Things Mothers Say
HAPPY NEW YEAR?
Each year I take the New Year period as a time for reflection. I look back over the prevjous year with all of its events. I remember the times of joy as well as the challenging, sad or discouraging times. I consider the lessons I've learned and hope to see how I have changed during the year, hopefully for the positive rather than the negative! I also extend this to include us as a church.
Out of this time of reflection, I've been encouraged. During this last year we have struggled, but I think we are in good heart. We have pulled together, worked together and supported each other. The year ended with both celebration and sadness. We feel grief due to the death of Margaret who has been such a cornerstone of the church over many decades. But we are also feeling incredible joy at the birth of Olivia to Emily and Adam.
My reflection also looks forward into the year we are entering and in this case, a new decade. I bring my hopes and fears before God. On a personal note there are a number of imminent fears, but more hopes than fears. On a church note similarly there are fears regarding our small number, our finances and the demands of an older building. These fears keep me grounded in reality and help to focus my prayers. Being an optimist by nature, the fears are overridden by my hopes, my hopes that this will be the year when God breaks into people's lives and takes us by surprise once again.
It is one thing to look back on the past and another to look forward, but it is also important to live in the present, and to allow the highs and lows to speak into the present, having learned the lessons from them, but not being weighed down by them.
As part of my reflections I went for an amble around the lakes which form part of the lower estate at Hardwick Hall. i took my camera with me so progress was very slow, but this gave me plenty of time to ponder. There were two themes that became evident. One was to do with trees. I kept noticing the shapes that they formed with their branches, something you only notice in windter when there are no leaves hiding them. Each tree was different. Some of them had been pruned or had become misshapen by difficult conditions. Others had died completely. Some of them had nooks and crannies where animals could hide or build their nests. Some were leaning at odd angles. But I kept reminding myself that the sap would start rising in most of them, and the leaves, flowers and fruit would follow. I was reminded that each of us is unique and shaped by our experiences. We will grow in different ways but we will hopefully mature, flower and bear fruit.
The other theme was that of streams. In places streams fed into the lakes, and in other places streams flowed out from them. The lakes were not stagnant, but life-giving. It was breezy and there were ripples on the surface. My thoughts were drawn to the Holy Spirit who is described both as wind and as a stream or river. It was good to have a timely reminder of the difference the Holy Spirit makes and our need for him in our lives - both flowing in to empower us but also flowing out in our actions and character.
All this was brought together for me in the words of Psalm 1:
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and nigth. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither - whatever they do prospers.
May this year be blessed by God for each one of us and together as a fellowshio.
Wishing you all a Happy Christmas & God’s blessing on 2020…
I’m starting this while in County Durham doing my Christmas Preparation with my friend Jean. We’ve been catching up on what’s been happening in our lives & reminiscing about past times together, as well as planning future times away. It is good to get together with friends & we’ve also spent some time with someone else we trained for ministry with & had a meal with his family.
One of the joys of Christmas is meeting up with people who are special to us & receiving cards & catch up letters from friends who we don’t get to see very often. While Christmas can be a very busy time, with so much to do & so much going on, it is also a special time of year.
In church life we have some special things going on for us & alongside the other churches in the village. The singing of carols feature in many of these. There is the Beer & Carols at the Gate pub organised by Churches Together in Swanwick. Why not come along & join in the fun? There will be a further opportunity to join together at the carol service at Rowthorne Nursing Home. The Parish Council are organising a Civic Carol Service at St Andrews Church & it would be good if some of us could go along to support this. These are all opportunities to make people aware of our church & of the real meaning of Christmas.
Closer to home, there will be opportunities for us to celebrate Christmas together. We have our Christmas Dinner to look forward to, thanks to Elsie & her team of little helpers. This is always a special time of fellowship together. Then we have Alfreton Male Voice Choir coming along for a SING-A-LONG again this year. What a fantastic opportunity to invite others to a fun evening. Please invite as many as you can as it would be brilliant to see a full church. Many people like to sing carols & even if they don’t like singing they like to hear carols being sung. If they can’t make this, they might like to come along to our Carol Service or even both!
This Advent, we are going to have an active time! Each week we will be looking at the Christmas story, not necessarily in the usual order, in the context of some verbs. So we will start by journeying with the Wise Men as we travel to the manger to worship the new born King. Then we will be saying yes with Mary. waiting & watching with Simeon & Anna & rejoicing with the angels before doing something with the shepherds on Christmas Day.
All of this emphasises that our December will be a busy time but let us make space for Christ in the middle of all the preparations. If you want some help in creating some quiet space, Pauline & I are planning to have a quiet hour or so each week with some Celtic reflections. You are very welcome to join us. The day & time will vary in order to fit in with other things, so you will need to check each week when & where.
For me, Christmas has already begun. We tried to get in the mood for our preparations by listening to carols & putting up some decorations. I know it’s a bit early but Jean won’t be going up North again until Christmas. One thing we did notice was that when we took the time to step away from our preparation, God took us by surprise. Our walks in the countryside were times of discovery & we collected some treasures to take home with us to explore & ponder further. What we found was that it were the small details that we noticed most rather than the big vistas. The most memorable was a tree which was devoid of any leaves but with roots going into the River Wear. The most amazing thing was the colourful lichens & mosses growing on the branches of the tree, & some of these had raindrops glistening on them. It really took our breath away & we kept talking about it as we explored our thoughts. I took a photograph of it which Jean gave the title supporting ourselves & others. It triggered the reflection that over Christmas we need to nurture our own connection with God & support others to encounter him. To bring the real meaning of Christmas.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
Greetings from Ros
In recent months life has been up & down for me with all kinds of mixed emotions. There’s been the excitement of finally moving into the Manse. But there’s been the disappointment of yet another health issue, just when I thought all of that was behind me. There’s been the frustration of constantly feeling the energy drain as a consequence of a severe vitamin D deficiency. There’s been the fun of getting out & about in the fresh air on doctor’s orders. There’s been the need to take care in pacing activities so as not to cause coming to a standstill. There’s been the joy of having to stop & be still to spend time with God. So there have been advantages to emerge from the difficulties.
Sometimes things leave us with mixed emotions. Last month I went into Derby to see the Knife Angel whilst it was outside Derby Cathedral. Looking at the sculpture was very uncomfortable & challenging. There was a sense of amazement at the way so many, 10,000, knives had been put together to form an angel. I couldn’t say it was beautiful but it certainly moved me, especially seeing that some of the knives had been engraved with the names of victims of knife crime. All of the knives that had been used had been handed in during a knife amnesty held throughout the country a number of years ago. The whole sculpture was a reminder of the issue of knife crime & the loss of life caused by knives. On the day I went to see the angel there were further deaths caused by someone wielding a knife reported on the news. It certainly gave me plenty of food for thought. I was glad to be able to go into the Cathedral for some space to reflect & pray.
In the Bible we find a number of people who experienced mixed emotions. Elijah was one of those. He had the amazing experience of seeing God’s amazing victory over the prophets of Baal. But this was mixed up with the despair of having a price on his head & the loneliness of feeling all alone. But God took care of his physical needs for rest & food & led him to a cave where he was to meet with God. This has been my desire in the midst of the mixed emotions of recent months. It is in allowing God to break into all the circumstances of life that we find him drawing us closer to him as we make new discoveries about him. Elijah didn’t encounter God in the wind, fire or earthquake but in the still small voice. Life may feel as if it is full of the noise & drama of the earthquake, wind & fire but we still need to listen out for God’s quiet voice. Love, Ros
This month is a busy month for us as a fellowship. We have our Away Day & our Church Anniversary, as special events. But of course the routines of church life will carry on as usual.
We will find ourselves looking back & remembering the history of the church & what has contributed to making us the fellowship we are today. This links in with a theme that has been constantly on my mind over the Summer – that of thanksgiving. It is very relevant to us at this time of year, having recently celebrated Harvest. It is so easy to focus on the negatives whilst overlooking the positives. But thanksgiving causes us to focus on the things that we appreciate & want to thank God for.
I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. (1 Corinthians 1:4)
We will also find ourselves focussing on the present, on who we are as God’s people here in Swanwick today. As I have pondered this over the summer, I have been encouraged. Yes, I acknowledge that we have many issues to resolve & mountains to overcome, but I can see God at work & that always encourages me. Although we may be small in number, we are a team pulling together. We cannot ignore the difficulties that we face but, & it is a big BUT, God doesn’t appear to have given up on us, so we shouldn’t be disheartened. This does not mean that we are to bury our heads in the sand for we need to be real & realistic & recognise the difficulties we face, but we must ensure that we do not focus on the difficulties without honouring the positives. Yes, I know that I’m naturally an optimist & some of you are pessimists but we need both to bring a balance. We need those of you that want to keep us grounded in reality & we need the dreamers who wander off on flights of fancy seeing possibilities that may seem to be in cloud cuckoo land.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7)
This brings me to the 3rd focus, that of the future. Whilst there is something relatively concrete about the past & the present, the future is unknown & therefore uncertain. The only certainty is that God will be with us in the future as we put our trust in Him. He can be trusted & relied upon. Whatever God has promised we know He can & will do it!
With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. (2 Thessalonians 1:11)
This week has been one of opposites. One day I spent all on my own having a day of retreat in order to consider and pray for the situation we find ourselves in the world & in the church today, and to ponder and pray for the future. Another day I met up with some friends who have been there for me over the years that I've been in ministry. It was a day of remembering, catchin gup with where we are now and our hopes for the future. Both days had their similarities but were also very different.
I stayed at the Manse for a few days, but other times I was out and about, including having a morning at Hardwick Hall Estate and Gardens. That day gave me plenty of food for thought and set me off thinking about how extreme opposites can live in harmony and add to the beauty of life. There were formal gardens interspersed with wildlife havens. There were flowers, seeds and fruit on the same plants. There was an ornate, well preserved hall and an old crumbling ruin that was having to have essential maintenance done so access was prohibited. As I wandered around I was struck about how this is often the case in my life. Some areas are flourishing and other areas are crumbling.Some areas are attractive and tended and other areas are overgrown and wild. I has certainly made me think.
Talking of wildernesses... I've been looking at the Manse garden, which hopefully will be transformed this weekend. It certainly is overgrown and in need of some pruning and TLC. Looking at it, there are many weeds to be cleared but there are also a rose and honeysuckle that are flowering abundantly. Today I became aware of the smell of lavender but had to look hard to find the plant in amongst the weeds. It was only the smell that indicated the presence of the plant and I had to look hard for any other evidence. In our lives we can often be a mass of contradictions with beauty lurking in amongst the wilderness. We sometimes sing a song 'May the fragrance of Jesus fill my life'. The lavender plant reminded me of that. What fragrance do we leave? How much wilderness is there in us. What is blooming despite the lack of care and tending? What are the weeds that I need to work on and remove from my life?
All this reminds me of Jesus' words, 'My Father is the gardener' in JOhn 15:1.
I pray that this month will bring you refreshment and restoration.