January '22 Sunrises

"Wind Back The Clock" - 31/01/22

 

We all have dreams of starting something again that we haven’t done for years. Just after Christmas one of the local stores had a cycle sale. I have great memories of serious cycling adventures that took me all over Wales, the Lake District, and all the way down to Lands End. So two weeks ago I wandered around the store looking at the latest cycle technology and dreaming. I could buy the latest Claud Butler cycle for the knock-down price of only £850! How could I justify not splashing out to become the proud owner of this state-of-the-art carbon fibre speed machine? There would of course be the tiny issue of taking it home to show the wife. Having spent nearly fifteen seconds considering her reaction I decided I would let this bargain go and possibly wait until Spring. Anyway, I have enough on my plate because I’ve just started playing badminton again after three years of shuttle-free boredom. Badminton has been my favourite sport for years; it’s free of weather worries, it provides great all-round fitness, and it is so intense when played properly that it’s impossible to think about business or family worries for those few hours. It is the perfect stress-free escape. Having played two sessions in the last two weeks I have discovered that it’s impossible to play and not think about your aching arms, legs, back, shoulders, etc. Hopefully it can only get better, which it needs to do, because my performance on Friday was appalling. 

 

I have also re-started something even more important than Badminton, can you believe that? Now that Covid restrictions are reducing, I can go back to leading school assemblies. It has been an enormous joy and privilege to return to telling Bible stories to youngsters. Every event in this amazing book has a lesson for all people of all ages. In our country, Sunday School has played a key part in the growth of the next generation’s awareness of the reality of God, and the teaching, example, and sacrifice of His Son. It is frightening to see how society has caused this to disappear and be replaced by the millions of random opinions overwhelming them on social media. From the early days of the Jewish nation up until relatively recent times it was always considered the responsibility of the family to teach their children the truths found in the Bible. 

 

‘Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.’ PROVERBS 22.6

‘The Lord commanded our fathers to teach their children His laws, so that the coming generation would know them – even children yet to be born – to arise and tell their own children that they should put their confidence in God, not forgetting His works, but keeping His commandments.’ PSA 78.5-7

 

Let’s pray that those activities will re-start like my Badminton, but without the pain.    

 

 

"Never Too Young" - 30/01/22

 

It was really interesting this week seeing Jay Blades learning to read at the age of 51. He shared his story about his growing up and the factors that influenced his choices, the impact that his dyslexia had on his learning. He even managed to get into a University and pass his exams without having any great ability to read. But he made the decision that he should be able to read properly and wanted to read his daughter a bedtime story, even though she is now a teenager!

 

It was very brave firstly to try and learn to read; it is also takes courage to share that on TV and let people see the real him. It is an example of how we can all take on new challenges and be open about them no matter what our age.

 

Being a Christian can very often take courage. In this country, we have a freedom to be open about our beliefs but it can still take courage to speak openly about our faith. In some countries, its takes courage because they do not have that same freedom.

 

Being a Christian is not a route to an easy life, it’s not going to solve all our problems, it’s not going to make us wealthy or stop us being ill. But being a Christian gives us courage and hope, it brings us a sense of peace. We know we are loved and we are part of a massive global family.

 

In the Bible book of Isaiah, we are reminded

“Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They will soar up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not be left behind.”

 

It’s never too late to turn to God and there is no reason to wait.

 

"It's The Simple Things" - 29/01/22

 

I am a simple man with simple tastes. I don't like to overthink things, or spend too long troubling myself with the whys are wherefores of every situation. I don't need to know how everything works - if the light comes on when I flick the switch and water comes out of the tap when I turn it on, I'm happy. I have never felt the need to pull something apart, just to see how it works. I was blessed with a peaceful lack of curiosity.  I find it easier to simply be content in the moment.

 

That's why I take pleasure in simple things: watching ducks come in to land on a lake, their cumbersome frame suddenly takes on an elegance, as their little webbed feet provide the perfect platform for them to glide along until they float calmly on the water. Sitting on a beach watching the restless tide - the view is never the same, no matter how many times you have witnessed it. Watching bats hunting at twilight, their graceful aerobatics are a marvel to behold. Standing on a hillside watching the shadows of the clouds tracing a pattern across the fields or valley below. All simple, but all strangely satisfying.

 

Except they aren't simple. The mechanisms that enable ducks to fly, the forces that control the tides, the sonar and echo location of the bat, the water cycle and winds that allow us to watch the clouds roll by - the principles of lift, gravity, sensory acuity and air pressure are all very complicated. They speak of a thoughtful design, a careful creation - they speak of wonder. The wonder of the creator God. A wonder that I am happy to accept without the need to understand the intricacies of that creation, much of which, in scientific terms, would be beyond my understanding anyway. I am happy to simply enjoy that wonder and be grateful.

 

Perhaps that's why I have a similar faith. Simple and accepting. God knows what He is doing - His creation alone proves that and I have no need to doubt it. It's also why I don't need to reinvent the wheel and am happy to let the writers who penned the wonder that is the Bible sum it all up,

 

"By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible"

 

"By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host"

 

"But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind"

 

"This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it"

 

"For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen"

"I Hate Scarecrows!" - 27/01/22

 

It was 1979. I was 6 years old. And a new child-friendly television programme was aired on a Saturday evening. Worzel Gummidge!! Can anybody please tell me what was child-friendly about that programme?? A big, ugly, man-sized, stuffed doll that came to life and got up to mischief. He fancied an equally terrifying doll called Aunt Sally. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse….he pulled off his head!! It was the stuff of nightmares! And nightmares I had! Plenty of them! It took me years to get Worzel and his heads out of my mind!! And yet, in recent years, I’ve seen scarecrow festivals pop up in villages and I have that same familiar feeling from when I was 6 years old….terror! 

 

I’m 49 years old now and yet I have to say, if you take me to a scarecrow festival, I will cope, but only just. I’ll take a deep breath and try to concentrate on the beautiful tree, or the coffee shop in the distance, or my purple boots. I won’t enjoy the experience and will get out of that place as soon as can! Apparently a fear of scarecrows is called ‘formidophobia’. 

 

While my fear is real and brings me out in a cold sweat, I have to say, that I’ve been massively fortunate if that has been my negative childhood experience!! The problem is, for many people, we simply have no idea what experiences others have gone through in life. Why they behave the way they do. Why they can only sleep with the light on, or can only cope with small groups of people, maybe they have trust issues or won’t travel on a train??? 

 

Sometimes we can be quick to judge can’t we? Asking such questions as, ‘What’s wrong with them?’ ‘Why are they being difficult?’ ‘Why can’t they smile?’

 

I have been watching the outrageous images from Afghanistan in recent weeks and how the young children are experiencing such heartache and horrors. I can’t help but wonder what nightmares they will experience for possibly the rest of their lives.

 

The Bible says, ‘Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love’.

 

Like the old saying goes, ‘Be kind, always, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about’.

 

'Slippers' - 26/01/22

I don’t know about you but I love a good pair of slippers. That cosy feeling when you slip your feet into them, the knowledge that you are home and you can relax. I usually get a new pair each Christmas, and I wear them throughout the year until they fall apart, usually about Christmas time, so I can get a new pair.

However, if you live in Japan, they take Slipper wearing to a whole new level. No one is allowed into a home without taking your shoes off and putting slippers on. Most houses will have shoe racks by the front door and guest slippers for anyone who visits. But it doesn’t stop there. There are several types of slippers to wear in a Japanese house, and it’s a great offence to mix them up! So, as well as house slippers, if you go to the bathroom, you must swap your slippers for ‘bathroom slippers’, and swap them back when you leave the bathroom. If you go outside, you must wear wooden outdoor slippers, and if you are invited into the Tatami room (which has traditional Japanese flooring), you mustn’t wear slippers at all!

The reason for all the slippers in Japanese is down to cleanliness and respect, and it reminds me of a situation in the Bible where Moses meets God, and the first thing that God tells him to do is to take off his shoes.

Exodus 3: 4-6

God called to him from out of the bush, “Moses! Moses!” He said, “Yes? I’m right here!” God said, “Don’t come any closer. Remove your sandals from your feet. You’re standing on holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father: The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.”

Now in this case, God wasn’t concerned about keeping the place clean, it was in the middle of the desert! But God did want to show Moses that spending time with God should be done with reverence, humility and being prepared to do what God is asking. It also is a recognition of being welcomed into Gods house. 

Just like Moses, God wants us to spend time with him and feel welcome and loved in his presence. We don’t need to wear special slippers, but we do need to come aware of how amazing he is, and willing to listen and follow him.

"When Rain Clouds Gather" - 25/01/22

 

It never rains but it pours!

 

Have you ever had one of those days – or weeks, or months – when it just seems to be one thing after another?  It may be one disaster after another or it might just be the relentlessness of a busy and demanding life when there never seems to be any let up; no time to stop or take a break before dealing with the next thing.  How often we will proclaim “it never rains but it pours!” as we deal with one task after another, one apparent disaster after another.

 

Many people in our community are dealing with so many difficult things at the moment – I wouldn’t blame you for feeling the weight of those burdens.  Yet the Bible reminds us that whatever we face - from trials to celebrations, we don’t need to face them alone, God wants us to walk with Him and to rest in Him.

 

I make no apology today for reminding you of the very well-known words of Psalm 23:

 

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.  He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

 

If today is a day that feels like you are under a dark cloud; if sadness, doubt or fear are raining down on you; if life’s demands are weighing on your mind - please take a few moments and re-read those words slowly and carefully and allow the love and peace of God to wash over you and the quiet waters refresh you.

"Dishing The Dirt" - 24/01/22

 

 

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.

"Matrix" - 23/01/22

One of the film releases over the Christmas holiday was Matrix Resurrections, the 4th in the series of films about “The Matrix”. For those who have not seen it, the film is about a future world where people are held by machines to be used like batteries but are in a dream like state that makes them think that they are living a normal life. This “life” is really a computer managed world that is known as The Matrix. Some people have managed to escape this illusion and are desperately fighting the machines so they can release all the other people. The people are driven by the hope of finding “The One” who will be able to defeat the machines. It turns out that there have been many versions of this illusionary world and this is another attempt to free themselves and the human race from the control of the machines.

I am hoping to see the 4th film this weekend, so I will see where they take the story next!

 

There have been a number of articles associating The Matrix with different religions and there are many references to these throughout the films.

 

The underlying hope of the people in someone who can save them draws obvious comparison with Christianity. But there are key differences as this story is about hope in another human, albeit with “special powers”.

 

Our hope as Christians is not in a person but in the love of God and the forgiveness we have through Jesus.

 

Our hope does not require us to help our Saviour to achieve the goal, He has already done it.

 

Jesus is our Saviour, he is God, the Son, who gave himself for us. He is the real ‘One’ We just need to put our trust and have faith in Him and live our lives according to His teachings with the strength that He gives us.

 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit – Romans 15:13

"Making Your Mark" - 22/01/22

 

One of the many idiosyncratic pieces that go to make up this crazy whole that we call the Melling Community, is the group of individuals that I have always referred to as the art department. Their correct title was the Melling Watercolour Group, but that has recently changed. They are now known as, "Make Your Mark". The change was made to reflect the different ways in which members might wish to express their artistic sensibilities. Not everybody is comfortable with watercolours. For some; pencils, pastels, inks, oils, acrylics and even textiles may be more their heavy. So the shift in emphasis allows for greater freedom of artistic endeavour and whether you are a budding Botticelli, a potential Picasso, or a would be Warhol, Pete, our erstwhile leader, encourages us to make our mark. To just be brave and do it. To have a go. To get something down on paper (or canvas) and to be bold about it.

 

For years now, I have watched Portrait Artist of the Year... and Landscape Artist of the Year... and Watercolour Challenge and have marveled at the different ways in which the featured artists have captured likenesses and landscapes alike and have done so in many inventive ways. Some have been wonderful to my eyes and others have impressed the judges without really floating my boat. The important point is that they all made a mark and that mark was appreciated by somebody. All the while, my paints, pencils, pads and canvasses languished in the loft. I watched others make their mark, but despite having the wherewithal to do so, I didn't make mine. Having now joined in with this eccentric bunch of artists and their enthusiastic leader, I'm hoping that that is about to change.

 

In life, as in art, we have the opportunity to make our mark, but sometimes, despite having the wherewithal to do so, we miss the chance. I can only speak for myself at this point when I say that I marvel at others who seem to know what they are doing, but am often timid when it comes to giving it a go. The reality is that giving it a go is exactly what I should be doing. I know that, when it comes to art, I am never going to have my work auctioned off at Sotheby's, but I still enjoy it and feel that I have something to offer. Making a mark in life should be approached in the same way. Getting alongside somebody and offering them what you have is more important than worrying whether your efforts will hang in a gallery. Whether it's a helping hand, a kind word, or a listening ear, what we have to offer is of value to somebody. We should also know that we have somebody who believes in us and acknowledges the worth of what we are attempting, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me". Jesus encourages us to care for each other and reminds us that He looks favourably on our efforts.

 

So, my easel and my paints have been liberated from the loft and I'm ready to go. More importantly, I have been reminded that there are other areas where I need to make my mark. Will you join me?

"Lototoo" - 20/01/22

 

This week I found myself staring at pictures of devastation from the islands of Tonga. An undersea earthquake and the resulting Tsunami, has devastated the Islands and most of the homes of the 98,000 or so people that call Tonga home. It has cut their communication to the outside world and also contaminated a lot of their drinking water with salt and ash from the volcano.

 

As well as being deeply saddened, it made me wonder how does an island recover from something like this? How, when everything else is destroyed, do you begin the process of rebuilding and restoration?

 

As I looked deeper into Tongan culture, I discovered what an amazing Island it is. Tongan society is guided by four core values, Fefaka’apa’apa’aki (mutual respect), Feveitokai’aki (sharing, cooperating and fulfilment of mutual obligations), Lototoo (humility and generosity) and Tauhi vaha’a (loyalty and commitment).

 

Consequently, Tonga is known as the ‘friendly Island’, and for good reason.

 

Right now, the Tongans are relying on the ‘Lototoo’ of the rest of the world as Aid agencies scramble to get fresh water, aid and supplies to the stricken country. It is my prayer that with the help of a world-wide community, their country will recover in time.

 

The word Lototoo brought some bible verses to mind from Ephesians 2

 

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

 

Not only is Lototoo a wonderful value for the Tongans, I believe it is something that God calls us all to carry out in our lives. God loves us so much, and enables us to love others with his love, and show love, humility and generosity to those we meet. 

As we pray for Tonga, lets also pray that we may develop even more Lototoo in our lives, to show Gods love to everyone we meet.

"Getting Back Up" - 19/01/22

 

Sloths are slow. Sooooo slow. On average they travel about half the length of a football pitch in a day. In fact they are so sendentary that algae is known to grow on their fur. These beautiful creatures cause us to smile as they appear to spend their whole lives in slow motion. Although there is one regular action they have which isn’t in slow motion…when they fall out of trees!

 

Sloths are experts at falling out of trees. On average they fall once a week. And we’re not talking a couple of metres. Sloths can fall over 30 metres and still smile! They’re experts at falling down AND picking themselves back up.

 

Some days can hit us hard. We can receive bad news, we can wake up tired, we can mess up with a conversation or job, forget to do something important…and before we know it we can feel like we’ve crashed. It’s at times like this that we can feel defeated or that there’s no way forward. We’ve ‘fallen from the tree’. There can be a real temptation on days like this, to give in, to believe those negative voices telling us we’re no good or we’ve failed or we’ll never sort our problems out, or to believe that life will always be too hard. 

 

Jesus understood difficult times. One of the titles He was given was, ‘man of sorrows’. He understood and He understands. That’s why He said, 

 

‘Come to me, all you who are weak and heavy-laden and I will give you rest’. 

 

These weren’t empty words. If you feel like you’ve ‘fallen from the tree’, know that Jesus understands and invites you to find rest in Him. And He will help you climb that tree again, even at a sloths speed!

"You are Not the Weakest Link" -18/01/22

 

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link

 

If you have ever lost a pendant or beads from a broken chain you may be in complete agreement with today’s proverb.  It only takes one link in a chain to be weaker than the others and something precious can be lost and you might find yourself on your hands and knees searching for all of the missing pieces to try and rescue your treasure.

 

Today’s proverb is speaking about a group of people who will only ever be as strong as the weakest person in that group regardless of how strong and capable others may be – but I disagree!  We live in a world where strength, intelligence and some idea of perfection are seen as the only things to value and strive for but who of us can meet all of those criteria all of the time?  I know all too often there are situations I would be considered the weak link because of a lack of knowledge or skill or wisdom but by surrounding myself with good people I know that when I am weak, someone else will be strong and that someone will help to carry me until such a time when I have skills to offer and I can then help to carry someone else – less of a chain and more of a team.

 

In the book of Corinthians Paul writes about something he calls ‘a thorn in my flesh’.  We don’t know for certain what he was referring to but we do know it was something that he asked God to take away from him “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” If anyone could be considered a real-life superhero it would probably be Paul, but even he sometimes found that he wasn’t strong enough but instead had to fully depend on God.  Only when he did that did he become the strongest link.

 

You may not feel up to whatever today may hold for you but know that in your weakness you can depend on God and then you will have the strength that you need.  We are a community of God’s people and together there are no weak links, just people that come alongside one another and carry one another when needed – whether you are feeling weak or strong today, know that you don’t face the day alone.

"Refreshing Aims" - 17/01/22

 

At the start of the year, many people will want to set a New Year resolution or goal for the year. It’s not something I really did personally. In my work, we do however set our objectives for the year. As I was reading the information sent out by the managers, there was one part of the business that gave a refreshing message. They recognised how difficult the last 2 years had been with the impact of Covid on people being able to work on site and published just 2 statements. 

 

Firstly, they recognised that having big ideas can be great but it can be difficult to achieve, whereas making smaller, more achievable goals will actually bring more value. Secondly, to have good communication so that all parts of the business are aware of what is happening and what changes are planned.

 

As we go about our lives, sometimes we don’t know how we can make such a big difference. But if we simply keep doing the little things, showing a kindness, caring for someone, loving someone; this can have a massive impact on others. 

During this pandemic, one thing that has changed is that we stopped rushing around and really talked to each other. People have learned to talk to their neighbours and become a community.

 

As Christians, our love of Jesus, and His love for us, gives us strength and hope that as we share and support each other. The small acts of kindness and love can add up to a real gift to those who receive it.

We are encouraged in the bible with these words…

 

 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

"When Rain Clouds Gather" - 15/01/22 

It never rains but it pours!

Have you ever had one of those days – or weeks, or months – when it just seems to be one thing after another?  It may be one disaster after another or it might just be the relentlessness of a busy and demanding life when there never seems to be any let up; no time to stop or take a break before dealing with the next thing.  How often we will proclaim “it never rains but it pours!” as we deal with one task after another, one apparent disaster after another.

Many people in our community are dealing with so many difficult things at the moment – I wouldn’t blame you for feeling the weight of those burdens.  Yet the Bible reminds us that whatever we face - from trials to celebrations, we don’t need to face them alone, God wants us to walk with Him and to rest in Him.

I make no apology today for reminding you of the very well-known words of Psalm 23:

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.  He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

If today is a day that feels like you are under a dark cloud; if sadness, doubt or fear are raining down on you; if life’s demands are weighing on your mind - please take a few moments and re-read those words slowly and carefully and allow the love and peace of God to wash over you and the quiet waters refresh you.

"If you can see it, You can pick it up" - 14/01/22

 

I am a cushion straightener. Somebody who likes things to look a certain way. A place for everything and everything in its place. I get it from my Mum... who in turn got it from her mother. They were of a generation that didn’t have much and what they had they took care of. Steps were scrubbed, brasses were polished, paintwork was washed – every day. Things were kept neat and tidy and everybody worked hard to see that they were.

 

My Mum was fond of the expression, “If you can see it, you can pick it up.” In other words, if something was out of place and you knew it, there was no need to wait for somebody else to come along and put it right – just do it yourself. Don’t sit there pointing out what needs to be done and expecting somebody else to do it.

 

If I chose to make an excuse to try and get out of my share of the labour, I would be greeted by another of my Mum’s expressions, and my personal favourite, “Act daft son and I’ll buy you a yacht”. The message was clear - although you would be forgiven for missing it - everybody had their part to play and I was no exception. Our little family would survive, and hopefully thrive, by following the foundation of this shared work ethic.

 

The same is true of any society or community. It is the willingness of the community members to play their part in the building of that community that leads to its prospering. Our Melling community is built on the strong foundations of people who love and care for each other. Those foundations allow us to build bigger and better, knowing that everything we do is to the glory of God and that His hand guides us as we go.

 

There is always work to be done and we are the ones to do it. All of us have a part to play, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it”. Yes, some of us will be gifted in certain areas and we should not ignore those particular gifts that we have been given, but there will be things to do that fall outside our particular gift and we should not be afraid to tackle whatever needs to be done, remembering that we are God’s church and He created us to be part of a body that works together ,“But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be”.

 

So, are you ready to build bigger and better? Well then, pick it up if you can see it

"New Beginings" - 13/01/22

 

I love to find out about different cultures and customs around the world. Whilst we do have some unusual customs of our own in the UK, I am intrigued to find put about how other people celebrate and live life around this wonderful world of ours.

 

The start of a year is often a chance for new beginnings in many cultures. Whilst we might have New Years resolutions, other countries bring in the New Year in very different ways, and lots of them involve traditions to bring good fortune for the coming year.

 

In Brazil, people will place white flowers and candles into the ocean as an offering to a water God called Yemoja, so that she will bring them good things in the following year.

 

In Ecuador, they adopt a very different approach. They build scarecrows to look like politicians and famous people from the previous year. These are then burnt on large bonfires to get rid of all the badness from the old year, to make room for lots of good in the coming year! This sounds quite intriguing given our current political climate!

 

Whether it’s encouraging the good, or eliminating the bad, these traditions are all designed to somehow guarantee a great year. 

The wonderful news is that whilst God doesn’t guarantee us an easy life, he does promise to be with us throughout every situation and circumstance. 

 

Isaiah 41:13 reminds us of an amazing promise from God:

 

For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

 

I haven’t met anyone who isn’t desperate for this pandemic to end, and for life to return to something resembling normal, but whatever happens this year, we don’t have to face anything alone. We can be reassured that as Psalm 46 says

 

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.

 

Let’s take time today to chat to God, and tell him how we feel about the coming year. Lets also take time to be still with God and be aware of his amazing Love.

"All Creatures Great and Small" - 12/01/22

 

Over these coming weeks we will be looking at the incredible animal kingdom. From the smallest insect to the largest mammal, from the humble goldfish to the most majestic eagle, the animal kingdom has much to teach us.

Some years ago whilst I was working in London, I made friends with a homeless man called John. He ‘lived’ on a section of pavement down the road from the large building I worked in, next to Tower Bridge. John was a wonderful guy. He was in his mid 50s, was an engineer, and had family. Some difficult circumstances and some poor life choices had led to him being on the streets. 

Some days he would be wide awake at 8:30am when I was heading to work, and we would sit and chat and drink coffee together for 20 minutes. Then there were other days when he would be fast asleep covered in blankets and old coats, surrounded by empty cans. And yet, whether it was hot or cold, whether he was awake or asleep, in the snow, rain and wind, in the busy times and the quiet times, there was a constant companion by his side….his German Shepherd, Jenny. This beautiful, gentle and affectionate creature was forever loyal to John. It didn’t matter what condition John was in whether it was good times or bad, Jenny remained by his side. She was absolutely devoted to John and showed her love and loyalty even when John was unable to show it in return.

Dogs are known for their faithfulness and loyalty towards their owners. Devoted friends! They are such great examples to us. The Bible says, 

 

‘Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family’. 

 

This is the kind of friend who is there for the parties and celebrations, and also the grief and distress. As we’re talking about the animal kingdom it feels appropriate to have some wise words from Winnie the Pooh…

 

‘ A friend is someone who helps you up when you’re down, and if they can’t, they lay down beside you and listen’. 

 

May we all be blessed with true and loyal friends, and do our best to be those true and loyal friends to others. 

 

Thank you Jenny for your incredible display of love and loyalty to a man who desperately needed a friend, and thank you Winnie the Pooh, definitely not a bear of very little brain!

"In The Right Place" - 10/01/22

Sometimes, when you’re out shopping or maybe taking a relaxing walk in the countryside, you see somebody coming towards you and your day is instantly ruined. Of all the people you know, this is the one person you didn’t want to meet today, or ever. Quite often your reaction is, ‘What are they doing here?’ or ‘Why did I choose this place to go walking’? The feeling of being in the wrong place can be very unsettling, particularly if it's for more than a few minutes. Have you ever had a job that you disliked intensely, but you had to turn up every working day? The reason for being unhappy could be that the people were not your type, so you didn’t fit in. Possibly the place and situation was not where you wished to be. You couldn’t believe this place could ever be good for you. The idea that you may have been able to do something worthwhile because you were there never occurred to you. 

 

I think I may have told you before that I was arrested one morning for theft (didn’t do it, honest), and I sat in a police cell from 9am to 11pm before they let me out on bail. I really didn’t want to be there; it was the wrong place for me. But amazingly it turned out to be the right place. I had agreed with a business contact to organise a project that would require me to spend many hours writing. But I could never get the time and I was under great pressure to deliver the goods. And suddenly here I was locked up, going nowhere. I spent ten peaceful hours producing the programme. I smiled frequently as I considered how unpredictable (and wonderful) this situation was. 

 

There’s a lovely story in the Old Testament about a young lady who was captured by an invading army, torn away from her family, taken into a foreign country and made a slave to her captors’ wife. She would be shocked and dismayed at her situation and believed that she was in the wrong place. However, when her captor discovered he had an incurable disease, she had the grace to tell him about a man in her own country who could cure him with Gods’ help. This is exactly what happened and although we don’t hear the end of the story, we can be certain that she was never treated as a slave again. 

 

We often wonder why we find ourselves in places and situations that we would never have chosen, maybe that’s how you feel right now. It’s worth remembering that God works in mysterious ways and the place you are in today could have possibilities you can’t imagine. David in Psalm 18 says, ‘My God turns my darkness into light…..As for God, His way is perfect.’ When you’re confused, disappointed, or feeling lost because of your circumstances, have a look around, you may be in just the right place. 

"The Sky's the Limit!" - 09/01/22

Well, a new year has begun and already most of us will have heard somebody say that they hope it will be better than last year. This is something we hear every year. Of course, this year will be better than last year... in some ways – and in others, it will be worse. This is always true and should not come as a surprise, but still, we like to hope for better. It's a natural reaction. We regularly have plans, hopes and aspirations and very often we express them at New Year. It's a time when we look to the future. It's a time when we share our hopes and plans with others.

 

The coming year holds much promise for our little community in Melling. This may be the year when we finally find a church building (you'll notice that I didn't say a church – we are already a church... if you are reading this, you are probably a part of it). A church building would allow us to have a permanent home for the many and varied activities that already exist within the community. It will be lovely to be able to say, “I'll see you at church” and to know that we mean a place and not a Zoom meeting. It's an exciting thought.

 

Whether the exciting plans we have involve obtaining a church building, or not, we should remember that we must put all of our plans in God's hands. This doesn't mean that we simply sit back and wait for God to put before us all of the things that we are hopeful for. We need to act within God's will in order for our plans to be part of God's greater blessing. The emphasis here is in the term, “act”. As the great missionary William Carey once said, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God”. Knowing that God is able to do wonderful things should encourage us to move forward with the plans we have to extend His community, to encourage His community, to love His community.

 

The inspiration for Carey's statement comes from the book of Ephesians, in which the apostle Paul writes, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

 

God can do remarkable things... and He can do remarkable things through us. If we want to see our plans become reality, we must involve God and, just as importantly, involve ourselves. Let's see what we can achieve together.

 

When encouraging others to attempt great things, we often spur them on with the motivational term, “The sky's the limit!”. That may be true, but, if so, then it's still a limit. I prefer to think that the sky is not the limit; it's just the scenery God gave us to enjoy while we work alongside Him.

"But I NEED it!" - 07/01/22

 

A little three-year-old girl sat down at the table for breakfast. Her mummy I asked her, 

 

“Would you like toast? Or cereal? Or a banana?“

 

The little girl thought for a moment and then replied,  

 

“Today I need apple pie, and chocolate, and sweets!” 

 

Her mummy smiled, and took a deep breath, 

 

“Well I don’t think you need those things for breakfast”. 

 

The little girls smile rapidly disappeared, replaced with a frown. 

 

“But mummy, I need apple pie and chocolate and sweets!!” 

 

Her mum, still smiling, replied, 

 

“No, you don’t need those things sweetheart. You want those things but you don’t need them. It would hurt your tummy to eat all of those things for breakfast”. 

 

With big, fat tears starting to roll down her cheeks, the little girl tried again, 

 

“Mummy!!! I do need them! I do! I need them for my breakfast!!”

 

I’m sure many of you can relate to conversations like this with your children or grandchildren? And I have to say, there have been many occasions where I have felt like I have needed apple pie and chocolate and sweets for breakfast too! And there have also been many occasions when I have been like this with God. “God, I really need…a break, a holiday, a new job, THAT job, that person to stop annoying me, that issue to go away….” Sound familiar??

 

Often, we can’t see the big picture, and it can feel like God doesn’t care or he doesn’t understand or he is simply not there. The Bible makes it very clear that God does care, and he does understand, and he is very much there. But a bit like the little girl who ‘needed’ chocolate, we get all our needs and our wants mixed up. Maybe, just maybe, God is doing something bigger, something we can’t grasp or understand. Maybe, there’s a lesson we need to learn?

 

How about today, we take a look at our lives, and rather than give God a shopping list of our perceived needs, we ask Him to provide us with what He knows we need, and through the struggles and confusion and fears we can trust Him to care, understand, and always be there.

 

‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, don’t rely on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and he will make straight your paths’ Proverbs 3:5-6.

"What's In Your Hand Today?" - 04/01/22

A proverb is generally considered to be a short saying that offers advice or expresses some kind of truth.  We have thousands of proverbs within our culture – you will probably be able to quote many that your parents or grandparents quoted to you and that you now say to your own children and grandchildren.  

 

Over the coming weeks we are going to take a look at some of these so-called ‘words of wisdom’ to think about their meaning and what they might really mean to us in our lives today.

 

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

 

At the beginning of a new year it is all too easy to get caught up in making resolutions and lists of hopes for the year to come, after all it does seem to be the most appropriate time to make plans.  It’s not that resolutions are bad things, it can be helpful to set goals and to have aims and dreams, however, to live only ever dreaming of what might be could mean that you miss much of the beauty in what you already have.  Today’s proverb speaks of what you already have being far more valuable to you than what you might dream of or hope for, but don’t actually possess.  We can often overlook the blessings we already have as we reach out for the things we don’t yet have but seem like we need.  

 

In the book of Psalms we read these words: ‘This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.’  

Today is the day that we have in our hands; we’re not promised tomorrow or next week or another year, but if you are reading this then you have been blessed with this day, this moment.  What will you do with it?  Will you use it to dream of things you don’t yet have – if I’m honest, I’m very good at that! – or shall we take the blessing of this day, give thanks to God and then offer it back to Him to make something wonderful with?

 

‘This most generous God…gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God’.

"Difficult To Believe" - 03/01/22

So many events and achievements have humble beginnings. Many of the retail empires in our cities started in marketplaces or as single shops in small towns. Electricity and radio, light bulbs and television, motor cars and steam trains all came from the minds of individuals who had personal visions of what the future could be like. Many of these ideas were laughed at by people who thought they knew the difference between possibility and impossibility. In our own lifetimes many of us have seen the world transformed beyond our imagination. As I sit here, I wonder what the next great invention will be; free energy; cheap drinking water from the oceans; a universal language; some way to turn off music in supermarkets? 

 

There are plenty of accounts in the Bible of insignificant people and events producing unexpected and overwhelming results. Moses saw a burning bush in the desert and despite his lack of confidence he challenged Pharaoh to free his slaves. Pharaoh said, “No”; God said, “Yes.” Job done. Gideon was an insignificant member of his insignificant family, but God took him step by step, and he became a great military leader. Joseph was hated by his brothers, sold into slavery, thrown into prison, but became a ruler in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. David was the youngest of eight brothers, but while everyone stood and watched, God turned him into a giant-defeating King. Paul was a Christian-killing monster but became the greatest Christian teacher ever because he bumped into Jesus while riding his horse. 

 

Just like society in the days of Jesus, we tend to look elsewhere for success and greatness. We imagine that progress will come from professors and politicians, universities and space agencies, and we are probably right most of the time believing that. But God works differently and chooses His achievers in His own way.

 

At the start of 2022, are you optimistic about the year to come, or do you think, ‘Here we go again, we’ve been here before?’ Can you imagine that God has plans for you, your family, or our nation, that will cause us to smile and relax a little? What about our little insignificant Melling community, do you think God could be bothered to give us a second thought? Are you expecting to look back at the end of the year with gratitude and say, “Thank You Lord?” Some of us are because Jesus said, “With God all things are possible.” Let’s start the year believing that Jesus knows His Father better than we do, and just like Moses and Gideon, Joseph and Paul, lets believe that God sees more in us that we can see in ourselves. Can you hear God saying, “Watch this space?”