Holidays give us an opportunity to switch off and slow down, and when we do, we’re often more open to hearing God speak. Jackie Parsons shares some inspirational thoughts from a recent holiday in Dorset

Wish you were here… paddling with me
I was paddling along the water’s edge, the sun warm on my back and the waves cooling my feet. The pebbles on the beach looked grey and brown, boring and ordinary. Then a wave suddenly washed over them and they were transformed: gleaming, sparkling, and revealing their true colour and beauty. And I thought, is this not what the Holy Spirit wants to do when he washes over us? We may feel dull and brown and ordinary, but when he comes he enables us to shine and reveal our true beauty.

I remembered how Jesus transformed ordinary drinking water into delicious, celebratory, expensive wine; how he turned a little boy’s simple picnic into a mass catering triumph and, of course, how the apparent defeat of his death became the glorious triumph of the resurrection.

When I checked this out in my Bible, I found this beautiful description of how the Lord transforms us. It’s from Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth: “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Of course the transformation will only be complete when we see Jesus face to face (1 John 3:2). Meanwhile we are all a ‘work in progress’.

So I‘m praying: Lord, when I’m feeling dull and grey and ordinary, let me open my arms and my heart wide to receive a refreshing shower from your Spirit. May he fill me up so that your life and compassion can flow through me to others.

Wish you were here… to see the old become new
One rainy day my husband and I decided to visit a National Trust property, Barrington Court. This was the first large property to be purchased by the Trust and it almost caused the charity’s financial ruin. Both the house and the Trust were saved when Colonel Abram Arthur Lyle, of Tate and Lyle fame, leased the house from the Trust and proceeded to restore it.

Arthur loved wood and couldn’t bear to see it thrown away. He had amassed a great collection of wood panelling, carvings and other wooden items, and with the help of an architect he used this vast collection to restore the ruined house and create a home there for his family. Some of the carvings date back to 1647. My favourite was an old shop front, wooden panels, complete with metal bars and leaded lights, which he saved from being consigned to a skip in Kings Lynn. It now forms a stunning wall dividing the entrance hall from the family dining room. What vision! To see how old, abandoned material could be used to make something new and beautiful.

On a far more modest scale, I have in my home a picture of a lighthouse, carved and painted on a piece of driftwood. The artist took something literally tossed aside as useless and made it into something beautiful.

Is this not what God does with us? Lives in ruins can be made beautiful by his creative vision for us. Our God is master of the reclamation business. We are familiar with the phrase: past its sell-by date. But no matter how old we feel, we are God’s works of art, his masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10).

So I’m praying: Lord, I know that in your economy nothing is wasted and no-one is useless. Thank you that while there is breath in my body, you have a purpose for me, no matter how society may view me. Lord, open my eyes to your plan for me and give me the courage to embrace it.

Wish you were here… to see the treasures of darkness
We visited Charmouth, fossil capital of the Jurassic Coast and went to the Museum of Fossils on the sea front. Looking at the exhibits, I noticed that the best and most precious fossils were found in the winter months, when the sea is at its stormiest and pounds the cliffs the hardest. Then all the superficial silt is washed away, revealing treasures hidden for millennia.

So with us, when the storms of life are at their fiercest, we find God to be at his most precious, closer than he ever seems on the sunniest days. We discover him to be our treasure, a rock that cannot be shaken.

A couple of years ago, I was staying with a friend in Chile. I received a phone call from my husband who read me a one line e-mail from our son in Australia. “My wife has decided that our marriage is over. I shall be moving out of the family home as soon as I find a suitable place.” We had known that the marriage was in trouble, but this was the final devastating blow.

That night, lying awake and praying for my son, I sensed the Lord standing right next to my bed. He felt even closer than the duvet. I cannot put it into words, but I knew his tangible presence there in the darkness. The words of Psalm 139 rang true for me that night. “Even the darkness will not be dark to you” (verse 12). I am not saying that, in the strength of this experience, I sailed serenely through the following weeks. I still had many a wobble. But at other subsequent times of deep difficulty, I have again felt the Lord to be very close and very real.

So I’m praying: I will never ask you to send trouble to me. I can’t put my hand on my heart and say, Lord bring it on. But I can thank you for your closeness and the reality of your presence in the darkest of times. Thank you that you never fail.    

Five ways to listen to God while on holiday
• Slow down. Give yourself permission to move more slowly and deliberately slow down mentally too. You don’t have to keep an eye on the next few items on your to-do list. In fact, you can leave that to-do list at home.

• Take an interest in something different. Try a new hobby or visit new places. Opening your mind to new things may also open your mind to God’s voice.

• Take your Bible with you. Stop at some time each day to listen to God. You could read a different version from the one you normally use or maybe try a different approach like journalling or Bible meditation.

• Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you. It’s a prayer he loves to answer.

• Relish the moment. Look, listen and appreciate everything around you.