"Remember, the wilderness is a holy place, it's where you'll meet God" - Fr Robert, St. Martin's Church
“Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come; ’Twas grace that brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home.” - John Newton
Hello my friends,
Can you relate to the quote or hymn verse above?
I do not like discomfort. I think as a people we're ever trying to inch towards greater comfort, away from pain, inconvenience, suffering, hardship, loneliness, fear, all the icky stuff. Yet it has been in the hard places of my life that I've felt a greater reality of God's grace. These 'dangers, toils and snares' have been the spiritual gym equipment by which faith was strengthened.
My struggles have given me confidence moving forward to know God is with me. They've given me an experiential journal to reflect back on in new seasons of testing, believing he'll carry me through once again.
Jesus was led into the most arid, dry, lifeless place, by the Holy Spirit. There was absolutely nothing to sustain him. Death seemed close. Some of you have stepped out recently and are wondering if God has brought you there to kill you.
"Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness . . .
I remember one time when I was travelling with my music. Despite lingering anxiety attacks I'd committed to a service in Toowoomba, Queensland, that's Down Under in case you're wondering. I was staying in a host family's home the night before and sat alone in my room going over the set for the next day. The cold grip of panic began to tighten around my throat before sitting on my chest. I felt like a cornered rat with a knife looming overhead. "Are you trying to kill me!" I cried out, tremors ran through my body, "Yes", came the short reply. Scripture bubbled up inside me as I sat with my bible open;
"Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become."
2 Cor 12: 8-10 The Message
I actually laughed out loud, "Bring the knife then Lord, let it happen and set me free from myself". It had never occurred to me to actually welcome and embrace weakness, because well, its weak. But in trying to be strong in my own will and muscle I was limiting what God could do in and through me.
Surely I had been led here by God, to this little bed where I huddled in the corner, weak and afraid. But God was with me, strengthening me to hardship and, I would come out of this in power.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit"
What awaits us on the other side of a test is power.
So friends, can I encourage you today to lean in to the season that feels so hostile, so uncomfortable. You will see God there.
Did you know I link every book, film, recipe etc in the Beagle? Where you see words highlighted, simply click the link.
"The spiritual, however, was not first, but the natural, and then the spiritual."
1 Cor 15:46
Dick Van Dyke just celebrated his 97th birthday and recently took part in the USA show The Masked Singer. I don't watch the show but I watched the clip of his uplifting performance and big reveal. It was very moving, I cried. Dick has shared some of his secrets to a fruitful long life:
"I still go to the gym three days a week and work out. And I advise everybody to do that, because that's what ages people — it's just a stiffening up and not exercising their muscles and their lungs. Exercise is the answer,"
Getting older is inevitable but decaying isn't.
This holds true for our life of faith.
I've spoken to many people who feel dry spiritually. I've experienced it, the loud silence between me and God. Or maybe you're bored, the life of the scriptures has been dissected out of it through too much teaching. Perhaps you're disillusioned, angry, confused, because of life events that have broken your heart. Could you be afraid of God as bad teaching has made you feel like God's enemy?
Can I let you in on a little not-so-secret secret?
If you're feeling stuck spiritually, do something natural.
I have found that as I give myself to a disciplined mindset in my daily routine; whether eating habits, exercise, work or any other area you might think of, the practice of focus flows through to your spiritual life.
Looking after yourself can breath new life into you spiritually.
In 1 Kings 19, overcome with fear, fatigue and doubt, Elijah runs to the desert to die. He finds a bush, sits down under it and asks God to take his life. When God finds him he's asleep, a defeated wreck. God didn't reprimand him, get him to pray or fast. He gave him a hot cooked meal and some cool refreshing water. Elijah, tummy filled and feeling somewhat comforted, takes a second nap. An angel touches him to wake him and gives him a second meal. He needs strength for what's ahead. Sometimes it's the basics that lift your spirits and make you feel like yourself again, help you believe you can make it one more day. You can move on from there spiritually. This is another beautiful illustration of God meeting with us in the wilderness of our lives.
First the natural, and then the spiritual. Do something. Move. Provide an opening for fresh inspiration to pour in. Maybe set yourself a period of weeks to try it out and see if things improve. Let me know?
. . . .They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green,
My new go-to read, study, focus Album. Astrosat by Applefish. This is an excellent soundtrack for breathwork.
I'm loving this podcast. As someone who likes to learn, grow and people-study, this ticks all my boxes. The Diary Of A CEO with Steven Bartlett
I have more tulips for you this month. The pinks and purples are so deep and rich and perfectly contrast the backdrop. I took these images to showcase the new vase I bought. It's actually an outdoor planter but closes resembles the vintage Conit pots I covet but are above my pay grade. I snapped it up for £20 from M&S and it will be in good use for many years I hope. Unless I drop it! I'm notoriously clumsy 🤦🏼♀️
Do you recall last month I shared the headstone backdrop I'd layered into an image? I went back to the churchyard a couple of weeks ago and captured more. I've now created a folder in Photoshop and will use this to play around with in future.
I like the juxtapose which classical still life presents between fresh new life in flower and the dead animals in a scene. The Dutch Masters were often influenced by faith or religious themes, they were saying to the rich society 'Look at all the abundance we have and, we're all going to die'. This does make me chuckle.
I shared this image over on Instagram, it's one of my favourites I think. If you look to the lower middle right you'll still see the inscription.
Here is a duplicate image side by side, the right picture has the headstone backdrop. Which do you prefer, clean cut or textured and gritty?
To pray you open your whole self To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon To one whole voice that is you. And know there is more That you can’t see, can’t hear; Can’t know except in moments Steadily growing, and in languages That aren’t always sound but other Circles of motion. Like eagle that Sunday morning Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky In wind, swept our hearts clean With sacred wings. We see you, see ourselves and know That we must take the utmost care And kindness in all things. Breathe in, knowing we are made of All this, and breathe, knowing We are truly blessed because we Were born, and die soon within a True circle of motion, Like eagle rounding out the morning Inside us. We pray that it will be done In beauty. In beauty.
I was having a low day of the soul a couple of Sundays ago. I decided to grab the dog and head off into the woods. We started off in our usual track and trails, I carried my heavy heart before God as we walked. As we entered the heart of the woods I heard a high cry above us. I looked to see three Red Kites circling, a winged trinity. One perched just above me. I was caught up in awe. I swelling sense of feeling seen crept over me. I felt held, my heart was swept clean as the poem says. I didn't know of this poem but discovered it the next day, serendipitous. I think this experience beautifully illustrates the point of doing something natural to create a spiritual opportunity.
I captured some of my experience on my phone. Listen to the beautiful calling. In the second clip you can clearly see the Kite calling out at the start and end. You can hear Alba tromping around too 😁
"Hurry is a hard habit to break and noticing is a discipline easily eroded" - Marilyn McEntye, When Poets Pray
Top Posts on Social Media you might have missed
I have a photo on my studio wall of a six year old me, playing in the sand. What is she dreaming I wonder?
By the time that photo was taken my alcoholic, biological father had left, taking with him my eldest sister. I’d been separated from my mum for a short time and, seen one new step-dad come and go.
There I am, playing happily., wearing that red striped cotton dress I loved and the dainty watch on my wrist. Pony tail and care free, at least I seemed so.
There’s a trending filter on TikTok that makes you look 10 years younger. Some of them are silly, funny, but there are those that make women cry. They see that young self and are overcome with compassion and love. They want to go hug and comfort her.
It’s not until you’re older that you realise how your childhood shaped you. It’s too common to press on, pushing feelings down, ignoring strange emotions and behaviours. We are adults now we tell ourselves, that’s in the past. But the little girl inside still needs to be seen, heard and validated.
Don’t ignore the feelings you’re having. If you need to talk to someone, do it for her.
Don’t let go of the dreams you still have, no matter your age or situation. Do it for her.
Take courage to make the changes you so desperately need to make. Do it for her.
Every time I do the inner work, create art, write a piece, go to the gym, accept love into my life, I do it for her, that little girl playing in the sand.
Love and blessings to you all today ❤️
Stop spiritualising everything ❌
HRT does not stand for Hell’s Rotten Tablets.
Hormones are not a thing to be prayed up, down, away. Go see a Doctor, your faith won’t be diminished. Have faith in the right course for you, whatever that is 👩🏼⚕️
You most likely won’t cure a hormone imbalance with prayer. But sure, pray about what to do about it 💊
Don’t diagnose your spiritual condition or position, when your hormones are out of whack. God still loves you and is with you, even though you might feel like a hot (literally) mess right now. You’re all good 🥵
A mood swing is not a sign of your faith. Moods swing, they’ll swing back 😇
Someone might need to hear this today 🌟
More often than not, through the influence of our environment, family, culture, society, job, religion, we're shaped and conditioned into someone we might not choose for ourselves.
You is buried under you.
When I first left the cult I didn't know my own mind; what clothes to wear, what music to listen to, which decision to make? I lost my ability to trust myself and more importantly, God.
There's so much piled upon us throughout our lives; labels, opinions, other people's expectations, it's like rubble heaped upon our soul.
At some life points we might take stock of things. Milestone occasions such as a birthdays, a new year or health crisis.
We begin to hear a faint little cry from somewhere deep down.
Can I tell you why I'm committed to the process of recovering myself? Can I share a shocking story I'm ashamed of but which perfectly highlights the WHY that drives me?
See February's Beagle for the story.
I am a little water bird dipping in and out of these through March:
And hold me to it, I will try to finish A Gentleman In Moscow this month!
[These are Amazon affiliate links. The Beagle is free so every little helps]
The Vow, on Netflix. Starring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum. I think Channing is such an underrated actor.
Morten Hilmer has a new wildlife photography video out. I find his work not only beautiful but very peaceful. The music he uses is very soothing.
[Occasionally my recommendations may not be for everyone. My choice of films, books etc are based on my particular tastes and tolerances. Just a note for my G-rated friends]
Important News & Until next time
As of March 10th I will no longer be with my email service Mailchimp. They've just announced they will be charging $27 per month for accounts with my size audience. As a free publication I can't support this change. From next month you will hopefully receive a notification from my web host Wix. If you don't see the April Beagle please check your spam/junk folders and email me if it's not there.
I will be launching my Substack space in the coming weeks. I'll let you know when it goes live. I'm going to write more, especially more spiritual formation content but I'll also host poetry readings, behind the scenes on my photography and other goodies. There will be a free tier and a paid for subscription.
I'm in the process of setting up a Forum here on my website. Maybe we can connect further through interesting conversation threads and topics. Again, I'll keep you posted.
And so friends, do drop me a line any time, I love to hear from you, and I still have a couple of replies to make today, I'm so sorry for my delay!
May Your March
May your March be threaded through with Peace.
May your March lead you forward Gently.
May your March wilderness only bring you out in Power.
May your March be Kind.
May your March be about Self-Care.
May your March be filled with Laughter.
May your March be Healthy.
May your March point you to pondering Christ.
Take care kindred souls,
Snaps from home
Expect some heavily featured Italian vibes 🇮🇹
One of my dear friends celebrated my birthday (in Jan) by cooking me a homemade Southern Italy pasta dish in her home. I made a little Reel. I've never in my life had deep fried spaghetti! It was Theresa's first time making it also. The sauce was a mixture of beans and fresh pasta. There was homemade seeded sour dough, Anti Pasto with green tomatoes from her garden, a sip of Itaian wine, Bellissimo!
The most hilarious 'Snow drop/Xbox' birthday cake 😂 She loved me well.
Theresa dropped by today and gave me an Italian lesson using Baci chocolate, these words were inside the wrapper 💚🤍❤️
We had a beautiful baby shower for my dear friend last month, lots of baby cuddles were had. My daughter put on a wonderful Valentine's table and we feasted on gnocchi, cake and, love of course. I caught up with my other dearest friend Sally Clarkson and joined the Monday night Oxford group for study and friendship. Can you believe the beautiful hand sculpture candle holder I got for £1 in a charity shop! And finally, my silly praying dog and how she puts up with me! 😝