She was mortal and her humanity was fragile. Her chipped nail polish rested on once shaking, shivering and dainty hands that held on to memories muddled with older ones.
Her bed angled itself into the corner of a room, enabling the sun to shine on her weary and tired face. Cardboard glossy prints decorated her room reminding her of life lived and loved ones who rest in a place now familiar to her.
Confused and disjointed words fell from her mouth while prayers from ours fell on her ears.
A mother, a wife, and a daughter, Barbara. Her name meant ‘foreign woman’, somehow poetic in the relationship of stepmother to my father. Although sometimes absent, they were united by my grandfather. Family.
The TV echoed through the walls, occupying thinking space and time to reflect. The carpeted floor directed us to the ladies in blue shirts, who stood there repeating ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry’, all final words which led us to the exit, the hand sanitiser and the door.
Through the darkest of nights, travelled have we
Through events unknown and unforeseen
Through it all, I ask of thee
Let me carry your load, come home to me
Buckling under pressure, you’re found on bended knee
Saying “Heavenly Father can you answer my plea?”
Eyes lifted to the clouds, they’re all that you see
In times uncomfortable, come home to me
Resilience is to define buoyancy
To recover when hard done by, a true ability
Your time will come, it’s beckoning
Faith in you always, come home to me
When you’re all I see
Oh how you won’t define me, calamity
With the refusal to ruin me,
Oh how I’ll overcome you, capacity
The oppressing blanket
You’re not going to see the end of me, finality
Because really, the profanity, the opacity you bring me is but a cavity
But I contain the resilience to patiently focus on the Heavenlies in the midst of a tragedy
Knowing it’s all woven into my life’s tapestry
Oh how beautiful the vulnerability of a fragile heart held in the hands of the Father, security.
What inspires you? What is it that graces your eyes and makes you feel alive? There are two things in life that when they have my attention, they take me and my thoughts away for a while where for that moment in time, I’m removed from my somewhat all consuming present.
Music and scenery, if it’s a city or the countryside it doesn’t matter, music has the power and ability to define that moment and make it whatever it needs to be for me at that time and there I am, totally taken away by it all.
A month ago I was driving to a gig in Leeds but for what was the beginning of my evening was now the end of the day for the city folk, so as I was driving into the city, they were leaving it.
All kinds of people from all walks of life were sharing the same moment, the cityscape and it’s beauty. But what do we regard as beautiful?
Countless old beaten buildings, that appeared to have no use to anyone, were hidden away by other buildings that have grown up and around them - ever adapting to their new surroundings. But the old forgotten buildings still serve a purpose, they tell a story of a time before now. They are memories of the city’s past but on an idle Wednesday evening, the people in Leeds left the city not acknowledging it’s beauty, they left as if they were escaping, no longer viewing a cityscape but rather seeing a route for a city escape.
When I drove past people leaving Leeds, I noticed their cold disposition, how their day had taken a toll on them and it was now time to leave it for another eight hours before returning and welcoming a new day in.
Let’s go back to the ruined and forgotten buildings, though. Old buildings are my favourite, they tell a deeper story; they’re such a contrast to the new and boast that, in their day, they were of great use and now they are a landmark in time, they existed and they still exist but only now they’re in remembrance of what once was.
I can’t help but acknowledge them and relate to them. We all have ‘forgotten old buildings’ that we adapt our lives to and find ways of coping with. Whatever the ‘broken, forgotten buildings’ represent in your life, let me encourage you to acknowledge them, to be reminded that they were of use once and they served a beautiful purpose that made you who you are today. It’s ok to question why they existed but never regret their existence, they tell a chapter of your story. Let them be a reminder of what once was. When you visit them, don’t be tempted to escape but rather see them as a metaphorical landscape, a place to smile upon and be thankful that they exist as they are. And you as you are, is also beautiful - whatever the definition of that word means to you, embrace it and love it and be it.
On an autumn evening I find myself here again. In a pensive moment where my thoughts finally have permission to somehow work themselves out. Although time has graced me with such an opportunity, I’ve found myself in an all too familiar place of reflection and I come across thoughts that leave me with an unfamiliar disposition that I can’t quite acquaint myself with.
Have you ever had a moment where you realise you’re now an adult? You now have responsibility, you’re building a life and an environment for yourself that will one day define you, what you live for and why you live for it. Being an adolescent you had two options when a crisis would emerge, you either dealt with it or you didn’t. When I was a teen and a problem arose and, for whatever reason, I chose not to face it, I would say the phrase “talk to the hand” it was in refusal to what someone or something was trying to say or do.
I was driving home a few weeks ago and in the middle of a discussion about life and it’s unpredictable nature, the painful times when we really have to rely on the grace of God, my brother said those times are like dints in clay and God just has to smooth them out.
The Bible’s way of saying this is;
"O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel."
When we go through times that don’t make sense (to us) would we find ourselves talking to the hand, the potters hand. This is a different hand to that of a young dismissive adolescent, it’s a hand that wants to actively participate in the shaping and the structure of our lives. It’s the hand that wants to rebuild the broken parts and strengthen the damaged areas.
In times of loss, rejection or deep sorrow be comforted that God never takes His hands off you or your situation. As a potter is always forming and handling the creation, so God does with you. He never takes His hands away from you, never refuses you. There’s not a situation too broken to be fixed and there’s never a moment when He’s disappointed with His creation.
In the brave words of Elisabeth Elliot “God never withholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God’s refusals are always merciful, severe mercies at times but mercies all the same. God never denies us our hearts desire except to give us something better”.
Whatever those “refusals” represent in your life, whatever state of confusion you find yourself in as a result of those refusals, be comforted that God’s story never ends there. We may plan our course but the Lord determines our steps - which is to say, “rest easy”.
And as my thoughts draw to a close, as the night rests and prepares itself for another day ahead, let me leave you with another quote from Elisabeth Elliot “leave it in the hands that were wounded for you”.
Leave it in the potters hands.
And if you too find yourself on an autumn night, reflecting and trying to acquaint yourself to an unfamiliar situation which is has all of a sudden become your reality, talk to the (potters) hand. He cares, He knows and He will never let you go.
A few nights ago I was driving past my favourite spot near my parent’s house. It’s a lake, near a castle. The sky was clear and the moon was bright demonstrating its subtle beauty.
I drove past the lake and was surprised at how well it reflected the night’s sky as if it was doing it a favour.
The way water reflects the sky is a beautiful thing and I found myself thinking about reflections and reactions. Again.
What am I reflecting and how do I react?
The main denominator about the image isn’t the water and it isn’t the sky. It’s the wind. The thing you don’t see which affects the combination of it all. When the wind blows everything changes, the water creates a distorted picture of what it was attempting to reflect and the calm turns into something slightly chaotic.
And how undignified and how vulnerable the water looks when the wind blows.
So going back to the question, what’s our reaction? In hard times, in the times when we feel so easily shaken and easily moved, what’s our response?
I watched a preach a few days ago named after the Bel Biv Devoe song ‘That Girl is Poison’. It explains how we can all have things in our life which can be destructive and eat away at us and try to define us. But they don’t have to define us – our reaction can stop that.
What am I reflecting?
I’ve recently worn myself out in striving to be perfect. Unfortunately and realistically, that’s never going to happen.
All I can do is acknowledge who I’m reflecting.
When the winds blow and do their best to affect where I’m at, I find myself drenched in the grace of God. Again.
The view I saw the other night by the lake made me aware of God’s grace and how it’s His power which is made perfect in my weakness. And how in the ugliness of our brokenness, He makes us look beautiful once again.
And that’s ok.
And that’s healing.
In our weakness, His love is strong. In our failure, He has overcome. In our poverty, He has provided. And in our emptiness, our striving and our lack of clarity, He reigns.
He is consistent.
His love wins.
And so be encouraged, remember that Jesus reigns. His love is mightier than any gust of wind which tries to knock us of our feet.
Walk with confidence.
And reflect the beautiful grace which Jesus so freely gives us.
Diverted traffic has to be one of the most patience testing experiences. A few weeks ago we were driving around Manchester, 10pm, trying to find our way home and every road which we thought we needed to be on was diverting us somewhere else.
When you’re tired, lost and unsure about where you’re at it can quickly become a testing situation.
The day before this journey I’d written my car off by falling asleep at the wheel, making the trip home a little tenser for me as I was still shaken up from a previous experience.
Why does night time change everything? That hovering dark hue which make things seem even more confusing, even more hopeless or cold. The thing about night time is how powerful lights are, how we strongly rely on the power of a simple headlight or streetlight which we can easily ignore in the daytime when our surroundings easily distract us by entertaining us with their constant momentum of life. But how powerful is the strength of the light that will lead us home?
We all go through night time seasons. We all have that overwhelming moment when things just feel like they’re too much, like you’ve been diverted from that road you know will lead you to that place you’ve been planning for. But what if that road is actually the wrong road? That actually, the diversion is saving you from taking the wrong route for the wrong time in your life. Diversions, as frustrating as confusing as they demonstrate, they’re actually a gracious gesture, leading you on to a safer, secure and well defined journey.
And that warm beam of light casting clarity on the journey? It’s essential. It’s dedicated to your path and it’s not going to let you down, regardless of your previous experiences.
When you’re lost, when you’re majestic hurts feel like your only embrace, rely on the light which will lead you through that diversion, ushering you to a wholesome and integral path.
Our beautiful letdowns give us courage to wholly and solely rely on the Grace of God to be our light. To direct us and lead us when we’re lost.
Our paths make way for others to follow and learn from where we’re at, where we’ve been and the gracious hand of God which denies us of a path which may have lead us to even more confusion or worry.
The bible says “Passion for my Father’s house consumes me”. When you’re tirelessly diverted, when you thought you were on the right path; find yourself consumed with passion for the bigger picture - seeing His Kingdom come and His will be done. Note; His will be done – whatever that looks like. Let His love lead you through the night and let his magnificent hope drench you with life, vision and dedication to your breakthrough and someone else’s glimmer of hope.