Beyond the Mirage

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I wrote the following poem on a recent Quiet Day at Love’s Close , Burghfield Common.

“Dancing in front of my eyes the bright, garish lights of Christmas, some tranquil, others flashing on and off …

Copious parcels tightly wrapped, embellished with glitter and bows, tables groaning with tempting food, rich and extravagant …

Perfect looking people with perfect manners and perfect emotions, smiling and laughing …

Is this why He came?

Rather this Advent, this Christ coming, is because for many the lights are broken and they know only darkness,

They receive nothing richly wrapped, food is scarce or simply plain.

Families are fractured, fragmented, relationships lacking or soured,

He came for this

Dear Lord, take me beyond the mirage of Christmas to the brightest light of Your presence, the richness of dwelling in You, take my hand Lord, lead me on in hope.”

 

The ‘In’ Crowd

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There is an unremarkable sixties song which begins: “I’m in with the In crowd …” Now while the song itself is quite forgettable, the premise it puts forward is an interesting one, namely that  in life there will be groups and factions to which people will belong, however there is usually an ‘In Crowd’ and it is this that most of us will gravitate towards. 

You only know the In Crowd exists, when you find you are not part of it. It appears in schools, work places, Universities and yes Churches, most definitely! The latter saddens me but it seems a given, certainly in the Western church. As is the nature of such things, those involved revel in their own camaraderie and keep others out to retain this. Why do we get so threatened and why are we sometimes so reluctant to share our relationships? Some of us even need to pursue an air of superiority to feel comfortable, and keeping others  slightly excluded can sometimes achieve this.

How we need to emulate the One we follow and get rid of these tendencies (1 Corinthians 1: 10-11) He too had to contend with his best friends trying to keep away from Him those they considered inappropriate or a nuisance; and then they were vying with each other for a place at His right hand side! As I continue on this journey of life and faith may I be more aware of the marginalised and more inclusive whenever I see an opportunity!

 

The S word …

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Have been feeling  rather disagreeable (to borrow a nice Jane Austen phrase), for the past couple of weeks.   As a busy worker for the NHS I am used to being demanded of, pulled this way and that,  often painting on a smile that I hope isn’t a rictus grin while I battle tiredness, and longing for a cup of tea or the end of my shift whichever comes first. Now this isn’t to say that I never enjoy my work because predominantly I do, but being reasonably  normal, there are times when I react to the pressures of life.

Probably the greatest  challenge can be other people. Some days we must encounter and interact with those who rub us up the wrong way or are even deliberately unpleasant for reasons of their own. Too much of this and I  put up a wall or a  spiky fence around myself, but thankfully we do have a choice about who remains in our lives and with whom we journey onward. 

Then there is the challenge of not being driven : I must put the washing on, walk the dog, do the ironing, get dinner made by specific o’ clock!  Have also been feeling a sense of work getting in the way of creativity, because I have little energy sometimes after a stressful day.

Had a bit of a revelation yesterday reading an online article posted by a Facebook friend, the topic is totally unrelated but the self awareness got me thinking.  I know that low mood/feeling downcast are normal and happen as a natural reaction to things.  However  embracing them, reveling in them,  repeating them as a mantra (“I’m SOOOOO fed up!!”) and not considering ditching them is simply sin – yes I’m doing something wrong, against myself and against God, and all the while evil tries to obscure this aspect.

The key to unlocking this is saying sorry to God, addressing this as sin and moving forward. (Re)turning to the One whose grace overshadows me & whose forgiveness releases me. No one much likes you to mention sin, much less go on about it, because it has a lot to do with self focus and absorption, (which we all love to some extent), but in a very negative way, because it tries to dispense with God, plus it’s addictive and it’s catching!

The following verses have been brought before me recently  through both the mediums of the spoken and the written word:

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.” 

Psalm 121: 1-2, 7-8

They are proving a great help in overcoming these disgruntled feelings and giving me fresh perspective, and I already have  thoughts of how to make some positive changes. 

Two Happy Girls …

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… On Winchelsea beach enjoying the lovely September sun!  We had a nice and much needed break, enjoying the Sussex coast.

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This quirky home belonged to a couple who had it converted and moved to its current location, it was formerly a Railway carriage. 

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Just love the sea, so much so I try vainly to capture it and take it home with me! I had to settle for a framed gallery print this time though.

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Winchelsea Beach

Noticed these mosaics displayed at the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, a lovely touch …

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And finally, our special companion, taking a nap in our bed !!!

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June Holiday

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Haven’t blogged for a while, and am in the middle of packing for our move next week, so am posting a glimpse of our recent holiday, which will get me back in the swing of things, while absolving me of supplying a huge word count! 😉

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We stayed at Swalecliffe, Whitstable and a short walk along the sea front from Tankerton, a lovely spot with beach huts, cafes and a genteel olde worlde feel. It’s also the location of a colleague’s daughter’s wedding last year, they hired a house on the front there and had a BBQ on the beach!

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Of course Alice came with us and had a rare old time making new friends of the furry and human variety.

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Visited Canterbury which was a first for us both, but I did find it rather overly tourist-y. That said, we enjoyed the shops and eating out and the cathedral was magnificent (no sign of the Archbish though!)

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I’m rather missing Tankerton and it’s beach huts at the moment, although we will soon be living adjacent to the Holy Brook in Reading, plus I have booked for the seaside again this September, so plenty of waterside views to come!

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Such jazzy beach huts, many of which were painted in vibrant, welcoming colours and brightened up our morning walks. I rather liked this art deco one!

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Whose Voice are you listening to? …

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The cartoon above made me smile, but it’s true that we often have a conflicting dialogue going on in our heads, which can cause a wide range of emotions ranging from the slightly uncomfortable to absolute torment! I believe the human conscience is built in to all of us as a barometer of right and wrong, wise and unwise, but when we come to God and suddenly know who we are and how to live, this dialogue takes on fresh emphasis. I wanted to blog about this because it’s something current in my life and causing a certain amount of dissatisfaction and soul searching.

Jesus has sent us his Holy Spirit as a comforter and counsellor but there is also a dark voice competing for our attention and  hoping to shape our responses and behaviour. Tuning in to Jesus through His spirit is my goal and when I do manage to achieve this, the blessing and well being that results is second to none! Personally I find anxiety and discouragement to be a huge temptation as I respond to whatever life throws at me each day, the dark thoughts are whispered into my psyche and it’s easy to give up and drown in them if you are not determined to shake them off …

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”

                                                                (Philippians 4:8 The Message)

This is one of the most helpful antidotes to depression I have read, it’s true that when I’m thinking about things that make me happy that my feelings are lifted. It doesn’t just mean ‘religious-y’  thoughts either, I take it to mean those things we have experienced, people we know, etc who have blessed and enhanced our daily lives. 

 Another big battle is resisting going with the flow and joining in with niggles and unrest, the kind of negative situation that typically arises within groups of people! Having a discernment gift I can read people well and quite accurately, and this makes for an ability to perceive situations without having been previously told anything. I do struggle with gossip, and am certainly no saint there (!) but I am mindful of the damage a collective unkindness can have when people jump on a bandwagon and ignore their conscience (ever read Lord of the Flies ..?) There is no smoke without fire usually but even when we feel justified, it is hugely difficult to respond fairly I find ..

” Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.”

                                                   (Ephesians 4:31-32 the Message)

What a different society we’d have if more of us were willing to try the above!!

So Lord, I’m not there yet, but with Your help I’m trying and hopefully in the coming days will make some wise decisions and make sure I’m aware of whose voice it is I’m listening to!

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.