July '22 Sunrises
'Good Sport' - 30/07/22
With this as a heading, there could be a number of things that we could talk about.
Could it be the last ever episode of Neighbours, the Australia soap opera which has run for 37 years and given many people years of pleasure. It also gave us Jason and Kylie, some may have differing opinions on that one. G’day sport.
Could it be the Athletics World Championships which took place in USA recently? Jake Wightman won a Gold in the 1500 metres and his dad Geoff was the commentator. What a proud moment to be able to commentate to the world on your sons victory.
Could it be the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, where all countries are welcome, even the Cook Island swimmers who have never swum in a pool, why build a pool when you have an ocean on your doorstep?
Could it be the womens England football team reaching the European 2022 final to play this Sunday? The ever increasing support for the team is fantastic.
Could it be the Melling Badminton group meeting most Fridays so that Richard can teach us all a lesson in how to play and have fun, no matter what the score.
Sport has so many ways that it can lift our spirits, its not the competition as such but the effort and support from so many that all come to fruition in the race. The sheer joy of the winners finally realising their goal. They have trained for years just to reach the event. The coach, physio, trainer, family, support group all backing them up and encouraging them to keep going.
Jesus understands how this works and he encourages in our lives to keep going and he will be there to support us.
“Since we have such a huge crowd of people of faith watching us from the grandstands, let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us up; and let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us. Keep your eyes on Jesus, our leader and instructor.” Hebrews 12.
As each of us supports and encourages those around us, keep listening to God and he will guide us and help us on our journey.
"Another Person's Eyes" - 28/07/22
“So many memories and secrets, so many burdens. Every life has such weight. I don’t know how anybody carries even one.”
Stuart Turton, The seven deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
This book is a detective novel with a difference. In order to solve the murder, the detective relives the same day over and over again by waking up each day in a different person’s body, literally looking at the world through another person’s eyes. He then uses this information to solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle.
Now this is only possible through literary imagination, but in doing this the detective realises that every person he becomes has a different set of issues and problems that he may have otherwise been unaware of, hence the quote.
Sometime its easy for us to look at other people’s lives and think that they may have it ‘easy’, or that their life is somehow better than ours. The reality is that as in the book, and as Plato is often quoted;
“Be Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”
Jesus, when he talks to his disciples in Matthew 11 is well aware of this. Jesus reminds us that even though life can be hard, we don’t have to go through it alone.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Jesus offers his love and care and grace to everyone and anyone who turns to him. Jesus went through betrayal, heart break, torture, and death because he loved us so much. Wherever you are today, Jesus gets it, he knows how hard life can be. He sees the hidden pain and disappointment as well as the visible scars, and he loves you.
Let’s come to Jesus with everything we have, ‘warts and all’, and let him walk with us, sharing our pain and allowing us to rest in him. And let’s also let that amazing love shine through us, so that we can love others with that same love, and stand with them, sharing their burdens.
That’s what the family of God is all about.
"A Great Hootenanny!" - 27/07/22
Last Saturday night after a 2 yeah wait, we went to see Jools Holland at the Liverpool Philharmonic.
I wish I was still there!
It was absolutely fabulous! Just over two hours of music, music, music.
Jools, along with his big band and a variety of vocalists, (Eddie Reader and Ruby Turner were major highlights!) drifted from jazz to blues to boogie woogie to classical to pop, back to Jazz…incredible talent!
A wonderful night, well worth the two year wait!
But one thing stood out to me during the evening.
Everybody on the stage was vital to the evening’s success.
Jools was clearly the leader of the pack, but he treated every single person as an equal. They were respected, admired, applauded and valued.
It wasn’t just what he said about them that made that clear to the audience, but it was shown in the performers smiles and enthusiasm and sheer delight in being part of the evening.
They looked like one big family.
It was wonderful to see.
It didn’t matter whether they played the trombone, saxophone, guitar or double bass, all were vital!
Even the guy who was whacking a bit of wood with a stick, (what is that called?) added something great to the performance.
It reminded me very much of Paul, in the Bible, speaking to a church.
He likened the church to a human body saying,
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ….
If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?
If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?
But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.
If they were all one part, where would the body be?
As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’
And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’….
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
As we chat on texts and phone calls, as we meet as individuals and as groups, may we all view eachother as equal and vital, to our church, community and world. Each one of us having both strengths and weaknesses. May we show gratitude for each others strengths, and show support for each others weaknesses.
"What's Next" - 26/07/22
We were really tired; we had walked all day and eaten almost nothing. Even our black Lab was exhausted, which we were pleased about because usually when we were drained of energy, he would still be bouncing. We had to eat. Now! And there in front of us was a dream come true. A chippy! To be honest it was a little difficult to see because there were twenty people in the queue. The queue moved very slowly, but one by one, people emerged from the chippy with a bag and a smile. Eventually we reached the door and I looked back with satisfaction; we were now at the front of the queue. We stepped inside and reality hit us in the face. We had been at the front of the queue outside the shop, but now we were at the back of the queue inside the shop. The smell was wonderful, but you can’t eat a smell, so our wait continued. As we walked back to the house, I thought about the events of the day; the long walk, the tiredness, the wonderful discovery of a chippy, the long queue, another long queue, the weary walk home, then and only then, we got the chips. Often our lives can feel like this, one problem after another, then promise of rescue followed by more unwelcome issues, then, maybe, some relief.
Christians are not excused this process, we live in the real world like everybody else, and we experience the same rollercoaster ride of problems, joys, sadness, peace, etc. Jesus made no promises of a protected, peaceful, and serene lifestyle. He told His followers, “In this world you will have trouble,” that isn’t very encouraging, but He added, “But take heart, I have overcome the world.” Sometimes, events in our lives cause us to wonder where God is, but in our Bibles we constantly read that not only is God in control, but He always knows our situation and is always with us. Even if we wanted to hide from Him, we can’t do that. David wrote, ‘Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.’ However we feel today, God knows, understands, and cares. When we feel lonely and forgotten, God promises, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you,”
It’s Tuesday morning; we all start the day in different situations and with different emotions, but in the presence of the same loving God.
"Pass It On" - 25/07/22
There are many times when we look to pass on a message or story or skill. And different people like to learn in different ways. Recently, my daughter was given some recipes to use which described all the ingredients of what was needed, but what she wanted was to watch and be shown how to make it. She is definitely a visual learner. She was happy to try when she has seen it being done and then use the recipe to remind her.
In work, when changing role or job, we write a “handover” document. So all the things I have been doing are written down, describing why it was being done, what was needed and how to do it. Its also good to know who is involved. Often I use W5H as a guide, Who, What, Why, When, Where & How.
There are family stories that we all tell, and most likely, each time we tell them the story gets a little bit embellished, or as you are telling it someone else says “no, no, it was like this…”.
Passing on learning has long been a tradition and methods have changed over the years. Storytelling and sketches started, but the sketches could be interpreted in different ways. Stories could change each time they were told. Event writing it down could still be read in different ways but it was less likely to continue to change.
When Jesus told a story, he would sometimes tell it as a story that people could relate to in their own lives. He would pass the message on by giving examples in ways that people could understand. The stories were often simple but they had a much deeper meaning that people could then understand and relate to.
What matters is not the story itself but being able to understand its message and apply it. Having a recipe card is great but until you actually make the food, its not much use.
In the book of Mark in the bible, Jesus tells us
“What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”
The love that Jesus shows for us is a seed that we can embrace in our lives, nurture it, feed it and it will grow to be a foundation of our lives. And then we can share the story of how it changed our lives.
"Marbles" - 22/07/22
In a small town in the mid-west of America, the body of, "old man" Green lay in the chapel of rest. In keeping with tradition, the widow Green sat next to her husband's open casket to offer her thanks to all who came to pay their last respects. She was kept company by her only surviving relative, a cousin, who lived in the nearest town to the north, some fifteen miles away.
Midway through the afternoon, the door opened and three, well dressed, middle-aged men entered; clearly out of towners. One by one they approached the casket and whispered softly to old man Green; and each held his hand as they did so. Having said their goodbyes to the old man, they turned to the widow and spoke the usual words of condolence, before leaving as quietly as they had come. Unable to contain her curiosity, the cousin asked the widow about the identity of the visitors. "That's the Wainwright boys; Charlie, Tommy and Billy. They lived around here as kids and left as soon as they were able; went off to find their fortune in the city. Looks like they found it too".
The Wainwright boys came from a family that could be charitably described as dirt poor. As children, they were regular visitors to old man Green's produce store. They collected what few supplies they could afford with the money their mother had given them and, every time, old man Green asked them whether they wanted anything else. "Ain't got no more money Mister Green" was the standard reply. Old man Green would pause for a minute and then begin the charade, "Well, I was just thinking only this morning that I miss playing marbles. I used to be a keen marble player when I was your age. Now, if you could bring me a blue marble tomorrow, I could take that as payment for some of these beets and potatoes". The transaction was agreed and the next day the requested marble would be produced; only for the old man to change his mind about the colour and request a red one. Every day the proffered marble was rejected in favour of a different one and every day extra supplies would find their way into the hessian bag the Wainwright boys carried. No marble was ever taken as payment, but the Wainwright's larder was always stocked in excess of their meagre income.
At the end of the day, when the time came to close the casket, the undertaker discovered that three marbles had been placed in the old man's hand. The Wainwright boys had finally paid their debts.
Like many of us, old man Green lived an ordinary life, but lived it in an extraordinary way. He was a simple store keeper, but he was capable of changing people's lives. His simple acts of kindness were often the only thing that kept the Wainwrights fed... and the Wainwrights were not alone in benefiting from his graceful generosity. He never lost sight of the Biblical proverb, "Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act" and always remembered, "to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased". So, let's please God and follow in the footsteps of old man Green. Marbles anybody?
'As Hot as a Furnace' - 21/07/22
It certainly has been a hot few days! For the first time ever, the UK temperature has reached 40 degrees Celsius. A wonderful heatwave for some, a very visual reminder of the effects of climate change for others. Even for the those who can usually sleep ‘on a clothes line’, sleep was difficult as night temperatures hovered around 30degrees!
Although it has been extremely hot this week, it is not as hot as the aptly named Furnace Creek in California. It is officially the hottest and driest place in the world, with average summer temperatures of 47degrees Celsius, and with the record for the highest temperature ever recorded, a whopping 54.4 degrees Celsius in August 2020.
You would think that with such high temperatures, no one would be able to live there, but you would be wrong. Furnace creek has approximately 136 inhabitants, a restaurant, café, store and a golf course, and even several campsites.
I can’t imagine living somewhere that hot all the time, and for people and pets who have struggled in the last few days here, it would really be torture.
It has reminded me of the saying ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’. The idea that going from a bad situation to an even worse one can be described as from a hot place to an even hotter one, we can all relate to this week.
Even when the temperatures settle down to more ‘normal’ levels, some of us will still have ‘fires’ to go through in our own lives, whether its difficult situations, difficult people, or difficult choices, things can feel so ‘hot’ they are almost unbearable.
Whatever furnace you are facing, you don’t have to go through it alone. God is our ever present help and comfort, and he reminds us constantly that not only has he been with us in the past, he will do so in the future.
In the book of Hosea, God sends a messenger to remind his people of how much he has loved them in the past,
I cared for you in the wilderness, in the land of burning heat.
and how much he still loves them and wants them to turn to him.
Hosea 14: 4, 7
The Lord says….my love will know no bounds……. My people will again live under my shade. They will flourish like grain and blossom like grapevines.
Whatever you are facing today, may God be your shade and bring you peace.
'The Small Things' - 20/07/22
I saw an article the other day about someone in the ‘Kardashian world’ getting married. I can’t remember which Kardashian it was, nor remember who she was marrying, I think it might have been in Italy, but I really can’t be sure. To be honest, I paid little attention. But I wish them well.
It reminded me of an article I read some time ago about their tv show, ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’. A continual ‘fly on the wall’ account of each and every day in their very expensive household. One of them made the comment that they look forward to no longer being watched, day in, day out, because perfection is just too difficult to keep up. It would seem that the Kardashians are having trouble keeping up with themselves!? I saw a photograph of all the various tiny children in their family. They were having a photo shoot. All dressed in clothes that complimented the child next to them. All clean. All looking at the camera!! How did they do it???? The photo was, to be fair on those little chicks, very beautiful. I hope they were having fun. I hope I was looking at them, not an airbrushed version of them.
Yesterday I was looking through our family photos. Photos of my four chicks. Sometimes when they were tiny I’d dress them in dresses that matched. Not that they cared. I’d do their hair in beautiful braids, or leave it down with the obligatory hair band in place. I have some truly wonderful photos! (It helps when your dad is a photographer!) But what comes with the photo is the memory of the occasion. We’d just been rolling down a hill. We’d just watched a funny film. We’d had a McDonald’s. They’d just played a joke on me. One of them had just dropped their chocolate ice cream all down their white top, they’d just waged war on eachother, they’d left a trail of destruction in the house, that I would be heading back to, to tidy up. And it was the rarest occasion in the world if all four were looking at the camera! Welcome to real life! I’m sure you can relate?
Someone once said, ‘Appreciate the little things in life, because one day you’ll look back and realise they were the big things’.
So today, I’m thankful for every beautiful, scruffy-looking photo of my little girls that brings back memories of mud pies, baking a cake, climbing a hill, planting flowers…
I’m thankful for the everyday conversations I have with my chicks while we do the dishes together, drive to the shops together, watch tv together.
I’m thankful for WhatsApp chats with all our amazing Melling family that can get really mad and busy at times, but are always fuelled with love, humour, concern and help.
I’m thankful for my cup of coffee that causes me to stop for just a moment and stare at my garden that I love so much.
This is my busy, messy, complicated, beautiful, completely ordinary and often mundane life. And I love it.
The Bible says,
‘THIS is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it’.
May today and every mundane, ordinary, imperfect day, bring you reasons to smile, be grateful, thank God, and truly live.
As for the Kardashians, I don’t know them at all, but hope and pray that in the midst of what may be a pursuit for an airbrushed, perfect life, they too discover what it is to truly live.
'Every Praise' - 19/07/22
‘Every Praise’ is a simple, repetitive, easy to learn song that 9 year old Willie Myrick learnt at church one day in 2014. He loved the song so much that he sang it and sang it.
In April 2014, Willie was playing outside his home in Atlanta, Georgia, when he was kidnapped. He was bundled into the back of a car and the kidnapper told him to shut up and sit quietly. Willie had other plans. He was going to sing the new song he had learnt at church. And sing he did. For 3 hours, nonstop.
The driver shouted at him and threatened him, insisting that Willie stop singing that song! He didn’t. And eventually the kidnapper, exhausted by 3 hours of ‘Every Praise’, stopped the car, threw Willie out, unharmed, and drove away.
In thanksgiving for Willie being returned home safely, the church had a special celebration, and sang the song again….’Every praise is to our God, Every word of worship with one accord, Every praise, Every praise, is to our God’.
This simple song may be a little bit repetitive, but the words cry out thanksgiving and adoration of a God who deserves our every praise.
Click the link below to listen to the song, performed by Hezekiah Walker.
‘I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever’.
'Star Gazing' - 14/07/22
This week some amazing photos have been published from the James Webb Space Telescope. It’s given us amazing images closer to the edge of the observable universe than we have ever seen before. I have been astounded by the detail and the colour, they are truly out of this world!
If this amazing astronomy wasn’t enough, last night saw a super moon event in the northern hemisphere. It’s the closest the moon is going to be to the earth during a full moon this year, due to the ellipsis nature of the moons orbit around the earth, so its really a super SUPER moon!
Now whilst I love looking at the stars, sometimes the light pollution can get in the way, not to mention the wonderful British weather!
However, if you were in Tenerife, you would have a much more ‘out of this world’ star gazing experience. Due to its high altitude, how near it is to the equator, and its lack of tropical storms, Tenerife is one of the best places for astronomy tourism in the world! It even has laws controlling its plane flight paths to protect its stargazing conditions! People flock to the observatory at the top of the Teide volcano for uninterrupted views of the universe!
Its a truly humbling experience for me to even get a glimpse of how truly vast and wonderful the universe is.
It reminds me of how truly amazing our creator God is.
Psalm 147 describes it like this:
Praise the Lord, he heals the broken-hearted and bandages their wounds. He counts the stars and calls them all by name. How Great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension!
Carl Boberg, a Swedish poet, described it like this:
Oh Lord My God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the works thy hand hath made. I see the stars, and I hear the rolling thunder! Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
So today, whether we are gazing at stars, nature, or the wonderful people that are in our lives, remember how great our creator God is, and be encouraged by the thought that God thinks that each one of us is as amazing as one of those stars photographed by the James Webb telescope.
Let’s join in with Carl Boberg and sing:
Then sings my soul, my saviour God to thee, How great thou art, how great thou art!
"Sleep Well Tonight" - 12/07/22
The sun is going down. Soon it will set for another day.
We will lock our doors, close our blinds,
switch the tv off,
hug the dog,
kiss the kids,
and crawl in to bed.
How was today?
How did you do?
Was it good?
Did you achieve things? Tonight can you sleep well?
Or tonight will you go to bed irritated, angry, upset, lacking forgiveness?
Will your conscience keep you awake?
Will you rehearse conversations over and over in your head until you’re completely wound up and then lie awake seeing every hour of the night on the clock?
Days are unpredictable aren’t they? It only takes one unwelcome comment, or a side glance, or someone else’s bad attitude and our day can go downhill and our nights render us sleepless.
Or maybe we’re the ones who’ve ruined someone else’s day?
An old pastor was once asked, ‘why is it, you deal with people all day, every day, and often face difficult problems and worrying scenarios, but always look so well and rested?’
The old man thought for a moment and replied, ‘I’ve learnt over many years that going to bed anxious and angry doesn’t help me at all. I’ve come to understand that God doesn’t slumber, nor sleep, so there’s no point both of us being awake’.
Can I suggest that we take on board this wise advice?
Tonight, before we settle down, if we have worries let’s tell God about them and leave them with Him;
if we have unforgiveness maybe we need to make a phone call or contact someone to bring closure and forgiveness;
if we need to say sorry then let’s say sorry.
We have no idea what tomorrow may bring so let’s settle down in peace tonight and trust the God who holds the future.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.
Goodnight everybody, sleep well tonight x
"Works of Art" - 11/07/22
I bet you can’t guess what I’ve been looking at this week so I’ll tell you, it will speed things up. I’ve been looking at bus stops. They’re not usually considered to be works of art, are they? When did you last see an exhibition of imaginative and creative bus stop designs in the local art gallery? Probably never. Life in most of the 20th century in the Soviet Union is not remembered as a time of great creative freedom. Ideology regulated all spheres of life, including art and architecture. Armen Sardarov, a Belarusian architect, described it as ‘A time of monotony in architecture.’ But creative people always find ways of expressing themselves and demonstrating freedom even in a country where the state controlled almost every aspect of life. In the Soviet Union, cars were a luxury, but the public transport system was well developed and appreciated. Buses went everywhere and reached even the most remote villages and corners of the republic. Out of this grey, boring, and repressive culture blossomed a new art form. Bus stops! Local architects and artists who failed to win government projects, were employed by local authorities to design bus stops. But unlike in the big cities where design regulation insisted on uniformity, out in the lonely countryside where bus stops could be twenty miles from each other, creative freedom reigned. It was such a huge nation that thousands of these creations mushroomed. You need to see the results to believe what was produced, always from local material. Talk to Google. Surrounded by repression, fear, and a sense of helplessness, these beautiful local creations spoke of freedom, beauty, and joy.
Jesus constantly encouraged His followers to have a similar effect on their local community, and demonstrate an alternative lifestyle to the one that surrounds us. He said, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say, love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. In that way you will be acting as true children of your Father in Heaven….If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” The call to be perfect is beyond us, but we are called to an alternative set of standards to those around us, in order that the love of God is seen in all its’ glory, and so that people may be aware that spiritual freedom, beauty, and joy are gifts from God. Even we could be works of art.
'Rotten Tomatoes' - 07/07/22
I don’t know if you have ever been in a food fight, but if you ever wanted to go to the biggest food fight of all time, you need to go to a little town called Bunol, near Valencia in Spain. Every August, they have a massive food fight called La Tomatina! It basically consists of throwing ripe tomatoes at each other! Its so large that you now have to have a ticket to take part, and tickets are limited to 20,000 people! The food fight gets through 120 tonnes of tomatoes in 1 hour!
Now this is clearly a food fight like no other, but what I found interesting is that it started completely by accident. In 1945, another festival was taking place in the town, when one of the festival performers fell off the parade float, and into a group of young people. Things got a bit heated, and they started attacking each other with the first thing that came to hand, which happened to be tomatoes from the local stall! They ended up having so much fun that they bought their own tomatoes the next year to throw, and even though they got arrested for doing so, the tradition spread to the massive festival that takes place today.
I wonder if you had told those young people 80 years ago, that an accidental fight would lead to a world renown festival with many thousands of people, would they have believed you? I suspect not.
This reminded me of another young person in the bible. He went to see a local preacher, and as it was going to be a long day, he took a packed lunch with him. A few bread rolls and some sardines. Just enough for one. If you had told that young person that his packed lunch would end up being part of one of Jesus’ most well-known miracles, where he fed 5000 men, plus women and children, would he have believed you? If you had told him that 2000 years later people would still be talking about it, what would he have said?
Another of his disciples, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
It reminded me that even the smallest, seemingly accidental acts can lead to amazing things. Who knows who you will meet today and what might happen! Something that you do today might lead to a major festival in 50 years time! Or the love and kindness that you give to one another might make the world of difference to someone. Whatever happens today, lets not take it for granted, but use everything and anything to show Gods love and care.
'Dishing the Dirt' - 06/07/22
Time to visit the weird and wonderful world of insects! If you’re anything like me then most insects make your skin crawl. They often have speed and agility and not-so-hidden weapons of war all in their favour. But you have to admit, they are fascinating!!
My latest bit of reading has been about the dung beetle! What a truly disgusting and yet incredible little creature!! As the name suggests, these beetles have a big interest in dung! They eat it, sleep on it, sleep in it, lay their eggs in it and find shelter beneath it!! Who knew dung could be so versatile??? And if all this wasn’t amazing enough, we then learn that dung beetles are the strongest animals in the world!!…all relative of course!! The humble beetle can drag a ball of dung a whopping 1141 times its own body weight!! That’s similar to a human being dragging 6 double decker buses!! These creatures clearly have an insatiable desire for others dirt!!
While I was reading these facts, I was amazed to realise that humans can be just like these beetles! How often do we get invited to partake in the latest bit of juicy gossip?? Do we find it fun to talk about someone else’s misgivings and mistakes? What films do we choose to watch? What places do we choose to go to? Do we go out of our way to talk to the ‘right people’ knowing that they’ll quite literally ‘dish the dirt’? Before we know it we can find ourselves having more similarities with the dung beetle than we care to admit!
The Bible warns us often against gossip, cruelty, unforgiveness, mockery, bullying and celebrating wrong. Jesus Himself instructed us to ‘do to others as we would have them do to us’.
Paul put it like this, ‘Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse’.
Dung beetles are incredible powerhouses who spend their entire lives seeking out, consuming and dishing, the dirt. May we all choose to leave that behaviour well and truly in the insect world.
'You're a Gift' - 05/07/22
I was watching a programme the other day about status. How power and position can most certainly corrupt. There were top doctors, business men and women, lawyers and musicians, to name but a few, who openly declared their elevated status and presumed that this qualified them to treat others with disgust and contempt. Their behaviour towards others was nothing short of outrageous and abusive. They appeared to thrive on their ability to intimidate.
This behaviour is nothing new. We read in the Bible of people who abused their positions, considering themselves above others. Kings, queens, Pharaohs, religious leaders, political leaders, and even those who lived in the ‘better parts of town’, elevated themselves to god-like status, chief critics, mockers and scorners. Doing what they liked to who they liked.
God took no pleasure in that behaviour then and takes no pleasure in it now.
When King Saul was less than impressive, God sent a shepherd boy to kill the giant. When the fearsome Canaanites were approaching and fear spread throughout the people of Israel, God chose Gideon, ‘the weakest member of the weakest clan’ to stand up to the enemy and conquer. When Jesus was teaching crowds of people and they were all hungry, He took a young boy’s lunch of five loaves and two fish and shared it amongst thousands.
Some of us are blessed with very specific and great skills and talents, discovering cures for diseases, performing unbelievable operations, writing pieces of music that are so beautiful they bring tears to our eyes. Those gifts are incredible and may the bearers of those gifts remember to thank God for them and use them to bless others.
And then there’s the rest of us, who may not hold degrees, may not earn much money and may not have been offered opportunities, but still equally important to this world and still gifted. If God can take the ‘nobodies’ of the Bible and do great things in and through them, then be encouraged, He can do it in you and I too.
Whoever you are, and whatever role you play, remember you are gifted and needed and equally important to our world.
Whatever we can offer, however small and apparently insignificant, let’s bring our, ‘five loaves and two fish’ to the God who can take our offerings of ‘nothing special’ and do something amazing with them.
‘God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.’ Ephesians 3:20
"Who Knows" - 04/07/22
Every day on our televisions, probably five or six times a day, we watch weather ‘forecasters’ telling us, and showing us on their high-tech charts, what conditions we can expect at 3pm this afternoon or 7am tomorrow morning. Many of us base our activities and destinations on what we hear from these educated and presentable individuals who have become part of our lives. We make family arrangements for a day trip because we have been told that tomorrow will be dry, mostly sunny, and warm enough to leave our overcoats at home. In our house, both mobile phones have weather channels, but they are prepared by different teams of experts. They almost never agree! So, it seems to me that ‘forecasting’ is an optimistic expression for ‘guessing’.
We are guessing about the origin of a plant that has appeared in one of our garden pots that we did not expect. We did all the right things, we bought a small plant in a pot with a card showing what it will look like, used the right compost, watered it regularly, and we are watching it grow. However, we are also watching the monster that is growing in the same pot that we didn’t plant. It has huge leaves, its very pretty, and has swamped the plant we expected to see. Yesterday we bought a bigger pot for it, and we will see what happens. Predicting the future, according to my dad, is a mug’s game. Think back five years, what couldn’t we predict then that has happened since. Did we predict Covid? Or Ukraine? These are global catastrophes and we didn’t see them coming. I wonder what else we have missed.
Christians believe that God is not just outside of time but also in charge of it. When Jesus’ disciples asked Him about their future, He replied,
“It is not for you to know the times or dates the father has set by His own authority.”
The apostle James was very clear and direct in his writing; talking about people who boast about their futures, he wrote, ‘You should know better than to say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to the city. We will do business there for a year and make a lot of money.” What do you know about tomorrow? How can you be so sure about your life?
'Ketchup or HP?' - 03/07/22
The question for a bacon butty always used to be whether you wanted red sauce or brown. These days there are even more options, do you want mayo or BBQ or something else more exotic! This increasingly seems to be the way for various parts of our life, there are more and more options and choices available. Trying to prepare for these choices can be difficult as not only can the options be baffling, but also, you don't want to exclude someone or upset someone. I would chose brown sauce every time, but my wife prefers red sauce, and we seem to manage to get along just fine!
Being inclusive can be tricky but actually most of us don't want to exclude or upset people. If we make an active or inadvertent choice which exclude somebody or a group of people, this can also be seen as judgement about someone else's viewpoint or approach. However, it’s not for us to judge, it’s our job to help and encourage people to be safe and loved.
The Bible reports that when Jesus was a man on earth, some people felt that following Him was exclusive. When Jesus was talking to certain groups of people, they would question why he was spending time with what they considered a more disreputable people in society. Jesus made it very clear that he was here to love everyone, and that all types of people were welcome to talk to him. In fact, he went out of his way to talk to people who at that time were considered not important or even dangerous. Tax Collectors, beggars, lepers, women and children to name but a few.
This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, ANYONE can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.
Jesus invites anyone and everyone who is willing to follow him. The tall, the short, the large the small, the brave, the afraid, and even those who have red sauce on their bacon butties! Let’s say yes to Jesus today, and include everyone in his love.
"Keeping on" - 01/07/22
You may have noticed that the Glastonbury music festival happened this weekend; as did the British Summer Time Festival in Hyde Park. The two events are similar, but different. The Hyde Park event is Glastonbury for people that don't want to stay in tents. It still lasts three days, but everybody goes home at the end of the evening and the festival ground is cleaned and reset ready for the next day... very civilised.
This year, I was struck by the one thing that the two events had in common. Age. Septuagenarians Elton John, The Rolling Stones and The Eagles packed them in for three nights at Hyde Park, whilst Glastonbury welcomed Octogenarian Paul McCartney as its headline act. The combined age of these erstwhile performers is six hundred and eight! So why do they still do it? One thing is for certain; it's not for the money. If you thought that their combined age was impressive, wait until you hear that their combined wealth amounts to £2.72 billion. The reason they do it is because they can. Their resilience and longevity, combined with their talent, drives them on. They enjoy performing. They have been given a gift; and they continue to use that gift, despite their advancing years.
We too have been given gifts; things that we were born with that give us unique skills and abilities. A gift is set apart from knowledge in that it is not a learned behaviour, although it can be strengthened and practiced. The Bible tells us that we are all born with distinct gifts that set us apart from each other. "We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us". We are also told where the gifts come from. "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them". These gifts are given to us that we might use them. "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms". It doesn't matter what our gift is, it has been given by God and is to be used for God, "There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work". So, whilst I know that I will never entertain a crowd of thousands at a music festival, I also know that that is not what God created me to do. He gave me different gifts and expects me to use them... and to keep using them; "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do". So, just like the rock stars who keep on using their gifts and enjoy doing so, we too should keep on doing what God has set before us, using the gifts He has provided, and take pleasure in doing so, "And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good"