Sunday, 6 April 2014

Down in the rock bottom dumps #napowrimo2014

What do I mean when I say I feel
Down in the rock bottom dumps?
Am I a bit blue?
A little off colour?
Perhaps fed up?
Or do I mean something more?
Well this time I meant a whole lot more
I meant a complete lack of desire to
Think
Eat
Move
And an overwhelming desire to
Sleep
Sleep deeply
Sleep deeply forever
That's what it's like for me
Hopefully not for too long

She shouts so loud #Napowrimo2014

She shouts so loud
Doesn't care if it hurts
It's all about her

She isn't eight
More than old enough to know
Others feel as well

Leaves me on my knees
Pains me to the core AGAIN
It'll never change

So I must ignore
Try not take it to heart
But boy is it hard

And it hurts
As much as it ever did
It hurts

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

It's Oh So Quiet #napowrimo2014

It's oh so quiet
It's oh so still
But in my head
It's not peaceful at all .......

It never is
    not once
It's too busy
    all the time
Mostly great thoughts
    but sometimes
It gets stuck in a rut
    not good!

It's oh so loud
It's oh so sad
Here in my head
It's not peaceful at all .......

So I get some help
     with meds
I stay busy
     with friends
I wait it out
     what a wait
And hope soon it will pass
    I pray and pray!

It's oh so quiet
It's oh so still
But in my head
I'm praying I'm better soon .......

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

This is written to the tune of Bjork's "it's oh so quiet" using the initial two lines as inspiration.  Welcome to my world.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Daffodil Dilemmas #NaPoWriMo2014

Yellow joy mask
Daffodil dilemma
OK? You asked

OK? You asked
Daffodil dilemma
Orange fears last

Orange fears last
Daffodil dilemma
Withers too fast

Withers too fast
Daffodil dilemma
Now, then, past

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Very Black and White

I've always lived my life
In either black or white
I've never enjoyed grey
Never seen the point
The shades I know for some
Give depth of joy within
But I am not like that
It's always white or black

The joy has been the white
A state of blinding light
The depths of sorrow black
Hate thinking of that
But for the down days there
I can live without a care
In days so light and fun
Then I'd run and run

This always has been me
Though some you might not see
The darker days I hid
Kept shut beneath the lid
Most people that I know
Never knew I could be low
But now I'm telling all
I'm standing straight and tall

Bipolar is its name
No fun, it's no great game
But it won't hold be back
You can be sure of that
I'm finding my way through
Into this life a new
Listen as I say
I'm trying to enjoy grey

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Stations of the Cross for Kids at Easter

Two years ago I worked on twelve child friendly stations of the cross; places to wait with Jesus, meet with Jesus and talk with Jesus.  They have had hundreds of hits on the blog and I've received lots of feedback about how they've been used and requests for them to be provided in one place as a resource.  

This year we're going to lead the children and young people through the Stations of the Cross at church on Palm Sunday and since I need to bring the stations together as a resource for that I thought I might as well share it here for anyone else who would like to use it.

I'd also recommend you visit my pinterest board which has these stations of mine and many other images of the stations of the cross which we will use and which you might be interested in.



Introduction
Can you name any vehicles which use stations?  
How about any names of stations themselves?

So what is a station?
- A place where you wait to start or take the next part of a journey.
- A place where you meet people on a journey.
- A place where you are still.

What are the stations of the cross?
The stations of the cross are places in Jesus' last day when we can be with Jesus.
Places to wait with Jesus, meet with Jesus and talk with Jesus.

Today we will journey with Jesus on his last day to the cross.  We will feel what he feels, see what he sees, think what he might have thought and experience what it means for us.  There are no right or wrong ways of being or doing or feeling, it'll be different from each of us, but I hope that together we'll feel closer to Jesus.

Station One - Jesus is condemned to death



The crowd are loud. 
The priests are angry. 
The rulers are confused. 
The disciples are scared. 
Jesus is calm, accepting, quiet.

How do you feel when you stand at this station? 
Do you feel calm like Jesus? 
Or do you feel angry for him?

Jesus models how he'd like us to behave when we are treated badly:
- be quiet and composed
- rise above the person causing hurt
- turn the other cheek
- forgive

Jesus knows we find this hard but he's ready to help us. 

We just need to stand at the station and ask for help and strength and peace.


Station Two - Jesus is given his cross



The soldiers put a huge, heavy wooden cross on Jesus, shoulders for him to carry.
Still Jesus is calm, accepting and quiet.
Jesus knows how far he has to carry his cross.
Jesus knows it will be one of the hardest things he's done.
Jesus trusts God to help him when he needs it.

How do you feel when you stand at this station? 
Can you feel the weight of the cross?
Can you feel the sharp edges and splinters which you know will cut into you as you carry it?
Can you feel the dread of the journey ahead of you?

We all have had times n our lives when we are burdened with sadness and fear ; at these times we are carrying a cross just like Jesus did.  Jesus models how he'd like us to behave when we have a cross to carry:
- trust that God will help us every step of the way
- do not panic about the road ahead
- just put one foot in front of the other

Jesus knows we find this hard but he's ready to help us. 

We just need to stand at the station and ask for help and strength and peace.



Station Three - Jesus falls the first time

Jesus is carrying his heavy, hard cross and it hurts. 
Jesus is walking bare foot along the Jerusalem street made of stones and sand and rubble and that hurts.
Jesus is quiet through it all.

The soldiers and spectators shout at Jesus to go faster, to stand straighter and to walk taller.
Jesus is calm through it all.

But then he stumbles, perhaps on a stone or by loosing the balance of the cross, and he falls to the ground.
Jesus falls but does not cry out loud, he cries out in his heart to God for help.

How do you feel when you stand at this station?
Do you feel the pain?
Do you wish you could help?
Do you feel your heart break?
Do you feel alone?
Does your hope fade?

Have you fallen over recently? I have and I was reminded how much it hurts, physically and emotionally. It is hard to fall and even harder to get up and keep going.


In life we have times when our load is too heavy and we stumble and fall; Jesus reminds us that when we fall he is with us and knows how it feels. We can ask Jesus for his companionship and support and he will provide it.


Station Four - Jesus meets his mother


Jesus has got up from falling.
Jesus has continued walking.
Jesus is carrying his cross.
Then his mother comes up to him.

This is the station where emotions come into play, when the human reality of the journey really come out. Jesus meets his mother on the road.

Mary has always known her heart would break over her boy, Simeon told her so, but now it's actually happening. There is no detail in the gospels that Jesus does anything other than stay calm and comfort his mother, but now the emotions must be everything.

How do you feel when you stand at this station?
Do you feel the sorrow?
Can you imagine the pain?
Do you think about your mum?
Can you feel what your mum would feel?

When did you last feel great sadness? How did you cope? What did you do? Who helped you?

Have you ever helped someone else in their sadness? Do you think you helped?

Jesus knows sadness, has experienced sadness. He's been comforted and comforted others. In our lives we all have times of sorrow and grief, Jesus will help us if we ask.


Station Five - Simon of Cyrene carries the cross




Jesus is tired, exhausted, almost unable to walk. Yet still he doesn't ask for help.

The soldiers know that Jesus won't make it without help, so they press gang a man to help him. This man is Simon of Cyrene who had the bad luck to just happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Or perhaps Simon was at the right place, at the right time; being able to help Jesus when he needed it.



How do you feel when you stand at this station?
Do you feel sorry for Simon? Do you feel relief for Jesus? Did Jesus feel relief? Or guilt for having to have help?

Have you ever helped someone when you didn't really want to? Was it as bad ad you imagined or did it feel good to help when you started?

Have you ever needed to ask for help? How did that feel?


We all need to ask for help sometimes and Jesus shows us that we can't always manage without it. He knows what it means to help someone and he values it. Think about how you can help someone this week.


Station Six - Veronica wipes the face of Jesus



Jesus is tired, 
Jesus is exhausted, 
Jesus is sweaty, 
Jesus is hot and dirty 
Jesus is still walking with the cross
Then a woman comes out of the crowd and wipes Jesus' face
Jesus leaves the mark of his face on her cloth.

This is a station of surprises for us which reminds us about the way people care for each other.  Again we are reminded that Jesus is God, that he leaves a mark in the world that can not be removed or washed away.

How do you feel when you stand at this station?
Do you feel Jesus' sweat and exhaustion?
Do you want to go help him?
Do you feel glad this woman stepped forward?
Do you worry what will happen to her?

Have you ever helped someone else or done something that made someone feel better? 

Perhaps you smiled, or shared your lunch of gave some water or helped with a heavy bag?

When you help someone, you help Jesus. When you share yourself with others, you share yourself with God.

Jesus loves us and asks us to love others, he leaves his face on our heart and we can share this.


Station Seven - Jesus falls the second time


Jesus is tired
Jesus is weak
Jesus is loosing all his strength
Jesus is not wanting to take another step

But ....
Jesus keeps walking
He keeps taking another step
He keeps carrying the cross

Until ....
Jesus falls again


Jesus fell once and he kept going, now he's fallen again. 
Will he get up?
Does he have any more energy?
What happens if he's too tired?

How do you feel when you stand at this station?

Do you feel Jesus' exhaustion?
Do you feel Jesus' sadness?
Have you ever felt this tired?
Have you ever just had to stop?

We all have things in life we find difficult. Perhaps they're physically hard, or maybe we don't know how to start. Do you keep trying? Or do you give up? What will Jesus do now?

Jesus fell but we know he didn't stop trying, as we sit with him ask him to bring his strength to you in something you're finding hard.


Station Eight - Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem



Jesus gets up
Jesus takes up the cross again
Jesus continues on the road
Jesus passes the crowds along the road
Then ....
Jesus sees a group of women who are crying 

Jesus knows they are crying because they are so sorry for his him. Surely he expects to see people feel his pain. 

But Jesus can not let pain go unnoticed. Jesus acts. He goes to the women and speaks to them. He asks them not to cry for him, he tells them to look after their children instead.

How do you feel when you stand at this station?

Do you feel like the women?
Do you feel Jesus' love for these women?
Do you ever feel this sad for others?

When we are sad or stressed or worried it can be easy to only think of ourselves. Jesus shows us that we should think about others. And Jesus helps us know how this can help us have hope as well as help the other person.

Ask Jesus to help you when you are sad for yourself. Ask him to show you others who need your help.


Station Nine - Jesus falls the third time


Jesus was tired, now he's beyond exhausted.
Jesus was barely walking, now he's stumbling.
Jesus was panting, now he finds it hard to breathe
Jesus can't go on anymore.
Jesus falls.
For the third time Jesus falls.

Now Jesus asks God for help.
For strength.
For courage.
For energy enough.
For the ability to get up.

God answers.
Jesus gets up again.


How do you feel when you stand at this station?

Do you feel the exhaustion?
Do you feel that desperation?
Do you hear Jesus' need for help?
Do you feel God helping?

Have you ever tried hard, harder and harder than ever before but still not been able to win?

What did you do?
Did you give up?
Did you ask for help?
Did you ask God to help you?

Now ask God to be there when you need His help, ask Him to remind you to ask when you are as desperate as Jesus was. God will help you.

Station Ten - Jesus is stripped of his garments


Jesus is finally at the hill where he will die. 
The horror is coming to an end.

But the soldiers have plans in store. 
They take off his robe.
They steal all his clothes except his loin cloth.

Jesus is nearly naked, 
but he is not alone; 
this is what he clings to.

How do you feel when you stand at this station?

Do you cling to your stuff?
Are your clothes important?
How about your toys?
Your gadgets?

Could you so easily have everything stripped away from you?

Are you jealous of what others have?
Are you able to appreciate what you have?
Ask Jesus to be with you and help you value your things less than people and God.

Station Eleven - Jesus is nailed to the cross


Jesus is nailed to the cross.
Through his hands.
Through his feet.
The pain is unbelievable.
Jesus knows this pain is the last pain for him.

Jesus does not get angry.
He does not react to the pain.

He looks at the soldiers who hurt him and He asks for God to forgive them.

He looks at his mother, at Mary.
He asks her to look after his disciples and asks them to look after her.

Jesus is still thinking about everyone else.

How do you feel when you stand at this station?

Do you feel the pain?
The sadness?
Would you be so selfless?
Could you think of others?

We are often wounded by painful words, do we think of those people and ask for them to be forgiven?
Do you find it easy to forgive?


Stand at the cross and ask Jesus to help you forgiving people who hurt you.


Station Twelve - Jesus dies on the cross






















Jesus has ....
been condemned
Walked
Fallen
Walked
Stumbled
Been helped
Beaten
Stripped
Nailed to the cross

Now, Jesus bows his head
It is done!
He dies.

How do you feel when you stand at this station?

Jesus did this for us
For you
For me
For us.

How do you feel as you realise this?
Is there anything you can do for others?


Ask Jesus to show you how you can make a difference; he will show you the way in your life.



This is the day we call Good Friday.
This is the day Jesus gave us as a gift.
This is the day of all days, the day which we thank God for every time He forgives us.

And yet this is NOT the end.
This is just the beginning.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Root bound #god #calling #church #mission #life

Two months ago at Oakwood Forest Church we planted seeds in little pots as we explored creation and our role in looking after it.  My little seeds sprouted and seemed to be doing well until this week when no amount of water could sustain the young plants. 

Today I was explaining to Rachel that the plants had become root bound and it got me to thinking about God, Church, life, mission and calling.

God
Look at this photo of the poor root bound plant; it's desperately trying to reach out further but the container it's in constrains it, inhibits it, literally keeps it contained inside and unable to reach outside.

Do we put God in His box, contained safely in a part of our life, our society where He can be found but where He can not fully act? Is God only in our Sunday? Or is God in our every day? Is God in our home, work, leisure, health, politics, justice, illness, recovery, death? Do we allow God to reach out into every aspect of our lives as He longs to do?  We need to embrace God in our everything and everywhere.  We need to allow God to be with us and help us. And we need to share God with excitement and enthusiasm wherever we are.

Church
Look at the photo and see how the poor plant has no room to grow it's roots.  No room to explore and find new elements, nutrition and resources.  It is bounded by an impregnable barrier which you can see through but not break through.

Does the church do the same to us?  As I look at the heart sinking debates about Women Bishops (please can we hurry this up) and Gay marriage (seriously, it's marriage based on love, a gift from God, let's just get on with it).  We are called to go to all nations telling the good news of Jesus Christ and baptising people yet all those people hear about the church are how non inclusive we are. We are bounded by our own impregnable barrier and it's time we realised this and pulled it down. We need to stop allowing  people to gawp at us as weirdos and invite them inside to meet who we really are and understand what our faith really means.

Life
Look at the photo and see how the roots and see how they keep going down but they don't find an alternative.  They could grow up into the middle soil and find other sources of sustenance but the plant isn't able to do that. It's stuck and so it dies.

I know that I am as guilty of this as anyone.  I think I know the plan for my life and I plot the route I'll follow. But life isn't like that, I know that so well; and so we have to be flexible and allow our lives to take new courses which feed and nurture us.  My experience tells me that when we allow that to happen; when we bend and flex and follow the right path then we find a richer life with God leading the way every step. It's not easy, and it can hurt to change direction; but God is with us and knows what goodness will come of it.

Mission
Look at the photo and see how little volume of soil provided.  This seed was planted with good grace, energy, enthusiasm and real hope for growth; but the soil was too small, too poor quality and with too little sustenance to keep the growth going.

Jesus tells us to care for the poor, feed the hungry, stand up for the down trodden, protect the weak and guide the lost.  We are called to be a missionaries and to share God's word and love as we go.   it takes energy and prayer and resources in large volumes and we can not underestimate this when we set out. That doesn't mean we don't do it; but it means, as I know from experience, that if we do it alone we will struggle and might fail.  We need to make time to rebuild our energy, we need time in prayer for guidance and love, we need people to help us.

Calling
Look at the photo and see this plant and it's wasted potential. One seed planted which will never grow to produce seeds, fruit and new life.  One seed which has tried desperately on its own but has had to admit it is only one seed and needs additional help.

We are all called to God's work. We are all disciples of Jesus' disciples and we are called to share the good news as they were.  But we don't have to do it alone. We are all part of one body and together we are strong and deep and more than enough.  It is easy to feel alone in our calling but we aren't; we have the body of Christ and Christ Himself to feed, guide abs sustain us. God knows His plan for us and as long as we keep leaning on Him our potential will never be wasted.

--------------------------------------------------------

Are you root bound?
How about your church?
Your relationship with God?

I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Messy Mandala

I was looking at Mandalas when I was planning some worship for Oakwood Forest Church and quickly got intrigued by the many forms they take and how useful they might be in my prayer life.  There is more than enough written about Mandalas generally, even plenty about Christian Mandalas so I won't bother repeating anything; but you can visit my pinterest board to see some I am drawn to.

What amazes me the most is that mandalas are very ordered in their methods of creation and patterning.  They are based around symmetry and reflective design.  They are anything but messy.  And yet they somehow allow my prayer to be messy and real and active and jumpy which is sometimes just what I need.  I guess it's something to do with the safety of mess within a structure of order.

Anyway; after wasting spending a good few hours drawn into the mandala world I thought I would have a go at creating one myself.  Here is the result.  I don't know what it says to you, that's what's so great about them as an aid to prayer; but there's something about the flow of love from Jesus into the world and the power of the Holy Spirit to create, heal and love.


What do you think?
What does it say to you?

#100happydays could it work?

I've started doing the #100happydays project along with a couple of million others around the world.

What is it?
The idea is to live in the moment, reduce the stress of uncertainty and identify the happiness in every day life.

How does it work?
Everyday I'll take a photo of something which made me feel happy. This will be at least one moment of happiness in every day for 100 days.

Why am I joining in?
1. My lovely friend Penny thought it would be a great idea for both of us
2. I love taking and sharing photos anyway so this isn't an ordeal
3. I am being stalked by the black dog at the moment and I know it would do me good to find at least one happy moment in each day

What can you expect to see?
Rachel
Nature
Creative projects
Anything which catches my attention

I'll be sharing the photos here as well as on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and might share my feelings about the project as I go along. Watch this space.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Love is ....... #messychurch #God

Yesterday at People Prayers and Potatoes Messy Church we explored Love.  
What love is.  
What love feels like. 
Who we are loved by.  
Who we love.  
Why we love.
How we can love more.



We started with these powerful words which so many of us have heard at weddings; words written by Paul to the church in Corinth.  As I read them I was struck by the power and beauty of these definitions of what love is and what it isn't.  It's a challenge to each of us.

But then I read these simple words from 1John "Love comes from God" and I relaxed in the knowledge that if love is all those things, then all those things are given by God to us. They are a gift, they are not a challenge.  They are a truth, not a tick list.



We know what love feels like because we receive it, in abundance to share with others, to pour out to those we love.  In fact we receive love in such huge quantities that we long to share it with others.  We are commanded to love one another, but actually it is something which is almost impossible not to do when we open our hearts to God's love of us.

And how do we know God loves us?
Because He gave His Son, Jesus Christ to the world as a man to live and teach and die for us.


That's a valentine message and a half isn't it.
God gave of himself to us all as a perfect gift of love.

And so we responded to these words, these truths about love in the world.





Through these crafts the families left with full tummys and full hearts telling who they would give the cards and creations to.  Love going out into the world from God, through us to others.