February '22 Sunrises

"What Would You Do?" - 26/02/22

There have been quite a few occasions this week where I have come across stories where I have to stop and think about how I would have dealt with something. Many of us try to support people through difficult times, some find it easier than others to empathise, to feel the emotion of what others are going through. 

The people of Ukraine are just trying to go about their own business and yet they have been invaded because Russia is concerned they are getting too close to Europe. The people want to defend their freedom against what seems insurmountable opposition.

In todays world of social media and internet, we get to see and share what others are going through very easily and quickly. But how do we react, what can we do?

God sent Jesus to this earth to be human, He felt the pain, He cried with others, He brought love and compassion for others. He brought hope.

“For God so loved this world, that He sent his only Son so that everyone who believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life”

Let us show compassion to those around us but let us also say a prayer for those farther afield.

Sometimes, we don’t know what to say, so here is a Celtic prayer and blessing to help us

You are the peace of all things calm
You are the place to hide from harm
You are the light that shines in dark
You are the heart's eternal spark
You are the door that's open wide
You are the guest who waits inside
You are the stranger at the door
You are the calling of the poor
You are my Lord and with me still
You are my love, keep me from ill
You are the light, the truth, the way
You are my Saviour this very day.

 

 

"Unexpected Poets" - 24/02/22

I love Poetry. I am amazed at the creativity of people who can take simple words, that we use every day, and turn them into something truly beautiful and timeless.

Whilst I love poetry, I am not very good at writing it at all. My level of writing poetry is similar to this Haiku poem I found recently:

A Haiku about getting up early in the mornings:

No no no no no

No no no no no no no

No no no no no

Amusing but also truly terrible!

The people of Yemen take poetry to a whole new level. They have a tradition called Dan Hadrami, which is basically an extreme poetry competition. People get together and improvise poems, to see who is the best poet, and all the poems are made up on the spot! I am not sure I would be very good at this, but despite seven years of war, the custom of Dan Hadrami has continued to thrive and comfort the people of Yemen during a very difficult time.

When I think of great poets, I think of the Psalms. The writers are able to put into words the majesty and splendour of our wonderful God in a way that I could only dream of doing.

Psalm 104 is a great example of this wonderful poetry

O my soul, bless God! God, my God, how great you are! beautifully, gloriously robed,
Dressed up in sunshine, and all heaven stretched out for your tent.
You built your palace on the ocean deeps, made a chariot out of clouds and took off on wind-wings. You commandeered winds as messengers, appointed fire and flame as ambassadors. You set earth on a firm foundation so that nothing can shake it, ever………. What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations……….Oh, let me sing to God all my life long, sing hymns to my God as long as I live!

When I read these words aloud it makes my heart sing with wonder at how amazing God is and how brilliantly these words reflect this.

So todays challenge is to write a poem, lets see if we can inspire others with our words about our wonderful God and our brilliant world. I am sure you can do better than me!

 

 

 

"Get A Brand New Sense Of Wonder" - 23/02/22

The ancient monastic communities in Northumbria spent a lot of time just sitting and praying. There was a focus on creativity and worshipping God in the beauty of the natural created world. Today we will wake up to another set of charts on the news, listen to yet more experts on politics, science , economics and business and we will be bombarded with information . Celtic Christianity stresses that wisdom is more important than knowledge. Wonder is more important than information. Can you find some space and time today to get outside and look around. In times such as we are living now, our mental health really needs protecting. Can you find time today to create some head space? Can you find time to stop and  wonder at the God created beauty in the world around you?

Psalm 8 has David( who incidentally, also had a lot of bad mental health days) writing these words:

 “When I consider your heavens,

    the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

    which you have set in place,

what is mankind that you are mindful of them,

    human beings that you care for them?

 You have made them a little lower than the angels

    and crowned them with glory and honour.

 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;

    you put everything under their feet:

 all flocks and herds,

    and the animals of the wild,

the birds in the sky,

    and the fish in the sea,

    all that swim the paths of the seas.

 Lord, our Lord,

    how majestic is your name in all the earth!"

Try to recapture a sense of wonder today  and as you do so, know that God thinks you are wonderful too

 

 

"Tick Tock" - 22/02/22

Have you seen ‘The Repair Shop’?  Well-worn treasures are repaired to look like new.  I find the clockwork objects most fascinating.  A man takes all the bits out of an object and puts them in a dish.  How does he know what goes back in what order?  He makes precision replacements for broken parts, just like new.  Ta Da! The repaired object purrs into life, tick tock.  Marvellous! As it was meant to be.

 

This week we met some meerkats.  We have watched a TV series ‘Meerkat Manor’.  Meerkat groups form a rigid hierarchy.  The matriarch rules her lower ranks.  Sentries perform their jobs rigorously. Any meerkat who transgresses is beaten up or worse.  They don’t shy away from duty, or a fight.  The meerkats we met had never lived in the desert but it became obvious who was who.  The timid lower rank that didn’t dare invade the matriarch’s space when she was eating.  The sentry on alert who would not feed because they had a job to do, and who shot into action at the noise of a helicopter.  This was a completely safe environment but the behaviours were the same.  You can take the meerkat out of the desert but you can’t take the desert out of the meerkat.  They were behaving as they were meant to.  It was easy to see how they ticked.

 

I wonder how you tick.  How we respond sometimes surprises us.  It’s ‘out of character’.  Sometimes we just don’t know where we are at.  People are brought ‘out of their shells’.  They may say, “It’s just not me!”  “You can take the girl out of Liverpool but you can’t take Liverpool out of the girl!” We have all sorts of sayings to express that this is how I am or indeed this is not normally how I am.

 

Psalm 139 is wonderful.  It expresses that God knows how we tick (even when we don’t know ourselves).  If you get time today, read it all.  Be encouraged that God knows all about you and still he loves you.  


Vs 2-4

You discern my going out and my lying down;
   you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue
   you, Lord, know it completely.

 

Vs 13-16 

For you created my inmost being;
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
   your works are wonderful,
   I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
   when I was made in the secret place,
   when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;

   

 

 

"You Can't Be Sure" - 21/02/22

I love trees; I love them all year round. It’s wonderful to see the green shoots in Spring and the complete canopy during Summer. The miraculous change of colour during Autumn is stunning, and when all the leaves have flown away, the majestic skeleton that stands proud in the Winter weather is, in many people’s opinion, the most impressive sight of all. We had a Scots Pine in our garden for years; we rescued it after it was planted with others in a landscaping project in one of Liverpool’s back streets, but the day it was planted it was also uprooted and left lying on the pavement. We gave it back to the gardeners the next day, but they wouldn’t replant it unless they got paid again. So, we took this little orphan home, and it found a place where it was loved and safe for twenty years. It grew enormously with a very cute 45-degree angle that everybody loved, but one morning it decided to have a rest and laid down on the ground. It was incredibly heavy, so in lying down it dug a hole in the lawn, it flattened a fence, and plunged into the pond and terrified hundreds of frogs and tadpoles. We were tempted to think we shouldn’t have brought it home despite the years of joy it gave us.

 

In the past week, many people have had mixed feelings about these beautiful creations in God’s world. Considerable damage has been caused; people have been frightened and still are, and some are so sad at the loss of a loved one who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. How strange that something so lovely and loved could turn into a monster, almost without warning. 

 

Sometimes we get hurt, not by trees, but by people who we have loved for years, then suddenly everything changes. Friends become enemies, and we want to respond by expressing our anger and demonstrating it. Jesus had no time for this understandable but unproductive attitude; He said, “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy,’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst…..If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus?.....live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives towards you.” People can shock us, just like trees falling; lets see if we can re-plant the tree of friendship by forgiving rather than fighting. Paul writes, ‘Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.’

 

 

"Before, During or After?" - 19/02/22

Its been a difficult week of weather so far, Dudley and Eunice have introduced themselves and rattled through the country. On Friday in particular, it was curious and beautiful calm first thing which had sunshine and no wind. Yet by lunchtime, I was watching reports of waves crashing into coastal areas and trees falling down. Sadly, there were some injured and killed by the damage. My planned quiet Friday afternoon turned into a DIY rush as I rebuilt a fence panel. The power of the storm can be mesmerising, especially watching the wind and waves at the coast. Then after the storm, an eery calm appears again as we see what nature can be.

Our world can be a very beautiful place, yet we are merely residents and have to ride through what nature can bring. We cannot control these storms and floods, sometimes we need to remember we are not in control.

In the Bible there is a story about a storm, with some experienced fishermen are out in their boat.

A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! They roused him, saying, “Teacher, is it nothing to you that we’re going down?” Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!” The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass. Jesus reprimanded the disciples: “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?” They were in absolute awe, staggered. “Who is this, anyway?” they asked. “Wind and sea at his beck and call!”

For Christians, this is a reminder that our creator God is in control of all things, there will still be storms but God is in control. There will be calm when we can see the beauty of the world created by God. There will be storms when things are happening to us and around us that are difficult. But Jesus will be there with us and He is in control.

Have faith.

 

 

 

"A Joy Forever" - 18/02/22

Maybe it's just me, but I never get tired of beautiful things.

It is the embodiment of the old adage, "A thing of beauty is a joy forever". Obviously, people feel differently when it comes to what qualifies as a thing of beauty. They do say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For some, it may be a painting or sculpture that catches the eye. It's difficult to say why we find these works of art beautiful. Perhaps it's the colours; maybe it's the likeness; possibly it evokes a feeling within us. Who knows? My taste isn't your taste, but we can both agree that what we each think of as a great work of art will continue to give us pleasure down the years.

What about places we have visited? We may have taken a holiday somewhere that we considered beautiful. Let's face it, we don't choose a holiday destination that looks ugly in the brochure. No, we choose somewhere that has scenic beauty - perhaps it's clear blue seas and white sandy beaches, or snow capped mountains... maybe you prefer a city break; the ancient grandeur of Rome, the hectic energy of New York, or the romantic streets of Paris. We will probably all choose somewhere different, but the memories of those places will stay with us forever.

There are people too whose beauty lives with us constantly. It doesn't matter how long we have known the person. Decades may have passed since our first encounter, but we can think back to that enchanting smile, engaging personality, or whatever quirky characteristic first attracted us to them and our heart fills with that peculiar, inexplicable feeling and our very being seems lighter. For some reason, it doesn't go away.

What then do we say regarding the timeless beauty of God and His creation? Well, put simply, we never tire of them. Every day we see wonders that lift our hearts and each of them is a gift from God. A thing of beauty that He has provided for us. The wonderful works of art merely reflect the beauty of the wonderful works of God. The places and people that lift our spirits and provide us with such pleasant memories down the years are all as a result of God's hand.

The Psalmist recognised that God also looks on us as things of beauty to be treasured, "When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?" The great creator has decided that to Him, we too are a joy forever.

 

 

 

"Winter Monsters" - 17/02/22

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like the winter wind and rain. Days like today when the storms are blowing through, make me want to hide under my duvet and sleep until spring. My favourite activities on this kind of day are watching a good film, or day dreaming about visiting a wonderfully warm Caribbean Island.

However, in the Lötschental valley, in Switzerland, they have an ancient tradition which is designed to get rid of evil winter spirits. They have a Carnival parade each February called the Tschaggatta.  This involves hundreds of people dressing up as monsters! Clad in frightening hand carved wooden masks, furs, cowbells, and carrying sticks; they march through the valley and unleash mischief. The idea is that they create so much havoc, they scare off the more malevolent evil winter spirits. 

I have to say that if we started such an idea in Melling, we might be arrested, but in the Lötschental valley carnival, the Tschaggatta monsters are celebrated and given gifts like free drinks!

It’s a fascinating, if a little frightening concept to actually scare away our own ‘winter monsters’, but Christianity actually advocates the opposite approach. The Bible teaches us that God and Jesus are the ‘Light of the World’, and nothing is more powerful

John 1:4-5

In Jesus, there was life, and that life was the light of all people. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it.

The more time we spend with Jesus, the more of his light and love are in our lives, and the more we can spread that love and light to other people. When it feels like everything is dark around us, we can’t get rid of it by adding more darkness, we must turn on a light.

 

Martin Luther King puts it much better than I could 

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."

So today if you are feeling on top of the world, then spread the love and light of Jesus to others, and if you are feeling as if the darkness is encircling you, let someone know, so that they can be there for you. Remember that nothing can put out the light of Jesus’ love. And if anyone is thinking of dressing up in a scary wooden mask and fur costume, please don’t come to my house!

 

 

 

"My Faithful Friend" - 16/02/22

Talking doesn’t get your rice cooked

Many of you will be familiar with SatNav’s.  As far as I am concerned they are one of the most significant inventions of our time!  I have the uncanny ability to get lost if I just turn around on the spot and sadly for my daughter she seems to have inherited the same gift.

To be able to tell my trustee SatNav where I want to go is a little like having a faithful friend in the car who can read a map.  The problem, however, comes when I fail to follow her instructions or misunderstand what she is trying to say to me: “Bear left” – is that the same as turn left or is it more of a drifting?  “Turn right in 300 yards” – what does 300 yards look like?!  That’s not to mention the times when, for whatever bizarre reason, I’ve decided I know best and chosen to ignore her.  Needless to say, I have on occasions let her down and she has to have a rethink to get me back on track.

The thing is, she can talk directions to me all day long but I will never get to my destination unless I listen and take action.

Just as our Chinese proverb today says, talking alone will never get the job done, we need to put our words into action.  In the same way, if we read or hear God’s word and then choose to do nothing with that – what has been the point?  Nothing has changed.  We need to listen for God’s voice whether that is through the Bible or through those he has placed around us and then we need to do what it says – then everything can change.

In the book of James we read these words: “Don’t just listen to God’s word.  You must do what it says.  Otherwise you are only fooling yourselves.”  We may know the right words to say and the right ‘religious’ things to do, but unless we live it out in our actions we’re not fooling anyone and we certainly aren’t fooling God.  The Bible is a wonderful map for life, guiding us and showing us how God would want us to behave – but it won’t change anything unless we put it into action and follow the directions God gives us. 

Let’s start the journey by listening for his voice, paying attention to the map and putting the directions into action – it’s the only way the rice will get cooked!

 

 

"IKEA Heaven" - 14/02/22

I’m probably the last person you would want to go shopping with. I work on the quaint principle that you don’t go shopping at all until you need to buy something. The idea of walking round the store just to look at things never occurs to me. If I need milk for my cereal and nothing else, then that’s what I go for; I walk straight past the cans of soup and the selection of cakes. I don’t even notice the new range of pies on display; I can be home in less than ten minutes with the item I went for. I will have checked that I didn’t need more cereal, so my life is complete. It appears that most people think this is strange; I’m often asked when I get home if I saw any bananas or free-range eggs. The answer is always the same, because I only went for milk.

 

Recently I went to Ikea to collect some furniture for a family home that has been extended and now needs additional items. This was no problem to me because we needed those things, so off we went. On arrival I was shocked, firstly by the size of the carpark that surrounded the huge building, and secondly by the fact that it was full. After using half a tank of fuel to find a space, we went inside and discovered why there was no space outside. Ikea has clearly met people like me who simply want to go to a particular department then clear off; but here, once you’re in, you’re in. Walking passed thousands of products that I didn’t need simply to get out is a great test of patience which my family tells me is good for me. Quite often my family happen to be right, but I’m a slow learner. In the process of hiking past enough cupboards, beds, and frying pans to equip every house in the country, my daughter told me she loved Ikea and would love to live there. She explained that she would sleep in a different bedroom each night, try out all of the fifty-two kettles on display, and invite hoards of friends to the whole variety of kitchens for her famous ‘sausage nights’ (which are brilliant).

 

Personally, I think I’ll wait for Heaven. Paul told the Christians in Corinth, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love Him.” No parking problems, no bills to pay, and everyone is happy and safe, ‘God will wipe all tears from their eyes, and there will be no more death, suffering, crying, or pain. These things of the past are gone forever.’ My daughter agrees with me, Ikea might be great, but Heaven is greater. Sometimes, even I get it right!

 

 

 

'...That is the Question'- 13/02/22

Huh? What is the question? Poor Hamlet, deeply depressed, contemplates the merits of life and death, “To be, or not to be – that is the question.”  Questions, questions.  Some questions clearly have a right or wrong answer.  2+2=4, although there is no doubt some clever clogs could argue otherwise! 

When our son was two, he drove me to distraction with the question, “Why?” Makes me smile now, but then ….  How can you explain deep meanings of the universe to a toddler? That question, “Why?” from a teenager means something entirely different! You are interfering, ruining their life because you asked them to tidy their room or clear up after tea! Life holds many personal questions, eg exam choices, career, places we go, partners, friends.  We tend to ask, “Why?” or, “When?” when our lives become difficult to deal with in an effort to make some sense out of it all. 

Scientists ask questions and attempt to answer them as they research something yet unknown.  Stephen Hawking attempted to answer questions about black holes, though I find myself asking, “Why?”

There are other questions.  Will the Queen become the longest reigning monarch (if she lives another 2 1/3 years to beat Louis XIV)? Will Boris stay? Will Russia invade Ukraine? 

The list goes on and on.

Our lives are full of questions.  The Bible is full of questions. The second question in the Bible is God calling to Adam, “Where are you?” (Gen 3). I have trouble believing that God didn’t know. God, Adam and Eve had a close relationship but something had changed. The ache in God’s heart that told him their relationship was broken.  Adam and Eve had a choice when responding to an earlier question.  They chose wrongly, deliberately went against what God had said, and the consequence was separation from God. 

God found a way to put this right but it meant Jesus dying, and rising from the dead, so that we could be forgiven. If we choose to give our lives to him and ask for his forgiveness for the things we know come between us, he will do that.  

1 John 1 vs 8-9

 If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—simply come clean about them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing.

We have a choice, a question to answer.  Do we want to take God up on his offer of forgiveness and a renewed relationship with him that will be forever?

"Oh! Now i see it" - 12/02/22

There are many occasions when hindsight is marvellous, that moment when you can look and suddenly see something that was there all along but you didn’t see it at the time.

When you watch a TV detective trying to solve a murder, if you watch Death in Paradise, this show in particular had that moment when the detective finally sees all the right pieces falling into place. But the viewer still doesn’t get it, you can see the excitement of the detective as he finally solves the puzzle and they tease you by stringing out the explanation. Then as they gradually explain all the right pieces, it all falls into place. 

Or another occasion can be those strange pictures that if you look at them plainly you cant see anything but if you can let your eye changes its focus, an image suddenly appears. Magic Eye pictures I find really frustrating as mostly I just cannot see them. But the sense of relief when suddenly it happens and you see the picture, then once you have seen it that’s the only thing you can see.

There are sometimes in life when you look back and you realise how certain things were happening that you did not realise at the time but when you stop and look back, you can see it. When you stop and look at things a one way, suddenly a different set of events can be seen.

As Christians, we try to view things differently, as we try to look at events through Jesus’s viewpoint. Sometimes our normal viewpoint is blurred by our own feelings, our prejudice of some form. But Jesus looks at things differently.

In the Bible, when God asked Samuel to pick the next leader of Israel, he sent him to a family to choose one of the sons but Samuel could not choose. Got told him “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Later in the Bible, Jesus explains that being a Christian and choosing to follow in Jesus’ example will let us “be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”.

Jesus is present in all our lives, we just don’t always see him until we look back. And when we look at things through Jesus viewpoint, then we can see it.

"Science 101"- 11/02/22

 

It's been an interesting week for science. Or at least there have been some interesting science articles in the news.

I always feel that science is little bit like your grandchildren - you don't really understand some of the new fangled stuff they talk about, but you desperately want them to succeed at everything they do. We rejoice with each new achievement: tying their shoelaces, riding a bike, passing exams, getting their first job and we pat them on the head and make encouraging noises when something goes wrong, "Never mind (insert grandchild's name here), you'll get it right next time".

There is no doubt that, without science, the suffering caused by the Coronavirus pandemic would have been considerably worse. The research into the cause and spread of the virus and the production of a vaccine is a wonderful achievement and has been completed in a remarkable timescale... and that is only the first in a long list of things for which we are grateful. Well done science.

But then we regularly read of scientists in some branches of the discipline having to revise their theories because other branches of science have now developed techniques and tests that enable them to discover things that they could not previously have understood. Carbon dating is a regular contributor to this phenomenon. So the scientific textbooks are revised to include the new version of reality... until the next advance in scientific understanding.

This week we have learned that NASA intends to allow the International Space Station to crash back to earth in 2031, when it has outlived its usefulness. They will guide the 243 foot long lump of metal through the atmosphere and allow it to crash into a point in the ocean that is the furthest point from land on the planet. It's okay, apparently they have done it before, so what could possibly go wrong?

It is now the intention to transition to the private sector for future space exploration. Speaking of which, Elon Musk's Space X Corporation launched forty nine communication satellites last week... forty of which will crash back to earth due to a geomagnetic solar storm. It's okay... they will burn up in the atmosphere. It's happened before, so what could possibly go wrong? "Never mind Elon, you'll get it right next time".

The biggest news this week was that scientists in Britain have made huge advances in the field of nuclear fusion... the act of creating a mini sun in a laboratory that has the potential to produce limitless energy. This means heating gases in a reactor to 150 million degrees Celsius, but it's okay, they use magnetic forces to prevent them from touching the sides, so what could possibly go wrong? The end product of this experiment is that enough energy was produced to boil sixty kettles. Sixty! 

In a TV interview, a spokesman for the company said, without even a trace of irony, that they were still some way from achieving their eventual goals.

When it comes to creating a sun, I think I'm happy to trust the creator of the one we already have. The eternal, infallible, unchanging God has no need for new revelations of scientific discovery. He created everything and already understands how it all works. "And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights - the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good"... and it still is.

 

 

 

"The World's Biggest Campsite" - 10/02/21

 

 

I have really enjoyed watching the Winter Olympics. I am busy learning new snowboarding terms, and marvelling at people who seem to throw themselves down a sheet of ice on a tea tray! I am also celebrating with countries who whilst they may not have great success in the summer Olympics, really have come into their own when it comes to winter sports.

One such country is Norway. They are currently second in the medal table and are excelling in all sports to do with snow. Of course, there is a very good reason for this. With the Climate in Norway meaning there is snowfall for half the year, Norwegians need to be able to deal with snow. But they don’t deal with it by hibernating and waiting until the sun appears, they relish the outdoors in all weathers, and spend lots of time in the snow.

This is reflected in an ancient custom called Allemannsretten, which is enshrined in Norwegian law. It means freedom of movement and allows anyone in Norway to travel where they choose and camp where they like, even on private property! The rules are simple, you must be not too close to any buildings, and you must be polite. However, it does mean you could wake up one morning and discover that someone is busy having their cornflakes in your garden!

This acceptance that the land is everyone’s to share, and a deep belief in equality for all, leads to Norway being a very open society, with great hospitality.

Now I have to admit that it would be a bit of a surprise to find a tent in my garden tomorrow, even if the occupants were very polite, but the act of sharing and being hospitable is a really important one, and a key part of the Christian faith.

Isaiah 58: 6-7 says:

Is this not what I want you to do……. Is it not to share your food with the hungry
   and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter.

Acts 4: 32 describes how the first Christians lived, and it is full of equality of ownership and hospitality

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 

Now we don’t all have to wild camp in Melling to experience hospitality. But we can make a conscious effort to share love and kindness with those around us, and to help those who needs help. By loving and caring for those we meet, we allow them to share in our community and in God’s love, even without the tents!

 

 

"The Touch Of The Master's Hand" - 09/02/22

 

I first heard this beautiful poem when I was very young. You may have heard it before, but it’s worth being reminded that every person, of every country, language, status, background….whoever they are,  have amazing gifts and value. Gifts given by God, who looks at us and desires to walk with us each and every day. We are worth so much to God that He considered us worth dying for. Have a beautiful day knowing you are gifted and valued.

 

 

'Twas battered and scarred,
And the auctioneer thought it
hardly worth his while
To waste his time on the old violin,
but he held it up with a smile.

"What am I bid, good people", he cried,
"Who starts the bidding for me?"
"One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?"
"Two dollars, who makes it three?"
"Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three,"

But, No,
From the room far back a grey bearded man
Came forward and picked up the bow,
Then wiping the dust from the old violin
And tightening up the strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet
As sweet as the angel sings.

The music ceased and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said "What now am I bid for this old violin?"
As he held it aloft with its' bow.

"One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?"
"Two thousand, Who makes it three?"
"Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
Going and gone", said he.

The audience cheered,
But some of them cried,
"We just don't understand."
"What changed its' worth?"
Swift came the reply.
"The Touch of the Masters Hand."

"And many a man with life out of tune
All battered and bruised with sin 
Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd
Much like that old violin

A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
A game and he travels on.
He is going once, he is going twice,
He is going and almost gone.

But the Master comes,
And the foolish crowd never can quite understand,
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By the Touch of the Masters' Hand.

- Myra Brooks Welch

‘This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God’.

1 John 4: 9-10

 

 

"Making the most of today" - 09/02/22

 

There is no time like the present

How do you approach jobs that you don’t like doing?  If you are anything like me you will have a tendency to keep putting them off for another day; you will busy yourself with all of the much more pleasant tasks until the one that you really don’t want to do becomes urgent and there really isn’t any more room for putting off.  The problem with this method of dealing with things is that what usually happens is that the unpleasant job has often become even more desperate and difficult because of the procrastination.  

The problem with time is that we have no control over it.  We can’t stop it while we make a difficult decision or put off a difficult task and neither can we rush ahead to tomorrow if we are having a difficult day today.  All we have is today.  Yesterday is gone and cannot be changed, tomorrow is still to come and is out of our reach, all we have is today and the joys, sadness, difficulties, laughter, busyness or whatever else the day may bring.

In the Bible we can read a story about a young woman called Esther.  She was just an ordinary Jewish young woman in almost every way, apart from her beauty.  Her beauty caught the attention of the King who brought her to the palace and married her.  She had very little control over where her life took her, after all, no one said “no” to the King, however, becoming queen put her in a position where she was later able to influence and change the King’s decision to slaughter tens of thousands of Jews.  She agonised over the decision to intervene because to anger the King could literally mean the death of her.  But her cousin told her: “If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die.  Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”  She had one task for that day.  It wasn’t something that would wait and it certainly wasn’t something that she was looking forward to but there was ‘no time like the present’.  Esther embraced the moment and saved the lives of many Jews - the story ended well for Esther but the lesson had been a difficult one demanding courage and obedience.  

I don’t know whether today brings joy and laughter or difficulties and pain, but whatever God has placed in your hands today, embrace the day with a grateful and courageous heart because there really is ‘no time like the present’.

“Today is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it”

 

 

"The Gift That Came Here" - 08/02/22

The ukulele has gained huge popularity in recent years and many clubs and groups have formed all over the country. The fact that it can be easy to play up to a certain level (so I’m told, I can’t play one.) has allowed many people to join these groups and find new friends, have great fun, and perform publicly to entertain audiences large and small. We probably all connect this instrument with Hawaii, but it started life in Portugal. The Portuguese played a small version which they called Machete and in their journeys of exploration hundreds of years ago they arrived at Hawaii complete with their machetes. The Hawaiians were intrigued by the instrument and its sound, so the Portuguese sailors taught them how to play them. But there was only a small number of the instruments available, so the Hawaiians began to make their own. Their version was larger and more curvy, and this new craze swept the islands. So where did the name ‘Ukulele’ come from? Serving in the court of King Kalakaua was a former British army officer called Edward Purvis who loved this new music. He was described as, ’A sprightly lively fellow, and rather petite.’ His rapid and enthusiastic movements earned him the nickname ‘Jumping flea’ and because of his close association with the instrument, that’s what the Hawaiians called it. The words for ‘jumping’ and ‘flea’, when joined together form the new word ‘Ukulele’. However, history is never that simple, and there is another explanation which was provided by Queen Liliuokalani – Hawaii’s last monarch. According to her, the word ‘ukulele’ can also be formed from words that mean, ‘The gift that came here.’ Take your pick, I know which one I prefer.

 

Parents-to-be often agonise over a suitable name for their child, and give considerable attention to the meanings of names, as if that is going to make any difference to the nature or character of the child. But it makes parents feel good. 

 

In our Bibles we can see that there are many names given to God’s Son, and all of them are meaningful and they all add to our understanding of His nature and character. In the book of Isaiah we read, ‘To us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’ We also read in Matthew these words, ‘A virgin will have a baby boy, and He will be called Immanuel, which means, God is with us.’ When we put all these words, and others, together, they mean, ‘The gift that came here.’

 

"The Gift That Came Here" - 07/02/22

The ukulele has gained huge popularity in recent years and many clubs and groups have formed all over the country. The fact that it can be easy to play up to a certain level (so I’m told, I can’t play one.) has allowed many people to join these groups and find new friends, have great fun, and perform publicly to entertain audiences large and small. We probably all connect this instrument with Hawaii, but it started life in Portugal. The Portuguese played a small version which they called Machete and in their journeys of exploration hundreds of years ago they arrived at Hawaii complete with their machetes. The Hawaiians were intrigued by the instrument and its sound, so the Portuguese sailors taught them how to play them. But there was only a small number of the instruments available, so the Hawaiians began to make their own. Their version was larger and more curvy, and this new craze swept the islands. So where did the name ‘Ukulele’ come from? Serving in the court of King Kalakaua was a former British army officer called Edward Purvis who loved this new music. He was described as, ’A sprightly lively fellow, and rather petite.’ His rapid and enthusiastic movements earned him the nickname ‘Jumping flea’ and because of his close association with the instrument, that’s what the Hawaiians called it. The words for ‘jumping’ and ‘flea’, when joined together form the new word ‘Ukulele’. However, history is never that simple, and there is another explanation which was provided by Queen Liliuokalani – Hawaii’s last monarch. According to her, the word ‘ukulele’ can also be formed from words that mean, ‘The gift that came here.’ Take your pick, I know which one I prefer.

 

Parents-to-be often agonise over a suitable name for their child, and give considerable attention to the meanings of names, as if that is going to make any difference to the nature or character of the child. But it makes parents feel good. 

 

In our Bibles we can see that there are many names given to God’s Son, and all of them are meaningful and they all add to our understanding of His nature and character. In the book of Isaiah we read, ‘To us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’ We also read in Matthew these words, ‘A virgin will have a baby boy, and He will be called Immanuel, which means, God is with us.’ When we put all these words, and others, together, they mean, ‘The gift that came here.’

 

 

 

"Does God Do The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch?" - 06/02/22

For the last few years, we have taken part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.  You are supposed to sit for one hour (coffee and biscuits in hand) and watch the birds visit your garden, count how many of each variety you see, then put that info on the website. This helps the RSPB find out what is happening to the bird population in the country.  A week before the big event we fill the feeders with all sorts of tempting delights to encourage them to come.  We have this theory that the birds know what we are doing, because each year we sit with our coffee and, well, zilch. We think they are all sitting in the bushes laughing up their wings because they have got one over on us!  Where do they all go when you need them?!

 

Jesus talks to his disciples before he sends them out to do some work in the community.  He warns them that they might run into all sorts of unpleasantness. In Matthew 10 vs 29-31 Jesus says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  He is reassuring them that if God knows all about the sparrows, then how much more is he aware of us and what we are going through because to Him we are worth so much more.  He even has the hairs on our heads numbered! I ask myself why this is.  In some ways the answer is simple – God loves us more than we can imagine.

 

I’m reminded of the words of an old hymn that some of you might know.  

 

Loved with everlasting love,
Led by grace that love to know;
Spirit, breathing from above,
Thou hast taught me it is so.
Oh, this full and perfect peace!
Oh, this transport all divine!
In a love which cannot cease,
I am His, and He is mine.

 

I know it waxes a bit lyrical (it’s an old hymn!), but the writer is sure beyond doubt that God’s love has drawn him close and that that love is for keeps.

 

Lamentations 3 vs 22-23 says it all really, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

 

I couldn’t say if God does the Big Garden Birdwatch but you can be assured that his love for you is endless.  You count to Him.

 

 

"The Eye Of The Tiger" - 05/02/22

 

Tuesday 1st February was Chinese New Year and the Chinese community across the world has welcomed in the year of the Tiger. They celebrate with a thorough cleaning of the home, and then houses are decorated with red paper lanterns and banners, and there are big parties and parades. Children are given "luck money" in red envelopes. The celebrations last for a fortnight, ending with the Lantern Festival.

 

According to the myth, the Jade Emperor organised a race for a group of animals on his birthday, the results of which determined the order of the Chinese zodiac in a 12 year cycle.

 

The year you are born is believed to determine your personality. People born in the year of the Tiger are meant to be courageous and competitive, but also rebellious, quick tempered, and unpredictable.

 

Being successful and courageous sound great, but actually the Tiger is not deemed the most ‘successful sign’. That is the year of the Dragon. People plan to have children in the year of the dragon, as they are traditionally the most intelligent, courageous and successful. Interestingly, the American magazine Forbes did a study of the wealthiest 400 US citizens, and found that 11% were ‘dragons’ more than any other Chinese Zodiac sign. 

 

I am not sure that my personality matches up to my Chinese year, but I am aware of how much I have changed over the years. This is due to a number of things and situations, but having the love of Jesus in my life has had a big part to play. Whilst I am still ‘me’, following Jesus and choosing his way, has shaped and moulded me. 

The Bible describes it like this in 2 Corinthians 5

 

Because of Jesus we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone who follows Jesus gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life emerges! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. 

 

We don’t have to be a product of our past, our circumstances, our families or the year we were born in, we can have a fresh start with Jesus.

 

as it says at the end of 2 Corinthians 5:

 

Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.

 

 

 

'You Deserve It' - 04/02/22

Apparently, I deserve a really nice holiday... and the latest model of car... and a lovely new kitchen. How do I know? Because the man on the television told me. "Which man?", I hear you ask. The one on the advert. Actually, it isn't just one man, or one advert for that matter. Quite a few adverts tell me that the product on offer is just right for me, because it's what I deserve - "It's the holiday/car/kitchen you deserve" etc. etc.

I'm curious to know how they know that I deserve it. What yardstick is being applied? How are they judging my merits? Is there a secret tick list? These people don't actually know me, so how do they know that I have met the qualifying conditions. They must be spying on me - much like Father Christmas does when he compiles his naughty list. What happens if I don't measure up to their expectations? What if I fail to be kind to animals, or think badly of fellow motorists, or speak sharply to somebody? Does that disqualify me from the holiday, but still leave the car on offer

Now I come to think of it, I'm not the only one watching these adverts, so when they say that I deserve it, they don't just mean me. They must mean you as well! That doesn't seem fair. How do I know that you measure up to my impeccable standards? Surely we can't all deserve it... and if we do all deserve it then that rather cheapens the gift on offer. Except it seems that it isn't actually a gift. Despite being told that we deserve it, it seems that we are expected to pay for it. That doesn't seem right either. If we deserve it, then surely it should be given to us free of charge... after all, we've earned it. I think I'll complain. I want what I deserve! Or do I?

Whilst the advertisers don't know me from Adam, I know somebody that does. The God who created Adam also created me... and you. He is a God who knows me inside out. He knows everything I do, everything I think, everything I need. He is in a position to judge what I deserve and yet, despite all my flaws, He has decided that what I deserve is not what I will get. Despite being aware of all the ways in which I disappoint him, He chooses to offer me mercy.

Having created every one of us, God values us as individuals and wants only what is best for us and He is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to help deliver it, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life". So, unlike the advertisers, who tell us that we deserve it and then expect us to pay for it, God's gift is completely free - even though we don't deserve it.

So, why does God do it? Put simply, because He loves us... or to put it in advertising parlance, "because you're worth it".

"The Eye Of The Tiger" - 03/01/21

 

Tuesday 1st February was Chinese New Year and the Chinese community across the world has welcomed in the year of the Tiger. They celebrate with a thorough cleaning of the home, and then houses are decorated with red paper lanterns and banners, and there are big parties and parades. Children are given "luck money" in red envelopes. The celebrations last for a fortnight, ending with the Lantern Festival.

 

According to the myth, the Jade Emperor organised a race for a group of animals on his birthday, the results of which determined the order of the Chinese zodiac in a 12 year cycle.

 

The year you are born is believed to determine your personality. People born in the year of the Tiger are meant to be courageous and competitive, but also rebellious, quick tempered, and unpredictable.

 

Being successful and courageous sound great, but actually the Tiger is not deemed the most ‘successful sign’. That is the year of the Dragon. People plan to have children in the year of the dragon, as they are traditionally the most intelligent, courageous and successful. Interestingly, the American magazine Forbes did a study of the wealthiest 400 US citizens, and found that 11% were ‘dragons’ more than any other Chinese Zodiac sign. 

 

I am not sure that my personality matches up to my Chinese year, but I am aware of how much I have changed over the years. This is due to a number of things and situations, but having the love of Jesus in my life has had a big part to play. Whilst I am still ‘me’, following Jesus and choosing his way, has shaped and moulded me. 

The Bible describes it like this in 2 Corinthians 5

 

Because of Jesus we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone who follows Jesus gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life emerges! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. 

 

We don’t have to be a product of our past, our circumstances, our families or the year we were born in, we can have a fresh start with Jesus.

 

as it says at the end of 2 Corinthians 5:

 

Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.

"The Elephant In The Room" - 01/02/22

The best way to eat an elephant is to cut him up into pieces​

It may not surprise you to discover that today’s proverb doesn’t have its heritage in English culture but instead is an African proverb.  Neither is it actually offering advice on how to eat an elephant – that would be outrageous!  The meaning behind this saying is simply that when facing a big problem or dilemma, deal with it one small step at a time rather than trying to face it all at once.​

We all know how life can throw us curve balls at times; how one minute everything is fine and the next it feels like the rug has been pulled from under us and our world has spiralled out of control.  There may be health worries; job pressures and demands; financial concerns or family needs that you don’t know how to meet.  All of a sudden life can feel overwhelming and it feels impossible to find the way forward.  

Some of our worries are about very real problems that can weigh heavily on us, others are worries about things that haven’t happened yet but we still worry that they might.  Either way, the act of worrying will never change the outcome.​​

Corrie Ten Boom faced many problems in her lifetime – spending time in the horrors of German concentration camps during WWII and losing her father and sister but after it all she was able to reflect on the futility of worry: “Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength – carrying two days at once.  It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time.  Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”​

The Bible has much to say about the act of worrying but it could largely be summed up with the words from the book of Philippians: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”​

Throughout life we will each have to face our own ‘elephants’ that will seem too big, too difficult and too over-whelming but let’s take these words to heart and make the first step to take it to God – tell him about it, let him share the burden with you and recognise and give thanks for all that he has already done and continues to do for us.

We don’t need to worry about the elephant at all when we have a God that is waiting to take it off our hands.