Lent will soon be upon us, where we are challenged to reflect on our lives; to give up something that’s holding us back, or to start to do something new. Some people choose to give up a certain food or treat, others choose to break a bad habit, or to form a new good habit for 40 days, from Ash Wednesday to Easter Morning. Six weeks of self discipline. Reflective of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness as He prepared himself to complete His mission. The final part of His gift and promise.
What challenge will you set yourself? What will tempt you to revert? Can you do something that will benefit your own wellbeing as well as those around you, or take on a challenge together so that you are accountable to each other? We sometimes struggle when we try to go it alone and do things in our own power, not only during Lent but throughout our lives. The great news is you don’t have to:
“For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16
What a gift and promise! You have a loving, mighty, powerful God. The Holy Trinity, watching over you, routing for you, wanting to help you, ready to listen to you. The gift has already been given and promised. And God doesn’t break His word.
Interestingly the word ‘lent’ is also the past tense of the word ‘lend’. The world was given Jesus for a brief period of time, approx 33 years, here on earth in physical, human form, as one of us. His task complete, defeating death once and for all through His crucifixion and resurrection 3 days later. (Note the power of 3). The period of Lent gives us a chance to reflect on what Jesus went through to save us and God’s unchanging love for us. A chance to focus on our individual purpose and calling, to give something up, let something go, or give something back.
For those who have been going through difficult times, remember that winter will soon turn into spring, spring to summer, summer to autumn in all its glorious colour. With each season bringing change, new starts, and provisions for our needs. Time to adjust, time to grow, time to rest, time to reap. Time to just be.
As a church, we joined in with the Christmas Tree Festival at West Moors URC during December. It was a beautiful sight seeing the many trees adorned with a variety of decorations, each depicting a different message or theme. The theme of our tree was ‘Me, my gift is me’. All too often we overlook what we can offer individually in our talents, gifts and skills. Whereas, who we are, what we’re good at, and all that we aspire to be,is the greatest gift we can give to Jesus.
It’s important to continue to grow our roots into the depths of Gods love.To reach for the heights of all we can be, to continue to shine that Christmas light throughout the year. To trust and to find strength in hope, no matter how slight a glimmer it may seem.
“And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide an escape, so that you can stand up under it” 1 Corinthians 10:13b
“For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.’” Acts Ch13:47
A beacon to lead those who’ve strayed and lost their way. To shine a light of hope when darkness surrounds a fellow being, whether friend, family or foe. A light that brings forgiveness, like the stoking of embers that gently warm and thaw cold hands and cold hearts. Rest and bathe in its glow and warmth.
Restore the flickering candle flames. Protect them from the icy winds that blow, that cut straight through the cracks in the old door, disturbing peaceful sleep with its shrill howling and rattling. Stand firm in the faith, knowledge and trust in the Lord. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” Psalm Ch 119:105
Encourage the flame to burn brighter, to shine its light for all to see. To make a difference. To guide people home this Christmas, like that first Christmas star.
Wishing you a wonderful Christmas Time – shine brightly, and may it last
throughout the coming year!
Although a time of wonderful thanksgiving, Harvest makes us aware of the
delicate make up and design of the kingdom, and our complete dependence on God. For the wind, sunshine, and rain to nurture, grow and provide food, materials and shelter. For the seasons. Providing for our basic human needs and so much more. Somewhere we belong. Somewhere we feel loved.
However, it doesn’t always feel like this; there are people starving, people who are lost, suffering, feel abandoned – so what’s going wrong? Many news stories are currently highlighting the imbalance and massive issues we’re creating with the amount of chemicals and plastic that is finding it’s way into the oceans, the kingdom’s life giving organ. This material is used within so many products; from packaging, office equipment, vehicles, through to clothing, accessories, cosmetics, medication, cleaning materials and more. Meeting the demand for instant results; food-on-the-go, lightweight, transformable properties, strength, ease of cleaning etc. Is this a sign of us as humans forging our own path?
Focusing on the amazing benefits we can achieve but forgetting to consider and limit the negative effects it might have on a wider scale? Are we taking all the amazing resources and goodness we’ve been given for granted? Have we forgotten God in ‘our plans’?
“Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25:4-5
It’s Harvest Time! You are warmly invited to come along, bring friends and family, and join in the traditional harvest celebrations! It’s a beautiful occasion and a highlight of our calendar year here at Horton Heath.
It’s the visual delight, the jewel like colours, and the tantalising smell of the delicious fresh produce and seasonal bounty. Whilst we eagerly await the celebrations in our little village chapel, how do we even begin to comprehend all the goodness that is stored and waiting for each and everyone in the feast that’s yet to come!
“The hungry heart He satisfies
Offers the poor His paradise
Now hear all Heaven and earth applaud
The amazing goodness of the Lord
Sing with thankfulness songs of pure delight
Come and revel in Heaven’s love and light
Take your place at the table of the King
The feast is ready to begin!”
(Lyrics from ‘The trumpets sound’ written by Graham Kendrick )
Happy Harvest Time!
Rev Linda Chester gave us a beautiful illustration as part of the children’s talk last month to aptly describe the concept of unchanging love. Making us think about the loyalty and devotion of pets. They are always pleased to see us, greeting us when we return home. Excited when it’s time for a walk or play. No matter what sort of day we’ve had, they are there, ready and eagerly awaiting for us. How much more than this is God’s constant love for us? Ready with welcome arms to hear about our day, whether good or bad. Ready to listen. Ready to support and unburden.
With pets, everything is pretty much as it seems. With fellow humans this is not always the case. We are complex beings and can be easily hurt or discouraged. As Christians we are here to support and encourage one another. To speak, think and act in kindness and love. Our intentions can sometimes be misunderstood. If we always act from the heart, then on both sides we need to be open to the possible motivations and intentions of kindness and care. Seeking the good, allowing others in to support and care about us.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Another beautiful example of unchanging love is captured within the harvest
celebrations. The continual cycle of the changing of the seasons and the
provisions and goodness they each bring. Let’s give thanks with all our hearts
for one another and the good, perfect gifts the Creator and unchanging God
generously gives. We warmly invite you to join with us this Harvest season.
How are you coping with the heat wave? At the time of writing we’re awaiting the forecasted thunder and much needed drops of rain. The dry lawns and grass verges look like the fields after they’ve been harvested. Crackling under foot as the now brittle blades snap and break. They are like the barren desert, dry and hot with no signs of life – but does that mean there is no hope?
Remember how quickly the desert transforms into an idyllic paradise when the rain arrives. Bursting with colourful flowers and vegetation, refilling the streams and watering holes. Refreshing the tired land. Restoring the hum of life as the birds, mammals and insects gather once more.
“The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail”. Isaiah 58:11
No matter how bleak the outlook can seem, remember God’s hand is always at work behind the scenes. Like the refreshing breeze, you can capture brief glimpses of His movement across the land. We might not understand His plans or reasons, but we can put out trust in Him and know He will not fail or desert us.
We were recently warmly welcomed, to join other churches in our local and surrounding area, to celebrate our one faith, and the one church together. Although we are each from different disciplines and have different ways of worship, we are all linked through our faith. It’s a lovely opportunity to meet new people, share fellowship together, learn new songs and encourage each other in our faith.
Our welcome service was a ‘Songs of Praise’ evening. Incorporating hymns chosen by members from the different churches, accompanied by what the song personally meant to them and their faith. Many of the hymns chosen had seen people through tough personal times, providing strength and reassurance, others were fond memories of a time of celebration.
Throughout life we each face mixed blessings, but we never face them alone. God is always there with us in one guise or another. Often through music, each other, even through the kindness of strangers. Providing comfort, joy, support, and strength at our time of need, carrying us forward.
One of the hymns aptly chosen to close the service was ‘The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended’;
“As o’er each continent and island, the dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent, nor dies the strain of praise away”
(John Ellerton, 1870)
Reminding us that the Church is never sleeping. As our service ends another is starting elsewhere in the world. God is always watching and waiting, ready for us.
Have you noticed the wild flora & fauna? The many different shapes, sizes, colours, scents and just how delicate they appear, are truly fascinating. You can find them in so many places and flourish seemingly on their own. Whilst som varieties certainly spread like ‘weeds’ they are each perfectly formed down to the last detail; delicate petal, the veins on the leaves, the individual tiny thread like hairs to survive and thrive. They hold a real charm and beauty, filling in the gaps in borders, hedgerows, woodlands and meadows, giving pleasure to passers by with their splashes of colour. A treasure to behold.
How often though are these beautiful creations deemed as weeds; trodden on without a second thought, pulled up and uprooted from our gardens, overlooked as a weed as planted in the wrong place, something we didn’t cultivate. However they are robust creations, able to establish themselves in rocky soil, pushing their way through tarmac and bricks, surviving extreme conditions as they make their way towards the light. They’re not watered or nurtured by us but they seem to thrive every year.
Sometimes when we experience knocks, or hit turbulent times we can feel a bit like a ‘weed’; perhaps not good enough, or feel as though we are nothing special. We start doubting ourselves and limit ourselves, but these thoughts are far from the truth. God loves each one of us, even more than the wild flora & fauna. He knows what we can achieve. His definition of us isn’t limited to what we’ve done or where we are currently at. He sees our complete potential and encourages us every step of the way to a full, beautiful life.
“The people of Israel will have nothing more to do with idols; I will answer their prayers and take care of them. Like an evergreen tree I will shelter them; I am the source of all their blessings.” Hosea 14:8
As He sustains and nurtures the wild flora & fauna we can trust in Him through the good times and when we face times of pain, trouble and sorrow, through all of this we have Jesus, His son.