Be still 

It’s that time of year where we’re all making lists of things to get ready for Christmas, what presents to buy, which cards to write, and what food to buy. Becoming swept away with all the preparations is so easily done, and by the time Christmas comes, the only thing on our mind is staying awake through Christmas dinner.

Jesus was aware of the need to take rest. He was aware that his disciples needed rest too. His answer was for them to go with him to a quiet place.

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” (Mark 6:31-32)

Just imagine feeling absolutely exhausted, then being invited to follow Jesus to a quiet place. Suddenly your legs are re-energised and you’re still moving, his call is impossible to ignore. His call to rest is still as strong as being called to action.

Think about sitting in that boat with Jesus. The sound of the water lapping the sides of the boat, the fresh air of the wind, the noises of the boat moving with the waves. Imagine enjoying the peace, then catching a glimpse of Jesus, in that moment you are acutely aware that you are in his presence, a heat gently glows from your chest, a deep knowing of love.

In the story the rest is short lived, as Jesus and his disciples go on to feed those who have gone ahead of their boat. It is similar for us, we take time out with Jesus, we feel replenished physically, spiritually and then we carry on, renewed in energy and faith.

Advent begins this Sunday. Try to remember, whilst submerged in all the preparation to celebrate the birth of Christ, that Christ himself said to come away with him and to rest.

Sleeping rough

Last Friday I took part in The Manchester Sleepout. I slept rough on the grounds of Manchester Cathedral under the stars and in the rain. 

I attended alone and as soon as I entered the cathedral I realised that many people had come in big groups. This was a little daunting and increased my nervousness ten fold! I had no clue where to sit so I walked towards the icon of Jesus above the candle lighting stand. I often stand in front of the icon and pray, so I did my familiar routine, and asked Jesus to keep me company and help me not feel alone. I sat down and tried to relax.

Five minutes later a member of the street orchestra, who were performing soon, sat next to me and talked to me for around fifteen minutes! I was grateful for his company and for Jesus answering my prayer. The man left to take a toilet break, and then five minutes later I saw a friend of mine from university. She and I chatted until the speeches began to start, for the whole time I had not been alone! I was so happy and thankful for my prayer to be answered again.

Going out into the cold and finding a patch to sleep was challenging. The mud was the biggest issue, the ground was saturated so as I unrolled my mat it got covered in leaves and mud. Next was getting into my sleeping bag, my sodden boots filled with mud streaked the inside. I didn’t complain, I knew in reality I had it easy, hundreds of people do this every night. I prayed for them.

There wasn’t a moment where it was quiet in the town centre. Sirens from emergency vehicles rang out, shouting from happy revellers, construction of the Christmas markets, arguments, and the occasional fast walk of a passer by kept my brain on high alert. I woke with a start because someone was stood near my head and, on other occasions noises panicked me.

At 5am I was woken by a rain shower, I put a plastic sack over me and lay for half an hour. I was exhausted, but I was getting saturated so I packed away everything with clumsy hands. I couldn’t help thinking about if I had to do this again the following night with a wet, mud filled sleeping bag. 

I sat in the cathedral soaked and tired but I’d done it, I’d raised £260 for the Booth Centre.

Helping the homeless has been a focus for me, especially since I started my foundations course. 

On my first session I saw a man outside Tesco so I bought him a sandwich and a drink.

On the second session I had to call into an ASDA before I left and I saw reduced sandwiches, I had the inspiration to buy three. On the way to my my course there were three men in a group who needed food.

On my third session, I once again had the inspiration to buy sandwiches but also to get cashback from the transaction. After feeding three men I saw a women who wanted a hot drink, I had the cash (thanks to the cashback) to buy it her.

Yesterday I hadn’t had an urge to buy any food, I trusted God and went with it. Walking down Deansgate I saw a man near Tesco, I felt terrible that I had nothing. I carried on walking and saw another man and a voice told me to turn around and go back and get some cash from the cashpoint. I asked for twenty pounds, thinking I should ask the man if he wanted food or money, the cash machine gave me a tenner and two five pound notes, my question was answered.  

I will keep helping as much as I can, guided by the Holy Spirit.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…” Galatians 6:9-10

Ringing of the bells

Rest is certainly a luxury in my house, so when I got the opportunity to escape to the Lake District for a weekend, I was understandably excited to go.

The weather was unfortunately cold, wet, and miserable, but as I always say, that’s what baths, washing machines and hot fires are for!

My husband and I were heading back to Ambleside pier to catch our boat back to Bowness and we stumbled past the ruins of a Roman fort. It was raining but we squelched our way through the wet grass to look at the scene.

The rain stopped and suddenly there was a gorgeous continuous ringing of church bells, it was a glorious sound increasing with volume as the wind blew. It took me aback, everywhere was silent apart from the bells.

The clouds began to break, and the sun pierced through in strong straight rays of light, pouring a concentrated spotlight onto the multicoloured ground.

To our left was the edge of the lake, the water was so still and very gently lapping near the straw coloured long grass. I took a photo and to our surprise we saw a pair of wild deer grazing. 

God’s creations in their finest, I wished I could breathe in the experience, my eyes and my ears were full of wonder for the beauty around me. I noticed the bells had lulled and rain began to fall, I felt the drops land onto my face, such refreshment and peace with every splash.

Suddenly the bells began their chorus again through the thick drizzly air, once again the sun began to break through, and in the sky was the most beautiful rainbow. The colours were unbelievably vibrant, streaking across the dark grey sky, appearing like an encore, with my adoration as the round of applause.

I couldn’t help but sing the Gloria in my mind, whilst in my heart, and in my soul, I was dancing around in God’s glory to the sound of the church bells. 

What a memorable performance of nature’s amazing symphony, conducted by our Heavenly Father.