prayerscapes - creative journeys in worship and prayer

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Category Archives: Reflections

Musings and reflections on the nature of life and walking with God.

Leaning into God this Lent

Desert Scene with Barren Tree

Lent is an opportunity to lean in, to abandon yourself to intimacy with a living God, and to taste the refreshing water of God’s love and grace. When Jesus went into the desert for forty days he learnt what it meant to lean into his Father and remind himself of God’s promises. It was in that dry, hot, barren place that the enemy attacked him when he was physically most vulnerable.

in a slightly different way we as humans all have “desert” areas, places that are dry and harsh, places where we choose to shut God out of. Sometimes we can do many things to cover our own arid lands. We distract ourselves with purchasing things, chase achievements, hide in a fictional tale, mask our feelings with comfort eating, find a media fast fix or drink away our sorrow with a latte or beer! All these things are not wrong in themselves, but they can become like a plaster on a wound, preventing the air of God’s Spirit from circulating, they can stop the rain of God’s love touching us, or just cover the hurt so well that others do not realize our pain.

Sometimes it is important to strip these things back a little and see what lies underneath. Leaning into God is an active thing. It requires trust that a strong arm will hold you, courage that you won’t be rejected, it requires forgiveness when you have been hurt and hope to push through disappointments and engage with life again. God really cares about the desert areas of our lives! His heart breaks for the lost possibility of softness and healing, the intense pain of midday sun moments, and the sadness of the barren land holding no new nurture or growth. The good news is this – leaning into God is not as complex as it may seem. In the rivers of grace opened by Jesus’s death, small things can create huge restoration! It’s true – so just choosing once to leave the chocolate bar in the cupboard and remain before God can bring light into a dark place of disillusionment. This light is not only an opening for confession, it can become a peephole for deep renewal.

Leaning into God this Lent can also be an active choice for something. Deciding on a Saturday afternoon to go for a walk out onto the hills instead of the browsing the usual shops could be the beginning of a new wave of hope that breaks across the desolation of grief, or the rejection of a broken relationship, or a complex health issue. Seize the moments you have in Lent to lean in. Give everything to God, hold nothing back. And in those times, read the word of God, engage with the beauty of the earth, listen to inspiring music, phone a trusted friend, stop to pray, or just curl up and rest! Push away the props. Allow the light of Christ to illuminate your path, the rain of God’s spirit to soften your way, and you will discover new seeds of hope have taken root in your life.

I wrote a short prayer this month which carries these thoughts to God. You may like to pray it now as you lean into Him during this time:

I Will Turn

Lord, I will turn,
Turn my face towards you.
I will lay before you the desert areas I hide
And turn to soak in your refreshing words of life.
I will cast aside the barren, selfish pursuits
And turn to rest in the tranquil warmth of your love.
I will draw back from the harsh pull of media
And turn to bathe in the gentle power of your Spirit.
Lord, today I turn my face towards you.

I will turn
To soak in your words of life,
To rest in the warmth of your love,
And to bathe in the power of your Spirit.

Here is a short film meditation we have created featuring the words of this prayer: –

It’s possible to download this film in HD for a small sum by visiting this page.

Dwell at Christmas

Dwell album cover from Prayerscapes

In this season of giving, it is hard sometimes to cut through the commercial trappings, rise above the “perfect Christmas” expectations and truly connect with loved ones to give a gift that is really yearned for. We (like most creatives) sometimes find it hard to “push” our own work, to believe that our music can really bless others the way it is intended to. Yet strangely, as I find myself in a broken place surrounded by much sorrow and pain with friends and family, I have needed to “Dwell” myself! Searching through my CD’s I have come back to this album as the space it offers me helps me to pray and intercede for those suffering, even in the darkest times. We thought we would share with you a quote from a recent review of the album by writer and blogger Freya Pickard. It encourages us that “Dwell” can connect with and carry others:-

“This cd was the perfect gift at a very difficult time…Not since I discovered the music of Iona in the 1990s, has a cd had such a profound effect on me. Hearing it gives me goosebumps. I find it both relaxing and challenging. When I first listened to it, I felt like a dry sponge soaking up cold, refreshing water.”

(Read this review in full at Dragonscale Clippings Blog)

So, we hope that others will choose Dwell as a gift for loved ones and that the Holy Spirit would find space in the lives of the listeners to heal, restore, envision and keep them.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Here are some excerpts from Dwell:-

It’s possible to buy “Dwell” by following this link.

A Beautiful Prayer

Beautiful Tree Branches hanging low down

I think one of our deepest longings as humans is to know that there is a purpose for our lives, that we have a role to play in this world. Thankfully as Christians we can be certain that life isn’t just a random series of events. God the creator of the earth and the heavens is still at work now, intricately weaving beauty and purpose into our lives, building His Kingdom here on earth.

The prayer of St Richard is very special to me. I performed in the musical “Godspell” in my teens, and sang “Day by Day” as a solo. Although I didn’t feel at that time I knew God, I truly meant the words “to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly” and “follow thee more nearly.” It was many years later that I realised that I had travelled to study in Chichester where St Richard lived when he wrote this prayer! And in my journey to knowing Christ as a young person these words have remained with me, like a mantra! God brought me to Chichester. He can and does weave all things together. I now realise that the living Lord responded to my earnest desire to know something of Him in my life, and he has directed my path. For it was in Chichester that I did find faith, began writing with Neil, and Prayerscapes was born. Look for the Kingdom story in your life – journeying with Christ is such an amazing adventure!

Here is this beautiful prayer. St Richard is said to have utter these words in his final hours:-

It’s possible to download this film in HD for a small sum by visiting this page.

 

The Prayer of St Richard (Bishop of Chichester between 1244 to 1253)

Thanks be to you, our Lord Jesus Christ,

for all the benefits which you have given us,

for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us.

Most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother,

may we know you more clearly,

love you more dearly,

and follow you more nearly,

day by day.

Amen.

 

Dwell – a new worship film meditation

Dwell written underneath a beautiful rainbow

Sometimes God can surprise us with His presence. We read in the bible that He is always present with us – it’s just that we often forget this (or prefer to ignore this truth!) On the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-31) the disciples didn’t even realize it was the risen Jesus who they conversed with, until he broke bread with them.

On one particularly stressful day, I had a moment waiting in the car for my son to come out of school. I just found myself saying “God, thank you for your goodness to me”, over and over again, so much so that I was overwhelmed by the presence of God. Gradually the cloud of anxiety and fear lifted, and I knew in my inner being that I could relax and know that “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well”
(Julian of Norwich ca.1342- 1416. Christ is said to have uttered these words to Julian in a near death apparition)

It was in this moment that I sang the first line of “Dwell”. I knew that what I needed to do with the rest of the song was to somehow recreate this peace that I had experienced. I hope that as you listen to the track you will encounter this rest for your soul. But before you do so, I want invite you to get somewhere were you won’t be disturbed for five minutes, switch your mobile off, invite God to speak to you, and then press play:-

This track is the title song from our new prayerscapes album “Dwell”, out now on iTunes, and downloadable from our site here.

The chords, lyrics and full piano score (in E minor) are also available on this page.

Grace

Pastel Painting of a large sun shining across a lake

One thing Jesus must have been very aware of as he walked with his twelve disciples, teaching and ministering to them, was the importance of grace! It was essential that these men understood what was about to be released – the blessing that would follow from the death of their leader, their mentor and friend. They had to grasp that the Kingdom of God would come within them, and that they really could be bold and free before God. Why? because he needed them to have faith and he knew that if they were trapped in their humanity, their sin, their fear, their resentment, their desires, they would never amount to anything.

Yet they were not perfect – they were fallen – yet saved – human – yet born again of the Holy Spirit. Grace needed to be a supporting structure beneath them, inspiring acts of miraculous faith, underpinning each letter, each preach and drawing the lost like a magnet to the Father heart of God! Grace makes us whole, it makes us free, it makes us humble, it makes us giving, it makes us ask – safe in the knowledge that we do not earn our way into God’s kingdom but receive our way by inviting Jesus into our hearts. And it worked!! Think now – if the Holy Spirit wasn’t a real tangible intimacy with an eternal God – how – how on earth would just twelve men have carried the message in the transformational way they did? It’s a message that is still bright and clear today. Grace is real. Invite Jesus into your life today.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me”. (Rev 3:20, NIV)

Time for physio!

watercolour of woman asleep on a bed

I love being part of a church, mixing with people of different ages, backgrounds, gifts and temperaments. We are the body of Christ, each playing a part, life-giving and unique!

But what happens when a part of the body becomes so broken that it can no longer function? This is something that we need to be aware of in our church families.

If we are physically injured, several different types of cells work together in the human body to restore the broken part back to life, rather like a house being rebuilt with all the different trades (plumbers, electricians etc) working together as a team. We as church, the body of Christ can mirror this restorative work amongst ourselves! Life is complicated, and just as our physical bodies go through trauma, strain and illness, so do we suffer in our emotional, mental and spiritual lives. There are times when it is clear why a person may be broken, and I love the way in which church families re-arrange themselves to care for, protect and minister to the vulnerable. However sometimes wounds are not so obvious, so it is essential that the love of God reigns supreme, that the grace of God is flowing bountifully amongst us. It must flow before understanding, before judgement and before resentment.  We may need to allow people to step back from a role without knowing why they have left it, forgive others abundantly when they seem troubled and release and support each other without questioning.

As we gather together, we release the Holy Spirit to move amongst us as comforter, healer and friend. I am always aware of the need to be guided by the spirit as I minister to others in a church service. To watch out for those whom need rest, to be aware of the wounded, sensitive to the weary, soft to those who feel hurt, and to be shelter to the broken. And I also believe God is into physiotherapy! He is into seeing our restoration right through to his children being strong, fit and released once again! That’s where the beauty of new hope needs to be proclaimed like a balm, where a message of understanding and truth can release the captive, and when a word of encouragement can breathe new vision into our hearts!  Just like our physical bodies, there comes a time when we are strong enough to begin to re-exercise a gifting or re-activate giving. Sometimes we need to re-train ourselves to trust, care and love again, or to reclaim the power of forgiveness in our lives.

I have found myself on ‘the benches’ recently. I have not been able to be a major team player as I have been navigating family troubles. I am so thankful for others who have stepped in to take the strain, blessed by those who allow me to cry and see my hurt, and very grateful for the living body of Christ around me. So there is before us all a wonderful opportunity to be a part of this body!  Could it be that you are needing rest, healing or ministry? Or possibly the rehabilitation of encouragement or in need of support to move into freedom again?

When the body of Christ moves as one, wrapped up in the grace of God, there lies a truly wonderful testimony and an amazing witness! Let’s be alive as a body! Who needs rest? Who needs a massage of hope? Who needs to start exercising those love, forgiveness or skill muscles again? Who needs some gentle support to do so? Who has recovered and is ready to go back into the team again? Who needs vision for the next step?

Let’s be active in caring for the body of Christ. And let’s be honest when we are the ones who are in need of physio for our hearts, minds or bodies. Let’s be real, wonderfully imperfect, yet amazing united as we join together to be the body of Christ.

Landing Space

Pilots landing a small plane on a landing strip.

Living in a fallen world can be a lonely experience. I have come to see this isolation, this separation is in opposition to the connectedness that Creator God intended for us all. I can only imagine that somehow in heaven we will enjoy a unity and intimacy with God and each other that we only experience as tiny fragments in our lives here on earth. So what is unity? A friend of mine who is not a Christian once described a “moment” he experienced at the end of a folk festival. “We all joined hands and agreed in that moment that love would overcome” Yes!! says the Spirit of God. In that moment his isolation was surpassed by connection. How much more connection is there for those who follow in the footsteps of Christ? When we as the family of God physically join hands and respond in our hearts in unison to our sovereign Lord, the Holy Spirit has a perfect landing space!  Suddenly the skies clear, there is a runway for the grace of God and truth is in our midst.

Let’s not allow anything to prevent this space from happening in our families, in our churches, or in our wider world. Christ’s prayer for us is that we might be one. May we not be frightened of rejection, but rather be open to connection, confident in the redeeming power of the resurrected Christ!

Treasure Chest

God’s love is a like a treasure chest in the centre of our lives. It is at the very core of our families, and is the powerhouse of our callings in the world. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians there lies an explanation of love that explores the nature of this treasure trove. We can draw from this “love stash” at any time and it never fails to deliver. Why? Because God is love! As followers of Christ we don’t have a monopoly on it. God has poured love into his creation. It seeps out of every pore! This heavenly love has touched us, no matter who we are, what our background is or what world view we happen to hold. Most of us would site loving and being loved as the most important thing in life.

So I wonder why I have not cracked it? Why do I fail so many times to get this right in my own life? I just forget the treasure that is already there. Sometimes I am too tired to open the lid and take a look, or too hurt to receive forgiveness, too rushed to be kind, too needy to be giving, or too insecure to roll out humility. Yet! If I take a moment to dust it off, and open the lid again on the treasure trove of love I have been given, something remarkable begins to happen. Grace begins to flow again in my friendships! Differences fade away under the weight of God’s acceptance, and my heart is free to give and to live.

Note to self: visit the treasure chest! x

Turn This Boat Around

Small sailing boat with two people in.

At the beginning of a new year, many of us relish the possibility of change. For some it is the thrill of setting a new course, for others that of developing relationships in family life, for still others it is the hope for new patterns to emerge in work life. I imagine that our Heavenly Father, the one who is bursting with love and forgiveness, longs to help us to embrace all these things.

I have so many things on my New Year list! Sometimes it feels as though even making a small change can take months of pondering and planning. Sometimes changing direction is like turning a really heavy boat around against the flow of the tide! All too often in early January I see some of these hopes fizzle out, drop off my agenda or become crushed by insecurity or doubt. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. When I lift my eyes to the skies I see the birds fly where they choose on the winds of the moment! This is a beautiful metaphor for the freedom intended for us all. Why is it that so often we feel like we are moving in slow motion or dragging ourselves through treacle? Sometimes it is the well trodden paths of history which pull heavily on our decisions. At times it is the internal doubts and insecurities that confine us. At other times it is the ties in life, the responsibilities we carry, that hold us back. Or perhaps it is the way we look at these things? Could they be transformed into possibilities, joys and adventures? So let us stand, hand in hand with each other, and explore without fear! Share and laugh together. Take mini steps, moment by moment, day by day. Here we can hold steady to a loving God, and stand on the bed of grace given to us by Jesus. He is alive! And we can be alive too. So hope and breathe anew!

Reframing

an empty frame

I like to reframe things. As an artist I have always been fascinated at looking at things from a different angle, daring to change something in a picture. Equally in real life it fascinates me how  retakes can transform our thinking, unlock our heart or heal our experiences. As followers of Christ we are urged to have open eyes, to be guided by love and acceptance and to be willing to forgive. And it truly works! I have had a tendency in the past to look down upon myself, to reject who I am. These days I take each thought captive! What if my shyness was reframed as gentleness, my self-doubt recognised as humility? Gradually I am released to be all that I can be! And at times in my blindness I have needed others to reframe my circumstances for me. Like how I see my children. A friend helpfully reframing  my very intense son as a gifted perfectionist, or my emotional son reframed as empathetic.

As Christians we are given the tools for harmony. We reframe with love, we reframe with acceptance, we reframe with hope, we reframe with forgiveness. Not only does this transform our lives, it sends shoots of renewal into our families as we fan into flame the Godly qualities in our characters and allow the negative ones to slowly fall away.



latest from the blog

Leaning into God this Lent

Desert Scene with Barren Tree

Lent is an opportunity to lean in, to abandon yourself to intimacy with a living God, and to taste the refreshing water of God’s love and grace. When Jesus went into the desert for forty days he learnt what it meant to lean into his Father and remind himself of God’s promises. It was in Read More


Prayer for the New Year

Bird flying through snowy mountains

By the love and grace of God we are always offered a new page, a fresh start, a new beginning. With this heavenly blessing we can be assured of new hope! For most people the coming of the New Year brings attempts at resolutions and new commitments. It can be a springboard for change, yet Read More


Dwell at Christmas

Dwell album cover from Prayerscapes

In this season of giving, it is hard sometimes to cut through the commercial trappings, rise above the “perfect Christmas” expectations and truly connect with loved ones to give a gift that is really yearned for. We (like most creatives) sometimes find it hard to “push” our own work, to believe that our music can Read More