As I sit under the clear blue sky of Tuscany, bathed in warmth, listening to the crickets, occasional church bells calling the townsfolk to Mass, and watching the ants, lizards and a bird that looks very similar to an English sparrow, reflection comes easily. We’ve had two exciting trips; to Pisa and Florence. We are spending our other days quietly; reading, talking, praying, listening to stories, drawing, swimming. Just as dry ground needs much gentle rain to enable it to be become life giving again, so our souls and spirits need some “English drizzle”; time and space for restoration and creativity.
I’ve been wanting to write about the metaphorical “fierce storm” which raged about us at the beginning of the year, but have not known quite how to do this. Time and God’s healing and restoration maybe make it easier. The spark was an ongoing situation within the youth work of our church with which I felt increasingly uneasy. Underlying this was,what we thought to be, a gradual slipping away from the truth of God’s word and an increasing reliance on other “revelation”. The inevitable conclusion of this was that, after seventeen years, we as a family left this church. It was the only church our children had ever been a part of, and we had invested much in it over the years. It has obviously been a painful time. I still have moments when I feel a sense of injustice in the way we were treated, but mostly I feel an enormous relief and sense of gratitude that we are out of a situation in which I had felt uncomfortable with for several years.
A number of friends have also left for similar reasons, so we’ve been able to meet together in a sort of “home group” which has helped us on our journey forward.
Its been an opportunity to re look at what church is, and how to be church. It’s propelled me more than ever to dig into the Bible to search out truth. And to know that God’s truth really does set me free.
And, having become quite wary, even scared of “spiritual ministry” because of what I’d seen and experienced, it’s been good to know the gentle healing work of the Holy Spirit in my life.
I’ve enjoyed going to Messy Church and Messy Mums at our local Anglican Church, where I’ve received kindness and wisdom. It’s good to be part of church in our most local community. We are also slowly starting to go to Sunday services at the small Baptist church in the next village. Again, we have been loved and welcomed; the teaching is excellent and the girls enjoy it. I’ve been praying for a couple of good local friends for Sparkly Eyes for a while, and there are three other girls her age who also go to this church. It seems an answer to prayer. It’s small, with very few teenagers, yet several adults with a heart for youth. So, I’m not sure quite what will work for the boys, but they enjoy the teaching. Several of their closest friends also left our old church around the same time, so they get together regularly now.
And I’m also, amazingly, starting to see some doors open and things fall into place over matters I’ve been praying about for years.
So, it feels like we are in the blessed position of standing at a crossroads and being able to make some decisions. I want to make wise choices, and we are taking this summer to specifically pray and seek God’s way forward for us. A Bible verse which seems very relevant is,
”Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16
This was spoken to the people of Judah before they went into exile in Babylon. God was urging them to stop chasing foreign gods and to look instead to the tried and true ways that their Godly ancestors lived. Sounds restoring to me!
Rest for my soul sounds good…..I know my days are crammed so full at the moment, it is difficult to keep my soul, never mind our home as a place of rest and peace, which is a priority for me. So, we are praying and asking God how we can walk in these ancient pathways in our modern world. Out of something painful, we have new opportunities; He is indeed working things together for good (Rom 8:28).