Grabbing hold of God

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In October 2008 I went on a silent retreat to Holy Island off the Northumbrian coast. This was something of a watershed experience for me. It caused me to think deeply about my faith and subsequently set off to explore new pathways before rejoining a more familiar one, but in a more committed way. It was a significant and memorable five days. Even the contrary UK weather was kind and the island  lit with Autumn sunshine as we enjoyed the beautiful views and the open spaces where you could walk, explore, meditate and pray to the sound of seals just off the coast and sea birds wheeling in the sky above.  Holy Island is a thin place which is a Celtic term for somewhere the boundary line between heaven and earth becomes gossamer thin. I am told another example of this is at Ffald-y-Brenin in Wales where I have yet to visit.

 I am gradually learning to be more aware of those moments  when that instant of connection to the Spirit happens and suddenly feelings of negativity or insecurity are overcome and we can become   “sure of the things we hope for, … certain of the things we cannot see..”   (Hebrews 11:1 GNB) There are times when even in very difficult circumstances when things seem bleak, that we can receive a touch from God which pauses the pain we are in.

We don’t have to be in a special place but anywhere at all for a glimpse of heaven to break through. Just last week after a busy and quite draining day at work, feeling tired and in need of a spiritual uplift, I attended an Aglow meeting after being given a flyer from a lady at Church. The speaker was Maureen Sims, a lady whose story of moral and spiritual transformation through Jesus was astounding and very inspiring. My first impressions were of a little, ordinary lady with rough edges, but as she spoke, the work of the Spirit in her shone like a jewel and I was hanging on her every word, totally energised and encouraged by God. Afterwards I asked her to pray for me which she kindly did. 

So I am looking out for more opportunities to grab hold of God and to take the time to let these instances nourish me and hopefully encourage others through me. Somehow I think as I am more able to recognise them, so I am more likely to come upon them!

 

 

A Time to Heal

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Livingstone Daisies at Whitehill Chase July 2014

Healing of any sort is such a subjective topic, and in some church circles, contentious! The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as: To become sound or healthy again, Alleviate (a person’s distress or anguish) or Correct or put right (an undesirable situation) Working in the NHS I see healing daily from a medical perspective and can only applaud the efforts made by many health professionals to promote well being and alleviate suffering. I do think God works through the medical profession and the many discoveries and advances made have been amazing. However this blog post is primarily about healing which goes on inside of us, healing of the soul or spirit, a concept that is not always accepted, but which I believe, most of us long for. 

I don’t want to get too much into theology as in whether physical healing is our ‘right’ as part of Christ’s atonement, (although I rather think not, or else everyone would be) but I do believe God has something greater in mind for us, in Hebrew:  Shalom or peace, wholeness, health, soundness, something greater and longer lasting than any healing of physical disease. As such I took myself off to Whitehill Chase in Hampshire on three occasions this year, having been recently bereaved. My response to bereavement surprised me as it included a lot of fear and anxiety as well as temptation to loss of hope (I now know they are all normal reactions) plus linked in with other past losses the impact on me was greater than expected.

As soon as I first walked into Whitehill Chase for a healing day in January, I felt a sense of warmth and safety, of well being which remained with me all the time I was there. This is not something that usually happens to me as I’m far too cynical (!) so it could only be God at work. I found out later that the staff there had been praying by name for all those on the list of participants for several days before we were to arrive. The day was of huge benefit to me, I met some lovely people, browsed the bookshop, enjoyed worship time & talks and had a prayer appointment with two lovely ladies who were truly insightful and very kind. Plus the food was lovely, all home made (cup cakes to die for!). I immediately booked myself in for a Saturday on dealing with fear, a couple of weeks later. This too was a very valuable experience with great fellowship and the opportunity for healing prayer which incidentally, is all carried out in a gentle, respectful, quiet manner by sensitive people (no histrionics!)

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It’s great having something to look forward to, so as well as holidays this year (and with husband’s approval!) I also booked a July weekend retreat at the same venue. This was led by Jen Rees Larcombe who runs Beauty from Ashes at her home in Kent and is also a writer. Jen was miraculously healed after 8 years in a wheelchair, then went on to endure family tragedy which she has ultimately overcome by her faith in Christ. God has used her and her team greatly to bring His compassion and healing to others going through difficult, life-changing situations. I already loved her books and it was great to meet Jen in person and benefit from her wisdom and kindness, she is also very funny and flies in the face of convention which I love! There were some great ladies there from Jen’s team plus I met other participants who were lovely to chat to. At my prayer appointment, Ann had great insight into my situation and God confirmed a source of hope and direction to me through something she said. In all I felt renewed and like I was taking steps forward in my life from then on as a result of the Retreat.

I would thoroughly recommend both the organisations mentioned to any readers seeking some TLC or spiritual renewal/prayer ministry or simply some time out from every day life. And yes God does heal today, sometimes physically but more often He brings wholeness to the mind, emotions and spirit which is equally as amazing! 🙂