Family Fun Day

The family fun day at Houghton Road Centre on Wednesday, hosted by Thurnscoe Pentecostal Church and organised by Dearne Churches Together, was a great way to spend Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day! Despite the cold outside, which prevented us playing crazy golf, we had 103 people altogether over the day, engaged in a variety of love-themed crafts:

Josh from the Salvation Army had fun decorating a heart-shaped cake with great concentration:

The atmosphere was lovely with lots of great conversations:

Our thanks to all who attended or helped in any way!

Helping our community

I have lived in this area for almost thirty-one years and still I find new places to explore. Looking after my granddaughter has meant discovering a whole host of new playgroups and children’s activities in the area and it’s so good to know there are so many people serving the community.

The family centre in Bolton-on-Dearne offers playgroups on Tuesday and Friday mornings (the Tuesday morning is from birth to twelve months and the Friday morning is for toddlers) as well as help and advice with breastfeeding (first Tuesday of every month) and runs different specialist courses for Mums-to-be and new Mums (baby massage, baby yoga etc. as well as first aid courses.) Such things can be a great way of connecting with other parents and children.

Kiddy Winx on Thurnscoe Business Park (just off Fields End Roundabout) is a play area and cafe for under 5s which offers great food, two safe areas and also hosts a variety of activities, including Barnsley Music Bugs on Thursday mornings, a fantastic group introducing babies and toddlers to music, instruments and sensory learning.

Sensory Planet on the Thurnscoe Industrial Estate (Princess Drive) is a play area with a difference, suitable for babies and toddlers, but specifically geared to children with special needs such as autism who benefit from the tactile environment and range of sensory toys and equipment. This high-quality area gives people a safe place to go and is an invaluable resource in our area.

People often say there is little for people to do in our communities, but I’ve found a wealth of community-based activities. The local libraries at Goldthorpe and Thurnscoe are a great starting point for finding out what groups are available (art classes, sewing classes, woodwork classes, photography club, choirs and so on) and also offer Story & Rhyme sessions for little ones, and Dearneside Leisure Centre offers a range of activities for all ages.There really is an awful lot going on in our communities and it’s good to support the different groups who work tirelessly to make our communities great places to live. Thank you!

 

Open our eyes

Elisha and his servant once faced a hostile army. (2 Kings 6:8-23) The servant was overawed by the force of the enemy’s army (2 Kings 6:15), but Elisha had confidence in God, assuring his servant that ‘those who are with us are more than those who are with them‘ (2 Kings 6:16) and praying ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’ (2 Kings 6:17) Ultimately, the servant’s eyes were opened to see ‘hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.’ (2 Kings 6:17) Spiritual vision can see the invisible and has faith in the sovereignty of God, even when it cannot see.

Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians was for spiritual wisdom and enlightenment:  ‘I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Eph 1:17-19) We need spiritual vision to know God better, to take hold of the hope to which He calls us (a hope that is resilient and enduring), to live in the security of the inheritance God has for us and to access the power of God which is available to all who believe. Such vision will ensure we thrive spiritually, secure in the knowledge that God is in control and that He is working all things together for good (Rom 8:28-29).

Stop, Look, Listen

Developing spiritual vision is something we must learn to do if we are to grow spiritually. The Bible is full of stories of people who had encounters with God: visions of God that forever changed their lives. We think of Isaiah, in the temple: ‘I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple’ (Is 6:1), a vision of the holiness of God which caused him to dedicate his whole life to serving God. (Is 6:8) We think of Ezekiel’s vision of God: ‘an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light’ (Ezek 1:4) which was the inspiration for a lifetime of creative, radical prophecy. We think of Daniel’s vision of ‘a man dressed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.’ (Dan 10:5-6) We think of Peter’s experience on the Mount of Transfiguration which he later described as being ‘eyewitnesses of His majesty.’ (2 Pet 1:16) We think of Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus when a dazzling light left him blinded but which gave him the courage and calling to be an apostle to the Gentiles. (Acts 9: 3-9) We think of John’s vision of the resurrected Jesus on the island of Patmos: ‘someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.’ (Rev 1:13), a vision which led to the book of Revelation. All of these encounters with God show us how spiritual visions can transform and shape our lives.

Whilst we cannot ‘make’ God appear to us in this way, the principles we use to teach children road safety have much to guide us in the art of preparing to encounter God.

STOP

We need to take time out of our busyness to stop and seek God. The context of that transfiguration which so affected Peter, James and John is prayer: Jesus took them up the mountain to pray. (Luke 9:28-29) When we pray, we actively stop our doing and enter into conversation with God. It’s in that place of communion and conversation that our spiritual eyesight is opened. As we draw near to God, He draws near to us. (James 4:8) Prayer must be both private and corporate. We need to stop and pray.

LOOK

A couple in love gaze adoringly at each other and never tire of telling the other of the beauty they see (‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’). Parents gaze in wonder at a newborn, counting the fingers and toes over and over again. We need to be prepared to gaze on the beauty of the Lord, to linger, to worship, to adore. The world says this is a waste of time, but we will never be ignited with passion for the Lord if we have not learned the secret of beholding…

LISTEN

We teach our children to listen for traffic as well as to look for it, and so in our relationship with God, we seek not only to see Him in all His glory, but to hear His voice, that voice of the Good Shepherd which will lead and guide us. (John 10:4) Listening is best done in silence; hence the need for quietness in our lives. ) When Peter, James and John are on the Mount of Transfiguration, they heard a voice from the cloud, God speaking to them, saying ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.’ (Luke 9:35) Vision and hearing go hand in hand, it seems, and as we ‘see’ God, we also hear His voice, giving us new purpose and direction.

Practise the STOP – LOOK – LISTEN steps and seek to encounter God wherever you are.

V Is For Vision

Vision – the ability to see – is one of our most useful senses, but spiritual vision‘the art of seeing things invisible’, in the words of Jonathan Swift – is something essential to a life of faith. We need God to open our spiritual eyes; without the work of the Holy Spirit, our eyes are veiled and blinded (see 2 Cor 4:3-4). When God unveils our eyes, it’s like a lightbulb comes on and we can perceive spiritual truth.

Spiritual vision requires us to keep an eternal perspective on life (see Rom 8:17, 2 Cor 4:17-18). Without this, we are like Asaph who, in Psalm 73, found himself struggling with the same kind of problems which can blunt our effectiveness and leave us restless and dissatisfied with God. He knew that God was good (Ps 73:1), but he found himself envying the godless whose lives of ease seemed to make his struggle for godliness seem pointless (see Ps 73:3-12). He felt the spiritual life consisted of punishment and difficulties, whereas the wicked prospered and had no cares, despite their disdain for God. Asaph needed a shift in perspective which only comes as we encounter God. ‘In the sanctuary’, things looked very different and he realised that God is in ultimate control of all mankind (see Ps 73:17-20) and that only God could satisfy him (Ps 73:27-28).

We too need spiritual long-term vision, ‘long sight’ which puts our present troubles into perspective as we meditate on God’s majesty, beauty, holiness and love. Only then will we have the faith, like Abraham, to see things that are not become reality (Rom 4:17), seeing the invisible become visible as we pray for God’s will to be done and His kingdom to come, here on earth, as it is in heaven.

 

The Greatest Gift

With Valentine’s Day approaching, Mark spoke this morning at Cherry Tree Court on 1 Cor 13:1-13, probably one of the most passages about love in the entire world. The Bible is a love story between humanity and God, showing us how we should love God and love one another. In the first three verses, we see how important it is for all spiritual gifts to be rooted in and motivated by love. 1 Cor 13:4-7 goes on to give us a description of love which mirrors God’s love: patient, kind, loyal, longsuffering, not envious, always seeking the other person’s good rather than one’s own deisres. This description always challenges us, for it reveals our imperfections, but it also reminds us that such love is only possible as we abide in God.

To say that love never fails (1 Cor 13:8) again focuses us on God’s constant, unfailing love, rather than on our own fickleness and inconstancy. The three virtues of faith, hope and love are all important, but ultimately faith will give way to sight and hope will give way to experience. Only love will remain into eternity.

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