The Wilderness

Dear Friends,

ONE day I was surrounded by desert sand, then at night it rained and in the morning I looked onto a carpet of colour. When I woke up I was in the same place as the night before, but it looked so different. Thats what God can do!

The wilderness is a place most of us will probably say we dont want to go, but it is the place we must be. It is the place where only a few people live, but it is the place where God is an ever present provider for those who trust.

I have the above photograph I took in about 1982 that reminds me of that amazing experience of a dusty emptiness being filled with life. The picture is of a girl celebrating in the desert of Turkana in Northern Kenya. She was hungry. She was thirsty. She was naked. She was often sick and she was a prisoner of where she lived. She was all of that (Matthew 25: 31-45) and more, but she was somewhere we all long to be: Closer to God than anyone can be! The wilderness will set us free.

When we walk with Jesus we are led by the Spirit and encouraged by the blessing of our Father who loves us. That Love for us is unconditional, but the wilderness is where OUR love for God will be most evident. The wilderness is where the world doesnt want to be, but is where the Kingdom of God is most likely to be because people trust in the Word as their Daily Bread more than the World and its wealth. God wasnt being tested by this child in Turkana, but trusted. The child wasnt being distracted by the world, but attracted to worship God and so, I hope, Satan gave up on this child and let Love bless her with the healing presence of angels! Read again Matthew 4: 1-11.

Disciples are people who follow Jesus, but they also change their mind and the wilderness is a place we dont want to go. Even less so to the cross. We are led by the Spirit into the wilderness because that is where we are alone with God and trust in the Love of our Father to provide and protect. We look forward to escaping from the wilderness at the end of Lent and enjoying again the things of the world we have sacrificed. However, this is not a physical location to depart from, but our spiritual place for us to remain with.

It is not a 40 day experience for Lent in which we can give up things we can do without, but a lifetime (40 years or more) journey of faith and trust that God will provide. The wilderness is an attitude within us to last for a lifetime so that the trust in God will always be with us. The devil left Jesus to be replaced by angels, but the wilderness attitude of trust in his Father remained with him so please, take your wilderness with you! Jesus did because that was his ministry and if we are following him we will always be in the wilderness trusting that God will change it.

If you are in the wilderness and feel that you want to get out of it remember that the isolation, loneliness and fear will be made to look and feel so different when God sends refreshment from heaven to fill the emptiness with life. The wilderness is our place to be and we can trust that God will make it different! I pray that you will wake up one morning and your wilderness will look very different because you have stayed in that place and trusted God to provide!

A Rocha UK will mark the 5th anniversary of Eco Church with a special online service next Friday, 26 March to give thanks and to look forward in prayer. Speakers will include friends from across the Eco Church community including the Church of Englands lead Bishop on environmental issues; The Right Reverend Nicholas Holtam, A Rocha UK CEO Andy Atkins and Helen Stephens, A Rocha UKChurch Relations Manager. Please register for this free event to receive a reminder and details on how to join this online service. A Rocha UK (ARUK) are a Christian charity working for the protection and restoration of the natural world and committed to equipping Christians and churches in the UK to care for the environment. You can find out more about our vision here.

Eco Church is A Rocha UKs award scheme for churches in England and Wales who want to demonstrate that the Gospel is good news for Gods earth. It helps churches of all denominations evaluate how they are caring for God’s creation across all their activities and gives guidance on how to become more sustainable. You can find out more here. This celebration event is open to all our partners and supporters, registered Eco Churches and also to those interested in joining Eco Church. Come and be inspired for the next five years and If you have any other questions about the online service please email uk@arocha.org

At our Church meeting last night Michael Payne and Judith Gibbons said they were retiring as Elders in the United Reformed Church. Sorry to remind them that once an Elder always an Elder so whether serving or not we look forward to celebrating BIG anniversaries in the years to come. Michael, who was also thanked for his service as Church Secretary, has been an Elder since 1979 when he was ordained at Carrs Lane, Birmingham and Judith was ordained 39 years ago at Elmwood, also in Birmingham. Yes, 45th and 40th anniversaries not far away! I wonder whether they will retire from retirement by then? For now, thank you!