Providing the right conditions for growth and then we the wait.

Day 37 – lent challenge – Wait
Today’s blog is for my college lecturer. His enthusiasm, passion and love for growing seeds.
He taught me the basic principles of horticulture. Which today is igniting me to grow faith in others.
Seed dormancy, germination, growth, fertilisation , cross fertilisation, companion planting, weeding, pruning, gardening, nurture, growth are horticulture terms.
The more I explore and learn about faith the more my world of horticulture and my God worlds join up.
Before we even grow seeds we need to prepare the ground. The more time and effort we put into preparation the higher our germination rate.
Ground prepared without love care and attention might produce some growth but it’s not producing healthy robust plants.
It’s the plants we buy in supermarkets as opposed to plants grown by ourselves or local nurseries.
The supermarket plants are grown to look good, be showy. They are not always grown for a long and fruitful life. If you look closely at them they are all very much the same, no individualism, trained and pruned to grow at optimum pace.They often have poor root structure and are not able to sustain themselves long term.

The plants grown ourselves or at a small nursery are growing in conditions that are familiar to them. Climate is local and encourages growth, they have not been stressed by moving around. They have been grown with love in conditions that remain constant to them. They are often plants that show some individual traits.
Individualism is something the gardener wonders at. Sharing with other gardeners the diversity of nature. As a gardener, I get so excited when my plants do something out of the ordinary. (I mean flower early or a colour I did not expect ).
If the supermarket plant showed such individualism it would be lost in quality control.
I was taught to grow seeds with passion, to sow in the correct medium/ soil according to the seeds needs.
Seed compost contains little nutrients, we want our young seedlings to be hungry for food. Looking for food they put down lots of strong healthy roots. Roots that will sustain them.
Roots are key to growth. I always marvel how you can chop some plants down to the ground and yet it can regrow. Often that new growth is stronger than before.
Plants that are allowed to grow quickly often flower early and die. They put all their energy into flowering instead of developing roots. We need to encourage roots to look for nourishment, to grow deep to ensure survival.

Roots are the key to growth holding and storing energy/love for growth.
I was taught when buying a plant however wonderful it looks if possible remove it from its pot and check its roots.
A plant roots to me is like our heart. The stronger Christ makes our heart the more it can withstand. The more love it can give and the more fruit it can bear.
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I love this image that shows the roots of a tree spreading out. They never stop growing, never stop providing nourishment. Spreading out beyond the canopy of the tree.
God is working in our hearts growing and changing us. It’s that growth that we cannot see that I find so amazing. It’s on that growth /faith that we rely on.

My faith is still at the stage of putting down lots of roots. Still in the seed compost, hungry and growing. A few wobbly shoots have appeared but need support.
I am excited to see what happens when I get planted out in the garden of creation.
That’s something that does not happen in my timing, it happens in God time.
Gardening/faith is all about providing the right conditions for growth and then we the wait.

1 Corinthians 3:6 Good News Translation (GNT)
6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plant, but it was God who made the plant grow.

 

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Film night.

It’s inspiring, exciting almost contagious when you share conversations with people that are passionate and knowledgeable about a their interests.
It’s a privilege when someone takes the time to explain and share something of their story with you. When we stop and listen with genuine interest, barriers can be removed thoughts and ideas shared.
We get a window into what drives them, what excites them. I learn so much from just being around amazing people ( inside and outside of church). Hearing how they have overcome obstacles, holding onto their personal goals and visions.
These people inspire me to overcome my personal obstacles to share what’s in my heart with others.

Today’s blog is for a man whose passion for old films has had such a positive input in my life. This man is Noel Cronin, Noel and his family ( total of 3 staff ) are the staff behind the TV film channel talking pictures.
Noel Cronin started off as a post-boy in the giant Rank Organisation, Britain’s leading film company. He became an assistant in the cutting room and then an editor at the central office of Information. He later set up a film distribution company and bought up rights to a number of old British films, believing that one day there’d be a big demand for them.
His film collection is described by his daughter as a labour of love.
I have always had a passion and love for film. The first time I met my husband was in the queue at our local cinema.
Talking pictures TV has brought this love of film into our home. To the point that we rarely now watch main stream television. The channel provides me with a fascinating window into the past I especially like the British films that show ordinary people just going about their daily lives, getting a glimpse life in a different era .
The war time propaganda films is another interest to me. They tell us the story the government wanted us to see. Films that painted a romanticised picture of life during war time Britain.
The films bring such richness in their story telling. They don’t rely on special effects or vast budgets. These films are just so refreshing different to the films we have today.

Films made in a era when cinema attendance was at a all time high. A time when church and faith was a visible part of life to many people.
Watching films and sharing films is something we love to do. Nights at the cinema with friends. Film night at home with friends and family is a monthly highlight. Films carefully chosen distractions removed. We all settle down with a pot of tea and biscuits and watch together. The films often open up discussion on life, values and faith.

The channel show a vast range of films, ensuring there’s something for everyone. Not every film is good but with the channel showing films 24/7 there is usually a gem at least once a day.
I have far to many favourites to share with you. Here’s a little review of just Four that come to mind.

Heavens above- 1963

This wonderful film shows the Rev Smallwood attempting to live out the gospel in a parish populated by elitist landed gentry. He quickly becomes unpopular in the village. One of my favourite lines in the film is when the Bishop complains that Rev Smallwood keeps bringing God into everything he says and does.
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The Holy and The Ivy – 1952
The film takes place as a family returns home on Christmas Eve. None of them are very happy and are hiding their troubles. Felling they can’t divulge their sins to their father ( Rev Gregory ). They fear being judged, that they will receive a religious lesson if they discuss their problems with him.
Rev. Gregory is oblivious to the unhappiness of his family surrounding him. When the Reverend realises his children never brought their pain to him and why, he feels he has failed as a religious figure—he tells them he isn’t there to criticise but to help.

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Born of the Sea – 1949

There is a lovely African proverb “ it’s takes a village to raise a child “ this film shows the love of a small coastal community as they raise the small child that they find adrift in a boat. The film talks to me about family, that we are all family, Gods family. In that family we have shared responsibilities to each other. We need to open our doors and hearts to those in need. Loving and caring for the strangers that met and journey though life.
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Conspiracy of Hearts- 1960
Italian nuns risk everything smuggling Jewish children out of a German internment camp and transporting them to safety. It’s a film that is as complex as its simple. The film is so rich It would be unfair to try and sum it up in four lines. The bible verse below came to mind when I watched this film.
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Ruth 1-16
But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to abandon you, to turn back from following after you. Wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.

Black Dog Called Depression.

Day 35 -Lent Challenge – Lead

This blog is acknowledging my life living with the Black dog called depression. The Black dog is not mine, it’s attached its self to my husband. It lives with us and is part of us. It’s real. That’s why it’s included in my 40 blogs.
I have written two stories, both true. For those that have not lived or cared for someone with depression, I hope this helps gives you some understanding as to what life can be like.

Recently some friends brought a puppy. It was a very much loved new member of their family. This golden ball of fluff arrived in their lives looking and acting like the perfect family pet.
He’s such a funny little character loved and enjoyed by everyone that visits them. When the family are at home he’s a joy. As soon they all get ready to leave him at home on his own things start to take a turn for the worse.
He gets anxious paces and makes funny noises. As the getting ready in the morning intensifies so does his levels of anxiety increase. Tension starts to rise between dog and owner.
When eventually they leave him in the quietness of the house he does what all young dogs do.
He’s chewed what he can. Pooed where he should not, and generally gets into terrible trouble.
The owners soon realise the dog’s behaviour cannot continue.They see their short-sightedness in buying a puppy and working full time. They love this dog and want to do all they can to relive its stress and anxiety. They arrange a dog sitter, friends and family help when they can. Dog sitting on evenings and on weekends so everyone had a good quality of life including the puppy. They consult an animal behaviourist. Learn signs of anxiety and take steps to eliminate them.They add routine to their day. Giving the puppy space to explore and play.
They no longer fear coming home. They no longer dread opening the front door.
They never blamed the dog for its behaviour they understood the reasons behind the behaviour and addressed them.

Reading the above story nothing surprises us. We know and understand that leaving a puppy alone for long periods of time is not good for dog or owner. With love time and patience they grow up and become the family pet we hoped and dreamed of.

I am going to tell you the story of the Black dog ( depression ) that lives with us.

24 years ago I feel deeply in love and married my husband. I walked down the aisle a young bride looking forward to married life. We looked the perfect couple. Young happy and in love.
The Black dog ( depression ) joined our family- it becomes attached to my husband. To start with it was more of a nuisance than a problem. With a few simple changes, it was manageable.
We learned to live with it. As we got older the dog grew up and got bigger. It would become a nuisance, causing embarrassment and upset.
It becomes so big that it forgets its manners, being rude, snapping and growling at all those who came near him/ us.
The tension in the house caused more snapping and growling. Going out without the dog become harder and harder.
We seek professional help. The Black dog refuses to go. The more tension I put on its lead. The more it bites and refuses to do even the basic tasks. The Black dog has imprisoned us in our own home. It refuses help. When the dog finally shows weakness, the help that we receive is difficult. The services are busy and overworked. They don’t have time to see past the growling. Each appointment we see someone new. This causes defence behaviour that looks aggressive.
Our friends stop visiting us. Why would they want to spend time with a dog that does not want to engage with them? A dog that does not wag it’s tail. A dog that does not play.
The hardest part for me is leaving the Black dog home alone with my husband. I fear what it will do. I fear it will take away my husband, that it will totally consume him to the point of no return. I fear its greed will be to much for my husband to cope with.
I fear opening the door. I dread coming home to the quietness of the house not knowing what it’s done when I am out.

The trouble with the Black dog it’s invisible. It’s not an imaginary dog it’s real. Because people don’t see it they fail to understand. I don’t blame them, but many blame and judge my husband. They see the behaviours but lack understanding.

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So how do I cope?
Pray
Prayer is my biggest way of coping. I pray when the Black dog is sleeping. I hold my husband first thing in the morning and pray. When it’s bedtime again I hold my husband and pray until God holds my exhausted words until sleep takes me too .
I pray that we can put a “lead” on the Black Dog. That it can be managed, disciplined and controlled.

Gratitude.
It’s being grateful for the little things and thanking God. It’s the littlest things that give hope; a hug, a smile, positive conversations.

Love .
Being honest and open to those that love us. That honesty also has to be respectful to my husband. I have friends that know and understand that life is hard. It’s so important for me to have a couple of special friends that I can trust. These friends are good listeners, they don’t judge. They love us and pray for us.

A Prayer for my sister.

Day 34 – Lent challenge – Accept.

I sat on my mums lap, her arms wrapped around me. She moved slowly and rhythmically as she held me in her arms. It comes so naturally to her. We sat together with other families listening to the story of Jacob and Esau.
A story where sibling rivalry try’s to distort and destroy all it touches. The story of two bothers fighting over the love of their father, fighting over what they both consider to be rightfully theirs. It’s God that sees these two brother reunited .
My beautiful mother knows so well the pain caused when siblings fight each other. You see my sister and I are not exactly the best of friends.

This lack of friendship does not stop me loving my sister. Just as last night I was not to big ( just over sized ) to sit on my mums lap. Being held in her love surrounded by Gods love.
Listening to a story that in so many ways echoes my own relationship with my sister.
Our story is a painful story. The saddest thing about our story is we both hurt the person we love; our mum. I can no longer accept this. I would never want my actions to hurt others. So why do I constantly hurt my mum.
The biggest reason is fear. It’s a selfish fear for which I am sorry. It’s a fear that my sister will hurt me as she has done in the past. I fear her scheming, deception and the way she can manipulate me. Taking advantage of my weaknesses, leading me to a place of trust only to hurt me as she has done before.
This is no longer an acceptable way to behave. I no longer have to face these fears alone, I am ready to move forward. Taking that leap of faith, knowing that wherever I land God will be with me. In my weakness, he is strong. I pray that we can be reconciled together in some way. What ever way this happens I know God will be a part of that reunion. A reunion that will give peace and joy to my mum.

Last night as we were listened to the story of Jacob and Esau the listening turned into acting. The last part of this story is reconciliation and of course a hug. It’s amazing how much more powerful words are when accompanied by actions. We all played roles, I was one of many donkeys. Jacob and Esau were played by twin boys. Seeing these boys walk towards each other and give each other a awkward hug was profound and moving . After a hug we had prayers. We prayed for people that we wanted to build relationships with. We prayed for broken relationships and healing.
Praying with children and their families is always a privilege and a joy. Being with them as they explore and grow in faith is awesome . I get so excited by their prayers. The language the children use to talk to God is always so pure and humbling. It excites me how obvious children make faith, how uncompleted it is to them. As adults we over complicate something so simple and beautiful as prayer.

A Prayer for my sister.

Loving God
This is pray for my sister.
I pray from my heart through you to her heart.
I ask that we see each other and love each other as sisters should.
That in this loving we heal past hurts and soothe past deeds.
I ask for forgiveness for the pain we both cause to each other and those that love us.
I pray that our families can be joined in love, your love.
Lord I ask that somehow you open doors and opportunities for our relationships to heal and grow.
That we will have the wisdom to see and use these opportunities for love. That from that love friendships may form and grow.
I pray for the sense and understanding to be realistic and accept the path this journey will take.
Please give me the strength to listen to you. I ask that my words will be kind, my thoughts loving and my actions sincere.
I ask that we will find peace hope and forgiveness as we journey with you.
Amen.

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2 Corinthians 12:9 Good News Translation (GNT)
9 But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me.

Valued and Loved.

Day 33- Lent challenge – Give

We need four hugs a day for survival, Eight hugs a day for maintenance 12 hugs a day for growth.
We really don’t hug enough. Twelve hugs a day for growth that’s almost one hug for every waking hour.
There’s something about the raw simplicity of a genuine hug. There’s beauty in that simplicity. It’s love compassion and peace. A gift that holds you in the moment. A hug is love in action, love without language. It’s love from within spilling out from our hearts into our arms.
Theirs a human connection in a hug. Jesus touched the untouchable, embraced the children. Jesus did not wave from a distance, acknowledge our pain with a dutiful smile. He did not love and heal with an a understanding nod of his head. He embraced.In that embracing opening a way to God, forming human connections and expressions of love. To hug and love each other is profound and real. A living connection to God. A loving connection that children by their very nature understand. A connection as adults we forget.
I defiantly think we should hug more.
I read the other day that a hug is an outward sign of an inward grace. It expresses our spiritual oneness with God and each other.
What could be more beautiful?

Todays blog is a thank you to a very special person. A humble friend with a big heart. They give the warmest most sincere hugs. It’s a gift to be able to hug as they do. Being loved by God while being held in their loving arms. Held in the moment, valued and loved, it’s a transfer of emotions.
I need to challenge myself to hug more. Reaching out to those I love and those who need to feel love and compassion .
Remember we need four hugs a day for survival, Eight hugs a day for maintenance 12 hugs a day for growth.
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Matthew 11:28-30 Good News Translation (GNT)
28 “Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. 30 For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.”

The school run, Pie Jesu and Henry King.

Day 32- lent Challenge – Remain.

Today’s blog is for my head of house.
When my mum was recently asked. Which four people would she have round for a dinner party (dead or alive) and why? She choose; her granddaughter, her grandfather, a personal friend, and her old English teacher (who went onto be my head of house at school).

I recently asked my mum why she choose him. The main reason was she felt valued. She went on to say that he cared and taught passionately. His love for poetry was something he wanted to pass onto others.
That passion for poetry has stayed with my mum. It’s a beautiful gift, that she has passed onto my daughter.
As children we grew up with my mum reciting poems at any opportunity. This was normally Sunday after lunch. We would all stay sat at the table listening to my mum performing poetry. ( Her owl and pussycat adds a whole new dimension to spoken word poetry) .
Our family favourite poem was the “ Chief Defect Of Henry King “ by Hilaire Belloc. We still all love this silly nonsense poem about little bits of string.
Mothering Sunday afternoon Henry King made an unexpected visit, accompanied by my mum sister and nephew. We spent a blessed hour together. A rare hour full of joy and laughter.
My mum sat on the sofa reciting poems. My 7-year-old nephew adding his own silly words. We all laughed so much.
So a huge thank you to this wonderful teacher for making my mum feel valued. For Teaching her poetry that remains with us and has been passed onto future generations.

My turn.
This wonderful teacher was getting near retirement when he became my head of house.  He held house assembley three times a week, this was a mix of school notices, poetry and prayer.
He always played a track of classical music at the start of assembly, during which he would walk with purpose into the assembly hall.
One morning he walked into the hall to the music “Pie Jesu”. The mood was somber as he gently broke the news to us that our much-loved tutor had been killed in a car crash. The music played on quietly as he spoke soft sincere words of grief and pain. I remember how we felt valued and loved by this teacher, he felt our pain.

Many years later listening to the same piece of music God spoke to me. I was not aware of this at the time. I was not completely listening, not yet ready. A little spark of faith very dimly ignited for a few seconds.
All this happened a few days after 9/11. I was driving to collect my daughter from school. Listening to my new cd of “Pie Jesu” that I felt compelled to buy only hours earlier. I had never even thought about this music until the tragic events of 9/11. The grief I felt connected me with that school assembley so many years before.
Listening to the music I ended up driving and parking near the church. With time to spare before my daughter finished school, I walked into the empty church. Sitting down very very briefly before leaving.
I look back on that day and see it as a wobbly God moment. I often wonder how close I was that day to a prayer. How close I was to opening my heart to God.

Last year “Pie Jesu” was sung at the saying goodbye service at Exeter Cathedral ( you can read more about it here). The service that offered me great comfort and support. Little steps in healing the pain caused by pregnancy loss. Giving my pain to God. It was such a powerful and moving day. Powerful emotions of a journey travelled.

It’s looking back that I see God showing up in my lifetime and time again. Showing up in the ordinary. I love the ordinary amazing things that Holy spirit does for us. Giving space and vision in our lives to turn the ordinary into something extra extraordinary.
Personally for me that’s so awesome, powerful and wonderful. God revealing himself to me in my ordinary routines. The school run, Pie Jesu and Henry King.

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Romans 12:1-2 The Message (MSG)
Place Your Life Before God
12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Unplanned Retreat.

Day 31- Lent challenge – Retreat.

This blog is to author Paul Young.
2017 Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday I went on a personal unplanned retreat into a virtual world. An absorbing journey that seeks to provide answers to the question ” Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?”
A journey that confirmed what I already knew. A journey that gave story to my pain. A journey into the pages of a novel. Deep into the pages of a book.
“The Shack” by Paul Young.
I know this book has it critics. It’s said not to be theological sound, incorrect in its teachings even a danger to the christian faith.
To me “The Shack” is a powerful novel telling a story of grief and pain. God’s love giving comfort to those who have been overwhelmed by tragedy. It does not try to be anything else. It tells a story; a story that tells us nothing new. A story that tells us God is good. A story that added depth and understanding to the questions that played on my mind.
The story brings the issues of forgiveness and places them in a modern world. It gives a voice to frustration and anger caused by pain, heart felt pain. Theirs real understanding that when bad things happen it hurts.The shack shows us, walks with us through our emotions to a place of forgiveness.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean we forget or accept someone’s actions. It’s forgiveness that releases angry burdens that we carry. In that letting go of angry we heal slowly, we heal in love.
God is always their in our deepest hurts, regrets, and longings.
One of my deepest hurts was a short car journey to say goodbye to a special little person.
I could feel God was with us on that short journey. It was obvious and powerful.
The shack made me think more about the three people in the car that day. Seeing us as three individuals traveling together, each of us having a deep personal individual relationship with Jesus .
We were on the same journey in the same car, all with our own different emotional needs.
These needs were acknowledged and meet by God. Intimate conversations lovingly whispered. Our own taylor made personal emotional survival kit. Through the pain God did not leave us.
Taylor made support surrounded by love.
I knew all this all before reading “The Shack “. But it was not until reading the book did I realise how comforting that was to me. How important it was to me that the little person that I loved so much was not alone. Jesus her special friend was with her. Never leaving her, being where I could not.
As this little person told me herself so many times. “Jesus is my friend he’s always with me. He’s with me in the playground, he’s with me at bed time, he never leaves me”.

It’s strange how obvious some things are. How we deeply know them to the point that knowing becomes a feeling. We read listen, are told over and over again; We understand .Yet it took a trip to “ The Shack “ for me to realise the depth, vastness, greatness, wholeness and the comfort of what it means to know you are never alone.

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Isaiah 49:16 Good News Translation (GNT)
Jerusalem, I can never forget you!
I have written your name on the palms of my hands.