The great deep blue

At the time of writing its #plasticfreejuly, which instantly brought to mind the ocean, and also unfortunately, the amount of muck we’ve unwittingly allowed to pollute these ‘lungs of our planet’. So this movement is a great reminder to continue to do all that we can to reduce the amount of single use plastic. To be more thoughtful, creative and purposeful in our lives. And realise how our actions impact this amazing planet, that is full of wonder and a beautiful sign of God the creator.

Proverbs 8:27-29

“…I was there when He established the heavens, when He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep, when He established the clouds above, when the fountains of the deep gushed forth, when He set a boundary for the sea, so that the waters would not surpass His command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth.…”

The coast holds a very special place in the hearts of many. A space to escape the busyness of our lives and the amount of technology and alerts. A place to feel completely in Gods presence. A space to simply breathe. However, until we can safely return to visit our spectacular coastline again, let’s immerse ourselves in a word picture of it and reflect on how it represents God to you.

The ocean. A vast expanse. The great deep blue. A constant. Keeping tide in line and rhythm with the celestial moon. A body of water held in its place, that knows no divides, uniting us altogether. Standing on the shoreline awakens your senses; the salty air embraces you, the cool sea breeze brushing past your cheeks, the seagulls calling overhead. You listen carefully, allowing your body, mind and spirit to still in its mighty presence. The waves as they gently lap onto the shore and crash over the nearby rocks, sound like calm deep breaths from a ‘being’ that’s unfathomable in size. Slowly inhaling and exhaling. 

Another world can be found deep below the sunlit surface. Holding many mysteries in its depths. In stormy weather the ocean becomes turbulent, forceful, and disrupting. Reshaping the coastline in its path. It reforms and transforms sharp edges of rocks, glass or wood into smooth treasures.

We need to refill ourselves with God’s love and grace, like a glass bottle filled to the brim with refreshing water. Especially during times of strife. We also need to remain in His love, immersing our ‘full bottle‘ in the ocean of His presence, so that we overflow with love in abundance, strength, hope and kindness. We pray that God continually fills each and everyone, so that we can all live life to its fullest in Him. 

1 John 4:13 “And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us.”

Navigating through unchartered waters

At the time of writing this, things feel as though they are starting to settle. The restrictions are gradually being eased and some doors on our high streets are reopening for the first time in three months. Whilst there’s a way to go yet, it will be interesting to see the innovations and improvements made to work towards restoration and sustainability of our planet, lives and wellbeing; physically, mentally and spiritually.

At Horton Heath we’ve begun assessing our premises and the adjustments needed to be able to meet safely together when the time comes for us to be able to do so. A big undertaking, but again not something we are facing alone. It’s a task that has also begun in the wider community for the schools, work places and shops reopening. A lot of navigating through ‘unchartered waters’ to go but also a reassurance that we are all in the same storm together and God will work through this for the greater good. 

The restrictions may have shut our church doors across the nation but it has also broken down physical barriers that perhaps our buildings unintentionally created. With a vast selection of online worship freely available to join in from the comfort of our own sofas, you really can come just as you are (even in pyjamas!). Eliminating any sense of pressure, de-mystifying  what happens behind the church doors, and opening eyes and ears to familiar and new messages of hope and assurance. 

We all need to continue to look out for one another, continue in our prayer and praise to God, and keep nurturing the community spirit that has blossomed during lockdown.

Love can always be found

Whilst doing a bit of clearing out in lockdown I came across some writing entitled ‘The People’s Credo, Faith and Hope’. Unfortunately I haven’t as yet been able to discover its origins, however it seemed very apt for our current times.

It talks about dark days and fear but love can always be found ‘for love is not all gone from the face of this earth’. Love may be found in unexpected places; in the eyes and a smile of a stranger, in the outstretched hand of a former foe. It can also be found in places of comfort; a phone call with a friend, a hand written card or video chat with family, the loving arms of your spouse, the nuzzling of a pet. ‘How many times have you forgotten to take time to enjoy the little things that we hold dear’?

There’s an abundance of love displayed in nature. Take time to look around you. We have a family of sparrows nesting in our neighbours roof, and it’s a real joy to finally see the baby sparrows sitting on the fence chirping away, still demanding to be fed. We also had our first birdbath visitor – a blackbird enjoying a good drink and splash around in the cool water on a hot spring day. The foxgloves, standing tall, are coming into flower in a variety of delicate shades. The fruits of the trees and shrubs are starting to form, bearing the promise of summer.

‘I will not forsake you’ Jesus promised, so however alone or broken-hearted you may feel, have faith in His words. ‘It’s an internal peace that reaches the very fibres of my being’.

‘Expect a glimmer of hope, a flashlight and a hand to rescue you…hang in there, for delivery is around the corner’.

Thinking of you all. Keep safe and well.

Holy Week – Saturday – Sabbath rest

Jesus died on a Friday, just before their Jewish Sabbath day started at sunset. His body laid in the grave until the Sabbath had ended. The resurrection took place early on the Sunday morning of the third day. Sabbath is a day of rest, and whatever God had planned for Jesus, it included respect for Sabbath rest.

As we experience our coronavirus lockdown we are encouraged to discover how it might be like a Sabbath rest for us. For some of us that won’t be true. Key workers need to go out to work, and are all working hard. Those who are able to work from home are probably struggling hard to work out how to do that well. Foodbank volunteers and other voluntary providers of deliveries and essential services are also working hard. Those who are closing down small businesses and mothballing their self employed status are also struggling to work out how to do those things with minimum loss. We remember all those who are working hard and serving the community and the economy through their work. But even for those among us for whom this is true, the concept of Sabbath rest, and a pattern of rest in the routines of work, is still important and healthy for us. Find your Sabbath rest.

But for some of us that doesn’t apply. We are stood down from our work, we are isolated from our normal activities. Rather than stress over the loss, we need to learn to enter our long Sabbath rest. To treat the moments of time given to us as an opportunity to relax, reflect, renew, rejoice and refresh. It will end. Will we emerge as people who are better because of our Sabbath experience?

I end with a poem for separated people:

The Gap
I cannot hold you close today.
I cannot take your hand;
I cannot wipe your tears away
Or brace you as you stand.
I cannot whisper in your ear
Or pass a gift to you –
A sweet or silly something dear –
To cheer a world turned blue.
I cannot sit at home with you,
Make tea or share the moans;
Can’t spread a blanket over you
When sorrow chills your bones.
Only these words can reach across
The distance we must keep
Reminding you we’re still an us
And, waking or asleep,
The bond that ties us close endures
And love can stretch so far –
Can wind its way through walls and doors
To wherever you are.
So I will pray and you will pray
And we will pray together.
The tie that binds us cannot fray:
Love. Always and forever.
A day will come, and end to pain,
And when that day begins
We’ll hold each other close again
Because love always wins.

Words: Caroline Beckett (who writes at the end… no copyright and free to share.)

Yours in Christ. May God bless you and keep you safe.

Mike

Pancakes

“And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth” Genesis 18:6

You’re warmly invited along with your family and friends to join us for our pancake evening Tuesday 25th Feb. A community event open to all. Drop in between 6pm and 8pm, simply gift a donation and enjoy your pancake(s) (no-one will be counting!) There will be a selection of toppings from traditional favourites like lemon and sugar through to chocolate galore and more! Plenty to delight even the sweetest tooth! All donations received will go directly towards maintaining our church buildings and surroundings. We’ll be frying and flipping the pancakes on the hob ready for you!

Pancakes are made from 3 core, simple, everyday ingredients; eggs, flour and milk, all whisked together to make light, fluffy batter. They are then poured into a frying pan to gently cook. Once air bubbles start to form they’re ready to be flipped and gently cooked the other side. Just like the pancake bubbling and steaming away, scripture is often referred to as the bread of life and words of nourishment. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching,rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Parables often use everyday scenario’s to aid the listeners understanding. God uses everyday people to carry out His work. With God, from ordinary things come extra-ordinary things, beyond anything we could imagine. We just need to keep listening, keep following our heart and spirit and hold firm to our faith and hope in Him.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Happy New Year 2020

Happy New Year! What are you most looking forward to this year?
Perhaps a family celebration, milestone event, a holiday, or the start of something new.

The new year marks the beginning of your next chapter, and you get to write it! Everyday we have decisions to make on how we feel, how we react, what we want to do, wear, eat, think and say. How will you be spending your time? Is there a task you’re avoiding? What is most important to you? What things in your life or habits do you want to change? How do you want to feel?

At Christmas we created a Tree of Hope as part of the Christmas Tree Festival down at West Moors URC. It was humbling to read the different hopes people had written, most of them feelings, something that can’t be bought but instead grown and nurtured over time through love, hope, faith and perseverance; belonging, acceptance, happiness, family, friends, love, joy, equality, end to climate change, restoration, direction, good physical and mental health,
wellbeing, peace, understanding…

How wonderful the world will be when these hopes burst into full bloom! Perhaps a glimpse and foretaste of heaven in our time.

“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21: 3b-4

You’re warmly invited

You’re warmly invited to come and join us celebrate this Christmas at Horton Heath. There’s something for everyone throughout advent as well as Christmas Day itself. Bring along family and neighbours – the more the merrier!

Our bird feeders are a regular pit stop for many wildlife visitors. Wrap up warm and see what wildlife you can spot. Will there be any unusual footprints to be found?

On Thursday 19th December join in with singing favourite carols on a wintery evening with the chapel beautifully candlelit. We welcome back the West Moors Gospel Choir to help us fill the rafters with Christmas song.

On 22nd December warm up with some family fun, creative worship and enjoy a delicious hot chocolate at our special afternoon Crib Service.

Join us early Christmas morning at 9.30am for a short, informal family service to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Wishing you a Happy Christmas and a wonderful new year!

With thankful hearts

We’d love you to join us for our Harvest Festival on Sunday 6th October 3pm for an afternoon service of thanksgiving followed by refreshments in the hall. The celebrations wrap up with the Harvest Sale on Mon 7th October 7pm following a short service. It’s a wonderful time of year, celebrating all that we’ve been given, hard endeavours reaped, nourishment and sustainment both physically and spiritually.

World mental health day is on the 10th October which is a great opportunity to reflect on our own mental health and those around us. If you’re finding things hard going at the moment, finding fears and worries are having an impact on your life or have any concerns that things aren’t right for you please talk to someone about it. Your GP can be a great first point of contact and charities such as Mind can also be a valuable source of help. We should also look out for mental health issues in those around us – any changes in patterns of behaviour, loss of interest in activities that they previously enjoyed or an unwillingness to engage with others, especially following a life-changing event (positive or negative) can be a clue that someone we know is struggling and sometimes all it takes is a friendly “Hi, how are you feeling today?” to start a conversation that will make all the difference in someone’s life. 

1 in 4 of us will experience some form of mental health issue this year but help and support is available and does make a difference. Mind can be contacted on 0300 123 3393 weekdays from 9am-6pm.

Be determined & confident

Sometimes things in life can be a bit of a challenge! I recently started a project in our garden to clear some of the ground ready to add a pathway and some new plants. Once the ground was prepared and slabs laid, I started early the next morning to do the planting. The following morning one of the little plants had been pulled up. So I dutifully put it back in. The same thing happened again and again. Then something started pulling up a couple of the others. The poor plants with their roots continually exposed to the full heat of the summer sun are looking tired and drained. I feel their frustration! Having given them plenty of water and added some rocks to help hold them down whilst they reattempt to establish themselves, I’m hopeful it may deter whatever it is that has taken a liking to uprooting them.

This incident is only a minor thing, however it’s a good example of how in everyday life things can sometimes seem to be against us no matter what we do. Perhaps a test of our endurance or training for patience or other fruits of the Spirit. Whatever we find ourselves up against, large or small we are encouraged to remember these words Moses said to Israel before they entered the promised land:

“Be determined and confident. Do not be afraid of them. Your God, the Lord himself, will be with you. He will not fail you or abandon you” Deuteronomy chapter 31, verse 6

Wildlife spot

At Horton Heath we’ve started an ‘eco church’ project where we’re encouraging wildlife with patches of wild flowers, bird feeders and nesting boxes along with plans to create a bug hotel and more!

To help create a wildlife pit stop at our church. We already have our residential bees, a variety of little birds visiting, scatty squirrels and evidence of badgers. One of which we suspect, with a little help from the squirrels took a particular liking to one of the feeders which is currently missing. We expect it will turn up sometime in the hedgerow or surrounding field.

It’s a lovely project and one that the whole church is actively behind, making the most of our beautiful setting nestled in the countryside. Many thanks to our Joan for instigating the initiative.

In a similar way the church is a pit stop for us each week, providing a place of rest and reflection, spiritual refuelling, as well as a community hub. All are welcome. We have our outdoor benches crafted from one of the tree trunks so you can sit and enjoy the wildlife and surroundings – let us know what wildlife you spot!