Doing things different.

This picture was taken in 1976, a 5 year old little girl presenting the lord mayor with a flower button hole. The occasion was the grand opening of the church’s Christmas sale .
The picture is staged for the local press. Everyone smiling and the little girl is doing just what is expected of her. The newspaper cutting shows us how life has changed. Lord mayors opening the Christmas fete is surely something only happen in years gone by.
The little girl at the front is me .

I had forgotten until recently about this photo. I can’t remember the day of the church sale. I can’t even remember the photo being taken. But I do know I was a member of a church community that loved me.
The photo shows me before I started school, before the education system started to erode the person that I longed to be. I was painfully shy and that made me different. Struggling with school work, daydreaming, instead of engaging with the written word.
I was told I was not good enough, told I did try.
These comments shaped me, shyness slowly developed into fear, and lack of confidence .The fear of words and shyness would start to rule over me.

I have been reconnecting with my childhood journey of faith. The child that still lives strongly within me is taking me back. Showing me that God has always been with me .
We are each called for a particular purpose, we’re supposed to be wildly different. We are called to show God’s love for us. Show this love in our actions / doing things different, the way we spend our money, the TV we choose to watch, the conversations we have.
The coolest thing is when the Holy Spirit lives within us we connect to our creative child within ourselves. We never lose our sense of wonder our world just gets bigger and more full of love.

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Taking Love Home.

This week we had to make some really tough financial decisions. We cried as our beautiful old car was driven away by its new owner.
We reminisced as we packed up our scuba diving equipment ready to post out .
Looking around the garden I started to put plants aside, writing out price tags, attaching them to the plants that I had grown,loved and nurtured.
So much time care and love has gone into these plants, I decided they were not for sale. My plants are so much more than just a pretty flower they represent growth and love.
I sow the seeds but it’s God that grows them. I just provide the right conditions for that growth to take place. How could I possibly ask money for something so beautifully wonderful as the love that comes from God? I can’t .
I gave my plants away, asking only for a small donation ( to cover costs ) to those that could afford it. The donations I received will be spent on seeds. So I can keep on growing and keep on giving.
Each plant given represents love. Love freely given to carry on growing in someone else’s garden.
When you have God’s love it needs to be shared with others. As I shared my plants, I shared something of myself and my love for Jesus.
I have had a unexpected blessed weekend. Meeting so many new people, all with a interest in gardening all happy to take a little bit of love home with them.

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Colossians 2:7 Good News Translation (GNT)
7 Keep your roots deep in him, build your lives on him, and become stronger in your faith, as you were taught. And be filled with thanksgiving.

laughter and legend.

The community that greeted me the other Sunday morning, gave me a real sense of belonging. It was exciting to be in such a warm and openly friendly place. It felt liberating to be part of a community that I could openly share with others the week’s failures and successes.
The best part is they wanted to listen, they were sympathetic to my problems. Knowledge was shared with simple storytelling involving laughter and legend.
After introductions were exchanged we shared simple food and ate together.
This community overflowed with one common love and one common passion that contagiously spread throughout. We all spoke the same language we all choose to belong to this like-minded group of people.
I will treasure my first Sunday morning on my allotment.
When I asked “ how do you see the future church? I will think of myself on the allotment muddy and happy sharing bitter tasting salad leaves.
I will hold onto that openness and excitement in my memory for a long time.
I know that the allotment community won’t always be like this. Problems will arise, someone will use someone else’s wheel-barrow, allotments will become overgrown and this will all cause fiction between allotment holders: It’s real life.
All communities have their ups and downs, our church communities are no different. It would be so wrong to think we are perfect because we are Christians. We are people, annoying, funny, angry, happy, sad, flirtatious, depressed people and despite our differences we place ourselves and each other before God.
That’s what excites me about the church community we place ourselves and each other before God just as we are. When we meet as Christians we need to be real with each other. We need to be able to live our faith in our community’s as we are. Loved on our good days and bad days.
The church I belong to is a kind loving welcoming community. I value the teachings and the wonderful congregation that has supported our family for over 4 generations.
The allotment community just took it all to another level. My Sunday on the allotment felt like church, My little patch of mud is a God filled space overflowing with love and potential.

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1 Corinthians 3:5-7 Good News Translation.
5 After all, who is Apollos? And who is Paul? We are simply God’s servants, by whom you were led to believe. Each one of us does the work which the Lord gave him to do: 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plant, but it was God who made the plant grow. 7 The one who plants and the one who waters really do not matter. It is God who matters, because he makes the plant grow.

The Jewel of the field.

I am very slowly planting a Bible garden ( featuring plants from the Bible). It’s a garden that has no plans other than to grow plants along side Scripture.
It’s bringing my world of Gardening into God’s word, inviting people to share something of me when they visit my garden.
Researching and discovering new plants excites me. I’ve purchased a Bible garden book to aid with planting and research. It’s a great book to inspire plan and think big.
One little gem of a plant featured in the book is Corn Cockle “ Agrostemma Githago “
The book explains it’s the weed in the parable of the weeds.

“ When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared “ Matthew 13:26.

I purchased some seed, sowed them, watered and loved them. They have in turn germinated, grown flowered and set seed. I’ve loved having this plant in my garden, It’s small purple flowers have delighted me, it’s seeds heads fascinated me.
I’ve learnt it’s genus name Agrostemma is derived from the Greek word argos ( field) Stemma ( crown) – the jewel of the field.
I’ve learnt how it’s roots, stems and seeds are poisonous. If harvested with the wheat any bread made that contains its seeds will be bitter and can even be fatal.
Its been a jewel in my garden this year a wild flower on the edge of extinction in abundance and thriving.
But it’s come in under total false pretences.
Doing a little more research the more probable weed in the parable of the weed is darnel “ Lolium temulentum” it’s also known as Cockle or false wheat.
It has many similarities to Corn Cockle both are poisonous and both spoil the wheat crop.
I’ve seen so much beauty in the Corn Cockle, I’m not going to pull it up just because it’s not what I thought it was, I cherish all my plants, they are all precious to me.
The Corn Cockle is not a weed it’s a loved plant that enhances my meadow and ensures the survival of a plant on the edge of extinction.
Its going to be another journey as I source and plant darnel. I’m excited to be sowing this monster sized grass, excited by the conversations it will cultivate. It will be a blessing to share the parable of the weeds when I open my garden next year.
This giant grass will totally over shadow my Corn Cockle with its small delicate flowers. But it’s story will also be told, It’s a story of double checking , cross referencing learning to evaluate the sources and information I use for reference.

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Question 6 – The silent wow – Part 2.

Question 6 on the BAP ( Bishops adversary panel ) form asks you to tick one of two boxes . The trouble is I don’t fit simply into one box.
God created me to live life muddy. To find an immense amount of joy from creation. When outside my confidence sours, I think big, I think beyond the walls of a box, I lift myself to Jesus breathing in air that so full of a love that’s beyond our understanding .
My shape is God given, it’s just not box shaped. My shape is created for me. I can’t change it, I can’t be squeezed into a different shape. I can’t function unless I can be true to my shape and true to God. The wonderful thing is that we have our own shape. And yes some of us are box shaped, but not me.
It would be a very plan and predictable world if we all fitted neatly into tick boxes. If we could define our personalities by ticking box A or B
I simply cannot fit and function in a box I can’t conform to its organised neatness.
The trouble with questions that only allow A or B answer is they don’t allow for us to express ourselves it’s saying you can only be one.
I just don’t fit neatly into one, I’m always the odd one out doing my own thing. I’m not trying to be awkward or prove a point, I’m not wired. I am just being true to myself and true to my calling
This also applies to my future ministry it would need to be a different shape out of the confines of what some may consider normal or different . It’s a shape open to ideas, it’s a shape that fits in with the people.
My ministry would include all those that don’t fit into boxes, It would be for those whose boxes are crumpled, whose boxes are broken and those whose boxes have been flattened by society.
I am hearing a calling that’s rooted and grounded in God’s love. Taking that love to the unchurched in a context that they understand. It’s leaning their language and seeing the world that they live in through their eyes. It’s dancing forward while talking creative sideway steps that come from God.

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John 1:14 The Message (MSG)
14
The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighbourhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.

Question 6 – The silent Wow – part 1

When I discover beautiful views, walk behind a waterfall, when I sit in the stillness of the garden the vastness and hugeness that comes from God is beyond words. It’s the moment when you just stop and feel that wow factor.
I’ve tried to blog about that wow moment, take the wow beyond three simple letters, give that silence space some meaning so that others can understand, but nothing comes close to sharing how I feel inside.
Exploring my vocation is very much in that vastness moment. It’s that wow with no words. Stopping in that wow to write what I feel I just find tears and no words.
This has been frustrating as during this discerning process of exploring my vocation I need to talk to others about what I am feeling in these wow moments.
Praying about it is great, it’s easy and natural to do. After all these are Gods plans not mine. God also knows what going on in my wordless silent wow moments. But for the past year these wows have manly stayed just between me and God.
Last month the frustrations of not being able to find the words all got too much. I wanted to run away from the whole process. Go and hide somewhere where the words Priest, Deacon, ordination, vocation and discernment do not exist. But obviously you can’t run from God, this too has also been very frustrating.
Where ever I go this hugeness comes with me. It’s like a nagging little earworm that whispers and keeps whispering. When I am completely quite its whispers are sometimes the only thing I hear.
It’s no longer avoidable, I need to think about the bigger picture. I am required to answer question 6 on the BAP registration form (Bishops advisory panel form )
Which ministry are you a candidate? 1. Deacon ( distinctive) 2. Priest
All I need to do is tick one box . Deep down and for a long time I have known which box to tick. Ticking and acknowledging this is harder than I thought.
It seems wrong to give the answer to something so big by simply putting biro tick in a box. It’s so huge, one little tick in a box and then onto question 7 !!
I felt the question was not mine to answer. It felt presumptuous giving so much certainty to such a question. It’s a not promised path, It’s another step on the journey of exploring my vocation. Another step along an unknowing path trusting God.
I am sure many have filled out this huge form and boldly ticked the box. Feeling confident in their calling. But for me these two little boxes have been consuming my thoughts.
It feels such a huge relief to have faced this, to no longer feel quite so scared of what I am feeling. The last few months I have been nudged, loved, prayed for and gently coaxed to find the words that are etched in my heart.

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Acts 6 The Message (MSG)

6 1-4 During this time, as the disciples were increasing in numbers by leaps and bounds, hard feelings developed among the Greek-speaking believers—“Hellenists”—toward the Hebrew-speaking believers because their widows were being discriminated against in the daily food lines. So the Twelve called a meeting of the disciples. They said, “It wouldn’t be right for us to abandon our responsibilities for preaching and teaching the Word of God to help with the care of the poor. So, friends, choose seven men from among you whom everyone trusts, men full of the Holy Spirit and good sense, and we’ll assign them this task. Meanwhile, we’ll stick to our assigned tasks of prayer and speaking God’s Word.”

My Secret Garden .

I have a fully formed vision of my garden in its mature years. It’s my vision, it’s not committed to paper, It’s not something I share, it’s my secret garden fantasy. It’s a vision that includes my favourite trees all grown to maturity.
I imagine my Bramley apple tree, a mirror image of the one that once grew in my grandmothers garden. I picture my grandchildren climbing this tree ( grandchildren yet to be conceived !!! ). Taking the same joys and pleasures from this enormous tree as I did in my childhood.
I visualise myself padding in the steam that will flow through the garden. The stream blending into the landscape as if it had always been a there.
I see the wet footprints I leave behind as I exit the stream via a network of stepping stones. There are cold frames and glass houses full of pelargoniums, all beautifully displayed in clay pots on gravel benches.
My vision has no space for failure. In my mind the apple tree will reach maturity, The plants that I grow will not succumb to drought or disease.

The reality is gardening does not happen like this. Our lives are the same, we think we are going one way but God has different plans for us.
Meeting Jesus four years ago was the start of the most beautiful journey. My life plan changed overnight. My heart was suddenly aware of not being alone. The dark lonely path ahead was lit with love. My faith allows me to fall and stumble over and over again. I continue to stumble, each and every time I am picked up by God.
I have been changed from the inside, my world has been turned totally upside down. New words and a language unique to the church have wiggled their way into my world.
Discernment, vocation, are just some of the words that are shaping my journey today. My world is changing it’s getting bigger and every so slightly bolder. I am starting to see myself as the unique individual that God created and loves.
The word discernment has encouraged me to I reach into myself, to discover what lies in the deaths of my heart. This journey of exploring my vocation is emotionally draining but at the same time transforming and exciting. It’s ( This journey is on God’s time scale, not my timescale ) giving me a new direction to slowly grow into the person God created me to be.
It’s a journey with the vision that comes from God.

My six this Saturday shows my gardens journey over the last 4 four years.

Picture one is approx 4 years ago – Picture two is the present day.

Jeremiah 29:11
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.