Friday, 24 July 2009

We're all going on a summer holiday

As soon as I leave work this afternoon I will be on my holidays! Yay!
We're spending a weekend in Otley (where we used to live) with some friends and then we're heading to Cumbria to do some camping. I'm praying lots that the view from the tent this week will not be like the last time we went camping in May...

But, even if it is, I am now ready for it as I have these beauties...

Anyway, I'm looking forward to a few days away, catching up with friends, spending time with Phil, taking lots of photos, reading a book or two and just generally chilling out!

I will have no access to the internet so there will be no blogging for a week :(
But I'll be back, refreshed and ready to tackle the world :)

Happy Fridays people...and have a great week next week!!!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Sunset Boulevard...kinda!

Phil and I currently live by the waterfront in Edinburgh but are soon going to be moving to a different part of the city...where there's less water.
One of the major benefits of living where we currently do is the spectacular sunsets we get to see. So, to make the most of one of our last evenings here, and the rare rain-free evening, we took a stroll along the waterfront and out onto one of the breakwaters.

Here are some of the photos of our evening...


Stripey Bench














Happy Wednesday xxx

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Getting things in the right order

I’m learning to use a new piece of software at work that builds models of rivers. It’s a very clever piece of software and it can simulate river flows under different conditions and highlight where flooding may occur along a watercourse.

Now there are several people in the office who use this piece of software almost every day. They are experts and understand in detail the various numbers, parameters and factors that need to be input into the model to get the most reliable results. I am no expert. Although I understand the theory behind the models and I can use the results they produce, I have no idea how to actually construct a model myself. Cue lots of guide books, random silly questions and pained expressions from me as I try to work out what the heck I’m doing!

Whilst reading through the various user manuals, guides and helpful notes, something struck me as being very simple but very important to the success of my model. The order in which I input the information into the software, and the way in which I label and prioritise it, can make or break the model.

If I input the details in the right order, and remember to number them the right way, then the model will run and it will be stable. And it will produce the results I need. If I put something in the wrong order then the model will crash or be unstable. It will then produce results that cannot be used or no results at all.

It got me thinking about the importance of order and priorities in my life. How is my life impacted by the rank or precedence I give things? Am I less productive, do I produce fewer results, because things in my life are in the wrong order? Am I stable and running efficiently, or unstable and likely to crash?

The bible is our user manual, our guide, our resource for living. So what does it have to say about how we should order and prioritise things?

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:25-34 (emphasis added)

Someone once described it to me by comparing it to buttoning up a shirt. If you get the top button right, all the others fall into place and are lined up. If you try to start in the middle or get the top button wrong, all the others will be in the wrong place too.

This week I have realised that I have been striving to make things happen for myself, and it has put other things out of place as a result. I have become unstable and crashed a few times which has caused hurt and upset in other people. I have placed my value and security in the opinion of others and not in God. I have not sought His kingdom first. I have tried to take my future into my own hands and make it work in my own strength. I have had the wrong perspective.

Lord, I pray that I may learn to seek your kingdom and righteousness first. That I may get the order of things right in my life. That I may allow you to be in control over the other things that should always come after you. I pray that you may be able to use my life, that I may be stable. And that I may produce results that are pleasing to you.

Monday, 20 July 2009

I love lists

I don't know what it is about them exactly...but I love them. I can't help it.
They're just so innately organised and ordered! And they can be so helpful. Plus, they can be colour co-ordinated! Need I say anymore?!
Maybe I need to sign up for listaholics anonymous!!!

Anyway, here's a quick lists of a few things and thoughts going on with me today:
1. I should have really tackled the pile of ironing yesterday instead of lazing about the flat and doing nothing of particular use! Well, other than going to church and packing boxes. Now its just going to take valuable evening time that I would like to do something better with than ironing ...oh, the luxury of hindsight!

2. Part of the reason for above laziness yesterday was thanks to our neighbours who decided to have a karaoke party...very loudly...'til 5am!!! So yesterday was spent trying to recover from the party we managed to endure without actually being there!

3. Why, oh why, oh why am I being so slow at work at the moment?! I'm using two new pieces of software and it seems to be taking me ages to learn what's going on and even longer to do anything useful with them! For example: it's taking me far longer than necessary to work out why the labels for items 1, 2, 3 & 4 are visible but not item 5. It has the same settings as the other items! Please Lord, make it work for me!!!

4. Why do some people at work prefer to behave like immature school children instead of the experienced professionals that they are?! Oh, the joys of office politics and corporate gossip-mongering!

5. While we enjoy a rare day of sunshine, I am planning to go for a walk this evening and hopefully take some photos to share. However, the walk may involve an umbrella and a bucket full of determination and positivie attitude if the weather forecasts are to be believed!

6. One day I will be less tardy with the delivery of people's birthday presents...some might even arrive early (shock, horror!) day!

7. One day I will be a superhero and my special superhero skills will be prompt and efficient ironing, making the perfect cup of tea and bringing joy, fun and laughter to all those I meet...I think I'm almost there! Just the ironing needs more work!

8. I love church. We hadn't been for a couple of weeks due to being away and even though I'd listened to the sermons we missed on the internet, nothing can feel as good as being back in the house of God listening to His word, worshipping Him and just generally being with his family. Sunday morning was good!

And because posts are better with's some apples on a cute little apple tree after a splash of rain (the British summer eh?!)...

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Big Word Wednesday #7

If you’ve been anywhere near Edinburgh in the last 12-18 months you’ll have a very practical appreciation of what it means to be surrounded by excavations…lots of roads closed, diversions, traffic jams, noisy equipment, piles of dirt everywhere!!! The re-introduction of trams to the city has provided a very practical demonstration of the fact that to build up/move forward/bring about a change…you first have to dig down, you have to excavate.

1. to hollow something out – to make a hole or cavity in something by removing the material inside
2. to uncover something with difficulty – to discover or expose something valuable by effort
3. to dig for artefacts – to dig in a place carefully and methodically with a view to uncovering objects of archaeological interest

Excavating isn’t always convenient, or pleasant. Excavating reveals things that have been hidden, sometimes for years.

When God calls us he also takes time to prepare us and this preparation involves allowing God into every corner of our lives. Even those we’d rather keep hidden.

Are there things in your life or in your heart that you’d rather God didn’t see or know about? Have you tried to cover them up with other things you think look more attractive? Have you tried to forget that they’re there? Are you withholding a part of yourself from God because you don’t like what He might find?

We can’t ever hide things from God but we can stop Him from being able to deal with them like He wants to. God will never force Himself into a part of your life you’re not willing to open but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t know its there. Our fear of what God might say or think, or what others might say or think, stops us from being completely open and accessible to God and it prevents Him from working in us and truly changing us.

Allowing God to excavate and investigate every bit of our hearts is one of the hardest things we can do…but it is also one of the best things we can do. God is the only one who knows how to deal with everything and anything we have hidden in our hearts. Our brokenness, our guilt, our shame, our fears, our loneliness, our shattered dreams, our bad attitudes, our jealousy…our sins.

He knows exactly what to do with them…like the world’s biggest garbage disposal…he can take them away and deal with them. It’s not always instantaneous, sometimes it takes time and hard work, but He can always deal with them. And what’s even better is that He will replace them with better things…like joy, hope, peace and love.

I love a line from the Delirious? song Investigate…
‘Investigate. I can’t wait. Excavate. Recreate’
I love that as God takes a long and deep look into all that we are, He also changes and re-creates us into the person He has designed and purposed for us to be. He can turn our ashes into something of beauty.

Excavations not only expose the rubbish that’s been covered and hidden but they also reveal treasures that have been concealed and buried. When we give God access into every part of our hearts He not only clears out the rubbish but He draws out the resources, reserves and raw materials that He placed in us before we were even born. He gives them a good polish and helps us to see them for what they are…valuable treasures. He helps us to see who we are…valuable, precious, important, costly, loved.

Are there things of value in your heart that God has revealed to you?

There is one other thing that I think of when I consider excavations. They are usually a preparation for something else…something bigger.
Even in archaeological (that’s a pretty big word!) excavations, although the excavation is very significant, it’s the history and information that can be gathered from the excavation that is the goal. The knowledge that can be gained and the ability to see how it all fits into a much bigger picture are what the majority of people would find useful. The actual hole in the ground is only deeply interesting to those who dug it (pun mildly intended!).

Do you share with other people the lessons that you have learnt from God? Do you share the knowledge in order to help others too? Through the things God has revealed to you, can you see how you fit into a bigger picture?

Other excavations are prepared for foundations. Any unsuitable material that exists at the site is removed so that more suitable material can be put in its place. Deep trenches and holes are created so that whatever structure is being created will be strong and stable and will be able to withstand whatever nature/life can throw at it.

When God wants to dig deep into our hearts it’s so that we can start to lay good, strong and deep foundations. God doesn’t want us to be unstable in the storms or toppled by the wind or washed away by the rain. He wants us to be steadfast, persistent, committed.

Have you allowed God to make space for you to start building good foundations? Do those excavations go deep enough or are there still things that need to be cleared and removed first? What kind of foundations are you building into your life?

Let us examine our ways and test them,
and let us return to the LORD.
Lamentations 3:40 (NIV)

God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand.
I'm an open book to you;
even from a distance, you know what I'm thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
I'm never out of your sight.
You know everything I'm going to say
before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you're there,
then up ahead and you're there, too—
your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful—
I can't take it all in!

Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you're there!
If I go underground, you're there!
If I flew on morning's wings
to the far western horizon,
You'd find me in a minute—
you're already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, "Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
At night I'm immersed in the light!"
It's a fact: darkness isn't dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light, they're all the same to you.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother's womb.
I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I'd even lived one day.

Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful!
God, I'll never comprehend them!
I couldn't even begin to count them—
any more than I could count the sand of the sea.
Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you!
And please, God, do away with wickedness for good!
And you murderers—out of here!—
all the men and women who belittle you, God,
infatuated with cheap god-imitations.
See how I hate those who hate you, God,
see how I loathe all this godless arrogance;
I hate it with pure, unadulterated hatred.
Your enemies are my enemies!

Investigate my life, O God,
find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
get a clear picture of what I'm about;
See for yourself whether I've done anything wrong—
then guide me on the road to eternal life.
Psalm 139 (The Message)

And as a reward for reading through all of's a photo of an artichoke...because the bit you can eat is hidden, waiting to be revealed and enjoyed (very tenuous link)!

Monday, 13 July 2009

Praise for the past & hope for the future

Currently in our small group we’re studying the book of Exodus. Last week we looked at the song of Moses and Miriam right after the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea on dry ground and the Egyptians had been washed away.

One thing that came out through the study was the need for us to remember the good things that God has done for us and through us in our past, so that we can have faith and a hope for things in our future.

Right now this is something that is so real for me. I am sitting here waiting for someone else to make a decision that could initiate another change in my life, or put an end to a small dream. Ever since making the decision to relocate to Edinburgh, Phil and I have learnt to wait. We’ve learnt, sometimes the hard way, to have faith, and to trust in a God who has a hope and a future for us. No matter how long it takes, or who’s making the decision.

As I text family to ask for prays regarding our latest endeavour, I was reminded by my Nana of the waiting we’d done previously and the faithfulness that God had shown us. When we were first waiting for a decision about Phil’s new job, my Nana told us that good things are worth waiting for. She was right. When I updated her on Friday and asked for her prayers her response was this…
‘We should be used to this waiting – we’ve been here before. Will keep praying xxx’

In one small text I was reminded to take my eyes off the situation, off the circumstances and off myself. I was encouraged to look to God. The one who has provided for us before. The one who has cared for us before. The one who has made the right doors open before. The one who was with us when we waited before. His plans are perfect and His timing is perfect.

I know this because I have seen it in the things He has done in my past…so I can have faith and hope that He’s doing it in my present and in my future.

I just have to learn to calm myself down during the waiting!!!

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Round and round the garden... a teddy bear...

So, I have taken far too many photos of this garden in recent weeks but I like a lot of them so I am going to subject you to looking at them! I hope you'll find them pleasant viewing though! I have actually included some of my favourites at the end of other posts so I won't repeat them here. And I'm only posting the floral photos for now...there are so many photos of tomatoes and chillies and other greenhouse things I'll put them in a separate post!

Unfortunately I can't claim any of the credit for this beautiful garden or the flowers and plants that grow in it. It belongs to the brewery where Phil works. He's had to work a bit over the last few weekends so I've been along too so that I could spend some time documenting the growth of the plants in the greenhouse (that is Phil's handy work) and just enjoying the garden and taking photos of the flowers.


Bumble bee in the lavender...


Ok, so this is technically in the greenhouse but it's a flower so that's ok...from the watermelon plant!


And another cool thing about the watermelon has orangey-pinky sap! How cool is that?!

Summery colours...pow!


How quirky and unique are these flowers...I have no idea what they are called! There are lots of them around the garden in various shades of pink and orange.



This plant was a little strange and I'm not sure I managed to get a good photo of it. The white bits look almost fluffy but they are actually lots of tiny white flowers. And I love the contrast with the red branches.


A classic yellow rose...

There are quite a few poppies in the garden in a variety of colours...purple, pink, orange. You may remember the purple one from a Big Word Wednesday post a few weeks ago?!




I could not quite get the detail of this flower that I wanted. It was almost as if the pink was just to bright for my camera to cope with!




I love this ivy and have been trying to take a good photo of it for ages. I love the way it contrasts with the red wall behind.


That's all for now!
How much do I just want to be sitting in the garden having tea and cakes now?! Very much!!!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Big Word Wednesday #6

Function: noun
Date: 1810
1 a local or regional dialect expression
2: used in or characteristic of familiar and informal conversation

I’m a talker. I like to talk. Sometimes too much!
Sometimes I talk too fast. Sometimes too quietly (sorry Phil). Sometimes in ways that only I and God can understand!

I think a lot about the things I say and how I say them, although this is not always evident when I speak! These thoughts are only some of the randomness going on in my head. I’m not sure that they make sense or are even useful. But I thought them so I am being open and writing about them!

Firstly, when I think of local or regional I think in terms of a geographical area or district. I think of accents and phrases that are common or typical of that area. As in a Geordie saying ‘why aye man!’ or a Scouser saying ‘alright alright!’.
It’s hard not to say those without using an accent too! Well, it is in my head anyway!

Whilst sat on the bus the other day I started to think about local or regional in a different way. I thought about it in terms of those people that are ‘local’ to me because they share a similar language, dialect, expression. I thought about my church family, not just in Edinburgh, but all over the world.

As a Christian, I have grown up learning church phrases, jargon and many Christianese terms and sayings. I can converse with my fellow ‘holy’ linguists all day about many things that just sound foreign, strange and even weird to anyone who does not understand this language, this dialect…this colloquialism.

So then I wondered whether the words I use cause others to not fully understand what I’m saying or to be confused. Can the things we say become a barrier for some people in terms of encountering a relationship with God? Can our use of Christianese be confusing, strange or weird to those outside our ‘local’ circle?

But at the same time our speech…the things we say and the way that we say them…should be a reflection of where we come from. Or rather where we are going. Not an expression of the people around us, but an influence to the people around us.

As a Christian, I believe that I am a citizen of heaven. I am only visiting earth. So the things I say should show evidence of this. My words should be sprinkled with things that are of heaven…love, hope, joy, peace, and God.

My conversations should be a way to bring God to those around me but without being confusing or strange. There is power in our words, in our tongues (Proverbs 18:21). I pray that I learn to use mine well. I pray that when I open my mouth I stop for a moment and put myself to one side. I pray that I wait long enough God to come and be in the words I speak. His words will never be confusing or difficult to understand. His words will speak to people wherever they are, whatever they need.

And because words are always better with pictures...

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

While we're waiting

At least as important as the things we wait for is the work that God wants to do in us as we wait.
- Ben Patterson

Forgetting to eat...

I've just been sat at my desk thinking...'flippin' eck! I don't half feel very hungry'
And then I just remembered that I've not had any breakfast yet today!

Seriously, my brain has turned into a pot of mushy peas recently!!!
I mean, how on earth could I forget to eat!!!

I remember when I first moved away from home and my Nana would phone me to make sure I was ok/surviving/still alive! She once asked me if I was remembering to eat and I thought she'd gone crazy! I mean, I love food, I can eat a lot, and my body kinda tells me when I need to's not something you can usually just forget.

But maybe sometimes, in our busyness, in the craziness of life, in our mushy-pea-brain moment we can forget something which is so essential to life.

Today, I forgot to feed my body...I forgot to give it the fuel it needs to survive, to live.
But how often do I forget to feed my faith, my soul, my spirit, my relationship with my creator...the fuel I need to not just survive but to live abundantly?

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Big Word Wednesday #5

Alison very kindly suggested this Wednesday’s Big Word and I have to say that it was a difficult one. I mean, it’s not quite as general as the other words I’ve been tackling. But I think I’ve given it a good shot…so here goes…

Function: noun
Etymology: de- + Latin fenestra window
Date: 1620

1 : a throwing of a person or thing out of a window
2 : a usually swift dismissal or expulsion
— defenestrate, transitive verb

I’ve been brought up to have good manners and so I’m not really to be found throwing things, especially people, out of windows. I mean, that’s littering is it not?! And maybe even dangerous! And its not something that usually encouraged or encountered in my day to day life.

In our modern, western world we like to keep our surroundings tidy and clean. Our floors are carpeted or panelled or tiled. Our streets are paved or covered in tarmac. Anything thrown out of a window would just sit on top of the ground, waiting for the wind to blow it away or the street cleaner to sweep it up or maybe just sit there and remind us of the perils of littering. And our windows are glazed, usually twice over to keep the outside from coming in.

But in Jesus’ day I can imagine the streets being dirt tracks, with dust constantly being blown about by the wind. A mixture of sand, gravel, stones and rocks. Debris carried on people’s feet from one place to the next. The windows being open, allowing the elements to enter freely, bringing a cool breeze in and taking the warm air out.

Although I still don’t see this as an excuse to just chuck anything I fancy right out of the window, I can imagine that there would be some things that might be considered ok to add to the dusty roads. Say, for example, salt.

Let’s imagine that I’m cooking up a delicious, comforting, heart warming meal in my Judean kitchen. I need some salt for the dish so I reach over and grab some from the pot on the table. I taste a little bit, just to make sure it’s still good. But it’s not very salty! I don’t need non-salty salt. That’s no good for my meal. I need it to be salty.

So what do I do? I put my hand out of the window and drop the non-saltiness to the floor (a little less risky that throwing it!), whereupon several passing neighbours and friends walk by and crush it into the ground. It becomes one with the road, the dust and the dirt.

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:13-16

Would you get thrown out of the window?
Or are you salty?