I am….not a sunflower.

A sunflower is not; an over grown marigold, or a mutated daffodil, It’s not a freaky big plant that’s grown out of control, It’s not a bi annual, it’s not a tree, it does not sting, it’s leaves are not black and it’s flower head comes in many colours but never blue. It grows regardless of wealth or what people say or think about it.
At this point you may have noticed that this is a list of what the sunflower is not.
Its easy to focus on what we are not. To look at what we don’t have, but when we strip away the not haves, in our naked nothingness we start to see who we really are and something of who God is.

Let’s go back to the sunflower, I can’t leave you with a list of what a sunflower is not without telling you something of what a sunflower is.
Latin name: Helianthus annuus.
Helianthus is derived from Greek helio- (sun) and antho- (flower).
annuus means ‘annual ( completes its growing cycle in one season ).

Did you know sunflowers follow the sun. Its not something you might notice when you have a lone flower in your garden. If you are lucky enough to see a field of sunflowers it’s obvious they know which way to look.

Something I found out recently, is that Sunflowers continue tracking the suns direction long after the sun has set. Through 360 degree’s they ensure that they are always oriented in the direction of the sun.
Their unity is totally dependant on one thing. Their relationship to the sun.
Facing the sun these flowers grow tall, towering above the other flowers. Theirs something truly wonderful, awesome, and beautiful about the sunflower. It seems so sure of who it is, confident in it’s just being.

Who am I?
For me this week the question has not been who am I but – who do others think I am ( waiting for the pioneer panels outcome ) .

In this time of waiting I need to be more like the sunflower, turning to God, almost pointing God out to myself, reminding myself that God knows who am.
That it’s in my very core of my being to turn to God, not just in these days of waiting but in all that I am.
It’s a being-ness in which Jesus walks with me into freshly ploughed fields and whispers sow.
It’s a being-ness that calls me to put on Wellington boots in readiness to walk in a direction that I have never walked before.
My being-ness needs to follow God as much as the sunflowers need to follow the sun. It’s a natural God created being that guides me to a place of doing. In my being and doing I to turn to God, to seek and find the core of my very self.
When I turn to God in this time of waiting, I feel the warmth of love that I follow, I see something of my I – am -ness in myself and others as I turn to face the warmth of one who loves us all.

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2014

John 13:7 New International Version (NIV)
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

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Prepare a room in our hearts..

The Christmas decorations have made their annual journey from the loft to the bedroom floor. This large oversized chest contains Christmas past and Christmas present . Theirs a irrational urgency to open this chest. The job of decorating becomes my prime task and focus. I use the word job and as if getting ready for Christmas is a chore, something that has to be done. A job like cleaning the windows or worse still ironing.
I’ve lost my focus , being pulled into the tasks that are not Christmas . The tasks themselves are joyful, but Christmas has temporally lost its wonder. Its been tarnished in the unnecessary urgency to get it done.
The tinsel still glitters, the Christmas balls still sparkle, nothing’s missing it’s all their . All perfectly waiting for …

For me to stop.
To slow down.
To find a star.

A cardboard star lovingly crafted by a little boy over 50 years ago. It’s warm colours are faded with age. The glitter has long gone. Yet it still shines brightly.
It’s tattered edges and faded paint tell a story of love. Holding onto the stories of our Christmases past.

Christmas is not about glittery cards or decorations, it’s about love. Love that needs us to patiently wait, to prepare a room in our hearts for the one who knows no boundary of time.

 

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Luke 21:34-36 The Message (MSG)
“But be on your guard. Don’t let the sharp edge of your expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping. Otherwise, that Day is going to take you by complete surprise, spring on you suddenly like a trap, for it’s going to come on everyone, everywhere, at once. So, whatever you do, don’t go to sleep at the switch. Pray constantly that you will have the strength and wits to make it through everything that’s coming and end up on your feet before the Son of Man.”

Love that drives knowledge.

Undeveloped, disorganised, immature, lacks direction and fullness would be a fair description of the end of my garden. Yet this part of my garden has great potential. Its a place that one day will have cottage garden boarders. A meadow rich with native flowers, fruit bushes and fruit trees all giving a plentiful harvest. The glass house will be organised, uniformed, seedlings labeled, cold frames full of young plants getting ready to be planted out into the boarders.
Their will be an ambulant aroma of herbs ranging from the bitter to the sweet.
I can only see the faults in this part of my garden. I can only see the plants that have not thrived. I can only see what needs to be done. I can see it’s faults and in them my own.
It creates a restlessness, I fidget constantly drawn to the things that do not really matter. While often missing the things that do matter.
The garden moves and changes as I try and understand what this garden needs to be. The paths will one day find their direction. I will one day blend the colours seamlessly within the boarders. The fruit trees will fruit and the meadows will be a drift of pastel colours. But just not yet.
Something’s we are just not ready for, we can’t rush our growing or our learning . Wisdom and knowledge does not only come with age and experience it comes from love.
This weekend I meet the most magnificent Mulberry tree. The genus name of the mulberry is Morus derived from the Latin word mora meaning “delay” because the mulberry tree is one odd the last trees to bud in the spring. The mulberry could possibly be the wisest tree of all waiting until the frosts have pasted before safely budding. It’s a wonderful tree that is indigenous to Persia (Iran).  A tree that teaches me its ok to be slow. In the slowness their is a delayed beauty, a slowness of learning that I need to embrace. It’s a knowledge that needs to be felt as much as learnt, to dance in its mystery to journey in Gods love.
I learn when I climb over barriers to hug an accident mulberry tress. I grow when I watch the sun rise. The knowledge of love is in the cinema, it’s in my messy garden, it’s in the people that I meet and the encounters we have Jesus.
A timeless love that waits for us to flower. It’s a love far greater than knowledge. It’s a love that I surrender to, a love that brings knowledge alive.
Without love the knowledge will die, Its love that drives me to knowledge. It’s not knowledge that drives me to love.
Like the majestic mulberry tree I am also slow to bud. I am slow in understanding the written knowledge of Scripture. I am slow to write and slow to read. But it does not mean I won’t flower. It does not mean I don’t understand or love.
Wrapping my heart and arms around Morus nigra ( mulberry ) connected me not only with God but to myself, to be myself. To stay true to the love that grows in my heart. A love that makes me hungry for knowledge. Love that is rooted and woven within me and the community in which in live.

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Luke 17:6
6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

Wrestling with compost.

It’s strange how certain activities trigger memories that unlock a world I have yet to understand. Physical actions gently push my mind, nudging my world closer to the words that I struggle to comprehend. Words that need to find a place in my heart. Require a practical understanding so I can relate to them in my own way. So I can learn to pronounce, remember and recognise them. To understand what they mean to me and others. I need that word to become visual almost tactile to revival something of it’s self to me. It’s a slow often frustrating way of learning. Taking time with just one word, allowing it to guide me in practical way.
The word Koinonia came into my life this week. I must have heard it before but for some reason I locked onto the word and tried to unpick what it means to me.
I discovered my answers while wrestling with a large heavy bag of compost. It sounds the most unlikely of places but together my faith joined my gardening world and made their magical connections to Koinonia.
I was taught at horticultural college to shake, turn and mix a bag of compost before opening it. It’s hard heavy work that I often question. I wonder how many other people get hot and bothered turning over these brute sized bags? Theirs no written notice on the bag “ exhaust yourself by shaking and mixing bag before use”.
Yet I know by putting in this effort my seeds/plants get the best compost to grow in. In the wrestling I mix all the nutrients and soil types within the bag. Ensuring my little seeds have everything they could possibly need to grow.
I never lose the wonder in planting seeds. It’s the endless possibilities, a unison between the creator and creation. My role is to mix compost, seeds, water and love together.
It’s that mixing that connected me to koinonia. It’s a community of love in which we grow. Its a seamless interchange of mutual love which unites the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The more we live in communities of love, the more we can grow into the image and likeness of God who created us.
It’s that powerful incredible linked togetherness with others and God, at the same time being profundity at one with nature.
We are together as a family, as community. Expressing our need to be feed nourished fed and healed by God who is a community of love.
When wrestling with my compost bags, I mix love. Providing that micro community within my glass house. A community that loves, feeds and nurtures my seeds.
We are not as good as we could be at mixing ourselves. I never realised just how much we must move and mix within and outside of our community in order to grow.
Sitting in the same seat in church each week, doing the same things can slow down our growth, and the growth of those around us.
Sitting in the same seat has a lot todo with habit. When we do the same nothing changes, we expect the same.
Moving and mixing is difficult, it challenges us to sit among different people. To get to know someone new, to see a different perspective, to notice things we have never seen before.
When I walk into church this Sunday, I will sit somewhere different. Challenge myself and those who sit with me to change seats each week. Making us more open to change and growth. Mixing with those we do not know.
Maybe in that mixing we will build a stronger community. A Community that together can reach out to heal our wounded planet. A Community of love that grows flowers and fruits in likeness of God who created us.

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Hebrews 10:24-25 The Message (MSG)
22-25 So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.

My first sermon.

Be Generous, Be Patient, Pray, Listen

If you’re wealthy be generous. If you’re worried be patient. If you have some possessions share them with others. If you have problems, give them to Jesus.

Our lives are full of noise yet we often fail to listen. We learn to stop listening, we become consumed in the noise of the modern world. We have to many options, to many choices.
Our lives are so full of noise we often forget  we can hear in the silence.

I’m not saying noice is bad far from it. We all have a favourite piece of music that we enjoy listening to. But what gives you that buzz of excitement every time you hear it?
Connects with your emotions deep enough to stop what you are doing and to just listen.

For me I find that  buzz of excitement in the silent darkness just before dawn.
Siting outside in the garden or woodland waiting listening for the moment the first bird sings.
It’s that explosion of airborne joy. You can hear the Robin, Blackbird and sparrow so clearly. Yet they remain invisible in the twilight of the morning.
The first time I did this it was my 16th birthday . I remember being amazed by the energy of the bird song. The teenage me just heard birdsong.
The difference is today when I get up early and sit quietly in the darkened woods. I listen to  God. Its one of the few times and places I can be really still. Stillness in the presence of our Lord. Stillness in the anticipation of a new day that’s about to dawn.

God speaks out of the silence. It’s not just silence. Its a stillness full of positive energy and life. A sacred space where I can just be. A space that God speaks his word.
It’s as if everything is on hold in this silent place the atmosphere is charged: than the first bird sings. This little oasis of creation speaks and rejoices in the new day.
Imagine if we equally rejoiced in the new day shouted it out “We are loved”
Our voices also beautifully in tune with creation. Our message being heard above the chatter of our busy lives around us.

Listening to the reading today James is asking us to be Generous, to be patient and to pray.
He’s not asking us to be generous with our money, he’s asking us to be generous  with our hearts. Giving a homeless person a pound as you walk past is easy.
Stopping and spending time with them is generously that comes from Christ . It’s being with this person valuing them . A person like us, loved by God.
It costs nothing to stop and listen with our hearts .

When we stop to listen we must do just that – STOP.  We can’t solve all their  problems  but what we can do  may go a lot deeper than mere problem solving we  can  come alongside the  person in their  difficulties.
This involves listening to the story they have to tell, hearing their complaints, their fears or sorrows. It means empathising, feeling what they feel, and joining them in opening the Bible to seek hope and strength.

James asks us to go out to the people that have wandered away from God.
He asks us not to write them off, “but to bring them back.”
How do we do this ?
It’s a big question and one that’s constantly  being asked .
How do we Bring back those who have wandered away from God. The size of the question does not excuse us from taking any action. We know that we can’t involve ourselves in every problem, every situation in which there is need; but we can do something.
Maybe that something is to take an interest in one person or one family or one cause.
To give our time.
To share our resources. Simplify our own lives .
To pray for those in need of our help.
To bring them into the silent spaces that God holds open for all of us.
To live in the now.
For each moment holds the greatest possibles of the future.
In that moment.
listen to the voice of love.
That whispers your name.
It is the voice of the one who is love calling you.
To go and tell what you have seen and heard.

James 5

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Hope.

Love : I know love heals, I know love hurts. I did not really understand just how much love gives hope.
Friday I attended a service of remembrance. There I felt and saw the love that gives hope.
Gods unquenchable, unstoppable love freed my heart opening my eyes to the abundance of love that filled the church with hope.
Hope allowed me to smile when I wanted to cry. To feel the wind of Love that comes from knowing God.
The words in the service echoed the words in my heart and mind. Weaving prayers, poems and memories with love so powerful it become visible.
Visible love traveled in conversations, It filled a church, It provided sandwiches, cakes and tea and coffee.
It’s no surprise the wonderful lady we came to remember was very gifted in making God visible. She really knew and understood what it took to love. She never stopped, even when she hurt and was in so much pain herself she still loved. She still smiled, still found time to make fairy cakes with chocolate buttons on the top.
Her love will never go away, she has touched so many lives that her love will last forever. The work she has done in our community’s will continue, taking on a life of its own.
She never changed the world, she helped change the worlds of the people she meet.
It was a privilege to have known this beautiful lady, that her world touched mine.

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With love from love.

It was a day of certainties. The sat navy planned our route; we would arrive at 9.50, the gardens opened at 10.
The leaflet given to us on arrival told us the history of the gardens. It was described as “ a living work of art” views like scenes from a landscape painting. We were told this timeless masterpiece was a showcase of garden design; gothic buildings, trees all centred around a large lake.
We followed our guide and together a small group of us stepped into this unfamiliar landscape.
I stepped into another world, It was almost as if I took a step every so slightly sideways. The vast landscape wrapped its self around me delighting in my willingness to journey along its paths.
Hands reaching into the rich canopy of this accident woodland I longed to hear it’s story. To allow the whispers of this magical place to engulf my thoughts. To clear the fog that dulled my imagination. Allowing for possibilities outside of what I thought should be reality.
The further I explored this landscape the more it talked a language that I understood. It connected my mind to the journey / plans that God has for me.

I need to rewind at this point at take us back to the beginning.
As I said on arrival we choose wait to take the garden tour. To be shown around this magnificent garden rather than choose our own route. We followed our guide. We took the paths she choose stopping at places of interest not of our choosing.
We did not rush to the magnificent view for which this garden is so famous for. We stopped and waited for our guide to show us the way.
It was sometime during that waiting that I took my sideways step into a slightly different world. The excitement of the journey ahead, the unknown paths, the wait lifted my mind to another place.
I walked the paths set out by this gardeners creator ( Henry Hoare II ) allowing myself to see the garden from his view. I saw what he wanted me to see.
Amazing to think that 300 years ago this garden was new. Carefully planted and designed to delight its visitors. Today it’s still capturing the imagination and delighting the visitors that travel it’s paths.
As I walked I shared something Henry Hoare’s vision. It’s a vision that has reached maturity yet its still growing and changing, at the same time remains true to its original purpose.
This garden really did have a story to tell.
Thats why I was so excited about my visit to Stourhead ( National trust house and gardens ).

Life’s about the journey. A journey planned ahead of us, ready and waiting for us to walk on the paths that God has set out before us.
As I journey along these paths I do not travel alone. I journey with God even when I stray from the path. God waits patiently for me .
His plans for me are not my plans. The journey is mine to travel. I have the free will to take any path of my choosing, I have the free will to race though life going so fast I fail notice the beauty of journey.

God used this landscape to meet me, over flowing with emotions buzzing with excitement God talked to me though this landscape. Connecting me spiritually with my life journey.
The slippery paths, the difficult paths, paths shaded by woodland, paths across open countryside soaking up the summers sun.
All these paths told me stories of my own life; dark times, times when I have needed support, prayerful times, the good and not so good. All a part of the rich journey God has planned for me.
I felt a powerful reassurance that the path I am following is the right one. Even though I have no idea of its route or the difficulties ahead, it’s the path I need to stay on.

Journey to the final view ( the main reason for the visit )

The guided walk gave me glimpses of this view as I walked towards it. The view was often blocked broken up and fragmented by the mature tress that edged the lake.
As I walked closer to the view so my journey become more reflective. The follies that I visited at the start of the walk were now in the distance. The harshness of these stone buildings softened and changed by their watery reflections mirrored onto the lake.
The garden continued to gave glimpses of what’s to come. Amid the decay of the woodland floor new growth resilient and abundant pushed its way though the rich mulch.
The view that I longed to see lost its importance. The journey / story was far greater than any ending I could have imagined .
The garden told me a story of love that never ends. Written and told by a loving father to his child.
The father knowing exactly what his child needed to hear.
The story was told with love from love.
The story told me do not to worry! You need to follow these paths, trust them, learn from them. The delight is not where you will be, but where you are now.

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Isaiah 55:8-9
[8] For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
[9] For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.