social spark Aisling Beatha: December 2012

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Welcome to my blog. I hope you enjoy your stay, however short, and find something that interests and blesses you.

The tabs just below will take you to posts of particular topics. So if you are looking for my posts on food, fitness or creativity, you will find them there. You will also find my posts on thankfulness or other more contemplative posts, as well as a set of posts with traditional blessings from a number of different cultures.

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Monday, December 31, 2012

Theme For The Year?

I know a lot of my online friends, and now more and more of my IRL friends seek God (or choose for themselves) for a theme or a word for the coming year.  This is something I have been doing for a number of years.

2007 was the year for Seeking God for Myself not relying on others
2008 was the year of Rest
2009 was the year of Breakthrough
2010 was the year of Simplicity
2011 was the year of New
2012 was the year of Enjoy the Adventure

So, 2013?  
Honestly, I don't know yet.  There is nothing that is impressing itself upon me and I have a comfortable feeling in my spirit about it.  I am fairly certain that I won't have my theme for 2013 confirmed until the Spring.  It's odd, but I am OK with it.  So check back in with me at the end of march to see if I have come up with something.  See you then?
OK, I promise to blog at least a bit before then!


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Review on the year - 2012

It's been a couple of years since I answered the review on the year questions.  You can find links to the set I did at the end of 2010 here, part 1, part 2, part 3.

I am not going to answer the full set here, so if you want to check out the full set, go follow those links.  Here are my highlights from the review on the year for 2012.


What did you do in 2012 that you'd never done before?
Hmmmmm, I prepared and gave a mini sermon to a group of peers on a leadership training course, I also prepared and gave a talk to 2 school Christmas Carol Concerts, with all staff present as well as many parents.  Normally when I do my talks to the children, it is children and a handful of staff, and goes on for about 15 minutes.  This was far more adults than I am used to and I needed to aim it at both the adults and the children and keep it below 5 minutes.  I think I did an ok job and got asked to repeat it for the church on the Sunday before Christmas.

What countries did you visit? 
I didn't go abroad at all this year.  I don't think we even crossed the border into Wales this year.

What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012? 
This was more to the end of the year, (read my previous post for details), but I would like more peace of mind, to have a more level playing field in which to plan.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Being patient over an opportunity that had been hinted at at the end of 2011, that only came to final fruition at the end of 2012.  I have some forms to fill in and return later this week, and then it shall be all systems go. Normally I would not be good in the waiting, and in other things this year I wasn't, but in this I knew that if it would be it would be, but in God's timing and that I just had to wait.

What was your biggest failure? 
I struggle with consistency.  In many areas of my life, but particularly in eating right, staying healthy, and in regular journaling.

Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing new.  I still have sleep apnoea and have had the regular minor coughs and colds that we all get, but nothing other than that.

What was the best thing you bought?
hmmmmm, possibly the top I am wearing right now.  I went clothes shopping with some vouchers I received for Christmas.  I found this top in the Sales and it was the last one in my size.  I loved it.  But then, the security tag would not come off.  10 minutes I stood there as one member of staff after another tried to remove this security tag.  I stayed calm, I even completed the transaction on the other items I was buying, but I wasn't giving up without a fight, so I waited some more and EVENTUALLY they managed to remove it.  It left a TINY hole in the fabric, for which they took another 10% off the price. I win all round I think!

What do you wish you'd done more of? 
Journaling, both art journaling and written journaling.  I am a better, more balanced person when I take the time to work through stuff in my journal.

What do you wish you'd done less of?
Visiting hospitals and hospices.  Not for me, but my dad.  Not that I don't want to visit him, just that I wish I didn't need to, I wish all this wasn't happening.

What was your favourite TV program?
NCIS? NCIS LA?  Difficult decision there . . . . .  Your opinion?

What was the best book you read? 





What was your favourite film of this year? 
The HOBBIT, The HOBBIT, the HOBBIT!  Seriously, there was one scene that made me cry so hard I had to remove my 3D glasses.



What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? 
The trouble with answering questions at the end of the year about my birthday is it was way back in January and I honestly don't remember!  Arrrgghhhhhhh!

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?  
A trip to America to meet up with my friends!

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012? 
Comfortable but introducing more colour towards the end of the year.

Who was the best new person you met? 
All the people at the Prayer Spaces in Schools training day.  What a day, what an experience, what enthusiasm, what encouragement, what teaching, what amazing practical ideas.


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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Life As We Know It

Life as we knew it changed for us some time ago.

A few years ago my Father was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  If caught early the prognosis is very good and most men with early prostate cancer won't receive any treatment at all at first, eventually moving through the stages of treatment as necessary.

For my dad we jumped a few stages.  His had already spread to his bones when he was diagnosed.  It was serious.

In the last 2 and a half years we have had a number of CRISIS moments, when we thought we would lose him.

Two days ago they removed treatment for the infection he has been fighting and now we await the end.
It could be just a couple of days, it could be as much as a couple of weeks, we don't know.  Your prayers would be appreciated, THANK YOU.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Day 6 - The Conclusion of The Journey


And so we reach the final stage of our journey.  From thankfulness, through hope and faith to advent, and anticipation.  Mary stayed with Elizabeth for 3 months then went home just before John was born.   But not before singing her song of praise.  
Luke 1:46-55 
And Mary said,
I’m bursting with God-news;
    I’m dancing the song of my Saviour God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
    I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
    the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
    on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
    scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
    pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
    the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
    he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
    beginning with Abraham and right up to now.

She declared his promises, that the hope of his people had not been in vain, that finally God had come in answer to their prayers, in response to their hope.
So Mary returned home and her waiting continued.  And that’s where we find ourselves today, the beginning of advent and a time of waiting.  Mary waited for the birth of her son, for the birth of her saviour, and in echoing her waiting in the time of advent we wait for his return.
And so I’ll end my days of daily notes with some words from a good friend of mine.

Have you stopped lately? Have you stopped to look awestruck on the fullness of the possibility of that one lonely, dirty, terrifying night in the life of an exhausted, disreputable girl-woman, saviour-mother? In the angry squall of newborn saviour babe, in the rapturous song of stars and heavenly host crying, “Glory!” ? The hard truth is that if you want to find time to ponder the miraculous, you must carve it painstakingly out of too-short hours and too-full calendars because left to itself, the miracle will not force itself upon you. It waits; it yearns for the quiet, softness of a heart that has paused, despite all that may war for its attention, to feel the pull of love. It wants to enter in to eyes wide with innocent wonder once again, to pull back that veil of jaded maturity and caress the unblemished cheek of a child reborn. It whispers soft under commercials, and department store jingles and even under Sunday church music, praying all the while that you will catch it, if only for a moment, and be caught up in its angelic strain. We’re entering into the season of advent, a beautiful, fleeting, pregnant pause in the chaos of a broken world. He’s calling, calling our hearts to quiet, calling our minds to still, calling our joy to awaken. He’s calling.


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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Day 5 of The Journey


Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the confidence that what we HOPE for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

Have you ever hoped for something for years and years and never seen it come to pass?  Have you ever given up hope and walked away?  Even on things you had believed with all your heart were promises from God?
Elizabeth and Zechariah must have felt like giving up hope. 

Luke 1:5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

Being childless back then was a big deal.  Zechariah and Elizabeth had not chosen this path, and yet, here they were, all these years later, now old, and still no child.  I wonder if they still had hope.  I wonder if they had given up hoping.
But God sent an angel with a message and Elizabeth conceived in her old age.  And 6 months later Mary came to visit.  Her much younger relative, and here she was, pregnant as well. 

42 Then in a loud voice Elizabeth said to Mary:
God has blessed you more than any other woman! He has also blessed the child you will have. 43 Why should the mother of my Lord come to me? 44 As soon as I heard your greeting, my baby became happy and moved within me. 45 The Lord has blessed you because you believed that he will keep his promise.

Do you have promises from God you are believing for?  Would circumstances try and tell you those promises are lies?  Do you STILL believe in those promises?  Then take assurance from Elizabeth’s words to Mary: “The Lord has blessed you because you believed that He will keep His promise.” 
I don’t know if you will see your promises fulfilled in this lifetime but I know that the Lord will bless you for believing.  Be blessed!



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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Day 4 of The Journey


Have you ever typed the word Hope into a bible search engine?  Over 2 pages of results in the book of Psalms alone!  I'm going to jump past Psalms a bit though today and onto Isaiah chapter 40.  Parts of this chapter were verses I clung on to for many years as a “life verse”.  Today we’re going to the very end of the chapter,

30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Run and not grow weary?  Walk and not faint?  Hmmmmmm?  Most of you will know that I have a condition called sleep apnoea.  Untreated sleep apnoea results in extreme daytime tiredness.  In the months leading up to my diagnosis and then treatment I was SO tired I was taking 3 or 4 hour naps each afternoon and still could not function normally.  For sleep apnoea sufferers and people with certain other medical conditions, verses like this sometimes seem like a distant dream. 
For people facing tough situations and life experiences I am sure it is the same. 

But God HAS promised.   He knows that we will face situations that bring us to our knees “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;”.  He knows that and he has promised a solution “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.

Are you tired?  Are you weary?  God has promised he WILL renew your strength if you will HOPE in him. 
So, what does it mean to Hope? One dictionary defines it as A wish or desire accompanied by confident expectation of its fulfillment.
Confident Expectation of its fulfilment.  Hmmm, kind of reminds me of Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the confidence that what we HOPE for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
Faith is the key to seeing our hopes fulfilled, it is what gives us that confident expectation.

Singing in the Night, Dancing in the Dark, Sunbathing in the Rain. 
It's about turning your face to heaven and believing that the drops that fall on it are heavens rain.

It's about standing in the face of circumstances that say otherwise and choosing to believe God's best.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Day 3 of The Journey


Yesterday I left you with the idea of letting go of things, even possibly good things, being part of thankfulness.  How do we get from there to Advent?  We go via hope.
And we do that by going back to the last supper.

Matthew 26:26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Jesus knew what was coming.  He had just talked to them about one of them betraying him.  He knew without a doubt how and where that evening’s events would end, what he would have to give up, what he would have to give.  And yet he gave thanks. For what?  When He broke bread, He introduced the idea of the bread representing His body that would be broken that very night.  Knowing what was coming, He gave thanks even for that.
He went on to share the wine with them.

27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

“When I drink it again WITH YOU IN MY FATHER’S KINGDOM!”  The ultimate HOPE, that one day we will see Jesus face to face!  Because of what He did, because of what He gave thanks for.  Because ahead of time, even knowing it was coming he gave thanks.  He knew he would see them again, he knew they would be with him in heaven and we can have that very same hope.  ONE DAY, one gloriously beautiful day, we will see him face to face.  And nothing else will matter, because being with Him will be everything.

That doesn’t mean the only thing we can hope in and for has to wait until then, but it is the biggy, the ultimate hope, without which our other hopes don’t even get started.  If we accept Jesus, we have the ultimate hope and from that our other hopes come.  More on that tomorrow.


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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Day 2 of The Journey


Yesterday we read from Leviticus 7:11-17

Today I want to glance at verses 12 – 14 in particular,
12 If you offer it to give thanks, you must offer some bread together with it. Use the finest flour to make three kinds of bread without yeast—two in the form of loaves mixed with olive oil and one in the form of thin wafers brushed with oil. 13 You must also make some bread with yeast.14 Give me one loaf or wafer from each of these four kinds of bread, after which they will belong to the priest who splattered the blood against the bronze altar.

Thanksgiving offerings required something extra, something the other freewill offerings did not require.  They required the addition of bread.
Think for a moment about whenever you read of Jesus breaking bread.  Whether it be to feed the 5000, or to share the last supper with his disciples, we see the breaking of the bread coming with thanks. 

Mark 6:41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 

Matthew 26:26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

And yes, there is something to be said for giving thanks at mealtimes, whether you call is saying “grace” or by some other name, but I think there is more to this than that.  I think thankfulness, particularly in the tough times, costs us something.  It can mean letting go of what has been, what might have been, what could be, not trying to continue or replicate that in our own strength and looking for where God is at work in the here and now, today.

While doing some reading online today in preparation for these notes I came across some lyrics from an Avalon song:
The dreams I dream for you, are deeper than the ones you're clinging to. 
More precious than the finest things you do, and truer than the treasure you pursue. 
Let the old dreams die, like stars that fade from view.
Then take the cup I offer, and drink deeply of the dreams I dream for you.  

Sometimes being thankful means letting go, because only then can God move in and begin the next part of our story, only then can we take the next step on the journey. 
I had to do this recently myself as God asked me to step aside from something I love dearly, something I have done for over 15 years and have seen as my calling, even part of my identity.  The words God used were “I have so much I want to give you right now, but I can’t because your hands are full”. 
Is there something that while good and positive and something you give thanks for on a regular basis that he might be asking you to set aside?  It probably won’t be a big huge thing, and I doubt this applies to everyone, but is there something?  As you give thanks today, what needs to be broken, so God can give you more?


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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Journey from Thanksgiving to Advent. From Thankfulness to Hope and Anticipation.


Yes, I know it's been a while.  Life got incredibly chaotic with my Father's illness progressing and just the whole autumn term madness.  Our church leader began writing some very short daily bible notes for the church email list and asked others to take a turn in writing a set.  I jumped in and did so.  It was an interesting process as when I first approached it I ummed and ahhed and procrastinated  "So, do I take a section of bible text and work through it, or do I take a theme and work through that?"  "Oh I don't know, what would you want me to do Lord."  And I got the distinct impression that the Lord clearly said "I am NOT going to hold your hand through this, you make the decision.  Yes, of course I want you to do the work to make sure you get it right, do the study, but I am not going to tell you every step of the way what to do, you are old enough to do this yourself."  OUCH!  But a good ouch, because I needed that.

Anyway, that's the reason you're reading this out of schedule with when it was written for.  I couldn't put them here on my blog until I knew they had been read on the church email list.  I needed to let them read them first.  That finished last week and so here they are, for your reading pleasure.

DAY 1
At the time I am writing this, last week saw the celebration of Thanksgiving in America.  This coming Sunday sees the start of advent.  I've been thinking about how the two are connected and want to share that journey with you this week.  So, although advent will have started and may even be over by the time you read these, please come with me on a journey from Thanksgiving to Advent, from Thankfulness to Hope and Anticipation.

The first time we see giving thanks or being thankful mentioned in the bible is in Leviticus when the instructions for the various sacrifices are being given.

 

Leviticus 7:11-17

Sacrifices To Ask the Lord’s Blessing

The Lord said:
11 Here are the instructions for offering a sacrifice to ask my blessing: 12 If you offer it to give thanks, you must offer some bread together with it. Use the finest flour to make three kinds of bread without yeast—two in the form of loaves mixed with olive oil and one in the form of thin wafers brushed with oil. 13 You must also make some bread with yeast.14 Give me one loaf or wafer from each of these four kinds of bread, after which they will belong to the priest who splattered the blood against the bronze altar.
15 When you offer an animal to ask a blessing from me or to thank me, the meat belongs to you, but it must be eaten the same day. 16 It is different with the sacrifices you offer when you make me a promise or voluntarily give me something. The meat from those sacrifices may be kept and eaten the next day, 

The thing that strikes me most about this is that it has to be eaten that day.  The other sacrifices, the ones to fulfil a promise to God or just giving freely to God can be kept over to a 2nd day.  Offerings of thanks had to be eaten that day!
Thankfulness is meant to be a frequent thing, even a daily thing.

Over the last few years I have been part of a large group of people who have tried to keep a thankfulness list online. In the beginning it started with one woman trying to get up to 1000 gifts and eventually resulted in the book 1000 gifts as she recounts her journey into thankfulness through often difficult circumstances. (Obviously most of my blog readers will know the blog and book of which I speak, but people at church would not)

I have found that the practise of thankfulness draws me to God, draws me to see His hand at work, even when it might not seem to be to human eyes.

I know for a lot of people at the moment things are tough, circumstances and situations would shout to us “What on earth do you have to be thankful for?”  Maybe, just maybe, there is something you can be thankful for today.  I’m not suggesting you be thankful for the tough stuff, although that is OK, just start small.  You don’t have to aim for a big number like 1000, you don’t even have to make a list at all, you can start with just one thing.  What are you thankful for today?



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