Monday, 27 February 2012


I have just been making up some samples for a class I am teaching on Saturday. I find it best to make fresh samples using the actual batch of papers that we will be using on the day as the quality and finish of paper differs so much. We will be using card and glossy paper this weekend.

Salt, cling film, soapy water, paint, petroleum jelly, and shaving foam. What fun!

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Spiritual check-up pt 5 - feet

Wow, this photo turned out so pink!

Anyway, feet. How can we use them to check on how our heart is doing in the final part of this spiritual check-up?

Our life with God is often described as our walk with Him. Neurologists can sometimes diagnose neurological problems by looking at someone's gait, and we might recognise someone we know when we walk behind them simply by the way they move.

The way that we walk and who we follow can tell a lot about us.

Consider your spiritual walk and ask yourself a few questions:
Who are you following?
Where are you going?
Do you have a stone in your shoe?
What is your gait like - e.g. are you limping?
Is there anything that is hampering you from walking well? If so, what can you do about it?
What are you walking towards or running away from?

If you are truly following Christ, you will be aware of how He walks and doing your best to imitate Him. If you are following Him you can be sure that you are on the right path and moving in the right direction.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Spiritual check-up pt 4 - ears

Our ears alert us to danger that we cannot necessarily see. When we cannot see clearly to cross a road, we strain our ears to check for traffic.

Our ears are important spiritually, too. In the same way that our mouth can be misused, or our eyes can look at things that aren't good for them, our ears can listen to the wrong things. Do you listen to rumours and gossip? Do you listen to lies, not using discernment to cut through to the core of the matter? And who do you listen to?

Sometimes we allow ourselves to be hypersensitive to criticism that doesn't intend to build us up. We start to believe our critics rather than those that love us, who will speak truth to us because they want us to grow.

Are you listening to God? Are there any obstacles to hearing clearly? Do you have your fingers stuck in your ears, singing 'lalalalalala' to drown out what you should be listening to?

Just where are your ears, spiritually speaking?

Make sure you are listening to truth.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Spiritual Check-up Pt 3 - eyes

There are many ways that we can look at how we use our eyes to assess the heart, and many questions that we can ask ourselves. For instance, how do you see yourself?

Think about it for a moment.

Are you being real with yourself? We need to keep the balance between pride (thinking more of ourselves than we should) and self-deprecation (giving ourselves no value whatever). We are not perfect, but we are also not without value. You need to keep a good perspective on how you see yourself. You are a child of Christ who is loved, and you are a sinner who is forgiven. You are a work in progress in the hands of a loving Creator. See yourself through His eyes.

Moving on, what do you look at? Are you feeding your eyes on what is wholesome? Do you allow your eyes to linger on those things that you should turn away from? Problems with lust start with your eyes. Job, in chapter 31, talks about our heart being led by our eyes. He makes a covenant with his eyes not to look lustfully at women. Is there something you need to make a covenant with your eyes about?

And what about coveting? Again our eyes lead our hearts into this. Coveting is a sign of discontent. You want what you don't have. What are you desiring at the moment? Is it something that God has put in you, or something that will gain you acceptance with those around you?

Ask yourself what God desires for you and set your sights on that, because He will lead your eyes in the direction He wants your heart to take.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

A spiritual check-up pt 2 - hands

How can our hands help us to assess the state of our hearts?

The opposable thumb that we have been given allows us to grip; to hold on to things. This can be a good or a bad thing. What are you gripping on to? If you are holding on to God with all your might, that's great.

But sometimes we hold on to other things. Whatever we grip on to we have a reason not to let go of, and some of those things are harmful. Things like grudges and unforgiveness. If you are holding on to these things, you need to ask yourself why. Are you feeling 'holier than thou' by keeping hold of perceived wrongs? Are you refusing to forgive someone? Please hear me: you are the one who is being hurt by not forgiving. It is like holding on to barbed wire. Let it go.

Are you being stingy with your money or possessions? The usual reason for this is because you place your security in riches instead of in God.

We also use our hands to touch others, so who do you reach out to? Do you show compassion?
Things touch us, too. If your heart is tender you are touched by injustice, poverty, cruelty, etc. So what touches you? What sends you into action?

To sum up, look at what your hands do in regards to these five actions: grip, heal, serve, give, touch. They will tell you about the state of your heart.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

A spiritual check-up pt 1 - the mouth

I was thinking about how we make sure that our cars are checked over regularly (in the UK we have the MOT which has to happen every year) and we have health check-ups, so what about a spiritual check-Up? How can we see how we are going in our spiritual journey?
In Proverbs 4:20-27 we are told to watch over our hearts with diligence. The passage talks about using eyes, mouth, ears, and feet in this process. In Proverbs 6:15-19 we are told about things which the Lord hates, that are an abomination to Him. Again we are told about the eyes, mouth, ears, feet, and also the hands. If we look at the way we use these parts of the body we can get an idea about what is happening in our heart and therefore how we are doing spiritually.
Let's start with the mouth.

There are two main functions of the mouth - speaking and tasting. Two of the ten commandments are to do with what comes out of our mouths (3 and 9). That's 20% of the core of how to behave. God is concerned with how we use our mouths because what we say can profoundly affect other people for good or ill. We should look to James when he talks of the tongue. In chapter 3 he talks about the damage an unbridled tongue can do, comparing it with a forest fire and a rudder. So how is your speech lately? Does it include profanity? Do you start or fan the forest fires of rumour and gossip? Do you build up or tear down with your words? Does your tongue move you in the right direction?
The way you speak to others speaks about the state of your own heart. Jesus says that what is in the heart flows out of the mouth (Matt 12:34). If you are full of love it will be evident in your speech. Jesus also said that it is what comes out of your mouth that defiles you, not what goes into it. 
What about taste? When we think about the things that we taste spiritually, they are the things that bring joy and that satisfy. What things in your life do that for you at the moment? Are they good and righteous things? Or are they sinful? 
We need to consider Isaiah 55:1-2 and spend on what satisfies. Are you trying to get satisfaction from somewhere other than God? Be honest with yourself.
How are you doing with your mouth?

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Soar like eagles

Seeing the wedge-tailed eagles soaring on the thermals on Kangaroo Island last week really brought to life Isaiah 40:30-31.

Raptors can see in the infra-red section of the spectrum, allowing them to actually see where the warm air is rising and creating thermals that they can glide on. They are then able to soar using very little wing power, conserving their energy.

We need to soar on the thermals of God's strength rather than working in our own. Ask yourself whether there are any areas in your life that you are working in your own strength instead of allowing God to take the burden and working with Him.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

The walk of life

On a family day out in England a few years ago we visited Wakehurst Place, a lovely botanic garden in Sussex. It occurred to me later, as I looked through the photos I had taken and thought about the different paths and scenery, that our walk that day was very much like the walk of life. 
Almost as soon as you enter the garden there is a forked path, and you need to decide which way you are going to walk around. We all face the choice of whether to follow Christ or not. There is a choice to be made because the paths diverge. You cannot hop from one to the other once you have made a decision. If you change your mind you have to retrace your steps and go back to where you were.
Once you have committed yourself to a path you can decide that walking is the most important thing to you and just put your head down and get on with it; or you can make the choice to take an interest in the wonderful things all around you. As a family we love to stop and look more closely at all the plants, admiring the varied greens, the different shapes of the leaves, the pattern those leaves make against the sky if you look up through the canopy. We touch the bark of the various trees, notice the insects, sniff the flowers. In short, we enjoy the wonder of creation.
Now let us consider the paths we wandered along. Some of them were wide, straight, tarmac walkways, easy to walk along and providing a good view ahead and sight of the sky above. We were able to walk next to each other easily. Life is like that too, sometimes. We can see where we are going, the way is clear, any obstacles can be easily seen before they are reached. We make good progress and don’t have to pay too much attention to where we are putting our feet. 
When we found ourselves walking along a particularly boggy pathway, Woody, who was wearing shoes as against the sandals that Lydia and I had favoured that day, was a lot more confident in striding across the soft ground. Lydia and I were slightly more hesitant, but were able to use the footprints already made to see where it wasn’t too sticky underfoot. In our walk with Christ we should be eager to listen to those who have been through the same things that we are facing. They can offer a lot of insight in how to not become bogged down by worldly things. I include in this biblical figures too.
Some of the pathways involved climbing steps, or ascending quite steep hills. We were left slightly out of breath by the time we reached the top, but often there was a seat awaiting us there. God gives us times of rest before or after a strenuous part of our walk of faith. There are oases of calm when we go through difficult periods. They might be a day out of the usual pattern, or a particular person in whose company you feel more relaxed. Thank God for these times of refreshment.

Others paths were more like rutted tracks, narrow and twisting. There wasn’t a good view ahead because of the turns and the trees meeting overhead and sometimes overhanging the path. The track was uneven, so we spent more time looking at where we were putting our feet so that we didn’t stumble. There are times where our walk with Christ feels very much like this. We are committed to a path, but we can’t quite see where it is leading. We don’t have so much time to stop and look at those things around us because we don’t want to stumble or miss-step. We feel slightly more lonely due to walking in single file. At this point trust in God is what gets us through. We trust that we are on the right path and persevere with it until we can see an end or a fork in the road. It comes eventually.
When the path splits we must make a decision. Sometimes we look at the possible paths - which direction do they go in? Are they ascending or descending? Can we see any obstacles in the way? If we have a particular destination in view we pick the path that will help us to get there. On occasion the paths look too steep or don’t seem to lead anywhere, and then we dismiss them and look at the alternatives. 
These things occur on the path of faith too. When we need to change direction or choose between more than one path we pray. Sometimes the answer is clear and obvious. If we have been given a particular task and then find ourselves in a situation where there is a choice to be made, we follow the one that will aid us in reaching the goal we have been set. 
There are times when we can see two paths, one a broad tarmac highway, the other a twisted narrow way. Although the wide path may be tempting, if the Lord directs you to take the more difficult way, you can be sure that you will grow more in faith and maturity by being obedient. You never know what delights may be found. It might be hard work, but the rewards will be worth it.

There were quite a few quiet spots at Wakehurst, including a walled garden. We need times of quiet and solitude in our spiritual lives; times where we can commune with God and listen with our hearts. These are times of withdrawing from others and seeking peacefulness in a world that is very noisy with things and people always trying to draw our attention. It is refreshing to sit quietly, knowing there is nothing else you want to be doing right now but spending time with God.

Next time you take a walk, just think about how it reflects where you are now, or where you are heading on your own walk with Christ.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Things aren't always what they seem...

I have just enjoyed a week away on Kangaroo Island, South Australia. It is a wonderful place if you like beautiful scenery and wildlife. We were privileged to see goannas, echidnas, fur seals, and even a black tiger snake in their natural habitat.

We also saw this sight when we were heading out one morning:

As we approached this tree it appeared to be covered in large white blossoms like a magnolia. However, as we got closer it proved to be filled with white cockatoos!

Sometimes as we approach something it looks to be one way, but when we get there it is completely different. When we think we have sussed out what it is the Lord wants us to do it can often prove to be a lot more exotic when we step out to do it.