Monday 30 March 2020

Nature carrys on......

As I went for my one lot of exercise for the day I decided to do a cycle round the country lanes nearby and I was completely awed by some new lambs in a field.  Life was just as usual for those animals.  After that as I continued to cycle I noticed all the primroses, daffodils and many other flowers popping up.  It struck me that in these uncertain and strange times when many things are changing and for many of us it might feel like life has died.  Nature has not, it continues as always, things are starting to turn green, flowers are growing and new life continues, there is hope an expectation for something new.  Thank goodness God is the same yesterday, today and forever and we can enjoy his handiwork continuing to live around us.  Keep going everyone! (Sorry there is no picture of the lambs....I was so busy watching them I didn't think to take a picture!)

Sunday 15 March 2020

We are the helpers

Since writing the last blog, things around us seem all the more surreal and worrying. It is hard to know how to deal with the barrage of information that is hurtling towards us. It is hard to know how best to support people both physically and mentally. When I last wrote I used  a quote that talked about when things were bad and scary that we needed to look for those people that were helpers. I wonder if we are the helpers?
What has been very much on my mind is how we at the Ark, can respond responsibly at this time to those people within our communities that need support and care within the coming months. I feel that we are being asked to respond in both practical and prayerful ways, to help those who are more vulnerable or at risk. I wonder if it is a time to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our communities, in whatever capacity that looks like. I wonder what we can do to shine love into the darkness and offer words of hopefulness in a time of uncertainty.
If you feel that you could join us to offer practical support or prayer please do get in touch.
If you are feeling scared, isolated, bewildered or overwhelmed - we are here for you! You matter!

Wednesday 4 March 2020

When things seemed overwhelming

It never amazes me to see how God speaks to me and this particular day was no different.

At the end of last week I sat feeling quite overwhelmed with all that was going on in the news, it got to me and my perspective was a bit wobbly to say the least.
I wandered into my kitchen and ripped off the page of our day to day calendar, this was the page that was revealed to me! Now I do not know who Fred Rogers is but it could not have come at a better timed moment and restored some perspective and calmness, and for that I am thankful. When the media seem to report only the worst of news - it helps me to be reminded that none of us are ever alone.

Tuesday 18 February 2020

As I sat and wondered at an amazing sunset I began to realise that everyone was welcome to enjoy this beautiful sight given to us.  It is not just for a particular group of people but for everyone who chooses to watch.  No one is forced it is a choice, this beautiful sight is there and we can choose to accept this free gift or hide away.  Everyone is welcome...........

Monday 2 December 2019

I wonder what 2 chocolate coins would mean to you

Image result for gold chocolate coins

As part of The Ark we talk about seeing faith differently.  So today my own faith was strengthened and indeed encouraged as I saw God at work.  I was in Bristol City centre unlocking my bike in order to  make my way home when I was interrupted by what I was observing happening close by.  I stopped and I watched, listened and cried.  (Happy tears!)  There was a homeless person standing nearby.  A child came by pulling their accompanying adult with them towards the homeless person.  In the child's small hand there were 2 chocolate coins and the child proceeded to give one chocolate coin to the homeless person.  Their face lit up and they smiled and cried, they were clearly touched by this act of kindness.  That was not the end though!  Then the little person handed over their second and last gold chocolate coin.  The homeless person then said "you have one and I will have one" but the child refused and said goodbye.  That homeless person went off down the street literally hopping and leaping,smiling from ear to ear and kept on looking at the coins in their hand.  Then they started to stop people and tell them what had happened.  I just stood for a little while in order to take this moment in and store it in my heart.  And I cried again!
Those gold chocolate coins appeared to mean more to that homeless person than real gold coins.  It was the genuine love and kindness the child showed that touched that person and meant more than anything to them. This was an encouragement to me on my faith journey to continue to naturally and genuinely love others, to do this in the moment with whatever we are and have.  To act when we get that nudge we can't explain.  I don't know about you but I often end up talking myself out of things because I don't want to upset someone or offend them, sometimes this is good but there are genuinely other times when certainly for me I just need to accept the nudge and act just as this child did.  There were no second thoughts.  I wonder how this real story makes you feel.

Friday 11 October 2019

Walking uphill

I love to walk. I have a dog, so I seem to spend quite a bit of time doing it. It is good for my soul and allows space to ponder and to just take in the surroundings. Walking allows me to see things differently, allows me to see bits of the country or our towns that I would not see or maybe notice if I was in the car. It is good for my soul. However, I have been on many a walk though when I have been faced with the invisible peak, are you familiar with these? Having climbed up what usually seems like quite a step slope or mountainside towards what, I believed, was the top only to find that the challenge was not quite so over as I had thought. The new ‘top’ had been hidden from view or obstructed by a cloud or the first hill. I have at times wondered to myself that if I had only known how steep this walk had been, or how long, or how difficult would I have ever started it? There is an option to turn around and walk back, but somehow, that never seems like an option and after a chocolate bar on wards I travel.
I mention this because that is how I feel frequently with life and I have found in my relationship with God. I am 48 now and I look back at my life and I frequently say that if anyone had told me at 16 what it all was going to be like, I may have opted out of some of the parts. My life, as with us all, has been made up of immeasurable joys and depths of despair and heartache. There have been so many times that I thought that I had reached the destination, my destination, only to find that ‘something’ was asking me to seek for more or when I was in despair I felt that I was being pushed to move onwards. The ‘something’ that has been a constant in my life is my relationship with God. He has been a voice in my head and in my heart since I was 13 when I met him at a youth camp. I had been part of a Church community ever since I was born, but it took me to be in a field – camping, to meet and embrace God that knew me. That is the thing, we can meet him all over the place. Since then, my faith has been the constant. Of course, there has been many times, like with all relationships, when I have experienced a myriad of feelings from doubt to fury, from denial to joy, but somehow here I sit typing this wanting people to know the God that I know, the loving one.
Of course, as I human I would quite like to have some assurances that everything will be okay and turn out alright before I do anything, I can and I have questioned every decision that I needed to make and then run the risk of never moving and allowing fear to take hold. I have had to learn to lean into God.  I have had to make peace and accept that he obviously has plans for me that I am not aware of. I have a pebble with the words: “for I know the plans I have for you” (Jeremiah 9), written on it, I carry it with me to remind me to have faith when I feel a bit wobbly. It helps!
Martin Luther King said “you don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step”, I just need to be brave and take the first step, with faith that God will show me the rest when I need to see it. I continue to be challenged by God, each time I think that I have reached the top of my virtual hill after resting for a while, I find that often there is another top just a bit further on. Of course, I could stop but just like with my walking, I know that although the route can be tough the views can be spectacular.

Friday 27 September 2019

What no water!

This was written by Alex, our new Ark worker. I am posting it as I have not figured out how to add more administrators to this account, I am indeed a technophobe! I am sure that there is another blog in just that thought. Anyway, here are Alex's thoughts!

On Friday, my home had no water. A main had burst after being damaged by construction and we went 7 hours with no water, until the pipe was repaired. Water is fundamental to the way we live in our society; it makes the toilets flush, it is our drinking supply, allows us to wash and cleanse.
Although inconvenient, the main issue was not that the water was off, it was that I didn’t know when it would return. I have anxiety and part of my issues are around cleanliness, so not knowing when I would be able to wash my hands or have a shower was panic inducing. My mental health is mostly regulated by medications and talking therapy, and I am pretty high functioning a vast majority of the time. This not knowing was affecting me physically, making my heart race and my body shake, unable to calm myself down. Because of this response, I couldn’t go to work the next day; needing to take a day to feel better.
This is the reality of my mental health and stress, it can stop me from going to work, university and social events. I become unable to express fully why I need the time off and am incredibly lucky to have understanding management in both of my jobs and my university lectures. Although most of the time I am great at acting okay, there are times I need a day or two off to recover. I am not ashamed of this, as not only is mental health just as important as physical health but my mental
health affects my physical health. My illness is likely to continue through my entire life and taking days off when I need is going to sustain me further in the long run.
My relationship God is not dissimilar to the water in this situation, sometimes it feels like the main has been damaged and without knowing when it will be repaired, I can start to panic. There are times when I need a day off from institutionalised religion, taking time to look after myself and in doing so, helping to strengthen my relationship with God. I think all of us can at times act as if our
relationship to God, the church and one another is completely okay, but the reality is that we all struggle at different times for different reasons and talking about that will help all of us. We can all put on a fa├žade of perfection, but if we never admit the faults in ourselves, our relationships and our faith, it may not be sustainable in the long term.
So, this is my confession to you that my relationship to God is not perfect. My relationship to others is not perfect, and neither is my relationship to myself. But I am working on all of them, and although I can’t take a medication to help that, by talking to others, listening to as many people as I can and my own worship will all continue to make the small steps forward to making my relationships better. Take my hand on this journey, and maybe we can find strength in one another.