Sandy Beaches and Empty Shells

Those who know me know I love shells. I can walk along the beach for hours, looking for the perfect shells. Especially shells still connected together (but empty!). I love the turned little shells, as well as big plain ones!! I collect them, all with the promise of one day doing something with them. That has not happened so far but my season is not over yet! Each trip I come back with more.

One of the most soothing sounds walking along the beach is the sound of the crashing waves. A long slow sound when the wind is calm. A rushing crashing sound when the wind is strong. Both are calming in its own way, that is.. as long as I have my feet firmly on the sand. I do get seasick quickly, so I prefer the sound over the experience of rolling waves!

Walking along the beach is a great time of reflection. Many facets of life are resolved, when the wind blows through my hair. Even as kids my dad took us often to the beach in the weekends. In stormy weather there was usually a cup of hot chocolate at the end of the walk. Those were probably the best walks! Any lingering cobweb in my head gets blown away, and after the walk I feel light, refreshed and ready for whatever is coming my way. My pockets jingling with shells… or seaglass…

Seaglass… old bottles battered around in the sea, broken up into pieces, and then sanded by the constant motion of the water. The result is a beautiful piece of so called sea glass, coveted and treasured. I love collecting these pieces too. These tell me a great story of no matter how battered and bruised I may get, I will get polished and come out beautiful at the other end.

If anything is an example of transformation, it’s seaglass!

There is this verse in the Bible in Malachi 3:3 that speaks about purification of silver and gold. I get reminded of that when I think about seaglass. We all have to be transformed, purified by the fire, just like silver and gold. That’s where our true worth comes out.

We may get battered and bruised in the process of our lives, but we will get transformed into something very valuable and beautiful. And when we are finally going home, Jesus will be waiting for us at the sea of glass, welcoming us with open arms. That’s when the biggest transformation will take place. We will be the most beautiful and shiny, walking hand in hand with our Father, who has not ever left us in our transformation process.

I can hardly wait for that moment!

Castles and Foundations

You can’t really visit Scotland and not visit at least some castles. Some are beautiful restored, some are now in ruins, some are still occupied and some are now museums. Visiting these is one of my favourite activities. A lot of footsteps have gone before me, walking along the hall ways, and I can always dream about what it has been like. I can dream about being in charge of the castle, or marvel at what those truly in charge have done with it. Castles are build on very strong foundations.

Castles remind me of past times, of era’s gone by.

Fraser Castle

There is another type of castle. Sand castles are those built on the beach, with a bucket and spade… An alternate meaning is dreaming of something but without a firm foundation, or living a life without a firm foundation. Walking along the beach I love looking at those castles built by kids… and I remember I certainly also have dreams built on nothing but sand.

Sand Castle Remnants

There is a children’s song we used to sing.. A wise man built his house on the rock, but a foolish man built his house on the sand. Then the storm came and the house on the sand fell flat. The song is based on Matthew 7:24-27. In this passage we are encouraged to build our house on a solid foundation. On a rock. Not on sand, where it can crash.

“24 Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain feel, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it”

Both castles are beautiful. But the big difference between a sand castle and a real castle is the material it’s built with and the foundation it’s built on. Castles are built to last, they are often in strategic locations, built on rock massive. Unlike sand castles/dream castles which can just blow away by the wind.

We are asked to build our lives on Jesus the Rock, so it can withstand the test of time. Just like the castles I have seen. It can weather a storm, where Jesus is the centre of our lives. We will learn to trust Him, and unlike the sand castle of dreams this relationship will stay strong.

“And I will build my life upon Your love, it is a firm foundation
And I will put my trust in You alone and I will not be shaken
And I will build my life upon Your love, it is a firm foundation
And I will put my trust in You alone and I will not be shaken…

Holy, there is no one like You, there is none beside You
Open up my eyes in wonder and
Show me who You are and fill me with Your heart
And lead me in Your love to those around me” (Pat Barrett)

Castles, dreams… what is your life built on? I hope it is on the Rock!

Slain Castle
Tolquhon Castle
Dunnottar Castle

Nearly Autumn

The trees are starting to get a distinct yellow hue. Leaves are actually turning colour, and some are already falling off the trees. Autumn is approaching!

This year is such a strange year. By now, 5 months into Covid, it’s starting to get old. Staying inside, not mingling with people, none of the things we are used to take control of. Churches needing to be reimagined, economies struggling, not able to freely travel. It has impacted us all in some way or other.

Secretly I hope that autumn is a sign of change. The natures changes, producing the most wonderful colours. A real promise of new things to come. But the old first has to die. Maybe that’s true if Covid too.. I certainly hope so!

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

This comes from Ecclesiastes 3, and reminds me of an old song:

Our lives is a real mixture of all sorts of emotions: joy, fear, anxiety, sadness etc. Nothing stays the same, change is always there. We all have to learn and accept and adjust to the ebb and flow of God’s design. Just like the seasons in the year. Some seasons are difficult, and we may not understand what God is doing. Like the current season we are in. But as I said in an earlier post, God is still in control and we have to trust He has our lives in His hands.

This season approaching is one of my favourite seasons. This year particularly I hope this will herald in a season of change. Turn .. Turn… Turn…

The first turned leaf I noticed
The first leaf I saw on the ground

Trusting is the Hardest Thing

Don’t you have it sometimes, when all things just come together in a bad way, and you do not know if you need to turn right or left? Trusting that Someone is still in control is not so easy. You want to just do your own thing, and hope for the best, as you think that is ultimately Gods way.

God uses every decision we make, that’s very true. He will not let us fall, and He will always be there to catch us if we do. But sometimes it feels He is so far away.

I find myself caught once again, not knowing what will happen, or how things will unfold. The Covid situation has many folks spooked, including me. Masks are mandatory everywhere, so it’s very visible wherever you turn. Even if shops are mostly stocked again, the thought of the second wave is never far away. The news won’t let us forget it even if we tried! We are told to stay sensible or there will be another lock down.

The economy has a huge impact. Job losses, protection of self… similar in Europe as in America. We keep each other updated, calls, texts, Facebook. We hear from friends and co workers about those who suffer. Money is tight for many people and thank God there are charities like the One Vision in Watford who help those most afflicted!

I guess I can count myself blessed I did not loose my job like so many others.

This seems like a very somber post, but really it’s just trying to tell myself God is still in control. It’s His world, as the beautiful song says

This is my Father’s world.
O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world:
why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad!

The writer referenced Jacob’s exclamation “the Lord is in this place” from Genesis 28:16

Trusting Him is hard, especially when you can’t see the road, or where it’s leading to. But He is not forgotten about me or you. The Lord is in this place!

Service

11 Jesus answered, “What if one of you has a sheep and it falls into a deep hole on the Sabbath? Will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 And a human being is worth much more than a sheep! So then, our Law does allow us to help someone on the Sabbath.”

This passage comes from Matt 12 (verse 11 and 12) and is quite controversial. It is Jewish custom to protect the day of rest. Many rules have been created to ensure the Sabbath commandment ‘keep the Sabbath day holy and do no work’ is kept. Rules that may seem a little excessive vary between carrying, writing, cooking etc. This article is quite informative -> https://www.ou.org/holidays/shabbat/the_thirty_nine_categories_of_sabbath_work_prohibited_by_law/

Being non Jewish, I find these rules hard to understand. But what’s allowed on the sabbath, the day of rest, is still a very burning question amongst many of us. Some things are frowned upon, others are plain dividing subjects. Playing games, going swimming.. as if it’s diminishing this beautiful day of rest. A day set aside to spend in communion with God and our fellow humans.

During this intense period of Covid laws, we have been protecting our medical personnel. We don’t want to put our doctors in a position where they have to choose who dies and who lives. Many folks have had to stay confined in their homes as they are in high risk categories. Many charities try and cater for this category of people, bringing food and groceries. And the old discussion starts up again. Is this allowed to be done on a sabbath?

Jesus said that the day of rest was created for man, so he could be in communication with his Maker. He also said that which is done for the least of us, we do for Him. Serving is a true sign of love for God and love for man.

Another day of rest is starting. The busy week is passed and the weekend is here. Time to rest, do good and communicate.

As a family we have Zoom meetings each weekend, usually on Saturday. Our way of communicating, spending time together and being in fellowship together. I am looking forward to it. Time set aside. In the same way as I set time aside to sided with my Maker.

And if I can do good in that process too, by doing something for my fellow earthly occupants l, I feel I have spent the sabbath as was intended in Matt 12.

You joining me?

Rest

Some days are harder than other ones. Am sure we all experience it. Some days you don’t feel like getting up, or getting into your normal routine. Working from home seems to take away the boundary between your own life and your work life. So that feeling of not wanting to start a day is more profound.

Having stayed home now for 4 months, focusing on things to do at home, planning outings outside the home as swift as possible, it makes you reassess lots of things. I love being out and about, exploring, shopping, going places. But it’s not safe yet in the same way as it was last year. Hobbies at home is the thing.. I have discovered I love writing with fountain pens, I read more, and I crochet. My Netflix list is getting smaller and I rediscovered my love for history and documentaries.

In all that though, rest seems to have been given a new meaning. Previously rest was done in your house when you returned from being out. What is rest now? It’s ceasing activity, and relaxing the body. But with the always on mentality now working from home it’s so much harder to find true rest.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7

That verse has gotten new meaning for me too. I am very much a worrier, which does not make things easier. But that verse in the Bible tells me to tell God about all my thoughts and worries and anxiety and in return He will give me rest. This is true rest. Rest for the soul. It’s a stop thinking of my self and start trusting He will give me peace. This is not the rest of relaxation but the rest of a soul that trusts in God.

Today is another day of Sabbath rest. Another opportunity to cease normal life and focus only on Him. And that is what I am going to try to do. To stop carrying my worries and turning it over to the One who promises me rest.

I hope you will find rest today also.

Going Home

Today I was watching some wasps building a nest inside a cupboard on the balcony. Its fascinating to watch, even if the nest is not desired. The creatures just fly off and on, doing what they do and then coming back to build some more. Its an American style wasp and nest, so I can’t really relate to what its supposed to be like when its finished. And judging by the comments from my house mates, its not something I will see being finished.

Today we had a multi WhatsApp call within the family. We discovered this new feature a few weeks ago, and its kinda cool to chat altogether.. even if my dad thinks we sound more like a bunch of chickens, talking over each other and none of it very audible

It got me thinking though, as I am far away from my own home. Home has become a different reality in these last months. The stories from my own family, cooped up at home. Stay at home orders, not able to venture out. Stores deemed non essential shut (food is apparently the only essential store we need.. kinda hard for a crafter!) Getting a coffee at a favourite coffee place not possible. Churches closed and a pick and choose online reality. Sometimes home may sound like a prison instead of a place to feel relaxed.

Jesus said He was going Home, after he had died on the cross. Many countries celebrate “ascension day”, 39 days after Easter. He had mentioned that there are many mansions in  heaven, with place for everyone (John 14:2 In my Fathers house are many mansions: If it were not so, I would have told you. I got to prepare a place for you) and that He was going there to prepare a place for us. I wonder what the houses will look like. The imagery in Revelation is all very grand, with streets of gold.

Many times in my in child hood when weve traveled so far
By nightfall how weary I’d grown
Fathers arms would slip around me and gently he’d say
My child were going home

Going home, I’m going home
There is nothing to hold me here
I’ve caught a glimpse of that Heavenly land
Praise God, I’m going home

Now the twilight is fading, the day soon shall end
Lord, I get homesick, the farther I roam
But the Father has led me each step of the way
And now I’m going home

Going home, I’m going home
There is nothing to hold me here
I’ve caught a glimpse of that Heavenly land
Praise God, I’m going home

I guess right now I would be very happy with a very humble house of my own though! A place to be myself and to be with those I love. Maybe I should ask that wasp to make me one for right here 🙂

 

Freedom

Freedom comes with a price. It’s not free. Today we celebrated freedom from oppression in remembrance of the end of the Second World War. Many people lost their lives, and many fought to give us our freedom.

During this lock down we are not free. Freedom smells very good right about now. To be able to just go where we want to, do what we want to. Many have died due to this Covid 19. And many are working hard to ensure we can be free of this virus. I think in particular of all the medical staff fighting for lives.

Jesus have His life for us, so we can be free from the bondage of sin. The cost was high, and blood had to be shed. Freedom is not free.

All this requires a response from us. We are asked to remember and learn from our past. ‘Lest we forget’. If we look at the past, hopefully we will learn from it and not repeat.

We keep our distance from each other, wear masks and minimise our journeys. All to protect those that fight for us, so they don’t get overwhelmed.

Jesus also requires a response from us. He wants us to accept the gift of freedom, and transform us so we don’t stay the same.

Freedom gives us responsibility. It requires a response. To remember, to accept and to serve.

Thank you for all who fought for our freedom. And thank you to God for setting us free!

Re-opening

Who knew that our lives would be so consumed with lock downs, virus discussions, job losses, missed dentist and hair appointments and now re-opening strategies. How life has changed in the last 6 weeks.

The thought that keeps going through my head is ‘will life return to what it was or is there a new normal now’. I have realised that I do not like working from home for extended periods of time. I miss my colleagues and the interactions. I miss wearing something other than trainers and yoga pants. I don’t like seeing friends and family only through a social media platform. I miss shopping, or getting a coffee. I miss all the options and possibilities I used to have. I particularly miss doing all the spontaneous things I was privileged to do before.., going away to explore new places, having an afternoon tea with my daughter, booking a night away on holiday.

We just passed Easter. A pretty uneventful period under the current circumstances, without all the things that make Easter special. The actual event which is remembered at Easter and the following weeks after the death and resurrection was also one of very rapid change. The followers of Jesus went from learning from Him, eating with Him to being without Him and having to redirect and transform their lives. The Holy Spirit was promised to them as a Comforter and Guide, but truth is.. their lives were never the same again. They had to put in practice now all they had learned in the previous years under Jesus guidance and instruction. The went from students to leaders, from observers to doers with the help of the Holy Spirit.

I get that we really can’t compare these situations, but maybe we can draw strength from it under our current restrictions and changes. We too have to learn to live differently and do things differently. We also have been given the Holy Spirit as Comforter in our lives. We can choose our reactions and responses to the new normal.

One of my favourite songs is ‘Holy Spirit rain down’

Holy Spirit rain down
Rain down
Oh Comforter and Friend
How we need Your touch againHoly Spirit rain down
Rain down
Let Your power fall
Let Your voice be heard
Come and change our hearts
As we stand on Your Word
Holy Spirit
Rain down

That’s my comfort too in this time of change. Life may re-open in some areas. Life may be different. But the Holy Spirit is as much a Comforter today as it was in the time of the disciples.

Let the re-opening adjustments begin!!

Sunday

Good Friday has come and gone. Not sure why we call it good, when it was the most dramatic day in the history of mankind. We remember that our King died on the cross. But He stayed not dead, Sunday is coming!

I saw this poster on Facebook and I love it:

How true is that!

How did we know the world as we know it stopped existing about the beginning of March! We are all asked to stay away from each other. No church, no friends over for dinner, no normal things.

But a lot can happen indeed. We can find beauty in the little things. Gratefulness in our existence. Walks in nature. Reconnecting with our fellow house mates. Technology allowing us to worship together, remembering this important period in our human history. This period will pass.

Sunday is coming… no Sunday will ever be as beautiful as that day when He conquered dead and rose again!

How will you be celebrating this Sunday?

If you have a chance, listen to this beautiful concert from Jaime Jorge: https://youtu.be/rfm-RzFt2fA