Saturday, 22 July 2017

Worrying in the waiting

Soon Paul (my hubby), Lucie (my youngest stepdaughter) and I are going on holiday. Now, I’m one of those strange people who love planning a trip away almost as much as going on the holiday itself! I know, I’m a control freak!!

I have loved finding the place to stay (complete with hot tub!), organising day trips, cleaning the house ready to go, packing for myself, the dogs and Paul, etc etc etc!

But

So quickly the joy of planning and preparing can become the ties of worry and the bonds of anxiety.
The fun I have had planning have given way to worries about worming the dogs (really!?!?!) panic about when and how we will pick up Lucie and anxiety about making the house tidy for mum and dad house sitting (even though I know my mum doesn’t care and will tidy up for me anyway!) and so many other little things that have brought me down and exhausted me.

Whilst pondering this, my mind turned to the road I am walking through infertility and once again I realised God’s goodness to me.

You see Paul and I have always been pretty laid back through it all, even though there have been tears, tantrums and duvet days. Also because of our situation of unexplained infertility without the possibility of any further investigation through the NHS (due to my three wonderful step children), God has taken away much of the planning and control that can easily become worry and anxiety.

Yes there are days when it does consume me and yes I can quickly become tempted to control the things I can control, but God’s word says he has got it sorted and that’s good enough for me!

I love the gospel writer of Matthew and the way he captures Jesus’ perspective on worry, and this week, in a moment of panic and anxiety, I was reminded of some of his words. I was walking the dogs along a cycle path in Chester, when I noticed a sparrow following us along the hedgerow. As the sun illuminated its feathers, I marvelled at its beauty and I felt God say “I love you even more than this.” I remembered the words in Matthew 10:29-31




So today, whatever you are waiting on, planning on or worrying about, remember he loves you so much more than the sparrow and he’s got it sorted! 

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Fruitfully Barren

Recently I heard  lady talking about her own struggle with infertility and something of what she said really resounded in my soul. She talked about how she has chosen to be ‘Fruitfully Barren’

Fruitfully Barren


Is sounds a bit like a paradox doesn’t it?! How can someone barren; i.e.
  1.        not producing or incapable of producing offspring; sterile
  2.        unproductive; unfruitful:
  3.        without capacity to interest or attract:
  4.        mentally unproductive; dull; stupid.
  5.        not producing results; fruitless:
  6.       destitute; bereft; lacking (usually followed by of):

be fruitful; i.e.

  1.        producing good results; beneficial; profitable:fruitful investigations.
  2.        abounding in fruit, as trees or other plants; bearing fruit abundantly.
  3.        producing an abundant growth, as of fruit :fruitful soil; fruitful rain.


But as I considered this further I came to see the beauty in it and I realised that being fruitfully barren is exactly what I want to be until the day that I am either no longer barren or I get to party in heaven!

The bible is rich in imagery of what being fruitful looks like, and as I have started studying I found that a lot of the ‘fruitful verses’ talked about the need to be connected to the vine or sat by the river. At a recent Salvation Army event called the Big Sunday we looked at Ezekiel 47 and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind since. In it are some beautiful words about the living waters making life fruitful.

“Fruit trees of all kinds will grow along both sides of the river. The leaves of these trees will never turn brown and fall, and there will always be fruit on their branches. There will be a new crop every month, for they are watered by the river flowing from the Temple. The fruit will be for food and the leaves for healing”  V12

Our divisional commander spoke about vision both for our church but also us personally, and I have claimed this as a vision for my seemingly Barren circumstance. Verse 9 is the verse I will cling to in the search for what being fruitfully barren might mean:

“Life will flourish wherever this water flows.

So, Today, as I sit in the park and see a mum cuddling a newborn baby, and watch children playing on the slide. I do not feel sorrow, or jealousy or bitterness (Thank the Lord!) but I feel Joy! Joy because I choose (and it’s not easy!) to be fruitfully barren and rest by the streams of living water.




Monday, 26 June 2017

Ants and an encounter with God!

Our second stop of the day was the church that was built at the site where it was believed Caiaphus' house stood. It was here that Jesus was brought to on the night before his death and kept over night. It was also the place where it is believed Peter denied Christ three times. 

The church was a beautiful sanctury in the madness of the city and the church was full of beautiful pastel paintings on the walls and brightly coloured stained glass. One of the paintings that spoke to me was one that showed Jesus in ropes, stood before a crowed who are shouting and jeering at him. Above him, a number of of angels hold a cross, whilst God looks on the scene with sorrow and torment on his face. It reminded me of this famous verse: 


We went downstairs to the cellar where Jesus may have been kept. It was in this place Jesus would have waited feeling scared, exhausted and full of sorrow. We considered that Jesus did this, took our sin and died for each of us. As we stood in the presence of God we sang: 

"There is a redeemer, Jesus, God's own son
Precious lamb of God, Messiah, Holy one
Thank you oh my father, for giving us your son
and leaving your spirit till the work on earth is done.
When I stand in glory, I shall see his face,
There I'll serve my king, FOREVER
In that holy place"

We went outside and stood in a beautiful garden overlooking Jerusalem. There was an amazing statue depicting Peter's denial. We pondered how Peter must have felt, and the difference of experiences from that to the shores of Galilee.

As I sat, I watched a large group of ants going about their business, oblivious to what was happening for us in that moment. In my spirit, I sensed God saying to me that this is the danger for me as I go home. There have been many moments that I have shared with God and I must actively seek to keep them in my heart so God will continue to work in me. 

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Promises and protection

Today we traveled to the Dead Sea area and we started at Kumaran. Here we saw the place where the Dead sea scrolls were found. The area was amazing, there was cliff after cliff and the whole land seemed barren. However in a pretty non-descript place these life changing scrolls were found. 

Looking over the area, I marvelled at how God works. How the seemingly impossible, with him, becomes possible and how he works things together to make sure his plans come to pass. I decided, whenever I struggle to see God's plan, or whenever things seemed hopeless I would think of this place, because if he could ensure then 'needle in the haystack' was found, he can do the impossible things in my life. As Jeremiah 29:11 says: 


Our second stop was an amazing mountain palace built by Herod in Masada. It was the place of a showdown between revolting Jews in the palace and the Romans on the hillside. It was an astounding place. It was amazing that it had even been made in such an inhospitable place. Not only that, but it was such a place of luxury. 

The heat was pretty intense and as we wandered, we hopped from shady spot to shady spot, even these spots were few and far between. this trip has certainly made me consider more some of the imagery that there is in the bible. I came across Psalm 121:5


What a promise!

We then made our way to the dead shores of the dead sea where we spent some time floating around and enjoying the views. It was a bizarre feeling, a bit like a cork bobbing about, but it was a stunning place. 


Thursday, 22 June 2017

Around temple mount

In the afternoon we spent some time at the Southern wall of Jerusalem. Here we looked at some of the ruins left from the period of the second temple. We stood on the steps where Jesus would have definitely walked when he came to Jerusalem for festivals. 



We sat and considered how the area may have looked when the temple was still standing and what it means for us. Helen set a picture of what the temple would have been like at feast days. The sights and sounds, the hustle and bustle, the mayhem of it all. She then said. "The temple doesn't sound or smell like the house of prayer we imagine today." This really challenged me. I expect a house of prayer to be calm and peaceful but that isn't always the case, God can also be in the hubub. 


I also considered that the bible says we are the temple of the holy spirit. Sometimes in church we can discount people because we don't believe they can become our vision of the temple, calm, ordered and compliant but God can be found in any heart that is given to him. I pondered, how many people am I discounting today? 



Helen also discussed that in John 1:14 it says "The word became flesh and dwelt amongst us." The Hebrew root for dwelt is also the same as Tabernacle. Jesus became our tabernacle/temple so we no longer need to be bound by law. Something I was so grateful for as we visited the western wall. 



After security checks and a bag search, we made our way to the plateau, here the wall towers high and the glittering gold of the dome of the rock can be seen. The wall is partitioned into men and women's sections so I left Paul to go and place my prayer. I had been really looking forward to this moment. I felt this would complete my pilgrimage to the holy city.

I stood at the wall and spent a few minutes trying to find a space to place my prayer. After I had done so, I took in the sight before me. People were rocking back and forth in prayer. Others were screaming, crying and wailing. I saw some backing out of the compound, not willing to turn their back on the prayer they had just made. 



I was reminded that through Jesus' death, the curtain of the temple was torn. I can now come before God and offer my prayer as Hebrews 10:22 says: 



Thank you Jesus that you have made a way. 

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Remembering the past

Today our journey started at Yad Vashem, Israel's holocaust memorial. It is set in a beautiful hillside in Jerusalem and the aroma of rosemary, a herb representing remembrance, fills the air. We are shown round the museum by a guide called Debbie, whose parents went onto the Kinder transport to Britain and survived the war. 



Our first stop was to the Children's hall of remembrance, a truly moving place, where the light of five candles are reflected with mirrors around the room. The effect is like a million stars sparkling. As we passed through, the names of the children were read aloud, a seemingly never ending list of names. 



We then went into the main museum which followed the story of  6 million Jews who were led to their death. Our guide brought this number to life with stories of individuals who were victims of the holocaust, some who died and some who survived the horrors. 

As we made our way through room after room packed to capacity with people, we soon got very tired and as I found a little seat away from the crowd, I reflected on how I was getting a little glimpse of how these people must have felt as they were pushed into cattle carts and traveled to their deaths. 

The most harrowing moment for me was when we entered the final room. Around the room stood box files of evidence about what had happened to the 4 and a half million individuals who were killed.  But also around the room there lay empty shelves waiting for the story of the other one and a half million people who were killed. Each of those people had a story. They had a family, friends, hopes and dreams. I then considered this song: 

I have a maker, he formed my heart, 
before even time began, my life was in his hands.
I have a father, he calls me his own.
He'll never leave me, no matter where I go. 

He knows my name, he knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls and hears me when I call. 


Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Healing in Jerusalem

We entered Jerusalem through the Lion gate. We then walked to the ancient pools of Bethesda. We sat in the gardens of the church and read from John Chapter 5. we considered how in verse 8 Jesus told the man to: "Get up, pick up and walk!"

For me, however, I considered how the man had been looking for healing wherever it could be found. He couldn't even get into the pool but he was desperate to cure himself. 

When Jesus saw him, his first words were, "Do you want to get well?" So often we look to other things to give us the healing only Jesus can give. We need to look ONLY to him and faith that we will Get up, pick up and walk!




We went inside a beautifully simple church and sampled the acoustics singing 'Praise my soul, the king of heaven' it gave me goosebumps! 



We then stood and looked over the ruins of the pool of Bethesda. At the side of the pool was a plaque that read:

'Jesus is all-powerful, omnipotent; He always has ways and means to help you.'

We need to go to God believing he can and will heal us so that we can Get up, pick up and walk. 


Having visited Bethesda, we went to view some ancient ruins of the old which wove their way through the Jewish Quarter. After a lovely gluten free lunch, Paul and I walked to get our first glimpse of the Western wall. It was a fascinating view, watching people assembling and praying as music and singing filled the air. It felt very bitter sweet as the Al Aska mosque and dome of the rock loomed over this little piece of Jewish faith. 



After re-joining the group, we made our way through the winding bazaars to the Holy Sepulchre, the place where Catholics and Orthodox Christians believe Jesus died and was buried (and rose again!) Like the crowded streets we had just walked through, the courtyard was full of hustle and bustle. However, after a powerful meditation by Eric, we entered the church. 



We followed the last stations of the Via Dolorosa and saw people react to this holy place. I really struggled in there. Maybe it was the business, maybe it was the different style of Christianity, but I failed to see and hear from God.