Tag Archives: wilderness

Moses #adventbookclub

Exodus 3:1-8 (CEV)

God Speaks to Moses

One day, Moses was taking care of the sheep and goats of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, and Moses decided to lead them across the desert to Sinai,[a] the holy mountain. There an angel of the Lord appeared to him from a burning bush. Moses saw that the bush was on fire, but it was not burning up. “This is strange!” he said to himself. “I’ll go over and see why the bush isn’t burning up.”

When the Lord saw Moses coming near the bush, he called him by name, and Moses answered, “Here I am.”

God replied, “Don’t come any closer. Take off your sandals—the ground where you are standing is holy. I am the God who was worshiped by your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

Moses was afraid to look at God, and so he hid his face.

The Lord said:

I have seen how my people are suffering as slaves in Egypt, and I have heard them beg for my help because of the way they are being mistreated. I feel sorry for them,and I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians.

I will bring my people out of Egypt into a country where there is good land, rich with milk and honey. I will give them the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live.

 And so we end, right back at the beginning, right where it all began.  Where God speaks – powerfully, without any doubt it’s him – and putting, quite literally, the fear of God into Moses.  God’s light, in the depth of the wilderness, burning, yet not destroying; shining and not going out.  There amongst the pain and despair, deep in the wilderness, into Moses’ brokenness. God’s promise that he has heard his peoples cry, and he’s coming to get them.

That is his promise that echoes down through the generations.  God speaks it to each person in each place and time.  He is coming to rescue, he is born among them, he shines his light – and we each are invited to be a part of that work, for that is how it will spread.  God among us, God in us, God shining through us.

 God calls us to be part of his promise.

Will I, will you, take up the call?

However inadequate or able, however humble or privileged, whatever our job or standing, whatever we have done or not done.  God calls, God promises, God leads.

God of Promise,
of call,
of light;
God in the depth of the wilderness,
burning, yet not destroying;
shining and not going out.

God among the pain and despair,
into Moses’ brokenness.

You promise
that you have
heard your peoples cry,
and you’re coming to get us.

May I allow this to happen,
in me,
in your world,
in wilderness,
and in palaces;
in places of brokenness
and places of joy;
where there is hope
and where there is despair.

Shine your light Lord,
I pray.

And when you invite me
to be a part of your work,
equip
and empower me
to take up your call.

Join us reading Walking Backwards to Christmas by Stephen Cottrell from SPCK Publishing this advent.  Be part of #adventbookclub, share your thoughts here, on your own blog (and let us know we’ll link to it), on Twitter using #adventbookclub or on the Adventbookclub Facebook page

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What About Me? The Real Me?

All week, this song has been going round my head:

I’ve Never Been to Me

Not because it’s a one-hit wonder of the early 80s, but because it speaks of our avoidance of ourselves.

We cram our lives with ‘experiences’ and ‘things’, but we rarely spend time with ourselves, or allow ourselves to think through where we are and who we are.  So often we avoid ourselves – the truth of ourselves.

Part of Lent, I believe, is to take time to be apart, not just from things, but with ourselves.

Lent is about being in the wilderness and self-examination.  In the desert there is little to distract us, we are left alone with ourselves.  In the silence and the space there is nothing to drown out the voice inside. It is also a place where there is nothing to fall back on, we have to rely on our own resources and we very quickly discover what they are.

Then this morning, I read this:

God wants us… to face our inner reality and bring it to God in prayer, because if we deny our pain and failures, if we try to hide our anxiety or pride, if we don’t face our addictions to work, pornography, substances or power, if we are out of touch with our emotional life, if we can’t accept our sexuality, if we won’t admit it when our spiritual life is boring and barren, we are avoiding the truth about ourselves, and denying God the chance to meet us in our present reality.

God will not force wisdom and transformation upon us, but waits until we acknowledge our need… we cannot receive God’s help until we face our weaknesses and vulnerabilities and offer them to God (p123)

by Sue Pickering in Spiritual Direction

The challenge, I believe, is can we do that, or do we keep running?  Do we want to know ourselves that we might sort through the things that are there?  Or do we want to keep avoiding ourselves and the God who longs to be with us in our reality and take us to a new place, a less scary place, a place where we can face the truth in us, and know his affirmation and love of who we intrinsically are.

Self-knowledge is a powerful thing.  Some things in our lives may panic or worry us, but there may also be undiscovered gems hidden deep, just waiting to be found or noticed.  It is only what we do not know that is scary.  Once we know the reality of anything we can begin to learn to live with its truth.  The truth of the things we wish we weren’t and the joy of the things we realise that God and others delight in.  We can only sort out which is which by stopping running and taking time to look.

So, in all the meditation of Lent, the point is to look at our lives, honestly, before God.  To acknowledge what is there, and to work with him on what is to be delighted in and honed, and what is better left behind.

Jesus Take Me As I Am

Wilderness Times

For Christians this wilderness is a place of discovery (p88)

Amen and amen.  No one wants to be in the wilderness, we would rather be in a place of comfort and pleasure.  But it is in the wilderness we learn who and what matters.  What will support and sustain us.  Who we can rely on.

I once spent several months, deep in my own wilderness.  I won’t go into detail, but it was a place where no one could reach me.  I was functioning of a sort, but I was lost and lonely.  Things that I had been ignoring finally reared their head and had to be dealt with.  I always explain it as all the stuff that I had been just pushing under the carpet, pretending they weren’t there, that they didn’t matter – well I turned round and fell over that pile I had buried there.  It was not a good place to be, but it was the place I finally had to confront what had happened, how I really felt, and what I was going to do about it now.

I discovered a lot about myself, and that time went a long way to making me the person I am now, and informing how I deal with other people.  I matured a lot.  I learned things weren’t black and white.  I learned that however sore and tender scars are, better to know them than ignore them.  Even as I came out of the wilderness, the scars are still there, and I think for me need to be, but I have learned to live with them (most of the time) by acknowledging them.  That was something I never did while I was living life pretending everything was alright.  It was only in going into the wilderness that made me face up to what was going on, sweep out the pile, and start to sort it.

I would have much preferred not to go there, but once there, I knew I had to stay there, confront stuff and sort it out, otherwise I would be no good to anyone or myself.  I guess it was my broken and being remoulded.

But I knew the arms of God around me.  Giving me the space to allow me to break apart and come back together again.

The Hand of God by Rodin By Yair Haklai (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

It was the time when I grew to love the end of Habakkuk:

Trust in a Time of Trouble

17 Fig trees may no longer bloom,
or vineyards produce grapes;
olive trees may be fruitless,
and harvest time a failure;
sheep pens may be empty,
and cattle stalls vacant—
18 but I will still celebrate
because the Lord God
saves me.
19 The Lord gives me strength.
He makes my feet as sure
as those of a deer,
and he helps me stand
on the mountains.

The wilderness doesn’t always give us answers or make all things right, but it gives us knowledge of what is, how things are.  Broken I might be, but God will give me the strength to stand secure.

In Jesus arms in the picture of The Hen, there is a space.  God’s love and care is not crushing or suffocating, but makes a space in which we are safe for whatever to happen.  Like the chick in the picture stretching its wings to see if it can fly.  We know that God is there, wrapping his arms around us, watching over us, loving us.

I’m not sure I sat down to tell you any of that, but that’s what happens with art and a well written reflective book…

Hope it makes some sense and helps in the lenten, and lifetime, journey of discovery 🙂

These thoughts are reflecting on Stanley Spencer’s painting The Hen (seen here).

This year for Lent, I am reading Christ in the Wilderness by Bishop Stephen Cottrell, published by SPCK, reflecting on Stanley Spencer’s paintings of that title.

I’m not necessarily going to blog every day on it, just when something leaps out at me – and they will be thoughts rather than full blog posts