Thursday, 19 December 2013

This epic life

Its been almost three years now since we sold up and set off on our travels to North America. Little did we know back then, where the adventure would lead us and how much it would cost to leave the sanctuary of a familiar life in Exmouth. So much has changed in those three years, more than we could have ever thought possible. Our lives have been transformed, we have been given promises - many yet to be fulfilled - made friends, left friends, encountered Papa God in astonishing ways, been in lack, been provided for, been loved, been tested, been in awe. 

One short blog is far too inadequate to describe the journey, words don't form easily to bring structure to what has been a time spent in hiddenness, a time nestled in Papa's heart, a time where faith has been forged within challenging circumstances.

Wales - left to right Moriah Chapel birthplace of the 1905 Welsh revival; Brecon Beacons; Caerphilly Castle.
On our return from America last year - where we had hoped to move - we had a sojourn with some wonderful people in Wales then found ourselves coming full circle by returning to Exmouth. It has been a very strange return as we are not the people who left and the community we were part of is no longer our home. We live in a tiny cottage where we live, cook, eat and sleep in the same space! It has been a much appreciated sanctuary and we've enjoyed the peace we have found there.

The Garth covered in snow near our home in South Wales.
Mike launched spottedsheep.com selling greeting cards carrying his designs and those of other artists from around the world and has also latterly returned to writing. Nicky loves working as a home help to 96 year old Monty who she visits every day. Opportunities to pray with her and encourage someone who is frightened of dying has been an incredible privilege. She has also developed her creative gifts in painting and textiles, which she loves and is longing to get back to playing piano again!

A great year for Beth and her fiance Josh - they both graduated and got engaged. Wedding in 2014!
We continue to live in the in-between where, as many of us do, we have promises that we long to see fulfilled. We follow in the footsteps of Abraham and Sarah who waited for what seemed like too long for the birth of their promised son. We feel like Joseph as he waited in prison to be commissioned by the King. We find ourselves alongside Jesus as he was lead into the wilderness. There are days when we don't understand the journey or the length of time we are kept waiting but we would choose no other path than this, as we know He is faithful to bring about what He has promised. We are continually finding treasure in this darkness, new aspects of Papa's heart, new life and more capacity to love. We have discovered that no matter how dark things seem, Papa always hides treasure within the darkness which bring glory, light and hope. 

We had a wonderful weekend in Cornwall.

We have pondered recently on how many epic stories we read about in blogs, in books and on Facebook. We have all of us become experts at celebrating what we consider to be the 'epic' lives of people, their epic triumphs, journeys or ministries. We have come to realise that every life is epic, every life is extraordinary, however ordinary they may appear from the outside. Our own lives have appeared, over the past year, to be very ordinary but we have heard Papa whisper over and over that we are extraordinary and this last year has been as much of a glorious adventure as when we were on the road. It's the same for us all. With Jesus life is a wonderful adventure full of opportunity to love and be loved, to cry, to laugh, to come alongside, to encourage, to be found faithful because He is faithful and to daily surrender to His ways rather than insist our own.

We enjoyed many walks on the South West Coast Path.

We have no idea what this next year holds, apart from the wedding of Mikes beautiful daughter Beth to Josh in April (very excited!). We don't know how long Papa will keep us in this place of waiting, but we do know that He is as faithful as the sun-rise every morning and that our prison season will shift, that we will hold our Isaac and that we will leave this beautiful wilderness full of power as Jesus did. We are so thankful too for the love of family and friends He has placed around us, for His constant provision, for His promises and for each other. Life truly is an epic adventure, ours and yours, may we have the courage to see it and live it with our hearts set on the One who makes all things possible.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Living with a heavenly perspective

As believers we can often assume that when things 'fall into place' or when our circumstances line up, God must be in it, that we are in His will at that moment. Firstly, by definition, this means that when things are difficult or don’t go the way we want them to, whether consciously or not, we are believing that God isn’t in it. Secondly, in making such an assumption we can miss the purposes of Heaven in that situation.

Consider Joshua as he was about to attack Jericho and he met the Lord: "Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” ( Joshua 5:13:14) Joshua made the assumption that the heavenly being he met was either for him or he was for the opposition. I’m sure Joshua must have been surprised when the man replied “Neither.”

Heaven has a perspective that sometimes we just don't see or even consider. Like Joshua, we can assume that God is for us and He comes to fulfill our plans, when the Lord has something else in mind - seeing Heaven come to Earth. We can become consumed with our circumstances and with seeking the results that we want, like Joshua believing that God will deliver those results for us.


Whilst is true that God is for us, He also tells us that He 'works all things together for good for those who love Him' and that 'in all these things we are more than conquerors'. The 'things' spoken about in these lines from Romans 8 can be translated as ‘absolutely everything’. In absolutely every circumstance, absolutely every situation that we find ourselves, God is working for good.

“We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their (our) labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.”
Romans 8:28 AMP.

Our friend Max.
If we love God we can be assured that absolutely every circumstance is working for our good. It might not look like we had planned, it might not look like the desire in our hearts, it may even look disastrous in a natural sense, but in loving Him we can be confident that He is using those circumstances for good.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21 NIV.


And so, having pursued the desires of our hearts in coming to America, desires for community, desires to share our lives with those we love and who love God, desires to make a home in this amazing nation, we find ourselves returning to the UK with none of those desires having been met. Does that mean God is not for us? By no means! Does that mean that He doesn’t want to give us the desires of our hearts? Not at all! He loves us beyond measure and His heart for us is only good, His desire that His goodness be displayed for His glory in our lives.


When David prays in Psalm 20:4 “May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” It’s not a promise, it’s a request and David goes on in verse 7 to say “ Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” That’s the key - trusting Him when our plans don’t succeed, trusting Him when He doesn’t give us the desires of our heart, trusting Him when it hurts enough to bring us to tears. Trusting that even in the failure, the disappointment and the pain, He loves us and He is working for good.

If we can learn to embrace the pain, to trust in God’s love for us, to recognise His goodness toward us, to surrender to His will, and like James to ‘consider it pure joy’ whatever our circumstances look like, not only will we receive the ultimate reward (the crown of life!), but the journey itself becomes our reward.
Battered and bruised as we feel, physically and emotionally exhausted as we are by the journey, and though it has literally cost us everything, we can unequivocally say that we trust in Him.

The last nine months have been very painful, we have been in a fiery furnace and, even when we thought it couldn't get any hotter, the angel in charge of the furnace, turned up the heat! Papa has stripped, burnt, humbled, consumed. He has emphatically answered our prayers of 'not my will, but yours be done'. It has happened in the secret place, in the darkness, within the mundane of four walls. This hasn't been a holiday that's for sure!

We head back to the UK as weary, ragamuffin pilgrims, feeling the effects of the furnace, yet we leave feeling peace, faith and hope, for He is incredibly good and His wisdom is perfect, even when we don't understand. There is such a relief, such a peace that invades at the place of surrender, at the place of having given up our rights, of choosing 'His will' above our own. There is a sweetness in having been broken by His fiery hand that is beyond explanation. As Graham Cooke puts it, ‘We kiss the hand that hurts, because it is true and perfect in love.'

We don't know what or where is next, but we know Papa has it covered, utterly, completely, wholly covered. He has not once abandoned us, not once turned away and He never will. He always makes a way, He always comes through for us. So we return in expectant hope, knowing that He who is faithful loves us beyond comprehension and has good and perfect plans for us.

Mike & Nicky
xxx

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Savouring the moment

It's been a while since either of us wrote here. It seems to me as if life has been a challenge and I feel like my energy has been used in simply getting through the days and weeks with not very much left for inspiration to put words to page.

This 'getting through', this survival mode has been a little bell ringing gently in my mind and as I tune my consciousness into actually listening to the sound, I become more aware of why the bell has been ringing. It has been wanting my attention, it has been a whisper telling me that this surely is not what life should look like, this survival, this getting through each day, head down, lips pursed, making it to bed only to awaken and go though the motions again - I must survive, I must survive. Yet, how many of us live our lives like this, week in, week out, year in, year out. Just getting through with the occasional oasis of relief in the form of a holiday, a movie, time with friends, a bar of Cadburys!


I am realising somewhere deeper in my being that each day is formed from little moments, all joined together and that if I can learn to catch these little moments I go from survival mode to life in fullness. I am beginning to see that each moment is drenched in richness and fullness - the sound of wind in the trees, the sun warming my skin, the sound of rain on the ground, a mouthful of good coffee, a comfy chair, a smile, my favourite tv programme. If only I could truly learn to savour these precious moments, to become thankful for them - the small things, the everyday things that pass me by because I am surviving the big picture. These moments diminish the big picture and they take the heaviness out of having to have it all worked out. As I savour the moment I am able to remember that there is someone bigger than me, someone utterly and totally in control. I remember that I am known incredibly intimately and that He has it covered. I realise that He is flooding my life with promise and goodness in every little moment He sends my way, if only I breathe in and savour.

Widlflower meadow, Big Pocono State Park PA

I was talking with a friend who was telling me about a woman she knows who really does know how to live in the moment. My friend tells a very funny story of when she and her family arrive at this friends house one evening. They walk in and the lady is animated and tells them to listen to the vacuum cleaner, she asks if they can hear the note that the vacuum cleaner is playing and she tells them to harmonise along with the note, so all four of them stand there singing along to the vacuum cleaner laughing their head off! I was so touched by this story let alone the fact that if I need a laugh I just remember it. I love the childlike delight of the moment and the ability to find life and laughter even in the sound of the vacuum cleaner.

Mrs P doing the hoovering!

I'm not very good at living in the moment yet, I get distracted by the big picture, I get pulled into survival mode, but I do know that if I could truly live the moment life would look so different. So I'm going to keep practicing and I may even find a little song in the vacuum cleaner the next time I use it!

Friday, 4 May 2012

Stormy Weather


© Mike Temple Photography 2012. Not to be used without the owner's permission.


Just before we left to return to England from North America last October, a friend gave me a word about entering a storm. She also gave me a small wooden cross as a reminder of what to cling to during the storm. I had also recently been to a production telling the story of an Irish monk named St Brendan who set out to sea in a little Coracle boat and trusted the Lord to take him through wind and wave wherever his destiny ordained. My friend was right and I had no idea how the story of St Brendan would speak to me over the next months. The storm began pretty much as we left North America and has been raging fierce and sometimes calmer ever since!

© Mike Temple Photography 2012. Not to be used without the owner's permission.

I have been pondering the storm and its effects over the past few weeks, pondering how we, as followers of Jesus, navigate the storms of life, how are we to ride the 'perfect' storm? How do we remain in victory through the storm? What does it look like to come through the storm without losing hope and remaining steadfast?

St Brendan set out in a Coracle, a tiny basin of a boat made of wood, a boat with no sails. He was entirely at the mercy of the weather, the tides and the waves. I have been told that the best thing for sailors to do during a fierce storm is take the sails down and allow the storm to navigate the course. Fighting the storm can cause more damage to the boat and sails and render it useless once the storm abates. Sailors trust the storm, they surrender to it and rely on getting through it. I keep returning to this place, to the need for surrender, to trust the One behind the storm. Although all I hear is wind, all I feel is lashing rain, the dark clouds press in all around and I have no idea when the storm will end, I need to trust the One who IS in control of it. I need to trust that He sends me along a watery path that is exactly and perfectly where I need to go.

© Mike Temple Photography 2012. Not to be used without the owner's permission.
© Mike Temple Photography 2012. Not to be used without the owner's permission.

Somedays during this lengthy storm of mine, I have been able to snuggle next to Jesus and sleep as he did during the storm on the lake. Somedays I have paced, I have shouted for Him to wake up and calm it. Somedays I have simply clung to the cross praying silently for rescue and to be saved from drowning. Somedays I have seen the sun break through the clouds and have felt its warmth on my skin, time to dry out as the sea has calmed and the noise has abated. I take deep, restorative breaths in these moments and enjoy what they bring.

© Mike Temple Photography 2012. Not to be used without the owner's permission.

I recently listened to a great podcast from Danny Silk at Bethel Church in Redding CA. in it he told a children's story that was written about one of his sons called "One of those days". His son was young at the time and still at primary school and in this day everything went wrong - he got up late, dropped his bagel on the way out the door, forgot his sports kit, had to stay in during recess. Finally his mum got called in to pick him up from school and as he got into the car with her, he braced himself for the telling off. But his mum simply said "rough day hey?" and they drove to the grocery store. Whilst there, his mum looked at him and said "I'm so proud of you", he huffed a response and they carried on. Twice more during the ride home his mum said the same thing to him until finally he began to believe it and the shame and heaviness of what he had been feeling lifted and he was able to laugh with his mum knowing how much he was loved.

© Mike Temple Photography 2012. Not to be used without the owner's permission.Our storms often feel like 'one of those days' in which we're just getting it all wrong and bumbling our way through the wind and rain. It is so easy for shame and heaviness to set in but Papa is there, right there, closer than air, taking our head in his gentle hands and saying "I'm so proud of you". He loves us through the storm, pure, simple, powerful love that keeps no record of wrongs. Religion might measure how well we navigate the storm, keeping score of good days and bad - ticks and crosses. That is not the heart of Papa God. He knows storms are a messy business! He loves us through the raging seas and is not concerned with our response. He is concerned with loving us more fiercely than raging circumstances and telling us how well we're doing, how amazing we are! He never once abandons us.

He has a plan, a great plan that He is forging through the storm. All storms end and as we keep hope, as we cling, as we yield through them we are transformed and transported to new places in Him. I'm not sure when  my stormy weather will finally break, but I know it will. I believe that Jesus is good always, faithful always and kind always. He knows my heart, He understands me fully and loves me beyond imagining. So I can wait, I can ask for rescue and I can trust knowing that the sun will come out.


Oh, and one final thought... In the Narnia film "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader", Reepicheep sailed into Aslan's country in a Coracle. It was His means of transport into a new, perfect and glorious realm where the deepest desires and longings of his heart would be met.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

The next chapter

Those of you who have been following us on this blog or on Facebook will know that we have been travelling the globe for the past 18 months, pursuing the Holy Spirit and following our favour throughout North America and in Europe. Our purpose and delight has been the pursuit of God’s heart, as we have willingly laid down our lives, and everything in them, for more of Him.

During this exciting and challenging time we have seen the most incredible sights, had the most memorable experiences, met the most wonderful people and made the most amazing new friends, as well as catching up with many old ones. We have heard and experienced the glorious and radically good news of the Gospel from coast to coast in the USA and in Europe.

Randy and Bob from The Box
We have been blessed beyond anything we could have thought or even imagined, and the Lord continues to work with such grace and loving kindness in our lives as He transforms our minds and hearts. He has changed us in so many ways, but we would be hard pressed to explain exactly how. We wouldn’t change a single step of this pilgrim’s journey, for many have brought us much joy, though too there have been many testing times, but they have all brought us to this moment.

For several weeks now, though, we have both been feeling the need for community, to belong somewhere and to enjoy the rhythms of a life lived in love for those we share it with. We long for a more settled existence in which we can share our lives and our hearts with people who share our passion for Jesus, and more practically, in which we can hang our clothes in a wardrobe rather than living out of our well worn suitcases.

Us with the wonderful Young family at The Box in 2011
It’s in the context of this heartfelt desire that we have decided to make our home with the wonderful folk of The Alabaster Box in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, USA. When we left for North America in 2011 we didn’t even know this amazing part of the body of Christ existed, let alone know the people who comprise it! However in a few short months God has knitted our hearts together in the most extraordinary way, and we were delighted to learn that they unequivocally shared our own desire to be with them too.

And so the flights are booked, though the visa that will ensure our long term stay in the States has yet to be secured, and to say that we are excited and expectant of great things would be an understatement of huge proportions! We would like to thank you all so much for your support, your patience and your understanding, even when you may not yourselves have understood the choices we’ve made! We ask that you continue to hold us before the Lord in prayer as we apply for our visa and as we build relationships and find our place within our new community.

Open mic night at The Box
We would also like to give you the opportunity to support us financially in this next chapter of our lives. Though The Alabaster Box is small in number, the generosity of the people there has been, and continues to be incredibly humbling. However, we don’t wish to be a burden to them, rather to bless them financially, as well as in other ways. To this end, we will be pursuing our own means of support through several business ideas, however in the meantime if you would like to give, please use the Paypal link on this page to do so. We would love for you to come and visit us in our new home too - it’s only 1 1/2 hours from New York city and you can be assured of the warmest welcome.

In this next chapter the journey continues, it just looks a little different...

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

A different perspective

© Mike Temple Photography 2012. Not to be used without the owner's permission.
Our little home is on the left,in the garden of our hosts' house.
We are currently living in the smallest of worlds. Having travelled the globe over the past few years, the past few months have seen us confined to such a small place. Our day has consisted of time spent in our tiny home in our dear friends garden and often the only reason to venture beyond its four small walls has been to walk the few steps to their house to share breakfast, lunch or abendbrot with the family. Without a car too, our exploration of the region has been restricted to a ten minute drive to church with our hosts on Sunday, daily walks along the Rhine or the very occasional trip to visit friends. As I said, it’s a small world.

Papa has been speaking much to us during this time of confinement and it has clearly been with purpose that He has brought us into this small space. It’s a place of hiddenness in Jesus; it’s a precious place of simply remaining; it’s an intimate place wrapped in His presence; it’s a challenging place of yielding to transformation; it’s a quiet place where we can hear His still small voice; it’s a confined space but holds such freedom in Him.

It’s in the smallness of this place that Papa is revealing the expansive nature of His glorious kingdom. During a recent worship session Papa took me to the very edges of time and space to show me that His kingdom is still expanding, that as the Creator God He is still creating, for it’s in His very nature. In this place, amongst the clouds that are billowing outward, extending the Kingdom, I saw a picture.

© Mike Temple Photography 2012. Not to be used without the owner's permission.
From one of our few trips out, this one to M√ľnster.
In this picture I saw a row of houses that extended into the distance, but rather than getting smaller toward the horizon, these houses got bigger. I believe He was showing me things from His perspective, one of expansion, rather than the world’s perspective, which is one of diminishment. I tried to draw what I saw but couldn’t - it’s so contrary to what we see and understand in this world that I found it impossible!

Today I awoke with such a vivid and present sense of expansion, not just for us, but for His Kingdom, for us as believers and lovers of the Lamb. I believe as we begin to see things from God’s perspective, that the Kingdom is advancing whatever our current circumstances, then we will see Heaven bursting forth. I believe this expansion is into every dimension, those which are seen and those which are unseen.

© Mike Temple Photography 2012. Not to be used without the owner's permission.
The Kingdom of Heaven is expanding
So I come back to our small world which, perceived through the world’s eyes is one of confinement and even diminishment, but from God’s perspective is one of liberty and expansion. The picture of the row of houses I believe holds another significant truth, for though the house nearest to me was small, it was a small beginning that grew to huge proportions. We can all rejoice in the smallness of our world, hidden in Christ, knowing that it’s from here that expansion happens and His Kingdom comes.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Germination

Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humour! As many of you know we are in Germany right now, staying with friends; finding ourselves, temporarily at least, part of a church; and doing life as best we can in a land where we can’t speak a word of the language! But that’s not the funny bit! Soon after we arrived here we had a clear word from God that we were undergoing a process of germination... germination in the German nation! Boom boom tish!

© Mike Temple Photography 2012. Not to be used without the owner's permission.

So what is germination and what does it mean for us? Well, here’s a literal definition:

ger·mi·nate [jur-muh-neyt] verb, -nat·ed, -nat·ing.
verb (used without object)
1. to begin to grow or develop.
Botany.
    a. to develop into a plant or individual, as a seed, spore, or bulb.
    b. to put forth shoots; sprout; pullulate.
3. to come into existence; begin.
verb (used with object)
4. to cause to develop; produce.
to cause to come into existence; create.

In the process that is germination, seeds begin to grow or develop when they are hidden away, buried in the darkness of the soil. It’s a place where the seed can’t see or be seen. If you have read our previous blogs, this confirms earlier words from God about entering the darkness, the hidden place. In our experience, it’s not an easy place to be, but we know it’s where Papa wants us and we continually have to bring ourselves back to a place of rest, and trust in the process... of germination.

We have been encouraged too, by a something Graham Cooke said in a series of talks on The Process of Maturity: “Unless you spend time in the hidden place, you are not going to see the things that are hidden.”

So germination happens in the hidden place, in the darkness, but it is only here where the right environment for growth exists - the temperature is just right, and God has certainly been turning up the heat!; moisture is required, and we continue to feed from the River of Life; finally oxygen, the breath of the Holy Spirit. These elements are what’s needed to grow and bring forth the life that is inherent in the seed.

© Mike Temple Photography 2012. Not to be used without the owner's permission.

The process of germination is also when roots are established as a seed establishes itself. For us, it’s about going deeper - deeper into Papa, as Moses says in Exodus 33, ‘To know You more’. Anna Rowntree, in her incredible book Heaven Awaits The Bride, detailing two visits to Heaven, puts it so well: “We are seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, we can’t go any higher. But we can go deeper.”

When it’s ready, like the birth of a baby after nine months hidden in the darkness of it’s mother’s womb, the seed bursts from it’s shell into life. For us, I believe that the revelation which God gives us, of Him and of who we are in Him, bursts the shell of our current understanding and thinking, renewing our mind with the truth. The old mind can no longer contain the new understanding as new life emerges, in the same way that Jesus tells us that we can’t put new wine in old wineskins, we have to be made new, by the renewing of our minds.

Finally the plant emerges from the soil, from where it can’t be seen, into the light, to reveal the fullness of the glory for which it was created. The potential for that glory was in the seed all along, but now it’s revealed, bringing its beauty into the world and glory to its Creator. This too reminds me of the familiar words of Song of Songs 2 which resonate with us so clearly at this time:

“See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.” v.11 & 12

© Mike Temple Photography 2012. Not to be used without the owner's permission.

So as we germinate in Germany, hidden from so many of those we know and love, we are believing that God is at work in us, though much of that transformation is hidden from us too, and with creation, we wait ‘in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed’ (Romans 8:19). Roll on spring!

As a parting thought, when considering what to write in this blog, I was reminded that every word is a seed, it carries with it the promise of something (Isaiah 55) and we have a choice as to which type of seeds we plant. The power of life and death we are told is in the tongue, so let’s choose to plant seeds of hope instead of fear, seeds of faith instead of doubt, and seeds of love instead of judgement. Then we will see those seeds grow into the full potential for which they were created.