Archive for the ‘The art of love made known’ Category

sharing the little clay bird’s story

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

Then no, ow, OW! What was that awful scraping? He wanted to take the potter to task, who did he think he was making?! More slip tears squeezed from his little clay eyes as each tiny chisel caught him by surprise. Prodded and poked from every seeming direction, what had he done to deserve such destruction? The potter paused, he felt every tear and he held the little clay bird very, very near. And he whispered so gently, “this won’t take forever, but to fly you must have your beautiful feathers.”

The Little Clay Bird is a poignantly beautiful short story for all ages, written in rhyming prose, which explores one aspect of the relationship between ‘maker’ and ‘made’.

From the little clay bird’s perspective, things look bleak and he constantly doubts his sculptor’s affection for him whilst he is being formed. But the Potter – and increasingly the reader too – is in no doubt that this creation process is a labour of deeply focused love which will ultimately lead to something so good, the little bird can’t even quite imagine it.

We’re thrilled to be sharing it with you, and also to be bringing it to life as an art installation for the next month or so, as our last story window at 6 Church Street – offering passers by the chance to take a printed copy from our window-mounted dispenser too:


Special thanks to:

• our author, Liz Baddaley for giving us permission to share the story of The Little Clay Bird with you.

• our photographer and bird sculptor, Barbara Macnish for all her beautiful and brilliant work.

• our bunting shaper: Emily Tysoe for spending a mucky morning creating our template and organising help from…

Create Café (Victorian Arcade, Ilkley) for kindly lending us some of their pre-painted items to furnish our ‘potter’s studio’.


If you live anywhere near Ilkley, you can enjoy painting any of the biscuit items featured in our window (excepting the little clay bird himself!)  and more at Create Cafe’s brilliant premises this summer. To find out more, visit their website or call 01943 817788.

But wherever you live, our prayer is you’ll be blessed and inspired by the little clay bird’s story and the potter’s extraordinary love.

 

GE2017 – ready-to-send love

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

Last week we shared how prayer and discussion had led us to see the general election as a gift of opportunity – and the plans we were putting in motion to bless every candidate with an encouraging message of love that also spoke up for others who need courage and love. We promised you we’d share as much as we can in case you want to write to your own candidates too, so this blog is to do that:

Over the last week we’ve been crafting these cards, writing a bespoke message to each candidate in response to positive experience and achievements in their bios, continuing to pray for each one by name, and putting together a joint letter to them all to speak up for the most vulnerable in our society – and the kind of nation the UK could be.

We can’t share the personal messages we hand wrote in each YOU ARE LOVED card because they are specific to the individual candidates’ personal details and wouldn’t help you craft yours in any case.

But we found a bespoke way to thank each and every candidate for standing up publically, acknowledge the inevitable personal cost of doing so, assure them of our prayers and affirm everything in their record which showed their skill and/or track record of standing up for vulnerable people and important issues.

And we told them they are loved and valued by every one of us – whether we’re voting for them or not.

We also told them that we’d agonised over including the letter alongside the card because we just wanted to affirm them at such a stressful time, but that this election was too key not to also raise others who we are praying for – and value so deeply – too.

Here is the text we included in the text to that letter, in case you would like to lift it into something similar of your own to your candidates:

“Dear Ros, David, John, Kris, Paul and Matt,

As candidates in this general election – happening at such a key time in our nation’s history – we wanted to write to you as a praying community seeking to champion the value of each and every one in seven billion people alive today. We feel it’s a vital time to stand up for the kind of nation we want to be and to ensure that the most vulnerable in our world, nation and community are prioritised alongside everyone else.

To that end, we’re sharing this brief list of the issues that feel most important to all of us – no matter which party we are each voting for – for our next government (and whoever of you is elected to parliament) to address. We’ve not included much information; we know you will be deluged, but have bracketed at least one expert and trusted organisation’s website after each one so you can find out more if you want:

Global issues

National issues

Thank you so much for your time. God bless you all,

The Sanctuary’s praying community”

GE2017 – a gift of opportunity

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Those of us who gather to pray together at the Sanctuary come from widely different backgrounds. But there are some characteristics present in us all. Top of that list is having been so captivated by God’s love for us and every one in seven billion, we are now heaven-bent on embodying that love, as well as making it known.

In other words we’re constantly engaged with making a difference to the world – we’re daily praying and acting in response to headlines, issues of injustice and  community events. So when several of our pray-ers responded to a call to pray about the election with what can only be described as a kind of spiritual exhaustion, it was indicative of the wider atmosphere in our nation…

When the forthcoming snap election was announced last month, the news reports contained interviews with a number of people who expressed a sense of being ‘sick’ of politics… one woman was quoted again and again as saying there was ‘too much politics’.

Media, commentators and comedians have carried on this tone. It’s not so much election fever as election malaise. We know we have to engage with this election – we know how important it is; how crucial for determining not just the course of action ahead of our nation with respect to Brexit and other key issues, but perhaps for even defining what kind of nation we want to be.

We know.

And yet…

There is a palpable weariness.

Even among many of the most engaged.

But it’s vital we turn apathy to opportunity.

Everyone in our nation needs prayer to rise above the sense of heaviness, and to be told that there is hope – resilient, abiding, certain hope.

People standing for election need prayer for protection and need to be told that they are loved and appreciated for who they are in the face of an often gruelling ordeal which, for most of them – whether you agree with their policies and ideology or not – comes out of a desire to stand up for something they believe to be for the common good.

And candidates and parties need to be given help in shaping vision – not just lobbied on pet policies – of the kind of country we could be.

There are many ways to do the above. You will be praying and acting into them already.

But, in case it’s helpful for stimulating further prayer, ideas and actions, having wrestled passed that tiredness, and listened for what God was laying on our hearts, here’s how we’re seeking to respond to the opportunity GE2017 presents us to share God’s love and courageously stand for his priorities.

  1. First of all we’re seeking to share hope with everyone we engage in – not vague or politically based hope, but sure and certain Jesus hope. We’re doing this through prayer, in the tone of our conversations and resources and through sharing an art installation in the window of our current premises.
  2. Secondly, we’re praying for our nation and urging everyone in our national and global prayer network to continue to do the same at this crucial time. So we’re investing our time in writing communications like this one, and in creating prayers like Anchor us Lord so that we all remain focused on God’s heart throughout this process.
  3. Thirdly, we’re creating a special card for each of the six local candidates standing in our area and sending them a message of love, appreciation of the costs of standing for public office, and assurance of our prayers. At a time when most of what comes at them is demands, comparisons, polling pressure and criticism, we want to speak en-courage-ment and grace – no matter what their political stance is, or whether any of our pray-ers are likely to vote for them or not.
  4. And lastly, after much wrestling prayer and discussion, despite us feeling that item three is a huge priority for us – to proactive love those who many in our community will not at this time – we’re including a folded up letter in their cards which also speaks up for others we love; most especially the poor and vulnerable.

We’re going to be honest with them, sharing that we agonised about whether to include this because we want the main message they receive from us to be about them, but that we felt this election was too crucial not to speak up for who and what we believe Jesus is leading us to champion.

Because – as we said above – this election is about who we want to be as a nation as we enter Brexit negotiations, redefine law and much more. It is about choosing a character as well as a course.

We’d love you to join us in seeking to speak and embody hope – especially Jesus-rooted hope – at this time where there is such a pervasive sense of drifting and uncertainty.

We’d love you to keep praying with us for the nation at this vital time.

But can we also go one further, and ask you to think about joining us in finding a way to express honest words of appreciation and love to all your candidates? And to consider enclosing something alongside this that speaks up for the voiceless to them with love and respect – something that voices a larger, kingdom-inspired vision for who our nation could be.

You will have your own list of policies you feel are vital, but we are choosing to highlight serving the global poor, protecting vulnerable groups within our own nation and caring for the environment well – and doing this by referring to the specific recommendations made by the following, trusted expert organisations in reference to this election.

  1. Christian Aid
  2. Tearfund
  3. Traidcraft
  4. Age UK
  5. Shelter
  6. The Children’s Society
  7. The Wildlife Trusts
  8. Friends of the Earth

Next week, once we’ve put our own communications to our own candidates together, we’ll share a bit more of the visuals for their card, the tone of the message we write, and the text we’re developing in case you want to use that more directly.

But whatever you do, we’re praying for you – and us –  to keep receiving God’s hope, love, vision and courage to see GE2017 as an opportunity – an opportunity to share his hope, love, vision and courage even wider.

For his sake, his kingdom’s sake, the UK’s sake and the sake of every one in seven billion he so loves. Amen.

 

anchor-strong hope

Monday, May 15th, 2017

We’re thrilled to be sharing this visible, joyful representation of the anchor-strong hope we have – especially in the light of so much uncertainty in our nation surrounding Brexit and the upcoming general election, as well as the personal situations of so many individuals who will come past the Sanctuary’s base over the next few days and weeks.


Inspired by Hebrews 6:19, our under-water writing proclaims a rock solid reality to rely on:

“There is a hope so strong it’s an anchor for our restless souls…

… a constant, life-line connection to eternal, immovable Love.

It’s sure and steadfast – it can’t be broken or weakened, even when the seas get rough and the storms throw their very worst at us.

Still then, this anchor-hope holds firm and true.

His name is Jesus.”

As so often at the Sanctuary, what God reveals to us in prayer to share with others is also vital and life-giving truth to cling onto ourselves.

And right now, as the Sanctuary faces a season of transition where we move towards a new base and new ways of working, we’re glad of this reminder too!

It is Jesus who is our fixed point and home… and it is the inner sanctuary of communion with him that is our best and permanent dwelling place.

Our prayer is that many people will find hope as a result of seeing this art installation – and that all of us in the Sanctuary’s praying community (especially locally) will do the same!

 

his-story window

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

For weeks, an author, an artist, two theological editors, one scientific editor and a total practical whizz have been squirreled away working together on this joy-bringing project. And today, we finally finished bringing it to life! So here it is; our Easter window – turning both panes of our picture window into an open his-story book, featuring the story of everything… with the cross where it belongs, right at the very centre.

We’re so excited about sharing this with thousands of people over the coming few weeks, and about the Easter cards we’re making featuring it for people to help themselves to from the dispenser on our door from later on this week onwards…

If you can’t zoom in on it all, here’s the text:

“In the beginning, there was cosmic sound.

Light, then life, burst out: expanding, multiplying….

The author spoke; God’s voice started his-story. And it was good!

God loves every person he creates. He doesn’t control them. (Love coerced is not love.)

But freedom has consequences. We often reject God’s best ideas for our inter-twining stories.

We try to write our own destinies – to make it our story.

More consequences; self-centred sub-plots always lead to pain, injustice and death for someone… eventually, for everyone.

 

Selfishness was our choice; not God’s.

He chose to save us from ourselves, to restore his-story by writing himself into our broken stories as Jesus.

He used his freedom perfectly – to bring life to everyone.

We killed him for it. But his nail-pierced hands had always planned to carry our selfishness and its consequences. …

No story can hold its own author in a grave…

JESUS IS ALIVE!

His plot is scandalously generous: a new beginning if we only believe and receive God’s gift…

Trade your story for his, and live the freedom you were created for – a life that brings life.

Afterwards? There’s a bigger story waiting; with no more disastrous sub-plots.

That’s why Easter matters.

But the choice remains… his-story or yours?”

Special thanks to Liz Baddaley, Alison Helliwell-Hodson, Kevin Macnish, Fiona Schneider, Jill Andrews, Katherine England and Barbara Macnish for all their help.

celebrating fairtrade with Mervis

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

Over the last few weeks, our team, including artist Barbara Macnish, have been pouring hours into preparing what we think may even be the world’s first piece of art painted on tea-bags! It was all done for love; we wanted to help thousands of people think about the people who really bring them their tea, and to consider choosing Fairtrade as a result…

This creative act – and the time lavished on preparing it and its setting – has been a celebration of God’s image in Mervis Kejinga, the tea-picker from Satemwa, Malawi who features in it. And just a small reflection of his love for her and his desire for her voice, and story, to be heard.

As Barbara herself said, she could never create something as beautiful as God did when he designed and made the real Mervis!


We are all connected. And every product we buy is brought to us because of people. It has  real people with real lives hidden behind it. And if we saw them face to face, knew their names and understood just how much their struggles and triumphs are connected to our lives, we might well choose to use our purchasing power differently:


If you want to find out more about how this incredible piece of art was created, scroll further on in the blog…

Because for now, we want to share the story we’re trying to tell with Mervis’ help with you…

Who brings you your tea? Hopefully it’s someone like Mervis…

Because Mervis works on the Satemwa tea estate in Malawi, which has been Fairtrade certified since 2007.

So much has changed here in just 10 years, that there’s not room on these tea-bags to tell you all the good news. But here are some of the  highlights…

Fair pay for picking tea means the children here now go to school and parents can buy nutritious food, proper shelter and basic furniture; some families have started a small business or bought a radio, mobile, goat or bicycle!

And together, the community have funded amazing things like a maternity wing, a fresh water supply for 4,500 people, new classrooms, safe roads, solar powered electricity for 1,100 houses, mosquito nets, malaria drugs …

Ordinary things you’d expect hard working people like Mervis to be able to afford – but which they actually  couldn’t if people like you weren’t buying Fairtrade tea.

Currently, buying certified tea is the ONLY way to ensure the people picking your tea are paid enough to live on…and in some places – such as Assam in India, it is the ONLY way you can help protect desperate tea-pickers from saying yes to people traffickers who promise to give their daughters a better future.

So, please remember Mervis when you shop, and look for the Fairtrade symbol on the tea and other products you buy:

So how did we end up painting Mervis onto tea-bags? And how was it possible?

During times of prayer at the Sanctuary, around both trade and trafficking issues, there had been a sense that we wanted to create an art installation that spoke up for the people behind some of the products we buy, and to connect people passing our current premises with these real individuals, and the risks and challenges they can often face.

Again in prayer, the idea came to one of our co-founders, Liz Baddaley, to focus on tea, trade and trafficking… and to create a canvas out of tea-bags on which a tea-picker could be lovingly painted.

So she asked one of our artists – Barbara Macnish – if this would be possible, and if she would be willing to generously give her time, love and skill, to serve the people behind our products in this way.

Barabara said yes… and so Liz made her first visit to a timber yard(!),  acquired a 1m x 1.2m piece of mdf board, and then stapled more than 300 Fairtrade Clipper tea bags on to it in preparation for Barabara to begin painting…

Then, Barbara built up layers of tissue paper into a kind of papier-mache sculpted surface on top of the tea-bags, ready to paint Mervis on to this. If you look closely you’ll also see that some of the braiding in Mervis’ hair was then ‘painted’ with tea itself. Mixed media art at its finest – wow!

We then had further fun as a team, designing and crafting original bunting and information posters using a photo of a clipper tea-bag as our base design… and hanging just a bit of crockery to add the finishing touches!

Thank you so much Barbara Macnish for all your hard and loving work, Mervis Kejinga for being willing to share your image, name and story with the Fairtrade Foundation and Martine Parry and everyone else at the Foundation for their help and permissions…

Thank you also – as always – to God, for the ideas and inspiration to share his love in new ways as we intercede with him… and to Liz for having the guts to say yes and run with overseeing yet another slightly crazy project all for love.

Our prayer is that everyone who sees this window, and the artwork from it in the media and social media, and in further exhibition spaces in the future, will be connected to the infinite value of the people behind the products they buy…


If you’d like to join us in prayer for economic justice and fair trade, please visit the search by issue index page of our online worship resources library to find songs, written prayers and creative ideas to help you.

putting our hearts out there…

Monday, February 13th, 2017

At the Sanctuary, 14 February has become our favourite day of the year! Because showering our town with love is a really fun way for us to celebrate and share the greatest love we’ve ever known. Earlier this month, we filled our window with love and over the last few days we’ve been  squirreled away crafting 282 gifts to go out beyond our walls and through the letterboxes of every shop, office and restaurant around us. We can’t wait to bless every team in town. But for now we just have to be patient and wait till nightfall when everywhere is closed….

loved unconditionally

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

We’re just a week away from one of our very favourite days of the year. Behind the scenes, our pray-ers are busy preparing some very special surprise gifts to bless everyone around us with. Following on from biscuits, chocolates, roses and cards, this year we’ve going with something people can keep… But meanwhile, our window is already blazing out this hope-filled truth to everyone driving or walking past:

The message we want every person to receive – that they are loved unconditionally – is accompanied by the use of adapted and extended song lyrics from a song we’ve found powerful to use in worship ourselves, and to share with others on the streets.

The bridge of Amanda Cook’s beautiful song ‘Pieces’ provides a series of statements describing what God’s love is not like, speaking hope, healing and promise into many damaging situations and relationships…

Whether people feel loved or not; whether they’re in a relationship or not, whether they’re happy with their status or not… we want to make it clear – they are loved. Unconditionally. By a love like no other. A love that’s constant, pure, engaged, present – a love revealed in Jesus.

You can listen to the whole of ‘Pieces’ here.

We’ll post again when we’re ready to share images of our gifts… (ed. here you go – here’s a link to our 2017 gifts.)

What could you do to spread the truth to those around you that they are loved too?

Want some pre-prepared ideas from previous years? Use our blog’s search facility and type in ‘loved’ and/or Valentine or have a look at our art of love made known gallery….

 

hope whatever comes

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

Old, new and social media have been full of it the last few days; looking back on 2016 with dismay, and ahead to 2017 with trepidation. But every new year – and every new morning – is a blank canvas waiting to capture more of God’s hope-filled, grace-charged transformation, especially in the bleakest places and situations. It’s all about where we choose to look… how we choose to see, and the picture we choose to paint for others:

So our resolution for 2017 is simply this:

“I will remember this – because of it I will have: hope whatever comes… God’s loving kindnesses never run out; they are new every morning. He is completely reliable.”

It’s not new wisdom. It’s ancient.

Its words are inspired by the words of Jeremiah (in Lamentations 3:22-23) who was intimately and tragically familiar with the worst this world can do, and broken by the mercy of a God who forgives and re-gives again and again and again.

New every morning. Great is his faithfulness.

Whatever the news brings, whatever is coming, we have this hope – new every morning and fresh every day.

Let’s not forget where we’ve been dwelling over Advent and Christ-with-us as we enter 2017.

Let’s not forget to keep looking expectantly for how he is entering each situation, and to keep celebrating the rememberance that his presence is still with us – always with us.

Though we still walk in great darkness, the light has come. We have seen it, and it has changed our perspective forever.

“Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.” (Isaiah 9:7)

Sometimes in our every day, it doesn’t look like light is even keeping up – let alone winning. But dig behind the myths and spin and you will find different stories: stories of extraordinary breakthrough and seismic, global change in education, peace, healthcare, poverty reduction, environmental protection and more…

And million about million testimonies of answered prayer and renewed courage.

Do not doubt it. He has accomplished all he set out to do – it is finished…

…and he is accomplishing all he has said he will do.

He holds all time and space in his hands, withholding final redemption only out of the greatest love and wisdom and insight.

And he will return to bring that final beautiful redemption in his perfect timing – and then we will see how every tear has been lovingly shared, and every loose end lovingly remembered and re-purposed.

So until then?

We need fear no uncertainty, no ending and no new beginning or what it might hold.

Christ behind us in 2016; Christ with us in January 2017; Christ before us in every day that is still to come.

 

giving peace away

Monday, December 12th, 2016

sparrow song had their last flight of the season on Saturday – singing Christmas wonder alongside the usual repertoire of hope-filled lyrics and heavenly harmonies. Many shoppers said how thrilled they were with this musical gift of peace… and also by the 100 Christmas tree decoration doves that we made to offer to those who heard it. Here’s a few pictures of them, together with the acrostic message we shared to explain why peace really can be given and received:

giving-peace-away-baskets-full

D is for please disarm our hearts and
O is for please help us overcome our differences and begin to forgive;V is for the vulnerability we know this bravery takes and brings, and
E is for the everyone peace must be born in to really fly.

S is for just one single, simple, sparrow falling,
Precious enough for God to notice and grieve;
A fraction then, compared to how he loves us, each and every one.
Rest assured then, this Christ-with-us, there is always hope.
Really, truly, this is why Jesus came; to show us that love –
Only simple, sacrificial love – always wins. And that is
Why, and how, there truly can be peace on earth.
So let it be born in each one of us again God, and let it fly!

giving-peace-away-gift

giving-peace-away-gift-reverse

A big thank you to sparrow song, Stephanie and Jill! Just a few hands (and voices) make light work… and can fly together beautifully to give peace away to hundreds of people!

We’re praying now that each dove that has flown home with someone will make it onto their tree and remind them again and again of our prayers and Jesus’ love and peace – given for them, and for the world he so loves.

giving-peace-away-making