Monday, 31 March 2014

To The Next Generation...


One generation will commend your works to another, and will declare your mighty acts. Psalm 145:4

Wednesday mornings are completely different to every other morning.  We get up early and drag ourselves off to a local school for Open The Book, when in 15-20 minutes we act out a Bible story each week.  The youngest children are only four, we get them to join in as much as possible with sounds and movement, and sometimes phrases.  Some of the older children get roped in too.  We are useless at remembering the words, so we either clutch on to script, or stick them on the back of props. Our acting is over the top, and the children love it!
It is so good to be passing on these stories to the next generation, continuing a tradition dating back to biblical times.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Beyond


But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t look on his face, or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for I don’t see as man sees. For man looks at the outward appearance, but Yahweh looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

This has to be one of my favouritest verses ever!
I love the fact that God chose the most insignificant, overlooked, irritating person, instead of his older, more experienced brothers with a proven track record. 
I find it very reassuring to know that God can use anyone, no matter how incompetent and pathetic they feel.

It is easy to be swayed by beauty or confidence, but physical beauty is the outer shell we present to the world.  God's vision isn't influenced by our exterior, he sees beyond it to our heart. He understands our motives, he knows the conflicting emotions that flow through us. He is aware of our anger and what will trigger it, long before the smoke is pouring out of our ears. When our hearts are pierced, he is already there, weeping over the wounds. He knows us completely and utterly, far better than we know ourselves. 
Yet he choses and uses us fallen, fallible folk - fantastic! 
Thank you, Lord!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Listening...


Then the Lord said to me, “The prophets prophesy lies in my name. I didn’t send them. I didn’t command them. I didn’t speak to them. They prophesy to you a lying vision, divination, and a thing of nothing, and the deceit of their own heart. Jeremiah 8:14

Lord, I wait, in the silence.
Listening.
Straining every nerve.
Wanting to hear your word.
Not wanting to miss a single syllable
Eager to comprehend every nuance.
Until you speak I will wait.
I will listen.
May I not speak with my own agenda,
eager to prove a point.
Instead, let my words be from you.
True
holy
pure
Not seeking human approval.
Come Holy Spirit.
Make it clear to me
what you want your people to hear.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Adrift


 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and entering into that which is within the veil;  
Hebrews 6:19

I feel like a ship on the sea, not anchored, nor on a journey. Thoughts flit through my head, I have done the research, I now need the Holy Spirit to help me translate into something that makes sense.

I am floundering, helpless, hopeless,  adrift in a sea of uncertainty.
My anchor is a mere decoration, and  not a particularly attractive one at that!  Rusting, ugly, battered, barnacled.
The ticking clock nags me - "Make a decision! Make a decision! Make a decision!" Its relentless ticking is laced with derision.
Yet without the clock I would have no need to arrive at my destination.  Ever!

I hate the feeling that I need to find a route, to decide which direction I should head. I have looked at the charts, but I cannot decide which way to go.  
Come Holy Spirit direct me, guide me empower me, lead me, direct me, use me.

Let me enter into the veil of your presence

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Calloused Beauty


How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace,
who brings good news,
who proclaims salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7


Beauty?  I wonder how you would define beauty?  If I asked all my friends I would get a variety of answers, but most would probably link to some part of creation.
When we are out exploring and we suddenly get a glimpse of the mist hanging in the valley, or fields of lavender, or a beautiful reflection and it is a "WOW!" moment, a moment when something stirs within us, and our response is almost instantaneous, an inbuilt expression of praise to something that is simply glorious.

Feet.  Feet that have walked a dusty road.  Sweaty feet, blistered and calloused feet - would we see those as items of beauty? I suspect not.

However, if those feet brought something precious, something we desperately needed, maybe we would start to see the callouses and blistered not as defects, but as marks of honour, the sweat and dust as signs of sacrifice that we did not deserve. Our idea of beauty is then transformed from something sentimental to a much deeper appreciation and awe.

How do you see beauty?

Monday, 24 March 2014

No longer An Orphan (Jacqueline Wilson eat your heart out!)


But when the fullness of the time came, God sent out his Son, born to a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of children. Galatians 4:4-5

My Mum died a few years ago. She had been suffering from dementia for several years, so the bereavement was gradual, as the Mum I knew slipped further away, replaced by someone who no longer even physically resembled her.  Her round chubby cheeks and smooth complexion disappeared, as the fat reserves in her body were slowly used up.  Having grown up with wartime rationing she always enjoyed her food. Mum was aware of the cruel encroaching tide of dementia and bitterly resented it.  I remember her saying at one point, all I can do is to stop eating. It was her only weapon, until she no longer remembered...
When my Mum died, my daughter announced with great pathos that I was now an orphan (thanks Jacqueline Wilson...)  

This passage in Galatians reminds us that we have been adopted, we are no longer orphans because of Jesus' death and resurrection. Don't you just love a happy ending :) 

Sunday, 23 March 2014

What's In Your Wallet?


Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. Ephesians 6:10

Adverts for a certain credit card asks what we rely on, with the challenge "What's in your wallet?" 
When I read this verse from Ephesians I am reminded of the adverts for this credit card and I ask myself "What is in my 'spiritual' wallet?"  When my reserves are low, what bank do I draw on?  
  • The bank of instant feel good solutions - chocolates, wine, alcohol?
  • The bank of distraction - noise, people, or other activity
  • The bank of escapism - trash novels, mindless TV, facebook games
  • The bank of the Holy Spirit - renews, refills, refreshes.
The answer we feel that we should give is the last one, but bits of the other add to our understanding and appreciating the culture in which God has placed us. I vote for the last option with varying add-ons from the other options! :)

Saturday, 22 March 2014

The Light of Truth

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. 
Live as children of light Ephesians 5:8

On Sunday I was chatting to the lovely Sheila, and she was asking about my training, and then she mentioned a friend of hers, and then referred to her daughter.  Unbeknownst to Sheila, her friends daughter and I were at school together.
This evening we had a quiz night at church, and Sheila brought a team with her, including her friend and her friend's daughter.  Had Sheila and I not had that conversation on Sunday, and had I not gone up to Sheila's table and chatted to her guests then we could both have been in the same room and been totally unaware. Last time our paths crossed was in the 6th form common room, many years ago. We have probably never given each other a thought since then.  We could have walked past each other in the street and been totally in the dark concerning the identity of the other. Today our paths crossed and the light of truth was in that moment and we both recognised it.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Scaremongering Scarecrows


Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak;
they have to be carried, for they cannot walk.
Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, 
nor is it in them to do good.  
here is none like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is great in might. 
Who would not fear you, O King of the nations?   For that is your due; 
Jeremiah 10:5-6

The idea of God being no more than a scarecrow in a field at first glance seems quite ridiculous!
But....
  • If we ignore the wonders of creation, and take little care of the world which has been entrusted to our corporate stewardship...
  • If I fail to respond the sacrifice of Jesus and the gift of eternal life.
  • If I do not react to the nudging of the Holy Spirit, urging us to help, speak to or pray for others.
Then I deny the power and authority of God and relegate him to being no more significant than a scarecrow in a cucumber field.
My call :/

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Muddling with Mystery


The Lord says, “Don’t let the wise man glory in his wisdom.
Don’t let the mighty man glory in his might. Don’t let the rich man glory in his riches. But let him who glories glory in this, that he has understanding, and knows me, that I am the Lord who exercises loving kindness, justice, and righteousness, in the earth; for I delight in these things,” says the Lord. Jeremiah 9:23-24

We have reached the Doctrine section of our Reader training. 
This week we have been studying the Trinity - which is both simple in its complexity and complex in its simplicity.  

Last week when we were studying Salvation I found myself struggling with the idea of Jesus being God, because to me they were the different.  

This week we looked at the Trinity, and we reflected on God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit - separate yet one. I then realised that if God was the Son, he was also Christ. Something I knew, but understood in a deeper way.

If you had asked me before if I had understood the Trinity, I would have said yes!  However, the more I read, the less I feel that I understand and the more of a mystery it all becomes!  I am left feeling that I do not feel that I have any wisdom to glory in, instead I will trust in God, and allow the Holy Spirit to continue to help me to understand a bit more of this glorious mystery - preferably before I have to complete the assignment!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014


Coming into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom, and these mighty works? 55 Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother called Mary, and his brothers, James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? 56 Aren’t all of his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all of these things?” 57 They were offended by him.
But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and in his own house.” 58 He didn’t do many mighty works there because of their unbelief. Matthew 13:54-58

I still remember the first time I led a service. I had no idea what reaction I would get.  Would the congregation accept me, or would they want me to stay in a different box?
Afterwards my husband said to me, "Well, you did you did too good a job of that not to be asked to do that again!" His prediction was spot on.  A few years later and I was invited to take part in a service at a different church, and one of the congregation asked me in a very bemused manner "How did you end up doing this?"  In his minds eye, I was still a rather shy 20 something, content to take part in group activities, but I didn't appear to have much to say...

I find the reaction of the community where Jesus grew up to be quite shocking.  Imagine having the opportunity to hear Jesus teach, and turning it down, because you can't see beyond what is familiar.  The community were blind to who Jesus actually was, deaf to his teaching, and unaware of the miracles he was performing. But their unbelief not only stopped them appreciating that Jesus was the Son of God, it also hampered his ability to perform miracles.  I am NOT saying that when miracles don't happen it is because we didn't hit the faith-o-metre hard enough.  I do however wonder how much I have restrict God's ability to work in me, because I haven't felt good enough or worthy enough...

Lord, may I be a channel of your peace and love to the people I meet.
Take my life and use if for your glory.
Amen

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Self-centred or Christ Centred?

Therefore you are without excuse, O man, whoever you are who judge. For in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself. For you who judge practice the same things. Romans 2:1

It's too difficult! 
Too hard!! 
Too demanding!!!
I shrink away from the prospect of being judged 
by the measure I use against others.
I protest and argue against the fairness of this, 
yet, as I allow the words to sink in, I see your perfect justice.
Immediately I rebel, looking for loopholes...
"O.K. I will judge no-one!  
I will NOT come to conclusion about anything.
I will opt out of any debate that condemns anyone, ever!"
Yet, if we all followed this course of action, 
there would be no-one to speak out against injustice, 
to defend those without a voice,
who have been marginalised by society...

THEN I begin to understand that it is the motivation behind my judging that matters.  
Is it from my insecurity that I reach my decisions 
or Christ's supremacy?
Any decision that is self-centred will be warped.
Any decision that is Christ-centred will be compassionate and loving.

Lord, through the power of Your Holy Spirit, 
equip me and guide me, 
so that I will not be hard-hearted and critical towards others, 
but see the good in them 
as they also are your children, 
made in your image. 
Lord, when you nudge me to speak out in your name
give me the discernment to know that it is Your words I speak
at your bidding.
Amen.

Monday, 17 March 2014

What's On Your Menu?


I am the living bread which came down out of heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. Yes, the bread which I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” John 6:51

Ah, the seductive taste of gossip!  

For starter - tender tasty tantalising titbits to taste and slowly devour at my leisure - such a great pleasure! 
Anticipating.
Alert.
Awaiting.

Then the main course, tender chunks of innuendo, slowly marinaded in a rich  sauce of supposition, served with a side helping of heavily disguised facts, and sprinkled liberally with seasoning of sarcasm.

Followed by the well deserved, but sweet delight of comeuppance, a mere trifle of indulgence after all that has gone before, dressed up as justice and righteousness.

Cheese will follow - and that is referring to the jokes that flow so freely and effortlessly at another's expense.

Followed by coffee, brewed with exquisite taste, as we savour the scent aroma of future victories, served with, well I wont 'mints' my words…

Now what did you eat today - bread of heaven or did you choose from the alternative menu?

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Quiet Hills Are Waiting


I will lift up my eyes to the hills.
Where does my help come from?
 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

My friend's kitchen window faces north towards Birmingham.  I wonder what kind of view you are imagining?  
Think Birmingham, think busy, think red brick, think post-car industry regeneration?    No, think rolling green hills and a fantastic sense of peace and timelessness; of being aware that God is so much bigger than all our problems. The first time I walked into her kitchen, was a real 'wow' moment, as I looked out of the window at the view and I was reminded of the first two verses of Psalm 121.
We need green hills, to help us keep a sense of perspective.  Development is planned to link across from Brockhill to Birmingham Road.  I hope the green hills don't get developed.

Three sad things are also on my mind
Firstly the  flight MH370 - missing since Saturday 8th March,  Rumours abound  the internet - no-one can explain why the plane appears to have changed course, or to know where it is.  No-one knows what happened to the passengers or what they have experienced.  Everyone is praying for a miracle and for them to be found safe and well.
Secondly, yesterday a young lady of 21 was stabbed to death about a mile from where I live, in what appears to be a domestic incident.  A moments anger and many lives changed. Forever.
Thirdly, a 15 year old youth drowned in the Arrow Valley Park this afternoon.  A warm spring day, and high spirits led to endless recriminations. 

Where is God in all this?  Grieving with us. Waiting for us to turn to him. Turn to the green hills

Saturday, 15 March 2014


But far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  Galatians 6:14

Mac's are far better -  your mouse will work in what ever window it is hovering over. Great for multitasking...
Canon - yes my camera is a Canon.  Canon and (grudgingly) Nikon are the best...
Spring Harvest - yes I love worshipping with thousands of other Christians...
A grade :)

All my endeavours and efforts fade into insignificance, when compared to the death of one man, 
nailed to a cross.
Who did not receive a fair trial, 
having been set up by the authorities, 
having been let down by the fickle crowd,
betrayed by first one and then another 
of those who claimed to be his followers.
The rest just disappeared...

This cross - bridged heaven and earth.
Reuniting God and sinful mankind.
Breaking the curse
that had plagued mankind since they succumbed 
to the first temptation,
Victim of the apple, that was not made by Macintosh!

This cross - turned a symbol of torture and condemnation
into a symbol of love,
from heaven above.

And in this cross I will boast
because it was the most
that anyone could do for another.
The ultimate sacrifice
by the only one who was good enough to pay the price.

This is the sacrifice I boast about,
Though I wish with all my being 
that Jesus did not have to go through all that,
for me.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Chaos V Mess


If we live by the Spirit, let’s also walk by the Spirit.  Let’s not become conceited, provoking one another, and envying one another. Galatians 5:25-26

There are times when we find ourselves irritated by others, and before we know it all that matters is the fact that we are 'right'!  I am by nature untidy.  Just a couple of weeks after the annual blitz, my desk is a heap of paperwork, leads newspapers, notes  and wrappers.  Junk and vital information intermingle freely, causing the contents of my desk to overflow on to the floor. Odd bits of paper find their way under the wheels of my chair, making an interesting crunchy sound as I run over them.  A noise which my husband hates and I quite like...

My husband is normally quite neat and tidy, but there two particular areas where he isn't.
1) Shoes.  Is it just my husband who thinks that he can garden or go for a walk and STILL have immaculate shoes?  This leads to conversations such as
"You are dropping mud around the house. Again!"
"No, look!  There is no mud on my shoes, and anyway I am going out again now..."
I look, and either all the mud has fallen off, or the mud is still there, lurking in the treads...
2) Coffee grains....My husband likes fresh coffee. I am not so bothered.  I don't mind him using a caffettiera. I just wish he didn't leave the grounds sprinkled over the draining board!
I find myself re-cleaning the sink and draining board, just to emphasise the fact that I want it clean.  He appears not to notice...

It interests me that my reaction to my own messiness is so different to my reaction to the chaos others cause.  Does their untidiness irritate me because I don't feel in control, or do I just resent their imperfection, whilst being perfectly content with my own...I suspect the latter!

I share all this because I am aware of my own weaknesses, and how they contrast with the Paul's ideal of good Christian living.  At this point everyone I have ever provoked or irritated could jump on the band wagon and chastise me for spiritual weakness, but how could they do that without becoming conceited themselves.

How easy do you find it to live by the Spirit, and if you have no difficulty with this, watch out for the 16th word... ;)

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Aiming For Acceptability


To what purpose does frankincense from Sheba come to me, and the sweet cane from a far country? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, and your sacrifices are not pleasing to me.” Jeremiah 6:20

The idea that God may not want what I offer is challenging.  I assume that what we give to God will be acceptable.  Psalm 19:14 says 'May these words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.'  If I want my praise to be acceptable to God, then I my whole life needs to be my worship of him.  The tasks that I don't want to do, I need to do with a gracious and willing heart. The temptation to respond to what I regard to as inconsiderate behaviour, must not be to respond with equal or superior inconsiderate behaviour, but instead to seek to bring peace to that situation - and still keep sane.  That's the clue, I can't do this in my own strength, and if I try, I WILL fail, because I am human.  So if I want God to accept my offerings, I must be willing to allow his Holy Spirit to change me, but not too fast Lord, for I am a weak and frail being...

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Diagnosing Foolishness


 ‘Hear this now, foolish people without understanding; who have eyes, and don’t see; who have ears, and don’t hear:  Jeremiah 5:21

I feel like a foolish person without understanding. Today we got the diagnosis that my daughter has had Whooping Cough, and I had to drag that information out of the doctor, who assumed I knew! The paperwork we received said she may have the disease, not that she did...

Being the parent of an Autistic child, nothing is straight forward and when your child announces that they have suddenly developed a notifiable disease, you are immediately cast in the role of disproving their theory.  Two months later and the medical authorities, who originally said it was very unlikely that my daughter had Whooping Cough, now agree with her self-diagnosis.

I have no idea how my daughter knew she had this disease, neither does she. I assume that somewhere in her memory was a fact that she could connect to. I had never encountered the illness, and had to resort to you tube to find clips of people exhibiting symptoms, which did resemble the symptoms my daughter was experiencing.  Which left us with the question, had she seen similar clips?  Was her behaviour triggered by her condition, or was she showing the symptoms which the condition should show...

I am left wondering how much more do I fail to see, fail to understand?  I say this not to beat myself up, but as a response, as I wonder at the vastness of God, and the limits of my human understanding.  I see no need to put myself down in order to exalt God.  We were made to worship God, to acknowledge his splendour and majesty - not through false and insincere humility, but in open and honest awe and wonder, when all that is unnecessary has been striped away. Then we can begin the true foolishness to which we are called, Foolish, perhaps, in the eyes of the world. True, I hope, in the eyes of God.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Lament for The Hungry Man


 “Run back and forth through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in its wide places, if you can find a man, if there is anyone who does justly, who seeks truth, then I will pardon her....
Then I said, “Surely these are poor. They are foolish; for they don’t know the way of the Lord, nor the law of their God. Jeremiah 5:1,4

50 years ago my town had it's heart ripped out. 
Liptons, and the congregational church,  
The Hungry Man and my dentist, 
were all erased, 
replaced by a concrete jungle shopping centre
with palm trees
and a tiled floor.
They called it progress.

50 years ago the woods around my town were decimated, 
Highways laid low the oaks and ash
and in my minds eye I can still roll down the long hill
where now the traffic rumbles.
They call it progress.

50 years ago the fields were no longer ploughed
The farmers left their compulsory purchased land
and close after close of houses appeared,
in alphabetical order.
They called it progress.

They gave us a road system, 
That united the old and new inhabitants
as only they could find their way around.
They planted trees,
and factories
and gradually the old and new have merged into one
and we call it progress.

As people moved into the town they didn't transplant their spiritual roots, and so the churches in the town fail to connect with many of the townsfolk.  

Tonight a group met to pray for the town, in this the 50th year since the new town was established.  17 of us met.  That means we each were praying for about 5,000 people...

These verses from Jeremiah remind me that we need to be praying for our towns, interceding on their behalf and spreading the "Good News' of Jesus Christ to those who haven't heard the message. Yet.

Monday, 10 March 2014


After these things, there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem by the sheep gate, there is a pool, which is called in Hebrew, “Bethesda”, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, or paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water; for an angel went down at certain times into the pool, and stirred up the water. Whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had.When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had been sick for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to be made well?”
 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I’m coming, another steps down before me.” John 5:1-7

Often Lent is about our response to God.  This story reminds me of our response to the needs of others and prompts introspection.  What holds us back?  Indifference or diffidence?

Lord, help us not just to look, but to see the needs of your people.
Lord help us not just to listen, but to hear the cries of those in need.
Help us to discern what you are calling us to do, and give us the courage to know that when we step out, you are there with us.
Help us not to dive in insensitively, but neither let us be paralysed by fear of failure.
Lord, you call us to be shepherds to your sheep. 
May we guide and protect, lead and nurture, shield and tend. Through the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

LOST

“Which of you men, if you had one hundred sheep, and lost one of them, wouldn’t leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one that was lost, until he found it? When he has found it, he carries it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  Luke 15:4-5

Before I understood
you had a plan
Not just for me,
but for every man
woman and child.
A sacrifice
which would suffice
to bridge the gap, 
tear the curtain in two
opening up the view
to reconciliation,
restoration
and repatriation
The fig leaves changed 
into robes of righteousness,
the moment I said "Yes!"
You don't have to believe
in Adam and Eve,
or the seduction of the serpent.
All that is required
is for you to concede
that Christ is what you need
and that his death was not in vain
because he rose again
and you will praise his name.