Straightening your crown

Last night I packed my daughter off for her first shift on A&E at Whiston Hospital. She is a final year nursing student who, in response to the pandemic, has agreed to start work 6 months earlier than she was expecting - and I couldn’t be prouder of her! She was understandably a little anxious and nervous, let’s be honest to find your first day of work is in A&E on a night shift in the middle of a pandemic is enough to make most people wobble a little bit. But she always has had a gutsy streak, so off she went. Now, we love a good quote in our house – from the funny to the wise and deeply meaningful ones – so as she left to go to work I sent the following words to her: “Whenever you feel overwhelmed, remember whose daughter you are and straighten your crown”. Clearly this can be read in two ways and you may be reading this and wondering who I think I am to suppose that my children get to wear crowns. The fact is, I do believe that my children get to wear crowns but it’s not because of who I am. In 1 John Ch 3 it says “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!” Wow! We are the children of God; God who is not just a king but the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the creator of Heaven and earth. The Psalmist says it like this: “When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers – the moon and the stars you set in place – what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honour.” How cool is that, to be the children of the King of Kings?! BUT, before we get too carried away, let’s just examine our crowns for a moment. These are not the crowns of pomp and privilege, or of superiority and dominance – these are the crowns that were worn by Jesus of humility, servanthood, grace, forgiveness, patience and most of all, love. We are called to take our place beside Jesus and follow the example he set. His crown was not made of earthly treasures and jewels, His crown was made of thorns, yes, it was a crown of sacrifice but it was also a crown of victory, of life and of love. This crown does not come with a promise of wealth and social advantage but it does come with a promise that our Father God will never leave us or abandon us. So I sent my daughter off to work with her head held high, wearing her crown straight and on those tough days, which we all have when life feels hard and the way ahead seems too difficult, let’s remember whose children we are, straighten our crowns, and take our strength from our Father God who cares for us.

 

 

The year of the pig 27/4/20

I studied photography for four years in Manchester, but photographers today wouldn’t recognise half of my syllabus. We did the usual stuff, like lighting, exposure, perspective and composition that students would do today, but half of our studies was a mix of chemistry, physics, and optics. Now they study pixels and Photoshop. The world has changed. One of our main study books took us three years to work through, very technical. It was written by a brilliant man who fortunately had a sense of humour. Each chapter was introduced by a quote from Alice in Wonderland, one of which was this, “Bye the bye” said the cat, “what happened to the baby?” “It turned into a pig” Alice answered quietly.’ You could never predict anything in Alice’s Wonderland, but we are beginning to realise that our own world is also strange and unpredictable. As we began our first day of this year, 2020 was like our new baby. We had plans, expectations, and hopes. By the time it was three months old, our baby had turned into a pig. I have a soft spot for pigs, but they don’t compare to babies, and our plans and hopes went out of the window. The Bible constantly tells us not to assume we can predict the future, not even tomorrow. Not even today! Two months ago I went to bed at midnight, I was optimistic about the year and I was smiling because I had just told myself, “You are fitter now than you have been for two years.” Five hours later I woke up with double pneumonia! The baby turned into a pig while I was asleep. Solomon has advice for us, he says ‘Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.’ We read in the book of Job about people who forget God, ’What they trust in is fragile, what they rely on is a spiders web. They lean on the web but it gives way.’ None of us can reliably predict how this year, our baby, will develop, but it would be sensible to remember who we can trust. Here’s Solomon again, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do, and He will show you the right way.’ I love pigs but babies are better, lets pray that at the end of this year, our baby is bouncing not snorting.

 

Counting Rainbows - 26/4/20

I like routine! I don’t know about you but I need routine to get me through the day. I think it’s partly because I work in a school where the school day revolves around strict schedules e.g. Register, English, break, Maths, lunch, etc. I’m finding that at this present time where routines are difficult to maintain, we are all having to create our own ‘rhythms’. Although this can be difficult, if we do manage it, our days can become more sustainable, bearable, and even enjoyable. One such routine that I look forward to each day is my daily walk at 6pm every evening – Kirit and I enjoy a pacey march around our local neighbourhood. It’s during our walk that we have taken to counting the rainbows that adorn people’s windows. I’m amazed at how creative people have become – we’ve seen rainbows that have been painted, chalked, collaged, mosaicked, and even knitted! These beautiful creations certainly brighten up our walk and bring a smile to our faces. We’ve also been getting creative at school, painting rainbows on pebbles to create a ‘rainbow pebble path’. This, we hope, will serve to remind us of the time when those keyworkers on the frontline worked so selflessly to care for our nation. The rainbows that we have observed in people’s windows convey a message of solidarity and simply say, “we’re all in this together”. They aim to make people smile while they pass by and also offer a message of hope. As Christians we believe that the rainbow is a sign of God’s eternal promise to us. In Genesis 9, God says “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every land.” Thanks to Jesus and His work on the cross, we can receive God’s gift of salvation and trust God’s amazing promise that He will never be angry with us again, no matter how many times we fail. God’s promise stands unshakeable. So the next time you see a rainbow, whether in the sky or on a child’s painting stuck to a window – remember to be grateful to our wonderful NHS, but also to remember our God, who faithfully keeps His promises.

Oh, by the way, I counted 57 rainbows yesterday on my walk – any advances on that?

 

Clapping - 25/4/20

Isn’t it great to be a part of the clapping for the NHS and all the other services that we depend upon. Why do we clap? We clap as an expression of our thanks for all they are doing for us. It’s our way of saying ‘Thank you’ as a united country. Clapping can be an expression of praise, and we clap as we celebrate Baby’s first steps, school achievements, graduations, etc. Jesus speaks in the Bible about giving thanks. As He entered a village, ten men with leprosy stood a distance away calling out, “Jesus, Master have pity on us.” Jesus looked at them, then told them to go and show themselves to the priest. As they went they were healed of their leprosy. One of them, when he saw he had been healed, went back to Jesus praising God, and thanked Him for what He had done. Jesus said, “Didn’t I heal ten men, where are the other nine?” Only one returned to give God thanks. I think that man was healed on the inside as well as the outside. Do we stop to give God thanks for another day and all our provision? We have the air that we breathe, flowers, trees, birds, and our food, family and friends. These are all precious gifts. Let’s give God thanks for them, and let’s thank Him for our blessings in the past, and let’s trust Him for what’s to come.

Perspective - 24/4/20

Two years ago, I somehow detached the retina in my left eye. It's still a mystery how it happened. The doctor told me that, in order to save the sight in the eye, I required an operation. The damage was such that the operation would repair the retina, but the sight would never be what it once was. Still, imperfect sight is better than no sight. It's a matter of perspective. The operation was a success, but the recovery process required my adherence to a strict regime called, “posturing”. In short, I was not allowed to go out. I was required to lie on my right side with my cheek against the pillow. Sounds quite comfortable; until you realise that this was necessary for twenty-four hours a day; no change of position, no rolling onto my back, no sitting up - only allowed to move for ten minutes in every hour – for two weeks. A failure to observe this requirement would mean that all the efforts of the surgeon would be jeopardised and the retina might not heal properly and could detach again. Still, two weeks of mind numbing inactivity is better than no sight. It's a matter of perspective. So, you will understand when I say that, by comparison, being simply required to stay at home during lockdown doesn't seem so bad to me. Perspective. Observing the strict regime of remaining at home means that we don't jeopardise the efforts of those in the NHS who put themselves in harm’s way for our benefit. We don’t endanger ourselves and others. Having to stay at home is better than the potential alternative. Perspective.

 

Looking through out the window - 23/4/20

Aren’t all the windows at the moment rather lovely with their messages of hope and their rainbows. My window from my study is an object of great delight. It looks out onto the vista that is the Lidl carpark. Out of this window I have seen queues for loo roll, family dramas, noisy scouse car battles for parking and even a tree falling down onto the car below! Unfortunately I am fast becoming a very nosy neighbour. As I walk the dog, I am loving looking in through people’s windows peering inside, in case, maybe, I know the person, or can smile at them or wave or just admire their sofa configuration! In fact, onone walk we did just that and waved and now, each walk past that particular window means that we stop, chat from the pavement and Lola the dog has a new friend who gives her treats. A wonderful writer called Henri Nouwen wrote this: “One person’s faithfulness is another person’s hope. We have to live out our faith and be Christ’s windows out into the world.” In times like this it is so important to remember this awesome responsibility. God is amazing in that he even trusts hopeless cases like me to be faithful and to be Christ’s window out onto the world. How we do this will depend upon the situation that we are placed in. It might be that we sacrifice some money to faithfully give to our church, our local foodbank or other charities needing support. It might be that we sacrifice our time to faithfully call and encourage someone who is isolated or struggling or do the shopping for someone. It might be that we are faithful in prayer when that wonderful message from Jo pops up with prayer requests on it. It might be that we do all of this and more.Right, must be off as I have some more window gazing to do.

 

Tree Hugging - 22/4/20

So, Lebanon. An incredibly beautiful country with the most stunning coastline, amazing history, fabulous food, dodgy dancing and whopping great big trees!....commonly known as the Cedars of Lebanon. These stunning trees have very wide tree trunks, branches that spread out in every direction, and the roots of the tree are known to go very deep and very wide. Putting it bluntly, these trees aren’t likely to get blown over! They are just beautiful! And as soon as I saw them I wanted to go over to them, walk around them, maybe give one or two of them a hug.....after all, some of these beautiful trees are over 2,500 years old! If they could speak, imagine the stories they could tell. There was just one problem. After the devastating war that took place in Lebanon, the ground next to the trees had been covered in landlines. I couldn’t help but feel so sad that the painful past had left it’s mark.  We all have a past don’t we? The proud moments. The funny moments. The moments you record in a photo album. And we all have moments of pain and sadness. Sadly it’s a part of life. And we can become a lot like a Cedar of Lebanon surrounded by landlines and a barbed wire fence, keeping people at a distance. Have you ever felt like that? I have, and it’s a lonely place to be. We all need friends. Good friends. The kind who will enjoy the good times with us, but still be there for us during the bad times. The kind of friends who will help us remove the ‘landlines and the barbed wire fence’ that surround us. And we need to be those friends to. The Bible tells us we ought to be like Jesus, who was, and still is, the best friend we could ever have. 1 Peter 5:7, says these words, ‘Cast all your anxiety on Him [Jesus] because he cares for you’. So during this strange time of social distancing, let’s recognise ‘barbed wire fences’, let’s be something of Jesus to one another, let’s give Him our daily struggles and pain, and let’s draw closer to Him, and one another...while being very much apart. 

 

Monkey Business - 21/4/20

Life is full of new experiences and on Friday I had my first ever lockdown birthday - it was actually really nice! The weather was beautiful and I was spoilt with a lovely breakfast and dinner. I received lots of messages and even some gifts that were left on the doorstep – it wasn’t quite the same, not being able to be with family and friends, but as lockdown birthdays go, it was good.One of the gifts I received was a set of Three Wise Monkeys. Their names, apparently, are Mizaru, Kikazaru and Iwazaru (try saying that in a hurry!) but there seems to be some debate about their origins and intended meaning. In our culture we know them to represent ‘see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil’. There are many interpretations we can take from their possible meanings but one is how it emphasises the importance of immersing ourselves in good and healthy environments where the things that we see, hear and speak are a blessing to us and to those around us. There is a story about Socrates where early one morning one of his students came to his house quite anxious to tell him about a rumour that he had heard. To the young man’s dismay, Socrates told him he must think about 3 things before sharing his news: Is it the truth? Is it good?Is it useful or necessary? Our world is filled with so many voices all wanting to share their opinion on just about everything and all believing that they are right – it is easy to become confused  between real news and fakenews. Perhaps the next time we see or hear something which we think we must share with others, we could think about those 3 things and if we can’t answer ‘yes’, then maybe the best thing to do is to put our hand across our mouths and say nothing.In Philippians chapter 4 it says this: Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things …and the God of peace will be with you.Before we simply become one of the many voices adding to the noise of the world, let’s pause for a moment while we consider if what we have to say is rooted in things that are true, pure and lovely – if they are, then let’s speak out and open our ears to hear the truth and our eyes to see what is beautiful. And now I need to rename my monkeys to something I can say!

 

Contentment - 20/4/20

People don’t appear to be very happy right now do they? You’re probably thinking ‘It’s notsurprising is it, look at the mess we’re in,’ and I would agree with that sentiment. Ourgovernment can confine tens of millions of us to our homes, but what they can’t do is force us to be contented. I found great contentment this week when I pointed out that the tyres on my daughters’ car needed pumping up. I offered to do it but because I couldn’t drive her car for fear of passing the virus, I followed her in my car to the garage and inflated her tyres. She drove off smiling and I stood there by my car. This was the first time I had driven it for weeks and I had a naughty thought. I was on a mission to improve the health of her tyres, so this was an essential journey. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and I had escaped from my cage. But I was required to go home, so I did. Via Ormskirk! That wasn’t exactly the direct route home, but with all my windows open and an empty road ahead, that twenty minutes brought sheer joy and great contentment. And it was so simple. How do people find contentment, do they stumble across it? Some think so, they believe in ‘Serendipity’ the happy accident. So they live waiting for it to happen. Some say, you go searching for it, maybe by finding an Eastern guru, or the perfect job, or taking part in extreme sports, or winning Britain’s Got Talent. Some think you can manufacture contentment if you drink or smoke the right stuff. The apostle Paul lived at a time when, like almost all Christians, he was in danger from the people, the rulers, and the culture around him. But they did not believe that to be content they mustmove away, find somewhere safe, get friends in high places, get a better job, build up a bank balance and put money aside for their old age. Paul expressed it like this, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” They understood that their contentment was to be found in the realisation that God was withthem, and was not going to leave them. That was to be their source of contentment, not their circumstances. Unlike in Pauls’ day, nobody out there is trying to kill us, but many dedicated people are trying to keep us safe. Let’s practice contentment and remember where it comes from.

 

Dressed for the occasion? 19/4/20

OK pay attention, this is important. Before you read through today’s Sunrise, I need to ask you something. What are you wearing, are you dressed appropriately for the occasion? You could hear exactly this same message if you were at Mellings’ Church on Sunday afternoon, or at The Table meeting in Maghull on Sunday evening. How would you be dressed then? Is that how you are dressed now? Really? Are you sure? If we asked for photos (which we are not!), would you be happy for people to see you as you

are now? During this weird time when so many people are caged at home, (and we’ve just been told it will continue for at least another three weeks and possibly more), how important is it that we bother about how we look? Nobody is going to see you. But if you got a phone call from the Queen’s secretary to say you have been selected for her to visit you, and she’s outside your house

now, would you panic? Well we can all relax because God is not bothered. Jesus asked the question, “Why do you worry about clothes?” The religious leaders were very proud of their robes and appearance, but Jesus explained the reality in God’s eyes,
“You are like white-washed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead.” The prophet Samuel was sent by God to a family with eight sons, to anoint the next King of Israel. When Samuel saw the eldest son he thought he would be King, but God said “No”. Samuel looked at seven of the brothers and each time God rejected him. He told Samuel, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at

the heart.” So let’s calm down, if you’re reading Sunrise in your pyjamas, or beautifully dressed in case the Queen turns up, God won’t even notice, He’s looking at something else this morning. How’s your heart? Did you bother to prepare that?

 

Jumping Hurdles - 18/4/20

Good Morning! I don’t really know how long we’ve been in lockdown for now, and I’m also not 100% certain of what day of the week it is? Quite frankly, like the rest of the world, I don’t like being told I can’t go outside, and I’m fed up already. As a student nurse, I’m a ‘doer’, I like to keep myself busy with different jobs to help people out. For example, before this lockdown I told Nan and Pop that I
would help them do some gardening, less than a week after I told them this we had to go into lockdown. As a ‘doer’ who likes to have a routine and plans, this really put me on edge. If I’m honest for the first couple of weeks I was not motivated to do anything, I physically could no longer do many of the plans I had for the months ahead. I felt useless and deflated. Maya Angelou once said “Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope” This quote is so true of this time. Like everyone else I have had to adapt to this new way of life. We have all had to find new ways of socialising and spreading love. For example, we have had video call meet ups, done WhatsApp quizzes, dropped shopping off at people’s doors  (sometimes with that little extra bar of chocolate!) and so much more! Times like this shows the best in people, and I for
one am proud to be part of such a united community. In 1 Corinthians 13:13 the Bible says “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” We are all capable of love despite any virus or social distancing. So as we remain safe in our own homes I challenge you to seek out ways to spread love, whether that is by phoning a friend, dropping off shopping (if it’s safe to do so), or going outside each Thursday to clap for the key workers. Everything makes a difference so keep going!

 

Wedding Bells - 17/4/20

My son recently celebrated his 10th wedding anniversary. Those ten years have flown by and I still have happy memories of the day. Looking back over the photographs, I got to thinking about how different things would have been had the wedding been planned for 2020, rather than 2010. Quite simply, it wouldn't have happened. No wedding, no reception, no happy day spent with friends and family... and certainly no honeymoon in Venice. Bizarrely, more than anything else, this upset me... perhaps it's because I'm a romantic at heart. It made me sad to think of all the couples whose plans have been put on hold because of the strange times in which we live. All the time spent making important decisions about the venue, the guest list, the cake, the dress, the flowers, the photographer and on and on... all now in suspended animation. When will things return to normal? When will they be able to fulfil their dream? When will they hear the wedding bells? Nobody knows. They will wait with baited breath for the government to lift the various restrictions regarding public gatherings and when it happens they will be ready. The Christian church is often described as the bride of Christ. We are told that one day Jesus will return to claim His bride. When will this happen? Nobody knows. We too wait for that day. We too must be ready. In the book of Matthew, chapter 25, Jesus tells the story of the ten virgins who were waiting for the bridegroom to arrive; “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!”, but not everybody was ready. Not everybody was prepared. “The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.” Those who were not ready were left outside. So while we wait for our government to announce the relaxation of restrictions; while we look forward to doing all the things we had planned to do, but couldn't; while we make plans for our future; while we wait for things to change, will we actually be ready for the thing that really matters? Will we understand that real change is brought about by God, because God changes everything. Will we hear the wedding bells, or will we be left outside?

 

I believe in Miracles - 16/04/20

One of my daughters works in the care sector. It is a tough job , with long shifts and one Icould not do! As she left to go on a shift, I would often say, “Take care and don’t kill anyone!” It was gallows humour that she shared with other staff and this dark sense of humour was often a coping mechanism in a stressful job. The reality was that she wouldsometimes have to deal with individuals who had died and she did so with as much care as if they were alive. She would talk to them and treat them with dignity. The news today was full of the crisis in care homes as death rates increased and the stress on staff rose too,( hang on in there, I promise this will lighten up). We all know someone or know of someone who is dealing with this horrible virus and we find ourselves praying formiracles but humanly wondering if miracles still happen. However, have we considered that life itself is a miracle? Think back over the last month. Have you wept at all?Have you got wound up by a member of your household making a mess and eating all of the ice-cream? Have you smiled at a funny clip of cats or dogs on social media? Have you had chance to share some good chats with loved ones? Have you completed the most ridiculously annoying jigsaw? Has your heart beat faster at the sight of something beautiful? Have you slept and woken up? Are you reading this? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are alive and that is a beautiful miracle.You are a beautiful miracle.The Easter message of life after death must not be lost on us. Jesus said that He came to give us life and life to the full (John 10:10). We are an Easter people who not only have life here and now but the promise of eternal life…and that is the greatest miracle ever.

 

What's in a name? - 15/04/20

 

Have you ever wondered what the meaning of your name is? I am fascinated by names. Choosing names for my girls was like a military operation. I spent months working my way through baby name books until I found a name that I liked, and also had a great meaning. I once had a friend called Innocent. He was a prison chaplain. On his first day he walked in there and said, ‘I am Innocent’, to which the reply came, ‘We all are mate!’ My name, Joanne, means ‘grace of God’. I’m assuming Jo, means ‘grrrr’!? In the Bible, names were massively important. Names had meaning and often gave an insight in to the person’s character. There was one man, in the book of Acts, whose name was Joseph....but his friends called him Barnabas! Seems a bit weird! Let’s not call him by his name, let’s call him something else! Barnabas means ‘son of encouragement’, the name was given to him as a compliment! Joseph was such an encouragement to people that they started to call him by what they saw. Ooooo, that got me thinking!! What if, we were all given names that reflected our characters? What would we be called? Happy? Dopey? Friendly? Greedy? Gossip? Loving? Jealous? Sarcastic? Provoking? Generous? Gracious? Miserable? Two-faced?.....I could go on, but you get the picture?! When people watch us, listen to us, observe our lives, both in the good and the bad times, what do they see? The bible puts it like this, in Matthew 17, ‘by your fruit you shall be known’. And so, I look at the life of Jesus, the all perfect, good life of Jesus. I want to be like Him. I want to get to know Him more and more each day and for His good ways to influence me. I hope and pray that when people observe me, they see far more ‘grace of God’ than they do, ‘grrrr’.

And if so, all thanks God and His amazing grace.

 

Happy Birthday, Hope! - 14/4/20

Yesterday evening, under cover of darkness (and whilst following social distancing guidelines at all times) we snuck round to my niece’s, Hope’s, house and stuck ‘Happy Birthday’ banners to the outside of the windows. Hopefully, they stayed in place over night so that when she opened the blinds this morning she will have seen her birthday greetings. Our wonderful, beautiful, funny – and sometimes a little weird – Hope. We may not be able to celebrate your birthday all together at the moment, but we can still celebrate. On Sunday we ‘met’ together via social media to celebrate Jesus rising from the dead. This wasn’t just a miracle of someone who was dead being brought back to life – that would have been good, but this was so much more! This was the miracle of death being defeated; of the price of our sins being paid on our behalf; of the gift of life eternal. It was the birth of a new hope. 1 Peter Ch 1 says this:Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.While we hope that coronavirus will be defeated very soon; while we hope that we will be released from our lockdown very soon; while we hope that no more people will suffer or die of this horrible disease – the hope that we have through Jesus offers us something much more. It allows us to have a confident expectation for the future – something which might otherwise be in short supply. There are no promises of  an easy time or protection from harm, but a very real promise and assurance of our inheritance of eternal life. So, as a family we will celebrate Hope’s birthday today even though we are apart, but we can also celebrate the birth of that new hope which is available for us all if we choose.Happy birthday Hope! Happy new hope everyone!

 

Back To Normal - 13/04/20

Imagine; Boris is back and the virus does a runner. Eventually. The announcement is made on national television (they even interrupt Corrie!), “No more lockdown, we’ve opened your cage.” OK that’s good, so we can go back to normal life. We can ignore our neighbours again; we can breathe in each other’s faces on the train. We can start complaining about the NHS and the incompetent nurses and the snooty doctors, not forgetting the noisy bin men and the lorry drivers clogging up our roads. We can yell at that ignorant driver who’s just cut in front of us in the two mile long traffic jam. Back to normal, brilliant! Or could it be that some people have learned lessons? Maybe we can work from home two days a week. Being friendly with the folks next door might actually make life better. Could Christians (and their neighbours) realise that they are not defined by where they go on Sunday mornings, but by who they are and who’s they are? Here’s a thought, could our young people suddenly become aware of how brilliant it is to have places where they can be educated? How shocked would teachers be to see a class of smiling faces? What are the chances of people remembering how God provided for them in the past, and learning to trust Him for the future?Could we have a new normal?The original Easter was terrifying but also brilliant. When it was all over and Monday arrived, it was in the past wasn’t it? They could all go back to work, and life would return to normal. No chance! That first Easter changed the world for ever. Those people who knew Jesus, had no doubt that He was God’s Son. Nothing could change their minds, not even torture or execution. Even Peter and Paul were murdered because they would not exchange the truth for a lie. That small band of followers, men and women, who had walked with Jesus, and heard His teaching and watched His miracles, who had seen Him die and live again, has now expanded into two thousand million people worldwide! One third of the world’s population wanted to celebrate the resurrection together in groups today. None of them did. But you can’t change the fact that the baby who was born in Bethlehem and executed in Jerusalem is alive and well. The last book in the Bible records a vision of John’s in which he hears Jesus say, “I am the Living One. I was dead but now look, I am alive for ever and ever.” Those who followed Him then and those who follow Him now, have a new normal. When this is all over, which normal will you choose?

 

How the Virus Stole Easter

By Kristi Bothur, With a nod to Dr. Seuss - 12/4/20

 

Twas late in ‘19 when the virus began

Bringing chaos and fear to all people, each land.

People were sick, hospitals full,

Doctors overwhelmed, no one in school.

As winter gave way to the promise of spring,

The virus raged on, touching peasant and king.

People hid in their homes from the enemy unseen.

They YouTubed and Zoomed, social-distanced, and cleaned.

April approached and churches were closed.

“There won’t be an Easter,” the world supposed.

“There won’t be church services, and egg hunts are out.

No reason for new dresses when we can’t go about.”

Holy Week started, as bleak as the rest.

The world was focused on masks and on tests.

“Easter can’t happen this year,” it proclaimed.

“Online and at home, it just won’t be the same.”

Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the days came and went.

The virus pressed on; it just would not relent.

The world woke Sunday and nothing had changed.

The virus still menaced, the people, estranged.

“Pooh pooh to the saints,” the world was grumbling.

“They’re finding out now that no Easter is coming.

“They’re just waking up! We know just what they’ll do!

Their mouths will hang open a minute or two,

And then all the saints will all cry boo-hoo.

“That noise,” said the world, “will be something to hear.”

So it paused and the world put a hand to its ear.

And it did hear a sound coming through all the skies.

It started down low, then it started to rise.

But the sound wasn’t depressed.

Why, this sound was triumphant!

It couldn’t be so!

But it grew with abundance!

The world stared around, popping its eyes.

Then it shook! What it saw was a shocking surprise!

Every saint in every nation, the tall and the small,

Was celebrating Jesus in spite of it all!

It hadn’t stopped Easter from coming! It came!

Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the world with its life quite stuck in quarantine

Stood puzzling and puzzling.

“Just how can it be?”

“It came without bonnets, it came without bunnies,

It came without egg hunts, cantatas, or money.”

Then the world thought of something it hadn’t before.

“Maybe Easter,” it thought, “doesn’t come from a store.

Maybe Easter, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

And what happened then?

Well....the story’s not done.

What will YOU do?

Will you share with that one

Or two or more people needing hope in this night?

Will you share the source of your life in this fight?

The churches are empty - but so is the tomb,

And Jesus is victor over death, doom, and gloom.

So this year at Easter, let this be our prayer,

As the virus still rages all around, everywhere.

May the world see hope when it looks at God’s people.

May the world see the church is not a building or steeple.

May the world find Faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection,

May the world find Joy in a time of dejection.

May 2020 be known as the year of survival,

But not only that -

Let it start a revival.

 

The Difference a Day Makes - 11/04/20

She was only a teenager getting her daily chores done, it was just a normal day. Up till then. When the angel spoke to her she was terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid Mary, God is  very pleased with you.” He told her she would give birth to a son and he “will be called the Son of God.” The teenager who today would be studying French or History, gulped, took a deep breath and said, “I am the Lord’s servant.” She experienced a miracle birth, and after a diversion because the King wanted to kill Him, she took Him home to Nazareth. She watched Him grow up, just like every other boy in town, but like none of them. At the age of thirty He became a wandering preacher with followers and with enemies. At a local wedding they ran out of wine, so Mary told them that Jesus would sort it. Which He did miraculously. He had never performed a miracle publicly before. What Mary had seen Him do at home in those thirty years we will never know, but Mary knew her son. For three years He moved up and down the country, preaching and teaching in ways that the religious leaders could never match. His ability to heal and even raise the dead demonstrated convincingly what His mother already knew, He really was The Son of God. Mary was so proud of her son, and her part in raising and protecting Him. He decided to go to Jerusalem. His disciples said there would be trouble. Jesus knew there would be trouble; it was called ‘crucifixion’. The Bible records, ‘Near the cross of Jesus stood His mother.’ She watched until she heard Him say, “It is finished.” She stumbled away, horrified, confused, not able to believe what she had seen. Jesus was the Son of God. But He was dead. She didn’t sleep. Who would? When daylight returned, nothing had changed. He was still dead and she was still horrified and confused. Nobody had words of comfort for Mary or themselves. The events of yesterday were shocking and beyond belief. This day with its memories and questions would just be the first day in a lifetime of anguish and agony. Mary and the disciples had never heard the expression, ‘What a difference a day makes.’

 

The Lord (of the Rings) - 10/4/20

There is a passage in Tolkien's classic novel, The Lord of the Rings that has always resonated with me and it seems especially pertinent at this unusual time in all our lives. For those of you unfamiliar with the book, or the films; the story follows the quest of an unlikely hero as he seeks to save the world from a great evil. His journey is arduous and filled with sacrifice, peril and loss, but through it all he has a group of loyal friends who are prepared to follow him to the bitter end, no matter the cost. It is a story of love and of hope. After a particularly difficult encounter, when all seems lost, our hero confides in a companion, “I wish that this had not happened in my time”. His wise friend replies, “So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us”.
On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus had similar thoughts. He asks God if it is possible that, “this cup be taken from me”. He knew what lay ahead, but He concludes his plea with the acceptance, “yet not my will, but yours”. He knows what He has to do with the time given to Him. He knows He must pass through the agony of crucifixion to reach the other side.
The disciples too; Jesus' group of friends, must have wondered why this had come upon them. The hope they had seen in Jesus was gone. Their leader and king, the one they had chosen to follow, had met his bitter end. The triumph of Palm Sunday had turned to tragedy. What would they do now? Of course, they had failed to understand that it was only Friday and Sunday was coming! When it came, they knew what it was they needed to do with their time. They spent every waking minute telling anybody who would listen, and many who wouldn't, about this life transforming event. Urging others to follow the risen, conquering king and live a life full of purpose and hope. Well, we are all living in times we wish we hadn't seen. It is not within our gift to change that, so we need to decide what to do. Obviously we need to do the right thing; stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives. We should exercise where and when possible, clap for carers on a Thursday evening, light candles, help others and generally be good citizens... but is that it? When all this is over, and it will be over, will we look back and say, “Well, thank goodness that's done, now we can get back on with our lives”? Or will we have spent the time listening to, and perhaps finally hearing, the message that has been passed down through faithful generations? Will we do more than simply pick up where we left off? Will we accept the gift of sacrifice made for us all those years ago and move forward with a renewed purpose and a life filled with hope?
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes on Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”. John 3:16.

Dinner Time! - 9/4/20

For all you northerners out there, dinner is what you lot call tea and in our house it used to be a really important bit of the day. Once dinner was served, we had a wonderful tradition which I really miss ,now that that the children have grown up. We would sit down and all go around the table telling everyone what had been the best bit of our day. It was simple but meant that we all got to share a bit of good news. We went from eldest to youngest and with 6 of us, it could take a while, especially as the youngest one took forever! Nobody could leave the table until we had all shared and, on occasions, arguments would ensue as the youngest one took so long! We were definitely not the ‘Waltons’! In these weird times, meals have become really important to us again. They break up the day, give us something to prepare for, and can be quite exciting when trying to find inventive ways to use up half a white cabbage and a tin of beans (waste not, want not etc!). On Maundy Thursday, we traditionally celebrate a very special meal. Jesus was preparing for his death and wanted to share the Passover with his closest friends. As he broke the bread and gave thanks for the wine, he gave instructions that whenever we did this, we did it in remembrance of Him. Today we may well be sharing communion/eucharist/The lords supper alone at home, or with many others online. But wherever and whenever we do, it is more special than any other meal that we will share as family. It is a family meal that draws us together as we remember; we give thanks for what Jesus did for us on the cross.

 

Back in the Saddle - 8/4/20

Some years ago, not long after I had arrived in Guatemala to work, I was asked by a local doctor to go and visit a remote village a few hours away on a mountainside. We were travelling in a small jeep until the journey became too difficult. The doctor parked his jeep and announced that we were to walk the rest of the journey. We had only been walking a few minutes, when a couple of men appeared out of nowhere. They lived in a tiny community on the side of the mountain. They asked us where we were going and immediately offered us horses to ride for the rest of the journey. ‘Oh goody!’ I thought to myself sarcastically.  ‘A horse!’ A horse WITHOUT a saddle! I was not excited! That day I was wearing a T-shirt and a long very flowy skirt. Two men offered to help me up. They bent down and both clasped their hands for me to place my foot on. I’m guessing that my large, flowy skirt made me look a bit heavier than I was..... With a big heave from my 2 amigos, all 7 stone of me flew into the air, over the top of the horse, and landed back down on the ground, with my large flowy skirt now over my head. The place erupted with laughter as more and more villagers appeared from nowhere to see the unplanned comedy. So we tried again. I had nothing to lose. I had lost my dignity the moment I landed on the ground. Take 2! And this time I landed safely on the horse. People cheered. My legs dangled pathetically either side. This was not going to be comfortable! The man who owned the horse spoke in Spanish to my translator who told me, “you just have to nudge the horse with your heals and say ‘yah!’ “ I braced myself! So did everyone else! ‘Yah!’ I shouted and swung my legs into the horse‘s sides. We took off, a bit faster than everybody expected, straight through the open door of a small, simple, one-roomed home. The horse stopped in front of a completely stunned family of four who were sitting at the table eating. I got the feeling they’d not had a horse in the house before. At that point in time I don’t know who was more shocked, the family we had just invaded, me, the horse, or the crowd of onlookers outside. For a moment, there was silence. This was broken by me speaking the only Spanish I knew at that time, ‘¡hola!’ (That’s hello!) There wasn’t a dry eye in the place as my horse was backed out of the house and we were sent on our way, riding up the mountainside. At the end of that day, when we eventually returned the horses to the ‘still laughing’ villagers, I ache from head to toe. There wasn’t a bit of me that didn’t hurt. But inside I felt great. We had laughed and laughed while I tried to learn a new skill and ‘somewhat’ succeed! People were gracious, patient, good natured and full of encouragement. I was grateful! Very grateful! Over the past few days and weeks we have all had to adapt to a different way of living and socialising. It’s not been easy. And many of us have had an enormously steep learning curve concerning new ways to communicate with each other. The ‘how to’s’ and the ‘do’s and the don’t’s’, have been really difficult to work our way through. And when it becomes too difficult, the stress levels rise and there’s the temptation to feel stupid or useless or left out. Those people in Guatemala taught me a great lesson that day. They taught me a lot about patience, good humour and encouragement....all I had to do was get back on the horse. 1 Corinthians 13, tells us all about what love is. I encourage you to read it. But one verse says, “Love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy or boast, it is not arrogant”. Can I make a suggestion today, that we all learn from those Guatemalan villagers and help each other face our ‘horse-sized’ stumbling blocks with grace, patience, good humour and much encouragement. When we fall, let’s help each other back up. Happy Wednesday everybody.

 

Knock, knock, knocking on heavens door - 7/4/20

A couple of weeks ago, just as our national lockdown was beginning, there was a knock on my front door and when I answered it there was a beautiful bunch of bright yellow daffodils sitting on the doorstep and I just caught a glimpse of the person who had delivered them (and who presumably  did the knocking) just driving away. Perhaps not considered essential, I certainly couldn’t eat them, but nevertheless a beautiful gift that lifted my day. A few days later, I was able to return the favour and knocked on that person’s door. When they opened it they found a pack of toilet rolls – if nothing else, I am practical! But in order for my gift to be received, I had to knock on the door and the door had to be opened. A
bunch of daffodils left on the doorstep would wither and die while a pack of toilet rolls at the moment would probably get stolen! I needed to willingly bring and offer my gift and it needed to be received; a transaction had to take place. We’ve spoken a lot over the last couple of weeks about the strange and challenging times that we are living in. About the stress and anxiety that many people are feeling and you can’t turn on the TV without hearing about the rates of illness and death that we are enduring at the moment. Of course, with death comes bereavement, sadness and pain. Where can we go with our worries? Who can we share our sadness with? So many people are struggling in so many different ways and we may not know where to turn, but there is someone who is waiting to listen and share the burdens of life. Luke Ch 11 verse 9-10 says:

“Keep on seeking and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will
be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”


We call it prayer but all it is is a conversation with God, but the most wonderful thing about it is that God considers it a gift when you choose to talk to Him. If you have anxieties but you don’t tell Him, that’s like standing at the door without knocking – what’s the point? He promises that if you knock on that door, He will open it – if you look for God, you WILL find Him. Throughout this week as we approach Easter we remember the gift that God sent for us; the gift of His son Jesus dying on the cross but conquering death and rising again. Dying so that we don’t have to. Paying the price of our sins so that we don’t have to. As gifts go, that’s got to be up there! But if you want to receive the gift, you’re going to have to knock on the door.

 

The Clock's Ticking - 6/4/20

A few weeks ago when we were threatened with the possibility of being locked up in our own homes, I had a thought. The thought was, ‘What a waste of time.’ Imagine looking back after two or three months and thinking,’ I’ve done  nothing, achieved nothing, learned nothing.’ Some people of course have sprung into action. B&Q have had their busiest weeks for years as people stocked up on paint and paper. By summer, gardens will be in better condition than we can ever
remember. Millions have discovered their neighbours and are chatting over the fence and shopping. Many people have joined all kinds of community groups. Let’s hope it’s not just for a few months. This was a difficult time for me because although I love gardens and sitting in them, I hate gardening. Kathy and I talked about decorating but we had such different ideas that we decided not to kill each other but leave the decorating for another day. I was so concerned that the younger members of my family would not learn a new skill or develop the ones they had, that I suggested they needed to be proactive and do something.
So where did that leave me? I’m pretty perfect I think, so finding a new activity took time. Then it occurred to me that my cooking skills could possibly be improved. I can boil eggs and make toast, I’m not stupid, but maybe I could learn something useful if the best cook in the world (Kathy) taught me what she had learned in decades. So I announced it to my family, and some were amazed but most were horrified. Is it possible that this dreadful and terrifying worldwide plague could lead us to consider improving our lives? Christians do not get special treatment, they go through difficult and painful times like anybody else.  In Psalm 119, the writer says,

‘It was good for me to be afflicted, so that I might learn Your decrees.’

Millions around the world are being reminded of God’s goodness to them before this virus arrived, but they never thought to say “Thank You.” Also we are now
aware of how much we depend upon God’s provision and protection. So let’s not waste our time at home, let’s learn new skills, make new friends, opt out of the rat race, and let’s all acknowledge our need of the God who loves us.
Now what do I do with these sausages?

 

Emmanuel... Not just for Christmas 5/4/20

The crowds cheered. The atmosphere was electric. It was the arrival of the king. The shouting and chanting and praising got louder and louder. ‘ Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!‘ The crowd were throwing their cloaks on the ground, and they waved their palm leaves with much excitement and enthusiasm. The King has arrived. On a donkey. Wait!! A donkey? Are you serious? Kings don’t ride on donkeys! Donkeys are kind of cute, a bit funny looking, enormous big ears....but definitely not regal! But here He was. Jesus. King Jesus. Riding on a donkey. This was a far cry from the pomp and circumstance of other kings processions. But Jesus wasn’t ‘just another king’. He was God’s son. The Miracle Worker. The Servant King. The King of all Kings. Jesus brought a message of love, forgiveness, grace and hope.  As the people cried ‘Hosanna!’ Jesus knew that their cries, just a few days later, would be ‘Crucify him!’ Jesus wept. He wept for every person who had missed ‘Emmanuel, God with Us’. He loved them and He wept.

And today, Jesus loves us and weeps for us. On this Palm Sunday, let’s not miss ‘Emmanuel, God with Us’. Let’s celebrate Him, thank Him and invite Him in to our messy lives.

‘I have come that you may have life, life in all its fullness’. John 10:10.

What Is Wrong With Me?! - 4/4/20

When I was growing up, we adopted a cat! Sooty was beautiful. He looked like Sylvester. He was independent and very proud. Occasionally he would let you pick him up and give him a hug. Very occasionally. And occasionally he would get quite excited playing a game with you, until suddenly out of the blue, he would try to swipe you. No warning. His way of saying, ‘I’m through with playing’.  Recently, I was chatting to somebody on the phone, and within the space have a few minutes we had gone from laughing, to crying, to laughing again, to venting and frustration… And then they unnecessarily apologised for their mass of different emotions. This is an incredibly difficult time for everybody. But for some people, maybe those who live alone, who are already unwell and feeling more vulnerable, maybe those who are suffering financial crisis...it’s even more difficult.  In 1 Peter 5:7 we read these words,

‘Cast all your anxiety on Him (God), for He cares for you’.

Anxiety is very real and exhausting, and all of us, at the moment, will experience some days, or maybe many days of laughter one minute, distress the next, loneliness the next, laughter again. One big jumbled mess of emotions. And that’s ok. But don’t battle those days on your own. Talk to someone who you can be real with and talk to God who knows everything about you already. Let’s all be there for one another, in those ‘Sooty moments’, and let’s all remember and be thankful for our loving God who has never left us, and never will.

Play Ball! - 3/04/20

I love baseball. For me, it's the greatest game in the world. The reasons for my passion are many and varied and if you've got a few hours to spare, I'll happily wax lyrical to you about it. Oh, wait a minute, we've all got time on our hands right now... I'll expect your call. Opening day; the first day of a new season, holds a special place in the hearts of baseball fans. It heralds the arrival of spring and suggests the promise of new beginnings. Our favourite teams return to begin a long journey filled with twists and turns and the hope that they will put together a magical season that will be remembered forever. The umpire sweeps the dirt from home plate and shouts, “Play ball!” and off we go. It doesn't matter how badly your team did last year. Their poor performances, missed chances and mistakes are all forgotten. This is a fresh start. A world of new possibilities awaits. It is a time of hope. A chance to begin again. A chance to get it right this time. This year's opening day was on 26th March – except it wasn't. Like every other sport, baseball has postponed its season, leaving millions of devotees disappointed. Who knows when we will get to enjoy the thrill of the chase, the smell of the popcorn, the buzz of the crowd. It may be a long wait. The good news is that we have a God who offers us opening day every day. No matter what mistakes we have made, however poorly we have behaved, whatever we did that we wish we hadn't or whatever we failed to do that we wished we had, He offers us a new beginning. We don't need to wonder when this opening day will come. It's here now. There is no wait. What's more, we don't need to wait for the season to finish to know who wins. We do.

“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.

Jeremiah 29:11

Jelly babies and Saucers - 2/4/20

In my previous life I used to teach Business studies to a mixed bunch of Year 9 reprobates. One of my favourite lessons was to teach them about hierarchical structures in organisations. It was easy to apply to a school situation and generated good discussions about who was at the top of the school leadership and why. We would then progress to look at efficiency savings and a concept called delayering. This was cracking good fun as we set up a sort of diagram using loads of jelly babies, all in a triangle shape, with 1 at the top, then 2 on the next layer and so on. As we removed layers, they got to eat the jelly babies, pretending they were real people with screams, gurgles and yelps! A good leadership model for church is totally not like that. The kingdom of God should be more like a gi-enormous saucer into which is thrown all the people of God. Those who lead, with heavier weights of responsibilities, should sink to the bottom to hold up and support the rest. We are all in this storm together (and it is definitely not a storm in a tea cup!) At times, some of us will be more able to sink to the bottom of the saucer and hold up the rest. At other times, we need to allow ourselves to be carried because there is no hierarchy in God’s Kingdom.
Right, over and out & time for a brew!

My Bruce! - 1/4/20

I have no sense of direction! I take after my mum. I walk out of Primark in Liverpool 1 and ALWAYS go the wrong way! When I passed my driving test when I was 18, I remember it took months for me to find Ormskirk! And then, I went to work abroad. There was a genuine concern that I wouldn’t find my destinations. I’d step off a plane not speaking a word of the local language and somehow I’d find my way! Sometimes people would be able to give me instructions through dramatic hand signals, and on other occasions I think they took pity on me and took me to my destination themselves. All these years later and now we have sat navs. The ingenious talking maps that speak with such confidence and knowledge. Mine is a big Australian man called Bruce. He’s wonderful! I love Bruce. He never gets frustrated with me, never throws a strop, and when I make a mistake he very gently speaks up and gets me back on the right track. Bruce has rescued me time and time again. But here’s the thing, my poor sense of direction isn’t limited to me physically getting from A to B. My whole life, from the day I was born, has been one massive big journey. There have been many twists and turns, valleys and mountaintops. Too many to count. And if Bruce was all I had to help me, well, I wouldn’t be here now. I’ve made many wrong choices, taken myself down many wrong paths and entered valleys far too deep to climb out of alone. 

The Bible is jam packed with people just like me! Or should I say, I’m just like them?! Wandering through life, sometimes bulldozing through life, and all too often forgetting to consult The Guide. Proverbs 3:5-6 says these beautiful words,

 

 ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths’.

 

In these very uncertain and troubled days I’m so thankful that while I don’t hold the future, I know and trust the one who does. 

Just in case you’re wondering, I’m not sharing Bruce with you! He’s mine and no one else’s! But Jesus? Well, I want to share Him with everyone! Life is one tough journey, let’s trust The Guide.

What was the question? 30/4/20

When we first fostered, I remember a long drive to a holiday. We were in the middle of an adoption process and, understandably, my son to be , had a lot of questions. So he sat in the front seat and for over 4 hours he did not shut up. Question after question after question. To this day, I have no idea what those questions were but they were not deep and meaningful. Most were just questions to fill up the space. They were his way of feeling secure. I arrived at our holiday caravan totally exhausted and praying that he would shut up! Even today, when one of my, now grown up, children wanders into the living room, I confess to sometimes pretending to be deeply buried in an important bookbecause sometimes, her questions are just too demanding for me to answer. Many of my friends with small children are struggling with their questions. One little girl is asking a lot about death, suffering and corona. It is really tough being on the receiving end of such questioning. The questions that we were asking of ourselves a couple of months ago may have changed somewhat and in many cases, they have become harder to answer. We no longer ask what someone is doing at the weekend but we do ask how people are doing ? We may even mean it more. We may also be questioning our God a lot more too. Thank goodness our Father in Heaven does not act like me. He does not hide or pretend to be busy when I have questions, no matter how challenging they are. I may not always get answers that I want or I may get answers that perhaps I was not expecting. However, whatever the answer, I am told to trust God, as hard as that may be at times. Proverbs chapter 3 verse 5 - 6 says this: “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything onyour own. Listen for God ’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’sthe one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all.”And if the question is “Are we there yet?”, the answer is…….

 

Priceless Gnomes! 29/4/20

Have you ever received a gift that’s a little bit odd? Maybe it’s not really your style, or it’s a bit pointless or maybe it’s just really ugly? And there you are taking the wrapping off it with a bewildered look on your face and ‘what am I supposed to do with that?’ thought in your head?? We’ve all been there haven’t we?!  Some years ago when my four girls were much younger, for Mother’s Day one year, I was presented with four wrapped up gifts. The wrapping was clumsy and full of sellotape, evidence of the hard work they’d put in. Their excitement was off the scale. So to speed things up a bit, they offered to help me unwrap them. Of course, I accepted their help. And within seconds, there stood before me were my 4 beaming girls, each holding one ugly gnome! These ugly little, badly painted, wonky gnomes had entered our lives, to much excitement and hilarity! They were gifts from my girls, and therefore, they were priceless! We found a good place for them in the garden and every single time I looked at them, I’d be reminded of the precious gift they were. Since that time, my love for gnomes has continued and now we do have quite a collection! Each one, a little bit ugly and a little bit tacky, and absolutely priceless!! Gifts, given in love (and fun!) from people who mean a whole lot to me! And whether it’s a special birthday, a quiz at Easter or a competition at Christmas, at Melling Baptist, you can always receive a gnome! But there’s a reason for this. Gnomes may seem useless but they can bring about a smile, and possibly a memory of, ‘that funny occasion when I won a gnome!’  At the moment, there’s a real temptation to get fed up with being at home and not ‘doing‘ our usual stuff isn’t there? Let’s face it, we all want to feel useful don’t we? But actually, we’re being incredibly useful if we’re bringing a smile to someone’s face. Reminding them of a happy time? Or showing you care about them, just by being there. We may not be able to ‘do’ much at all, but we can still ‘be’ a whole lot. The bible puts it quite simply, ‘Don’t just pretend that you love others: really love them.....Love each other with brotherly affection and take delight in honouring each other.' Romans 12:9-10

So, can I suggest that the next time you’re feeling a bit rubbish or useless or fed up....tell yourself that you’re a priceless gnome and make it your day’s goal to simply be there for someone else.

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