Tag Archives: worship

Sequins explained

The other week I shared a poem I had written whilst on a retreat/conference in France. I have lots of other takeaways I want to write about following on from that conference, but for now I want to unpack the imagery that helped to create that poem.

The conference was called Blesstival, and was a gathering of friends of a wonderful charity called The Bless Network, or Bless. Many years ago when I was an undergrad studying French at university, I interned through Bless at a French church. Since then I had not been greatly involved with the charity, I would read the newsletters and think to myself: It’s been a while, I really should sign up to one of their events. This time I stopped thinking about it and booked myself on. I am so glad I did.

The theme for the weekend was “un chant s’élève” – a song is rising – and the teaching was all around the ideas of worship and prophecy, how God sings over us and gives each of us a message to share with the world. At the end of Saturday morning’s session, one of the organisers, Chrissie, came over to me and said she had been given a picture for me of God sewing together the tapestry of my life, and sewing bright sequins into the work. After this session I spent some time in the prayer room reflecting on this picture, and others that had been given to me over recent years. A yearning was rising up inside of me to write again, something I have loved over the years but keep putting on the back burner, making excuses about not having the time or the head space. I was listening to an IHOP worship album on my phone while doodling, and I jotted down some lines from one of the songs that jumped out at me:

Just put me anywhere

And put Your glory in me

I’ll serve anywhere

Just let me see Your beauty

(IHOPKC & Corey Asbury – All Is For Your Glory)

and then it the words just spilled out of me, inspired by the song and the picture I had been given.

But there are references within the poem to other pictures, words and images given to me over the years, that seemed to align with the new one.

I’ll start with perhaps the most obvious, to those who have been with this blog from the start…

When I was thinking about how sequins reflect light, it was easy to link in with the poem I wrote several years ago which inspired the name of this blog: May I Be the Moon. In that poem I thought about how it is better to reflect the glory of God, as the moon reflects the sun, than to believe the world revolves around me.

Similarly, I wanted to include the image of the mirrorball, which again reflects the light around it. Back in the days of my Bless Internship, one of their conferences had the theme of ‘Mission as a mirrorball’. The idea here was that by serving others in the name of God, we are drawing His light in and reflecting it back out onto those He made and loves, just like a mirrorball. The moon, the mirrorball and the sequins all unite around this idea of reflecting the glory of God in our lives.

Next, the arrow. While in this poem it represents a kind of road sign pointing the way, it also for me has connotations of the arrows used in archery. These have to be pulled back before they can be released into flight. The work of weaving our lives together includes pain and setbacks, bad times as well as good. But in all things He works together for our good. The setbacks we face will ultimately lead to greater freedoms. (A no now means there is a better yes to come). Likewise in the work of the weaving, we will not see the full picture until it is completed and all the colours are sewn in.

Finally, the phrase ‘see what I am building in your life’. A few years ago I was on the way home from an evening service at church. We had visiting speakers who I knew had a gift for the prophetic, and I was hoping for some insight into a situation I was facing. I was disappointed not to have received any words during the service, but my route home took my past a building site with a massive crane standing tall over it. The building was still in its early stages but you could already begin to see the shape it would take, and the size of the crane bore witness to the eventual height of the construction. In that moment I heard God’s whisper ‘see, what I am building in your life’. 

The construction of my calling, my learning, my relationships, was (and is) still in its early stages, but the process of constructing the building, the process of weaving the tapestry, points to the genius and majesty of the creator as much as the finished product ever will.

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art = rest for the soul

I recently joined a Christian art group. I am by no means an artist, I dabble with a bit of painting and quite like colouring, but I would not consider myself at all skilled in visual arts.

At the first meeting I confessed to being an interloper. I explained I am more of a wordsmith than a visual artist, but that I enjoy dabbling. I also read them one of my poems – ‘Hibernation‘ – that I written quite recently. One lady commented that she could really picture the tree as I had described it. I remembered then that a long time ago I had had an idea of publishing my poems in a book with a corresponding picture to go with each, as a kind of meditation/reflection aid.

For this month’s meeting we were given a Bible passage to reflect on and try to create a piece of art inspired by it. I actually suggested the passage, but couldn’t come up with anything so gave up on that idea and read through some of my old poems instead. I realised that quite a lot of them use visual imagery to create parallels and give meaning. I chose one of my favourites – ‘My Life in Your Service‘ – and tried to find pictures that I could use as inspiration for a piece of artwork to go with it.

Now, remember, I am not very good at art, and I am hoping to get better. However, I am quite pleased with my first effort…

 

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What was more pleasing, though, was how peaceful I felt. Even when I messed up and had to rub bits out and try again, I didn’t get frustrated, I just enjoyed the process.

The first thing we learn about God in the Bible is that He is creative. The first thing we learn about humans is that we are made in His image. When we create, we are reflecting the image of God and to me it feels like I am bringing my soul in tune with his.

Hibernation

I sometimes feel like

My heart has been in hibernation

Like a tree in winter

Barren and dry

Apparently lifeless

But beneath the surface

The roots go deep

And draw up life

And like the warm spring sun

A moment in your presence

Wakes my tired soul

And brings forth new colour

Blossoming, blooming, bearing fruit

After the darkest night

Comes the morning

After the coldest winter

Comes the spring

 

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True Love’s Kiss

I started writing this post a while back (I’d say about two years ago) and couldn’t work out where it was going. Then last week we started a new series at church on the fruits of the spirit and I remembered it.

It was a bit of a strange evening, as nothing for the team had gone to plan. The vicar had laryngitis and couldn’t preach, the curate had been away on retreat and hadn’t had time to prepare anything. The worship team couldn’t get in the building because the key safe was broken, and the vicar was picking up the curate from the station. So by the time myself and the other members of the congregation arrived, everyone was a little bit unsure how the evening would pan out.

The curate made the inspired decision to get us all to do an exercise called ‘lectio divina’. We were looking at the first of the fruits of the spirit, love, so she selected a passage from 1 John 4. It was read out three times, and she asked us to reflect on one word or phrase that stuck in our minds.

Unfortunately, I am not very good at listening, so the phrase I chose to focus on isn’t exactly in that passage – I heard the start of verse 13 “this is how we know” and my brain filled in the next line from an old worship song: “this is how we know what love is”.* The following line in the song says: “just one look at the cross”. So this phrase was circling round in my head, and brought to mind the post I started writing two years ago. So I decided to finish it tonight.

 

I’m a big fan of fairytales. I love the mix of frivolity and seriousness, fantasy and wisdom. I love that the ordinary person can become the hero and that with courage, determination and something to fight for they can overcome any foe, and Good can triumph over Evil.

One of my favourite shows is Once Upon and Time (but I’m only on season 2 so no spoilers, please** – and actually I should warn you there is a season one spoiler up ahead). In this show, all of our favourite fairytale characters are trapped by the evil Queen’s curse, in a small village called Storybrooke in the middle of nowhere in modern America, with no idea who they really are, unable to be who they are meant to be. The only one who can free them from the curse is Emma, the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, but she was brought up in a foster home and doesn’t believe in fairytales. A theme running through the show is that the only thing more powerful than magic, more powerful than any curse, is true love, often demonstrated by true love’s kiss. It is only when Emma realises the depth of her love for her son Henry that the curse is broken and all the people of Storybrooke rediscover their true selves. It turns out that a fail-safe was built into the curse so that Emma, the product of Snow White and Prince Charming’s true love, could break the curse by an act of true love.

This show brings a new take on many old stories and weaves them together beautifully. But there is a deeper parallel to this story that was hinting at me from under the surface…

We are all like the inhabitants of Storybrooke. We are all under a curse that we cannot break on our own. We have all forgotten the people we were created to be. GK Chesterton puts it like this:

‘Every man has forgotten who he is. One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God; but thou shalt not know thyself. We are all under the same mental calamity; we have all forgotten our names. We have all forgotten what we really are. All that we call common sense and rationality and practicality and positivism only means that for certain dead levels of our lives we forget that we have forgotten. All that we call spirit and art and ecstacy only means that for one awful instant we remember that we forget.’ (Orthodoxy p211)

A while back, I was reading Lisa Bevere’s Girl’s With Swords, which also picks up on this theme of the curse we are under. She talks about how at the beginning of time there was a garden, and an act of disobedience, and that brought consequences. The curse consisted of three layers of separation – man was to live in disharmony with God, with the earth, and with each other. But there was always a plan to free us from the curse, a plan that required an act of true love:

‘You see, the Cross was always part of the plan. It was not a backup plan that was set into motion when Adam and Eve failed. It was the fail-safe. Each day Jesus lived to express the Father’s heart, will and nature to the lost inhabitants of the earth’ (p69, emphasis added)

The thing about the cross is, the parallel I mentioned earlier, is that we use the symbol of the cross as kiss when we write a letter to a loved one. I don’t think that this is a coincidence when the ultimate symbol of love was Jesus’ death on a cross to save all of us from the curse we are under. One of my favourite hymns puts it beautifully:

On the mount of crucifixion,
Fountains opened deep and wide;
Through the floodgates of God’s mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers,
Poured incessant from above,
And heav’n’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love.

(William Rees)

The cross is True Love’s Kiss – the only thing powerful enough to break any curse and release us to be our true selves.

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* I just checked and it actually appears in chapter 3, so I’m not a complete heretic…

** I have actually been so busy that I have not got much further than the start of season three still… really must get on with that…

my second favourite Christmas present

My favourite Christmas present last year was easily our family holiday in Cyprus. No competition. I love travelling, seeing new places and different cultures, and to be able to do so and tie-in visits to my extended family, courtesy of my wonderful Nan, is hard to beat.

Coming close second in the Christmas present rankings was the gift from my parents of a new Bible. It is no ordinary Bible, though, it is a new version of the NIV with lovely wide margins for making notes and doodling, and COLOURING PAGES. I find colouring quite a soothing activity, and the Bible is one of the few books I don’t mind scribbling all over, so this really was a perfect gift.

It is such a beautiful book, however, that it has taken me a few weeks to build up the courage to tarnish its pristine pages. There was one day last week though, when a verse kept tumbling through my mind and I just needed to doodle it out. I sketched a bit in pencil first, but when I was happy I outlined the text in pen and got colouring. I’m new to this type of artsy-creativity (more of a crafty person myself) but I was quite pleased with the result, and am now filled with the desire to learn more calligraphy and lettering styles…

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Presence

Ushered into the Awesome presence

I edge forward in fear and reverence

Knowing I stand on Holy Ground

A voice like rolling thunder

Eyes of fire

Clothed in bright light

I fall to my knees

for I am not worthy

How can I stand in Your awesome presence

How can I gaze on Your beauty and majesty

I am suddenly so aware of my failings

the stain of my sin marring what once was pure, and I am ashamed.

 

But then I hear Your whisper

telling me I have nothing to fear

You raise me to my feet

and clothe me in white

making me clean

blood red washing me white as snow

and Your voice

 

“I am the beginning and the end

the Living one who died

See I have saved you

redeemed you

made you mine

made you new.”

 

So now with the Saints I sing

of the One who has saved me

I sing of the salvation He has won

the great things He has done

The Holy Holy Holy LORD God Almighty

who always was

and always is

and always will be

 


 

I wrote this poem back in 2012, partly inspired by Revelation Song by Jesus Culture (below). It’s been on my mind recently and I was surprised to realised I’d never shared it on this blog.