This week has been a bit of a spiritual rollercoaster for me, and I feel the only way to make sense of any of it is to write about it. This will help me I know, but I'm hoping there is something in it which will help you too.
Last week, we hosted the launch of a brand new book by Belfast-based author and illustrator Beverley Healy. It was the first major event we have hosted since we opened our shop. We always want to support local. It's an important thing for us. We have a designated section for books that have been written by authors, yes from East Belfast where our shop is, and the surrounding area, but indeed there are authors from all over Ireland in that section. And some of the gifts we sell have been handmade by talented local artists and crafters. We know as a shop how difficult it can be to start up an independent business, and a lot of our crafters are starting up too. We want to be a platform for them, A means of support to get them started, or encourage them if we can. Some of them are doing it just for the love of doing it, because that is where their gift is. But they all share one common goal, because everything they do is soaked in Scripture. They're spreading God's word in the most beautiful and creative ways they can. And this goes for both crafters and the authors too. And when a friend of the shop brought Beverley to us over the Summer, we jumped at the chance to support her also, and we were thrilled that she accepted our invitation to launch her book in our shop.
Her book is called 'Abraham's Stars.' It is a short book, but with deep meaning. And just like it is for many of our crafters, inspiration for the book is deeply rooted in the Bible, and on God's promises both to characters like Mary who received the promise that she would give birth to a King. And also, Abraham, whom God promised that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in heaven. A promise that at the time it was made was ludicrous because Abraham's wife Sarah was barren. But now, when we look to the heavens and see the stars, it is a reminder that God is faithful to His promises, no matter how ludicrous or impossible they seem at first. And this book, in Beverley's words, is 'an illustrated journey through the fields of hope and promise.'
I read this book a few days after we launched it, and shortly after I had also received news that someone who had been instrumental to me in my faith journey had died suddenly. I didn't realise how instrumental he was to my faith until he had gone. But sometimes that's the way it goes isn't it? When someone dies, a void is left. At the funeral I was struck by the amount of people I knew in attendance, and all from different walks of my spiritual journey, which just goes to show that he was just as instrumental to them too. Even though there is immense grief with any loss, I couldn't help but feel a sense of peace, which thankfully I did get reassurance that sometimes that feeling can happen, particularly when it surrounds such a spiritual person and their family. But maybe there was another reason for that?
In the shop this week, we've been listening to Matt Redman's new album 'Glory Song.' When an album is on repeat throughout the day, you don't necessarily 'listen' to it, but the words still soak into your sub conscious somehow. And I found in preparing for the funeral as well as reading Beverley's book, the words that kept flooding in was 'He is Faithful, He is Faithiful. Yes, you are faithful, God, to the end.' Words that just speak to me of a guy, who was ultimately a mentor to me, and that God was faithful to him to the end. How much more then will God also be faithful to us? Maybe therein lies our own sense of peace.
On top of all of this I have witnessed this week so many God-driven events in people's lives. God fulfilling His promises in others. And at the same time, I feel God has been prodding at me too. This has been going on for a while now, but this week especially I've been feeling His hand close to me. I've received words for people which I have passed on, and words have been shared with me too. 3 different people this week have shared the word 'deep' with me. Wether that's a sense that I need to go deeper into God's word, or that God is going deeper into me, or indeed if I need to draw deeper from the 'well' as a means of reaching others; maybe it's all 3, but it's so exciting and encouraging when a word is received and then is backed up three-fold!
Going deeper into God's Word has to be the starting point for us all. I'm reading the Bible every day this year. It's the first time I've done this in a very long time. I went through a period of not even opening it. So maybe this is why I'm feeling God close to me, beacuse I'm starting to listen to Him through his Word. And through the help of the Holy Spirit, I am responding to that. In His Word, are His promises! In His Word, His promises are fulfilled. When we go deeper, we realise that this applies to us too! If His Word is deep in us. If His very Spirit is deep in us, and if we respond to that, God will honour us and fulfill his promises to us. We need to read, to listen, and respond.
I was going to end the blog there, but that was before I went to church this morning! In was our Harvest today. It's one of my least favourite seasons in the year, but today I was really struck by the importance of the festival, particularly the reading from Psalm 107, which speaks of those whose trade involves a journey on the seas. Merchants, fishermen, seafarers etc. And then comes this verse
'They saw the works of the Lord, his wondrous deeds in the deep.' (Psalm 107:24)
To go deep, we need to travel don't we? I don't mean we all need to go out and buy a boat. But we do need to embark on a journey. There's the journey in taking those fiirst steps to read the Bible in the first place, and then there's our response to it by stepping out in faith. As the psalm goes on we see that there are troubles ahead. Storms arise and courage melts. But then we cry out to God in trouble, and he helps us. He calms the storm. He builds up our strength. And why? Because we made that journey in the first place. Because we stepped out in faith. Because we journeyed deeper. He sees that. He blesses that. Because He is faithful!
I want to end this with words from William Wiberorce that were printed in the order of service, which were a real sense of encouragement, and I hope they help you too as a new week, and a new journey begin for you.
'Things great have small beginnings. Every downpour is just a raindrop; every fire is just a spark; every harvest is just a seed; every journey is just a step because without that step there will be no journey; without that raindrop there can be no shower; without that seed there can be no harvest.'