitory experience elsewhere, we have joined a lovely church where we feel at home and I am so open to God using me in the things He wants to do for others. This church is evangelical Anglican with some gentle charismatic features apparent amongst certain people (including myself!). So I’m  back to square one but with greater conviction! not exactly liberal but more tolerant as I reflect on how radical Jesus was in His love for people (and still is). Recently I found those prophetic ‘words’ again (from 1989) and was amazed at how accurate they actually are with the passing of 20+ years.

So congrats if you have stayed with me and waded through all that, I suppose I just want to say that faith is something very fluid, the most important aspect (for me) is who our faith is in, but the journey lasts a life time and can take us on many an interesting route. Somehow I think my path is now more settled and I expect to continue along it in the days to come. Watch this space! 🙂