Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Apology


Sorry seems to be the hardest word https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3nScN89Klo

Why is apologising so hard?

Is it just me or does anyone else find that themselves in the situation where they have been wronged, the other person appears to find it easier to blame you, than accept responsibility for their actions?
"If you hadn't…."  " I only did, because…"  The human need for justification is so far from the Biblical understanding of justification - where instead of looking for excuses, our sins are wiped away, and it is as if we have never sinned.  We have to accept responsibility for our actions, regardless of  why we acted as we did.  God knows what happened, he doesn't need telling, and he sees the situation from every persecutive, not just the one we want him to see. There is no point in not being real with God. His desire is for us to be open, honest and willing to change to be more like Jesus.

Why is it so hard to say sorry?  Is our fear of being wrong so great that we have to deny when we are?  Taking responsibility and apologising is a strength not a weakness.  You are saying, I understand the situation, I realise that what I did or said was unhelpful, and I value our relationship too much to pretend it didn't happen.

Reflecting on all this, I decided to start today by taking responsibility for my actions. It didn't take long for me to be in trouble. Within minutes I managed to press the wrong button while attempting to turning off my husband's beeping alarm clock…Next noticed failure occurred when the taxi arrived before my daughter was ready, and I grumbled, and so the day went on.  Tomorrow is another day, will it start any better?

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Ghosts of the past mingling with the present


Dawlish and Teignmouth, both towns from my childhood.  My memories of Dawlish are far more certain, than those of its neighbouring town, which is surprising given that Teignmouth is closer to Torquay and has boats.  Perhaps my Dad just preferred Dawlish, and maybe we spent more time there.

Early memories of Teignmouth include being driven through the town's busy shopping streets, because that the route for through traffic, and believing my Dad, when he told me that the flags that decorated the main street were hung out just for me in honour of my visit to the town… A few years later he said the same thing to my  younger brother, and I began to realise that the flags were not just there for me, or my brother, they were for visitors of all ages and part of the ambiance of the town.

Today we parked on a road leading into town, knowing that we would have to walk back up the hill, but happy to save a few pounds in parking fees!  Through the fence we could see teenage boys practising track events - the summer term has begun for them.  "Oh no!" says Abi "I am truanting!"  We reassure her that their Easter holiday began earlier than hers.

A helicopter hovers over the town, and with delight we realise that we are higher than the helicopter…We climb the footbridge embellished with "Welcome to Teignmouth" and look down in wonder at the town and the Teign estuary, spread out for us to feast our eyes upon.

We discover St. James' church.  Two abseiling workmen are inspecting the walls of the  grey church building which appears to be circular and contrasts incongruously with the plain red sandstone tower. I would love to step inside, but the church is locked.  We continue our way through the streets to reach the sea front.

We stop for a latte on the prom, enjoying the sunshine.  It's too early for lunch. We monitor the progress of the dramatic cloudscape, and try to decide which way the weather is heading.  

Our wanderings take us to the back beach, where geraniums still grow in boots, and people sit drinking, while listening to the cry of seagulls and the clank of masts.  In the distance traffic trundles over Shaldon beach. One day I would like to sit on this beach and watch the sun set over the Teign.  I look at the spread of housing on the hills above the town and I am surprised how far the development spreads, and wonder which of the groups of houses form separate communities, and what they are called.  My husband admires a large house and I remember that this was the town's municipal offices and I wonder if it is still.  We watch trains travel along side the river, before turning into the town to the station.  The greyness that has been advancing down the Teign valley, shrouding the golden fields of rape, reaches us.  We head for lunch.

Later we wander towards Dawlish.  The sea wall walk is closed and a hive of activity as the damage from the winter storms is still being repaired.  I notice a footpath up the hill. I know we regularly took the footpath past the lido, up to the car park, but the steep path closer to the beach also feels familiar.  We stop off on the public viewing area, and take photos of the trains as they approach and depart.  We continue up the hill, and I realise I have absolutely no idea what is up there.  I can remember crossing the footbridge over the rail track, but no further.  As far as I am aware I have no reason not to remember, I think I just have no reason to remember!  We follow the roadway past several heavily fortified fences and a ramshackle property in a dingle above the railway.  Adjacent is an area of open land.  I have no idea how long this common has been here, or if this was where we climbed the hill. Did we pay games here? When was this land gifted to the town? My walk gives me no answers, only more questions.  The only conclusion I can reach is that my Dad preferred to walk along the sea wall.  I seem to remember that my Mum didn't share his enthusiasm, especially when my daredevil younger brother was small and the tide was in!

We head back to the car, round corners that prompt memories.  A suddenly familiar terrace of bay fronted houses, my first doughnut, the light house on the quay,  children playing in the nursery opposite the beach. Ghosts of the past mingling with the present, as with all the best trips down memory's lanes.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Dawlish Dawdlings


A beautiful spring evening, yet Dawlish was mainly closed.  Traders having decided that it wasn't worth their while staying open this evening.  We discovered an interesting restaurant, but they weren't interested in us - tables stacked, door locked, lights off.  The chippie was open, but only serving takeaway.  We sat on a bench, resisting the advances of a trio of hustling pigeons, who thought we should share our food with them.  The answer was no!  You guys need to fly, we don't!

My daughter wanted toasted muffins for breakfast, and as the Co-op was open and able to supply our needs, as well as our wants. So we agreed that our proposed visit to the new Sainsbury's can wait for another day…

It was good to watch the trains thundering through between tide and town. Instinctively I pause and count the carriages, just as I did when I was a child.  I think of those who are on the train - returning to a life away from this corner of paradise, to a life regulated by the clock. I am thankful that I am not!

After the winter storms they are dredging the 'river' that flows through the town.  As rivers go it is small and shallow, making our own Arrow seem like a mighty and dangerous torrent.  'The Brook' or 'Dawlish Water' is placid and wellbehaved, bordered by ornamental gardens and regulated by weirs.

By the time we wandered down to the beach it was too dark to admire the repairs to the sea wall.  We weren't even sure if they were to the left or the right, so we bid goodnight to the Parson and clerk, and took our shopping 'home'.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The Debt is Risen...


Sooner or later it was inevitable.
I cannot say that you were the first, and sadly it is unlikely that you will be the last.
You were just the first person I saw in there.
The movement of the small child accompanying you caught my eye,
and my heart sank.
I wanted to knock on the window and shout out
"Don't do it!  There are better ways!
Fairer ways
Options that will not fleece you with exorbitant rates of interest!"
I looked at the small child, his face carefree.
Through your anxiety, you smiled.
Your love for the child certain and true.
Alas I cannot take away your right to chose, for we have free will.
I do hope that you are aware of other options, and that the decision, 
whether taken by yourself or another, 
was taken from a position of knowledge and expediency, 
not ignorance and poverty.
I pray that you will have the money to repay that loan, quickly and easily.
and that pride will not prevent you from seeking help if you need it.
Need it you probably will, for those who have money can access cheap loans. 
It is those who have no choice who are too often the victim.

I think of Jesus, who died that we might be free.
Who paid the price
with his life.
Cancelling the debt that we could not pay.
Offering the free gift of eternal life,
if we will accept him as Lord and saviour.
No paperwork
no interest charge
no fee for accepting early - for all are equal in your sight.
I pray that we will take up that offer, 
and live lives that are pleasing and honourable to him.

I wondered with some irony,
if your situation was caused by Easter,
and if payday loans used Easter to offer a simple solution to your dilemma.
I googled Easter and Payday loans and my worst fears were realised…http://cashzilla.co.uk/2012/05/11/guest-post-5-totally-shameless-payday-loan-offers/
The price was paid to settle a debt you could not pay, and you celebrate by getting yourself into a debt you may not be able to repay.
Totally missing the irony.

My prayer is that no-one will use the loans shop and it will close.
The reality is that with the exorbitant interest you pay the running costs of keeping that place of injustice open.

Happy Easter
The debt is risen, the debt is risen indeed
Take another loan out!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

When Easter Day Is Grey



Grey!
A grey Easter Day?
How can this be so?

The sun should be shining
casting a benevolent glow upon all we see.
We should be positive, happy and joyful.

Yet in the greyness I see our indifference to God.

We view the world through our own eyes,
looking for what we can gain,
not what we can give.

Let us look through the eyes of Jesus,
and see a world that needs people of love and sacrifice,
with hearts of generosity.

Let us not leave the servant suffering on Good Friday,
but go forward with Him
as Easter Day servants.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Vigil


And so we hurried to lay him in the tomb before the sun was set.
Then nothing happened.
For having chosen and disposed of their victim,
the people set about religious observance,
oblivious to the irony.
Scriptures fulfilled while they pursued the same old,
same old
customs.

A I reflect on this period of darkness and despair.
When it appeared as if all had been lost,
I think at this moment of all those who are right now in a place that feels like hell,
separated from those they love.
Waiting for answers.
Fearing the worst, yet denying the probable.
Not wanting to define their worries with words, for fear they will come true,
yet unable not to cry out from groaning deeper than they knew possible.
I think of lives ended too soon.
Those on the missing plane, the sunken ferry and other tragedies.

Lord, we mourn with those who have no answers.
We grieve with those who have been separated from those they love by death.
We plead for the miracle of restoration of broken relationships.
We pray for closure, healing and peace for those who are unable to return for fear of violence.

As the hours tick away and we look forward to Easter Day,
may we not be so busy being church and obeying rules that we forget to be your followers, reaching out to the lost, 
the lonely, 
the hurting, 
the dirty, 
the clean,
the mean,
the disadvantaged, 
the arrogant, 
the proud, 
the damaged, 
the refuge, 
the rootless, 
the hopeless, 
the depressed, 
the lonely, 
the frightened, 
the weary 
- your children.
Amen

Friday, 18 April 2014

Why?


I follow on the road behind you
Struggling to keep up as you climb that hill.
The menacing cry of the crowd is all around
Eager for the blood of the one they have decided shall be the victim.

Dust hangs heavy in the air, 
I struggle to breathe, 
My eyes sting, as the dusty sweat trickles into my eyes, 

“Lord, wait for me!” I cry.
But only an undecipherable croak passes my parched lips, 
and the crowd close in behind you,
eager to drive you on towards the hill.

Lord, don’t do it!  Please don’t do it!
Not for me, not for this unforgiving, undeserving mob
No-one hears or cares.
They want their cheap spectacle.
They have no thought of those who follow
hearts aching
breaking
hope fading
It wasn’t supposed to end like this, was it?

I flinch.
Each hammer blow
echoes out across
across the valley
Why?
Why?
Why?
Why?
Why?
Why?

I want to reach up, and drag you down from that cross
to hold you in my arms again
as if you were a small child
and I could defend you.

Despite your broken-ness
your gaze seeks me out,
eyes compelling me to understand 
that this is the way it should be,
eyes compelling me
to love the world that has broken and despised you.
eyes encouraging me to believe that this is only the end of the chapter


Above the mocking sound of soldiers,
and passers by,
your cries ascending
are not for their ears
but a plea to the Lord almighty
for mercy on the ones
who think that they have won today.
and as you breath your last
the darkness that settles on the land
is not just in my heart,
but spreads across the land,
marking for all time
this moment 
of sacrifice.
For all.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Night Prayer


On God alone my soul in stillness waits; 
from him comes my salvation. Psalm 62:1
In the quiet of the night I sit and contemplate both the day that has past, and the day that lies ahead.  
In this moment before sleeping I give thanks for the people I met and the tasks completed.  
I pause to regret the tasks I have postponed until tomorrow, knowing that my foolishness merely lengthens the shadow they cast over me. 
I give thanks for that which I have achieved, pleased that I made the effort. Others will not know the choice I made, they do not need to know - this knowledge exits only between God and myself (and my keyboard ;) )  
I think of the people I met, and I recall their faces, their smiles - some I will meet again soon for we share a purpose, others were threads that crossed in the tapestry of life, we may never notice if our paths ever cross again.  We cannot recall every person we meet. All we can do is ensure that our encounters are a good witness to what we believe.
In this moment before sleeping I pause also to recall the day ahead, and ask for God's blessings on it. I think of Miles, who will be 5.  His lovely beaming smile and quirky mannerisms. Lord, watch over him, protect and bless him. 
I think ahead to church, may we give a warm and unconditional welcome to all who come to church.  
I give thanks for all who travel over the Easter period, for safety and joy in their journeying.  
I pray for the world - Lord heal the troubled places, calm the fears and anxieties of leaders and help them to govern wisely and fairly, even if they have other plans...
Amen

Friday, 11 April 2014

Sounding Out Across The Land


When the Lord brought back those who returned to Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with singing.  Psalm 126:1-2

This evening we returned to a venue and activity that had once been a regular part of our lives.
Things change, and that which was once so important, 
gets crowded out.
Events and circumstances mean that the old comfortable habit 
no longer fits.
With a sigh you move on.
But every tower you see,
is a reminder of what you once looked for.
The sound of bells echoes deep within you,
changes resonating, 
Queens, Titums Whittingtons, Reverse and Fire!
Stedman, Plain Bob, Grandsire,
Reverse Canterbury, and Yorkshire,
Sally, tail ends, and coathanger
fish tails, course ends, bob and single,
run through my head in an interweaving mingle.
The bells are checked over.
On the floor, the new carpet is liberally scattered with dust, 
dead flies and other  debris I have no desire to unidentify...
Plug in the vacuum, let us restore some order!

We take our ropes and one by one 
the bells are raised for ringing.
The clapper striking the side of the bell,
sounding out across park and estate.
First with three and then with four,
the bells ring out again once more.
Our hands are shiny
unused to the hardness of the rope,
and deep within there stirs a hope
That more people will come and join the band
and the reminder that Christ is risen will sound 
out across the town,
once again.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Prayer For Today


 I said, “My strength has perished,
along with my expectation from Yahweh.”

Remember my affliction and my misery,
the wormwood and the bitterness.
My soul still remembers them,
and is bowed down within me.
This I recall to my mind;
therefore I have hope.

It is because of Yahweh’s loving kindnesses that we are not consumed,
because his compassion doesn’t fail.
Lamentations 3:18-22

Across the land another day has begun, just like it has in each and every other land, in the order you, O Lord, have decreed.

May we have awakened to the spring's pure sunlight, with fresh hope in their heart and a determination to make the world a better place. Lord we give you thanks for all the good things you have given us.  As we go through this day, help us to see past harsh words and bad attitude, and see the vulnerable, hurting person, the one whom you love.  Through your grace and the power of the Holy Spirit give us the strength to love them too, and the discernment to know when their words of anger and hate, are only echoes of the past.

We grieve with those have endured a night of pain and anguish, aware that the purposes of this day are not ones that would ever be of their choosing.  Yet, they are not alone, for you, O Lord of compassion are with them, watching and weeping, comforting and strengthening.

Lord, where we encounter pain and suffering, may we not turn away, but share in their suffering. Guide our actions to work for change, to enable your kingdom to be built, here on earth.
Amen

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Plodding


Therefore let us also, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 

Wrestling with Romans.

Apparently this process has a technical name - Exegesis - critical explanation or interpretation.

As I plod through the questions I am aware of a great crowd of witnesses, encouraging me, urging me on question by question, as a wrestle with the concepts of obligation and adoption, slavery and salvation.  

Highlighter scars pages of notes - blue, green and orange - indicating differences.  
Around me books are piled.  Books that now naturally open at certain pages. Their structure changed for ever as witnesses to my study.

On top of the printer 'The Handbook of Bible Application" mocks me. I sought an answer within its cover, but it was not there. At least it was not where I was looking.

Clumsy disjointed sentences limp on down the page, the race they run is far from smooth, logical or direct.

All I can do is look at the cross and beg forgiveness for all I feel I should know, but have not yet understood.  

Come Holy Spirit
Bring understanding and reason to my pathetic phrases.  
So that through my groaning I will gain crystal clear awareness of all that you would have me know.

Monday, 7 April 2014

The See-saw of Certainty


By faith, Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to share ill treatment with God’s people, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a time; 26 accounting the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he looked to the reward. 27 By faith, he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith, he kept the Passover, and the sprinkling of the blood, that the destroyer of the firstborn should not touch them. 29 By faith, they passed through the Red Sea as on dry land. When the Egyptians tried to do so, they were swallowed up. 30 By faith, the walls of Jericho fell down, after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith, Rahab the prostitute, didn’t perish with those who were disobedient, having received the spies in peace.  Hebrews 11:24-31

By faith, I believe that I am forgiven.

By faith, I believe that Jesus died for my sins.

By faith, I believe in the Holy Trinity, especially if I don't examine it in minute detail. When I did, I didn't find anything NOT to believe in God, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Getting my head round God the Son took a bit more brain power, as in my mind they were separate…

By faith I believe that Jesus died for me.

By faith I believe the sun will rise tomorrow, even if hidden behind a shroud of midlands greyness.

Now you can classify me as a person of simple faith, certain, and secure - possibly even brainwashed by institutionalised religion….
Never doubting…

Wrong!

PLENTY of doubting.
For years I was traped, paralysed by inaction.
Unable to side with certainty, 
or to reject God completely.
There was only one place I could be.
Stuck on top of the Mount of Unknowing.
One one side happy faces, shiny with certainty,
managing mortgages, radiant with relationships,
socially secure.
On the other side ration voices of cynical certainty.
"If God was really God, why would he allow suffering?"
"There is no heaven and no hell, just here and now, so lets make the most of it!
"Who know? Who cares?"
Can certainty exist without doubt?
Can doubt exist without certainty?

When I look at myself, I see doubt and confusion.
When I look at God, I am certain.
Lift up your heads :)

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Was Thomas The Inspiration For Marvin?


Thomas therefore, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go also, that we may die with him.” John 11:16

I often wonder if Douglas Adams ever looked at the character of Didymus, (or Thomas as he is usually known) when  creating  the character of Marvin the paranoid android, because I can imagine Thomas speaking in the voice used for Marvin on the Radio version of Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy.

This was the same Thomas who couldn't quite believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead, as he was absent the first time Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection.  

Both Marvin and Thomas give me great hope.  Marvin probably once won an award for having the lowest self esteem ever…Thomas - the infamous doubter, had been with Jesus throughout his ministry and still didn't get it, until he personally encountered his risen Lord.  
Ironically, both of these characters give me hope. They make me optimistic. They help me to believe and to understand both I and my spiritual development matter to God.

Is there a bit of Marvin or Thomas in you?

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Learning Discerning


By faith, Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go out to the place which he was to receive for an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he went.  By faith, he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a land not his own, dwelling in tents, with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise….If indeed they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had enough time to return.  But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:8-9,15-16.

God calls me…
…but am I listening?

God calls me…
… to follow Him.

God calls me…
…send another, I say, for I am not worthy.
I am not claiming to be like Moses,
but I identify with his lack of confidence.

God calls me…
…but so many thought and ideas echo through my head.
How can I be sure which voice is his?

God calls me…
…or is this just wishful thinking?
Are you really calling me, Lord?
or am I just feeling fanciful?

God calls me…
…there MUST be others better equipped to do this task

God calls me…
and as I seek to discern if it is His voice that is calling,
I must step out in faith.
Only then will I be able to discern if He is the one who calls me,
who draws me,
or if this is just a dream
and soon I will awaken to reality?

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Rest


When I remember you upon my bed and meditate on you in the watches of the night. Psalm 63:6
Lord, as I lay down to sleep, may my rest be peaceful.
Protect me from dragons, and spiders and other monsters that lurk in my subconscious, a threat to my family or myself, or a situations I cannot control.
Noises I cannot identify, footsteps that I can not classify.
Save me Lord from all this!
When my sleep is broken, chased out by fear and anxiety, come chase away the thoughts that torment me
When I think of all you suffered, I am ashamed at what I ask, but you promise to listen to our prayers.
shield and protect me, even though I am not worthy.
May I awake renewed and refreshed, ready for the next day.
Amen

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Weakness


How long, Yahweh?
Will you be angry forever?
Will your jealousy burn like fire? Psalm 79:5

Forgive me, Lord, for the times I have taken you for granted,
Assumed that you will forgive me again and again and again.
How often do I abuse your mercy
and treat your grace with disdain?
Forgive me when I focus on the insignificant,
and forget the Almighty.

Lord, I cannot do this alone,
I am too weak and flawed.
My concentration span too short.
I do not deserve your forgiveness,
but I submit to you.
Hoping that you will show your mercy.

Pour out you Holy Spirit,
not that I may be strengthened to fight my own weakness, 
but that I may have the strength to praise you.
I am afraid to pray for purification,
for I value too much the temporal and my own comfort.

Come, Holy Spirit!
Let the fire that burns within me, be for you,
and for your glory, only!
Amen.