Tuesday, 22 April 2014

I listen

I listen 
in the dead of night
silence beckons
anxiety wains 
in moonlight dances.

I listen
at the break of dawn
choruses singing
revelation heard
as creation blooms.

I listen 
stark choices
reality biting
faith grows 
in daytime choices.

I listen
your voice 

©Revdjo 22/4/14 

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Lent 2014 - 19th April: simple pleasure of Easter

I have blogged over 40 days worth of simple pleasures in which to be thankful for. Some have been a little tongue in cheek, such as cows, others have been much deeper in thought. All have been heart felt and things I enjoy. Maybe I have  missed off a few things. I don't think I mentioned the simple pleasures of gardening or cooking for instance. I'm sure you can think of other things I've missed.It is easy to see the negatives in life and to become negative as a result of focusing on the things that need changing. It is easy to pick holes and less easy to give constructive criticism. It is not always easy to stay upbeat and positive about life especially when the proverbial hits the fan. As a perfectionist I can be quite hard on myself but I have learnt that there is always going to be something I could do better or change. Being at college taught me the art of deadlines and having to put aside perfectionism in order to meet those deadlines. Actually I work much better this way. However, not all of life has deadlines. Maybe that is just as well. There is of course one deadline we all face. Some people know when their days are numbered, others never know and they are here one minute and gone the next. Whilst we are here surely it is better to focus on the beauty and good things of life rather than the bad and the negative.

The Easter message is about the painful death of the Messiah who was hung on a cross, despite his innocence, but the focus is not so much on his brutal death but rather on the resurrection and the concurring of death. Jesus overcame death and paid the price for our negativity and wrong doing. Through faith in him we have been given life, eternal life, to live to the full. The world may bring us all sorts of problems but what matters is how we choose to deal with them. I pray that you may focus on the good things of life, those simple pleasures, and that they may give you joy and the strength to carry on. Life is full of many twists and turns but as every Sunday School child knows the answer is always Jesus. Now what's your question?

I love Easter it is a simple pleasure all in itself. Have a blessed Easter and rejoice in the good things of life that God has given us to enjoy and savour.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Lent 2014 - 17 April: ladies' lunch

Today's simple pleasure was a ladies' lunch. It's good to catch up with friends over a leisurely lunch and to talk about nothing in particular other than whatever pops into your head. It's good if you can laugh and cry together and share both the highs and lows of life. Sometimes unexpected people become close friends. Sometimes others drift away when the going gets tough. True friendship can be hard to find. A yummy lunch is just the iceing on the proverbial cake. Would I like another? Don't mind if I do. 

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Lent 2014 - 16th April: driving my car

I like driving in my car... I wish it were a Jaguar... Driving my car is normally a pleasure especially if the music is turned up high. I wish I could say this was a photo of my car, alas I can't. Today I spent 3 hours fighting traffic on the M42 and such places. The drive was rather too long for me hence the short post. 

Today's simple pleasure is  driving my car... 


Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Lent 2014 - 15 April: peace and quiet

Today's simple pleasure is peace and quiet. What's that? Absolutely nothing. Bliss.

Lent 2014 - 14th April: social media

Today's simple pleasure is that of social media. I have a bit of a love hate relationship with Facebook and much prefer Twitter. To me Twitter is much more about networking and outward looking compared to Facebook that seems to be so inward looking and navel gazing. I like being able to communicate through social media and connect with people I wouldn't normally see on a day to day basis. The downside of it is that we can fail to give those we live and care about our fully attention because we are endlessly tapping on our tablets, computers or phones. Sorry John. 

I enjoy social media it is a pleasure (*waves) but it will never substitute real life contact. Virtual hugs are OK but they are just not the same as the real thing! 

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Lent 2014 - 13th April: history

Today's simple pleasure is history, no literally 'history'. I love history. I can never remember any date but that's almost beside the point. I love the beauty found in National Trust properties and other such places. I would have like to have gone exploring one today given it was such a lovely day but we had a few chores to do. 

My favourite academic subject at school was history, being an all girls friend we never studied the First and Second World Wars in any detail, I wish we had. Instead it was kings and queens and such like. I have a lasting memory of one rather excentric teacher who had us standing on our desks and waving our rules pretending to be Vikings or something. The head teacher came in to tell us off for being rowdy I seem to be recall and then went out again a little embarrassed realizing we had been encouraged in this madness.

We can learn so much from history but it seems the human race still continues to go round in circles making the same old mistakes. I am intrigued by the wisdom that can be gleaned or ignored through studying it. Today's simple pleasure is history maybe it's not your bag and you wonder why I call it a pleasure. We all have a history that makes us who we are some of it good and some of it bad. We can let our own history effect us in a negative manner or we can learn from it and move on. History whether we like it or not is part of who we are. Surely it is better to embrace it and at least find contentment in it than ignore it and stick out head in the sand.

Lent 2014 - 12th April: finding voice

Today's simple pleasure is that of 'finding voice'. Maybe finding our own voice isn't that simple? I think it takes time to find out who you are enough to voice your thoughts and feeling but it shouldn't. It seems we are brought up to conform and do as everyone else does. We are taught to sit quietly with the rest of the class and to learn from the teacher at the front. If we speak out we are told off and learn not to do so. Learning to behave is good but what if that learning to behave means that we loose our uniqueness in the process? I don't really have all the answers and this ramble is, as always, me speaking and thinking out loud. Blogging for me is the simple pleasure in which I am learning to find my own voice. 

Finding voice comes in many forms of self expression. It could be art, or drama, or preaching, or singing, or simply speaking up for ourselves. Finding voice is as much about speaking out for others as it is for speaking out for ourselves. I think most people find the former easier, I know I do. Standing up and speaking out  in whatever form takes courage. It should be much simpler but society, learnt behaviour, and childhood hang-ups get in the way. 

Tonight I watched Britain's Got Tallent (yes it's back). There was a young lady performing who had fought through the pain of being bullied and found helself through singing, in this case Opera. She had a magical voice which projected the emotion of what she was singing. She had found her voice and it was a lovely thing to watch as well as hear.

Finding voice is a simple pleasure but we need to step out in faith, take one step at a time, and get beyond the pain barrier to find it. Have you found your voice yet? I encourage you to do so and promise that it will eventually bring you a simple pleasure.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Lent 2014 - 11th April: shopping

One of life's simple pleasures is the occasional shopping trip. I'm not really a big shopper. I think my husband enjoys it more than me. Today I went to Derby to get my hair 'done' and to buy a present for a good friend, I hope she likes it, I also treated myself a little. My excuse was that I have gone down a dress size, surely worth a celebration. I say dress size but I can't recall the last time I wore a dress. I digress. Not everyone can afford to go shopping. Money is tight at the moment having been given notice from the church here in Burton. Money is tight for a lot of people but compare our living standards with those of other parts of the world such as, the favelas in Brazil, there is no comparison. We are blessed, truly blessed. Compare what we have with what our parents or grandparents had and again we are worlds apart. The world hurtles on at a tremendous pace. It is good to stop and appreciate the simple pleasures of our life and the abundant blessings that knock at our door day after day.

Lent 2014- 10th April: gazing at the view

One of life's 
simple pleasures
is of course
to gaze

at the view
of dancing clouds 
and rolling weather

of patchwork quilts 
knitted together

secrets hidden 
amongst the leaves

some to be seen 
on bended knee

or stood 
side by side 
in solidarity

much to behold 
in art
and science 

In history 
and mystery
of bygone 
year on year

there is much 
to gaze
and admire

warming views
of sandy shores

of setting sun 
in foreign lands

of rolling hills
in Gloucestershire

Maybe a view 
of grass 
and sheep.

maybe just 
a piece of cake
or icecream flake

Or Devonshire teas
with views of
sea and sail.

Or just 
a silly photo 
of Jo's snail

what do 
that gives 

©revdjo 10/4/14

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Lent 2014 - 9th April: the sun

The sun has got its hat on
Hip Hip Hip Hooray
The sun has got its hat on
And he’s coming out today
Now everybody’s happy
Hip Hip Hip Hooray
The sun has got its hat on
And he’s coming out to play

Today's simple pleasure is the sun. These lyrics by Noël Gay and Ralph Butler were part of my childhood. A song I use to sing along to with my mum as she was doing the ironing. The song was on a tape, remember those, called Honkie Tonk Hits 1 & 2 I seem to recall.

Nothing like a bit of sun to make you feel good. Anyway, that's enough from me or I will be singing some of the Beach Boys' songs next.  Simple pleasures - always the best. I'm thankful for the sun and even more for God's son - just incase you forgot it's coming up to Easter!

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Lent 2014 - 8th April: childhood books

Today's simple pleasure is that of remembering all those great childhood books. I am reminded today of 
'Bednobbs and Broomsticks' that was put into film by Walt Disney. As I remember that my love of Enid Blyton also comes flooding back. I read the Famous Five books but I much preferred the Secret Seven and books such as 'The Island of Adventure'. As a child I was encouraged to read and found my solace in childhood encyclopedias and comics. A piece of paper, some coloured pencils or some paints and a comic or book and I would entertain myself for hours. I am naturally creative but it is only recently that I have found my creative side again. I don't think I have ever lost my love for reading. It is is part of who I am. As a teenager I loved the classics, mainly Thomas Hardy. As a child, a teenager, and as an adult I have always ready the Bible firstly in picture form and then as a teenager the Revised Standard Version. Today my preferred version is the New Revised Standard Version which is also a Spiritual Direction Bible. Second choice is the New International Version that flows slightly more readily. I still love Thomas Hardy and the Classics, I still love the Beano and Denis the Menice. I still love to read God's Word.

Can't beat a good read or, as my earlier froidian slip read, a God read.

Lent 2014 - 7th April: hot water bottles

Today's simple pleasure is hot water bottles. I'm sure it should be warm enough to turn off my central hearing, alas it's not. I like my hot water bottle as it stays hot a number of hours. I think my cats like it to. There is something comforting about having warm toes and cuddling up to my hot water bottle. It doesn't have the same impact if it's cold or even lukewarm. If I find it cold at the bottom of my bed I normally give it a good kick out the end. The thud as it hits the ground normally brings a smile to my face, I'm not quit sure why I just think it's the distinctive sound. One of the letters to the churches in the Book of Revelation talks about our spiritual temperature. Only hot will do. I hope as you reflect through Lent your spiritual temperature and your faith has got hotter. If not why not? Don't be like the Luke warm church in Ladeocia that is lukewarm being neither hot not cold doesn't hack it with God. He wants our all.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Lent 2014 - 6th April: wandering around cathedrals

I may be a non-conformist of the Baptist persuasion but I so appreciate the architecture and presence of God to be found in a Cathedral. The above photo is of course Westminster Abbey which I visited recently. There is something about the grandure of Cathedrals that proclaims the awesomeness of God. Our non-conformist history is short in comparison to the established church and consequently we lack age in our buildings. We also tend to lack the grandeur. 

    Gloucester Cathedral's beautiful ceiling.

Baptist chapels are simple so as not to distract from worshiping God. I like the simplicity but sometimes I want the grandure and ornateness which reflect God's glory and majesty. I am eclectic in my spirituality and a true ecumenical at heart. A simple pleasure for me is to gaze in wonder at our places of worship that differ so much and yet all point to God in their own unique way.

Today's simple pleasure is wandering around Cathedrals, it could equally be sitting in a simple chapel.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Lent 2014 - 5th April: humour

Today's simple pleasure is humour. I like to laugh. I don't like to take life too seriously. It's easy to get caught in the spiral of negativity and to forget that life is for living. My humour can get me in to trouble sometimes. I guess what one person finds funny someone else finds offensive. I love situation humour but dislike jokes. It is normally the visual things or silly childish things that make me chuckle. John and I went to the butchers today to buy a leg of lamb. (It tasted fantastic by the way.) we always end up giggling whenever we go there. It's not what is said but what is unsaid. Something about the way the three butchers never really talk to one another and are so serious. An old lady wished them a merry Christmas, obviously at Christmas, and had to say it three times before getting a response. Anyone would think they were androids by their apparent lack of emotion. Actually, one is slightly more human than the others. They must wonder why we are always giggling. As my husband said today, it would be a good basis of a sitcom. Maybe I should write that one. As with all good visual humour you have to be there and see it for yourself. 

I hope today has been a blessed day for you filled with at least some humour. 

Lent 2014 - 4th April: Jelly Babies!!

Today's simple pleasure - Jelly Babies! Do you need an explanation other than yum!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Lent 2014 - 3rd March: meeting New People

Another of life's simple pleasures is meeting new people. I love meeting someone who I don't know at all, or very well, and spending time getting to know them. All too often these meetings are fleeting and over far too quickly. Today I got the opportunity to meet and talk to a few new folk at The Northern Baptist Theological Consutation at Blackley Baptist Church, West Yorkshire. I have to admit I have never been this far north before! It was a great day. The keynote lecture was on spirituality and poetry, so right up my street.

One of the reasons I loved working as a mortgage adviser was that I met lots of new and interesting people. New people are intriguing and meeting them is on a par with opening a wrapped present. You never know what you are going to get! Some people we relate to more than others, that's just life, but everyone we meet is a potential friend. Who knows how deep that relationship will develop. So here's to friendship and the simple pleasure of meeting new people. I thank God for the new people in my life and the friendship they offer. 

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Lent 2014 - 2nd April: Spiritual Direction


As I have written these blogs on simple pleasures I have tried to write about something I have found pleasurable and want to give thanks for that has happened that day. Today I met with my Spiritual Director so today's simple pleasure is Spiritual Direction. Sometimes our spiritual life can be very arid. It is like walking through a desert with the sun beating down and no sense of where we should be headed. I am blessed to have a number of good friends who I can call on to pray for me. For a long time I wondered about having a Spiritual Director to accompany me on my spiritual walk. About a year ago I decided God had been nagging me long enough and that I should give it a go. I am so glad that I did. I have been truly blessed. 

It is easy to loose our way in the desert sometimes we need help in finding the way and seeing the signs of where God is in our life. Sometimes we need someone to challenge us and help us to face up to difficult questions. Sometimes when our spiritual life gets boring and routine we need someone to suggest knew ways of connecting with God. I feel that I have been wandering through the desert of life for a while now. Trudging through sand is tiring and can be lonely. It is then when we need our praying friends all the more. It is the time when we need God but can't always see how closely he walks along side us for the sand that is blowing in our faces and getting in to our hair. I started spiritual direction because I wanted to refocus on God and my spirituality and to draw strength from that in order to get through the hard times. Yes, this is normally for a Christian but I wanted to be more definite about it. Whilst I may have to continue to walk through the desert a little while longer, and no doubt it is a place I will revisit at some stage in my life, I can see signs of new life beginning to break through. There are streams of living water in the desert but sometimes we need help in finding them and drinking from the cool waters. 

There is nothing magical about spiritual direction but there is something more precious than that for me that I can't quite put into words. It is something holy. A divine appointment. As I look back on the thoughts and feeling that have been shared, the tears and the laughter, I know that my journey has been made easier through sharing. A big thank you to my spiritual director, you know who you are. Thank you for sharing your gifts with me and encouraging me along the way. Thank you for believing in me.

Lent 2014 - 1st April: Music

As I write I am listening and half watching a George Michael concert on TV. George's music has featured in one of my earlier blogs. You can find in here if you want to have a look. I seem to like his music more as I have got older. Maybe I am just re-living my youth, who knows. Today's simple pleasure isn't George Michael, although I am sure he is to some, but music. I love music. I like to sing, not that I am a brilliant singer, I just like singing. It brings me joy and puts a smile on my face. Car journeys are the best when the music is turned up and you can sing to your hearts content at the top of your voice. Life is so much better with music. I love good guitars, strong vocals and a good beat. Translated that means the likes of Queen, The Police, The Eurythmics/Annie Lennox, Texas, and many more. I prefer rock, indie, or alternative genres. I like 80's music more now than I did at the time. Generally I think 90's music was much better with the likes of R.E.M. Alanis Morrisette, Pulp, Blur, Manic Street preachers, Supergrass, Oasis, etc, etc.

There isn't much I dislike but drum and base and boy bands would be amongst them. I can't image a world without music. I can't imagine a world without being able to praise God. Music is about expressing how we are feeling or wanting to feel. If we are feeling sad then we may want to play something soulful and relaxing, perhaps some Dusty Springfield, Simply Red, or Adel, or Leona Lewis. If we are feeling happy and full of beans then we would crank up the volume for a bit of Robbie Williams (sorry very Girlie choice), some Bryan Adams. or Dire Straights, or Guns n' Roses. If we wanted cruising music then some Beach Boys, or The Eagles, or well depends what you are into I guess. For me praising God through song is about expressing how I am feeling and also about getting in tune with God. I may not always feel like worshiping God through singing when I start to sing but my mood and my whole being starts to change as I engage with the music and as I engage with God. Singing in church on a Sunday, or around the house, or in the car is the way in which I connect with God. This may be through worship songs or it may be in a secular song. Music is a powerful thing. It is my simple pleasure. Thank you God for music. 

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Lent 2014 - 31st March: swimming

I have always loved to swim. I wouldn't say I'm a particularly strong swimmer but I enjoy swimming up and down the pool. Today's simple pleasure is swimming. Sometimes we can feel that we are swimming against the tide. Sometimes we perceive the waves to be massive and much bigger than they actually are. Sometimes we can feel like we are drowning in life. Life can be hard and demanding. Following Jesus doesn't mean we will never face trials. Being a Christian isn't easy. Life isn't easy. Trusting Jesus is not always easy but yet he asks us to put out faith in him during these difficult times. 

When I am in the swimming pool I feel close to God. It has become a time of centering prayer for me. No need to speak words but just to be with God. As I swim I sense God around me. He is to my right and to my left keeping me safe, he is below me keeping me afloat, he is above me keeping a watchful eye, and he is before me guiding my way. Spending time in the water cleanses and refreshes me in a spiritual way. I leave my troubles on the side of the pool and I try not to take them home with me.

A simple pleasure to give thanks for - swimming. Jump in, the water is warm!