June '21 Sunrises 

'I Hate Scarecrows' - 30/06/21

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 48 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 Palestine in recent weeks and how the young children have been subjected to such 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’.

 

 

'It's In the Compost' - 29/06/21

‘Do not be afraid and anxious, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom’ [Luke 12:32 Amplified]

 It’s hard to shine when you’re next to the sun. It must be awkward to produce Christmas Dinner if you’re married to Delia Smith. Difficult to churn out a best-seller if your name is Mrs. John le Carre? Not easy to excel if your big sister is teacher’s pet? And impossible to impress in the gardening department if your husband is second only to Monty Don! 

In this frame of mind, I have never felt qualified to participate in the back garden, which no thanks to me could almost be an ‘open event’, part of the National Garden Scheme. It’s probably why I’ve started weeding in the local graveyard and church grounds. What harm can I do attacking a border in the carpark consisting purely of nettles, thistles and bindweed using a three-pronged hoe or as I call it ‘the grabber’. What offence can I give by putting a straight edging in the ‘garden of remembrance’ where it had been overgrown; learning to stretch out twine and mark it out with golf tees, and apply ‘the slicer’!! 

But then fate stepped in. Some friendly neighbours bequeathed us five large pots which they no longer needed. Two were said to be cracked: “I’ll have those two thanks and maybe I’ll plant vegetables”. No other vegetables around to be in competition with!! Nine small corn-on-the-cob plants and nine dwarf bean plants later, a decision to give me sound pots, loads of compost, a daily tipple from the watering-can, and here I am in charge of a budding harvest. How on earth did that happen? Seemingly I did nothing. “Oh” said the husband “It’s in the compost”.  

Well, I’m really glad it’s in the compost. I’m really glad everything is there in the foundation I’ve given it, glad that the grounding is suited to growing a crop. I’m reassured that it doesn’t all depend on me to make things grow healthily; and I’m delighted even at the thought of receiving a harvest.  

As St.Paul once said: ‘We each carried out our assignment. I planted the seed. Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow. It’s God who is at the centre of this process’ [1 Corinthians 3:6-8 paraphrased] He was talking about planting a church at Corinth. In the same way, in our own lives, in our pandemic experience, in our silent periods of waiting and growing, and probably suffering, we must admit we have been given a good foundation for our faith and nurturing. It seems that, each in our own way, we have put our roots into God’s soil, been watered by our Savior and kept healthier by his loving Spirit …….. and the love we have showered on each other. If you feel utterly transformed by the journey then do not be surprised. Because whatever you have come through God is using that to grow your character, to come closer to Him, to feel your need of Him and to grab the opportunity to be part of working in his Kingdom.

Like myself in the back garden, you may feel you are ‘small fry’. But rest assured, whatever you’ve learnt, however you’ve grown, it was your Father’s joy to give you that piece of his Kingdom. He smiles on you.

'The Dog In the Front' - 28/06/21

‘OK’ I thought, ‘I’ll follow him.’ He is Louis the Lab that I take for a walk two or three times a week. We had arrived in this enormous park that would take ten minutes to walk across if you walked in a straight line. But walking in a straight line is not our style, even when I lead. I’m an intelligent dog walker and I know what’s best for my canine mate, so I lead the way to every interesting tree, bush, and hedge. He occasionally wanders away but he always stays close to me; he’s not stupid, he knows if he gets lost, he would have to walk home. We park in the same place each time, facing the same way so that when he jumps out he knows that he needs to run round the front of the car, because that the way I go. But on Saturday when the door was opened for him, he trotted off in a different direction without asking for permission. Because I’m patient and loveable, and he’d gone anyway, I smiled and followed. And followed. And followed. He pretended that he had no interest in trees, bushes, or hedges; he simply put his nose to the floor and headed for the middle of the park where there is absolutely nothing of any interest, even for a daft dog. We walked for nearly an hour and never got close to any of the four edges of the field. He ignored the little bridge that leads to his favourite brook, he’s never done that before, and we continued to twist and turn our way backwards and forwards, following scents that only he was aware of, never getting anywhere. He seemed very happy so I decided to be happy to.  

It reminded me that some people are called Christians, the word means ‘follower of Christ.’ We read in the gospel accounts of His life that Jesus approached certain men and simply said, “Follow me.” They had no idea how long they would be away, no idea where that would take them, and no idea what they would see or hear. Frequently they didn’t understand the direction that He took them in and often thought that they had better ideas. When they set out following Him they didn’t realize that nothing would ever be the same again, that the journey would last a lifetime, and they would still be following when they died. Now that’s more than a walk in the park. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Anybody coming?

'The Result' - 26/06/21

So many of us are focused on results. We have COVID testing, and everyone is desperate to be negative and fearing being positive. If you have done any of the test procedures, you could be waiting for a few minutes  or a few days. We have also started the football Euro 2020 competition, and I am sure there are plenty of people now checking results. Looking out for the team that you picked in the office competition, possibly having no real interest in the game just whether you are winning.
So many aspects of our lives seem to be dependent upon results. We start our children down that path in schools. Putting them through tests and exams then having to wait from a few days to a few months for the results.
But what about the journey? What about enjoying the football or enjoying learning. What about just enjoying what you can do in this pandemic. We sometimes make the result the most important factor. Did you have fun? Did you enjoy yourself? Where you able to work together and help others? Did you learn something interesting?
The journey of our lives is what is important. How have you lived your life, did you get the promotion by any means possible? Did you get to the front of the queue by pushing into the line? Or did you do your best, support and mentor others around you. Give credit to those who made contributions to the work?
There are many stories in the Bible about how Jesus lived his life, he taught his early disciples and they followed in his footsteps. In turn, they lived their lives guiding others. The apostle Paul in many of his letters encouraged others “ you have to try to live the way I live and do the same sort of things, just like I try to live the way that Jesus lived.”
Let’s encourage each other in our examples of loving and serving each other.​

'Help' - 25/06/21

I recently had my laptop repaired. Now, whilst it is accurate to state that the repair was recent, it would be stretching credibility to suggest the same of the fault that required the repair. I have been without my laptop since October 2020, when it suddenly decided that it did not like the password I had set to ensure its security and insisted that I use the one from my Microsoft account instead... then it told me that it wasn't happy with that one either. If you've ever tried to reason with a laptop, you will be aware that it is not possible. It has its own inalienable logic and will not be thwarted in its plans to reduce to dust what little sanity you have remaining.

Sadly, the same was true of the labyrinthine machinations of the repair, replace or refund policy of the retail outlet from which I bought the infernal device. Now I am aware that, during the time that my laptop was misbehaving and the aforementioned retail outlet was failing to understand their liabilities towards a customer with a product still within its manufacturers warranty, a pandemic was occurring. So for the sake of clarity and fairness, it should be stated that Covid and the restrictions and regulations surrounding the practice of free trade accompanying it, was responsible for some of the delay to the eventual repair of my laptop... about 10% of it.

It must also be said that each and every member of staff I spoke to, whether by web-chat, telephone, Twitter or (post Covid restrictions) face to face, were genuinely trying to be helpful. It was the corporate entity in which they were employed that had lost sight of its responsibilities regarding customer service. When I eventually got to speak to somebody in the correct position within the hierarchy to be able to make an independent decision, my problem was fixed within a week.

This led me to think of the Melling Baptist Community. Not because it is a large corporate entity, bereft of human feeling, common sense and rational customer service policies, but because it is the exact opposite. Whenever a problem is mentioned within the community, the speaker can hardly finish the sentence before offers of help are being made. Nobody is off behind a desk somewhere, checking whether this particular problem is covered by a warranty, or if there is a weasel clause somewhere that negates the need to offer help. No; there is simply a recognition that somebody has a need and that that need should be met if humanly possible... and if humans can't fix it, then we'll turn to God and ask for His help on behalf of the friend in need.

This mirrors the teaching of the early church that we read about in the book of Galatians, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” and later, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers”.

So, let's continue to be a community. Let's continue to do church. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing”.

'Second Chances' - 24/06/21

“There's a famous quote I read somewhere. It says we are all given second chances every day of our lives. They are there for the taking, it's just that we don't usually take them.”
James Bowen, A Street Cat Named Bob

A Street Cat names Bob is a true story about how a stray cat adopts a London busker, and the bond that is formed between them inspires the man to turn his life around.

In the early 1850’s in Michigan, a young boy called Al was struggling to pay attention in school. One day his teacher sent him home from school with a letter for his mother. The letter from his schoolteacher contained these words:

Your son is addled (mentally ill), please do not sent him to school anymore.

His mother was furious with the schoolteacher and determined to give her son a second chance by teaching him herself.

Al, as his family called him, then contracted scarlet fever at the age of 12 which left him with profound hearing problems, but his mother still persevered.

Al grew up to become a famous scientist and inventor who literally has lit up our homes ever since. Thomas ‘Al’ Edison, inventor of the lightbulb amongst many other things was forever grateful to his mother and her refusal to believe the schoolteachers assessment of her son as a young boy.

Experts now believe that its possible that he had either dyslexia or ADHD, hence his schoolteachers conclusions. However, the second chance given to him by his mother, and taken by a small boy who wanted to learn but didn’t learn in the same way as everyone else has literally brought light into our lives.

We may not have had such dramatic experiences as Thomas Edison, but there are times when we all need a second chance or another attempt at something.

God is always ready to come alongside us and help us with a fresh start. He never gives up on us, and his love for us never changes.

Lamentations 3 22-23

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

God is the God of second chances, and third and forth and fifty seventh! So, whether you need a fresh look at something small, or need to start again, God is ready, willing and able to help you. Let him know how you feel, he will not let you down.

'Cracking Up Or Cracking Open' - 23/06/21

I was having one of those days when the to do list was too long and the time seemed too short. Popping into Morrisons for one thing I then remembered a whole host of other things that we needed and gathered the items to my chest only to gather too many and drop them all. Thank goodness I had not made it to the eggs section! I left feeling anxious, forgetting the one thing that I had gone in for and told myself that I was cracking up. I clearly wasn’t and was just a but stressed. 

 

We are looking ahead to the future as church & it can be a bit like carrying an armful of shopping around a supermarket and realising that we are carrying too much.  We are scared of forgetting something that we might need and so we end up bringing everything . Dropping stuff is surely not good because something might break?

 

What if, in order to move forward we have to let go of stuff that we think we might need. We have to give up the comfortable security of what we have come to know over the last 18 months and allow ourselves to be cracked open, learning new ways of being church and breaking out of our shells. “ Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength… ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” When Jesus commanded us to do this He never said that it would be easy. However following Jesus and serving Him as well as one another can be so exciting. When eggs crack open it is not always bad. They might be cracking open and hatching, bringing new life .

'Keeping Up With the Jones'' - 22/06/21

You must not covet your neighbour’s house.  You must not covet your neighbour’s wife, or manservant or maidservant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbour. 

Exodus 20: 17

 

I can honestly say that I really couldn’t care what car you drive, if you are lucky I might notice what colour your car is but I won’t have a clue about the make, model or age. However, turn up with a nice handbag, shoes or coat and you’re far more likely to get my attention!  For others it might be the size of someone’s house that catches their eye or the fancy holiday someone is taking – it is very difficult to go through life and not find that at some point you are wishing you could have something that isn’t actually yours.  But this final commandment is clear, we shouldn’t desire the things that belong to others. To be fair, I can honestly say that I have never been envious of someone else’s donkey but the same principle can be applied to anything that we don’t own.

 

There seem to be a couple of problems with living in a state of constant envy of what others have.  Firstly, how will you ever find happiness that way?  Will there ever be a point at which you have enough and can stop striving and competing to have more of the things that others seem to have?  The grass may seem greener in someone else’s garden, but the reality is often down to perspective – they are probably looking at your garden!

 

The second question is what are you overlooking when your attention is constantly fixed on what others have?  Rather than looking for the things that you don’t have, what about the things that you do have?  Your home – even a chaotic, untidy home can be filled with love; your family – perhaps imperfect, but happy and healthy; your job – maybe boring or underpaid, but filled with loyal colleagues and good friends.  When we bother to stop and look, each of us will discover that we are already blessed in one way or another.

 

Let’s spare a moment today to look around us and give thanks to God for the things he has already blessed us with and stop worrying about the things that we may not have.  Let’s keep our eyes on God and in humble gratitude give thanks for the good things he has so abundantly blessed us with – including one another.

 

 “Any why worry about your clothing?  Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow.  They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.  And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you…Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”  Matt 6:28

'The Same But Different' - 21/06/21

I’ve had a fun week painting a fence, well OK not a fun week but I’m glad I did it and I’m glad it’s finished. So glad. The fence has stood there proud and robust for decades while children have grown up, got married and produced more children. The fence has seen all of that and a lot more. But over the years it has lost some of its sparkle, just like some of us. The extremes of weather from torrential rain to scorching summer days (remember them?), has worn away some of the colour lovingly applied in a previous decade, and in some areas that colour has also been erased to reveal a whole history of colour choices. In addition the timber has gradually become more ‘interesting’ and exhibits beautiful texture and graceful contours where it used to be boringly flat and lacking in artistic merit. So we decided to take charge and treat this loyal fence to some beauty treatment. We considered a wide range of colours from Liverpool Red to  Newcastle Black and finally settled on a mature and sensible grey. After more than eleven hours of wrist-aching painting over three days we stood back and congratulated ourselves on performing a miracle. The transformation to that section of our garden has fully justified the effort. We may even invite visitors! It’s the same fence of course in the same place performing the same function as it always has, but it looks different, it’s all about image. 
The culture that surrounds us today is very conscious of image and it’s very big business. Many people spend a fortune on make-up, skin conditioner, hair-health products, amazing fingernails, not to mention clothes that go out of fashion almost before you wear them. Nobody is going to complain if you want to look presentable and be noticed but God won’t be looking. He said to Samuel a long time ago, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” That’s something that you can’t hide or paint over, God sees you as you are, not as you wish to be seen. However Paul writing to Christians long ago makes a comment about what we should wear, ‘Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.’ This is fashion that is never out of date and people will definitely notice; so will God but He will not be bothered by your old jeans covered in paint after transforming the fence.

'Dad Jokes' - 20/06/21

It’s Fathers Day! Happy Fathers Day! 

Whether you’re a dad, a granddad, uncle, step dad, foster dad, or somebody else who has taken on this wonderful role, THANKYOU!! 

We also thank God for those amazing dads who are sadly no longer with us, and are missed so much.

And for those who are soon-to-be dads or wanting-to-be dads, may God provide the strength, courage, wisdom and comfort that you may be needing today.

Being a dad is both a privilege and a responsibility. One responsibility is the teller of ‘Dad Jokes’! These jokes are internationally renowned for being, well, bad! Really bad! So bad, in fact, that they make us laugh!

How about,

"I'm afraid for the calendar. Its days are numbered."

Or maybe,

"What did the ocean say to the beach?" "Nothing, it just waved."

And then there’s,

"How does the moon cut his hair?" "Eclipse it."

Can you cope with anymore?…

"What did the zero say to the eight?" "That belt looks good on you."

Last one,

"Dad, did you get a haircut?" "No, I got them all cut!"

Are you still with me?? I promise, no more! They’re bad aren’t they?!! But did you laugh? Smile? Even a little bit? 

I don’t know what makes dads tell such awful jokes but we have to confess to loving them really. 

Being a dad is a tough job! And even the most perfect dad, isn’t perfect all the time. They get things wrong. They mess up at times. They get tired, or frustrated, or impatient….just like the rest of us!…and then there’s the jokes!

But the Bible speaks of God being our perfect dad. He wants to protect us, rescue us, guide us and help us. He’s always there for us and loves us completely. 

For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us.

Thankyou dads for all you do and have done for us!…even the bad jokes! And thankyou God for being the perfect dad who remains the same, yesterday, today and forever.

'Memories...' - 19/06/21

One of the features on our phones and social media can be the reminders that are shown to us of past memories. I was recently sent a copy of a photo from a few years ago, where I had worn a silly costume in support of an event one of my children was joining in with. We both had underpants on our head, in public! At the time, it was great fun and I enjoyed seeing the excitement on my daughters face as we joined in being silly, though some might say I don’t need a lot of encouragement to do that. When I then showed my daughter the photo and how we dressed in public all that time ago, I was reminded in no uncertain terms that this would not be repeated.

Apart from fun things from the past, sometimes people are caught out by things they wish had never done. There was the recent case of the cricket player who had said something on social media that was not good. And now someone had dug into his past and found it, making it public to a new fanbase. The player apologised for what he had said all those years ago and tried to assure people that this was not his opinion now.

 

Some memories that our phones can remind us of are never to be repeated, either because it was wrong the first time or because whilst it may have been fun then, it would not be good fun now.

 

In living our life with Jesus, he knows our past and all the things we may enjoy remembering as well as those which we may rather forget. There are probably times where we may prefer people could forgive and forget. When we ask Jesus to forgive us for things we have done wrong, he will forgive us and will choose not to remember them again. In the Old Testament, we hear stories of the sacrifices offered to God each month because of the sins of the people. However, in the New Testament, Jesus came to be a single, one-off sacrifice. In Hebrews Chapter 10, it says

 

But Christ gave himself to God for our sins as one sacrifice for all time and then sat down in the place of highest honor at God’s right hand 

 

There wont be any reminders because God chooses not to remember when we accept His forgiveness. We should not live in fear of the past but with hope for the future, founded in Gods love for us all.

'Red Ink' - 18/06/21

Apparently, things written in red ink can make people feel upset. It has been shown to have a psychological impact on people and bring about feelings of anxiety and disappointment. Don't just take my word for it; a study undertaken by sociologists at the University of Colorado found that corrections written by teachers in red ink were more likely to be perceived as critical and disciplinary. I wonder if they took into account the fact that the comments written in red ink were, in and of themselves, corrections and therefore likely to be perceived negatively anyway? Oh well, at least it's good to know that the research dollars are being well spent. Personally, I don't know what all the fuss is about... every comment ever written in my school books was in red ink, so I never had a chance to compare the effect of other colours!

 

We are told by the learned researchers in Colorado that red is a colour known to evoke emotions. Well, I would have to agree with them on that particular point – especially when it comes to my Bible. You see, my Bible has many passages written in red ink. The red ink signifies that the words I am reading were spoken by Jesus. It is a simple and effective way to be able to identify what Jesus actually said, rather than something that was spoken about Him.

 

The nearest thing to being able to hear Jesus speak, is to read the things He said. They certainly evoke emotion in me. Not because they are written in red ink, but because these are the things that the creator of the universe, the very being of God on earth actually spoke to people. These red letters speak of love, of hope, of kindness, of compassion, of inclusion and yes, sometimes of criticism. Jesus wasn't frightened to put people in their place when they were not behaving as He, and we, would like them to. When they misled people, when they behaved in a hypocritical way, when they failed to treat people as they should be treated. Of course, Jesus not only talked the talk, He walked the walk. Jesus was the living embodiment of God; God in the person of a man – a man that showed us all that is good. Who showed us all the good that we wish we could do and showed us how we can achieve it.

 

He described Himself as, The Good Shepherd; “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me”. We are the sheep He refers to and the best way to know Jesus is to listen to what He has to say... and the easiest way to do that is to read the red ink.

'Pack Animals' - 17/06/21

For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.”
Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book

The Jungle book is the well known tale of the boy Mowgli who is raised by wolves in the jungle and the adventurers he has meeting other animals and eventually finding his way back to the human village.

During Mowgli’s time with the Wolves, he learns that the wolf pack works best when it works together. The individual talents of each member bring an added dimension to the pack, and the combined talents of all the wolves mean everyone is protected and the pack is stronger.

This community feel is just how God wants us to work together as Christians. It may seem strange to compare us to a pack of wolves, but the motto is very similar!

In Pauls letter to the Christians in Rome, chapter 12, he explains the same principle to them:

Just as there are many parts to our bodies, so it is with Christ’s body. We are all parts of it, and it takes every one of us to make it complete, for we each have different work to do. So we belong to each other, and each needs all the others.

Or to put it another way…

The strength of the Church community is the Christian filled with Gods love and his spirit, and the strength of the Christian is the Church community filled with Gods love and spirit.

God has given us all different gifts and abilities, and if we use them together to love each other and serve God, the church community is built and strengthened. 

The key to all of this is Love. Not just our love and care for one another, but the amazing sacrificial, death defeating and life changing Love of God. This love enables our wonderful Melling community to grow and develop, and enables us to show how wonderful Gods love really is to other people.

Lets spend some time today thanking God for our wonderful Melling community, and the wonderful gifts and abilities we all have, and lets pray for more of Gods amazing love to inspire and renew us.

'We'll See' - 16/06/21

When I was little, if I asked for something or to go somewhere an answer often given was “Wait and see”. I mean, what sort of answer is that? It basically meant that the answer was probably a no but cold have been a yes if circumstances and the wind blew in the right direction! I like certainty. As an ex- teacher my life was governed by timetables, plans, spreadsheets and schedules. I knew what I was doing each and every hour of each and every day. I am still like that. My physical desk top calendar and physical paper diary are two of my most treasured possessions. I even schedule my coffee breaks as I used to when in work.

 A Benedictine spiritual guide, Sister Macrina Wiederkehr wrote this and it really resonated with me: “ It is enough to pray one’s questions and rest quietly in the possibilities. My life is too small for all the answers and my life…has been plagued with the need for too much certainty.”

 We like to be in control and being left with unanswered questions or a non-existent path ahead can be very frightening. For those of us who need comfort in this situation , Jesus said this: Matthew 28 verse 20 “…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” . In times like this we need to rest quietly in the possibilities trusting that as we do so , we are not alone.

For those of us who need to step out in faith but are scared of not knowing what lies ahead, perhaps we need to allow ourselves to be challenged by Jesus when he said this: “Don’t load yourselves up with equipment. Keep it simple; you are the equipment. And no luxury inns—get a modest place and be content there until you leave.”( Luke 9 verses 3 and 4). If we dare to live more simply being content with the unanswered questions; if we dare to trust that we do not face the journey alone, we can shrug off the anxiety caused by needing too much certainty in our lives. We can step out in faith and embrace the adventure; we can wait and see.

 

 

'Sticky Hands With A Clean Heart' - 15/06/21

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.”

Exodus 20:16

Apparently during 2020 sales of antibacterial hand sanitisers soared by more than 900% as the world set about fighting off covid-19.  Similar increases in sales were witnessed for hand washes and hand wipes as we obsessively tried to keep the virus at bay and who can forget the empty supermarket shelves and rationing of cleaning products as cleanliness became our new pastime?  All of our efforts to try and defeat this terrible disease were a vital part of the battle and important as we tried to keep one another safe from harm.

In the Bible we read a story about the teachers of the law challenging Jesus when they observed that he and his disciples didn’t follow the traditional ceremonial hand washing procedure before they ate.  Jesus explained: “It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.”  Jesus wasn’t claiming that we no longer need to wash our hands, even without a pandemic that is good practice in order to keep us safe and well.  Particularly at that time there were few medicines available so preventing illness was often as important as life and death.  But Jesus was saying that the ceremonies that we perform will never cleanse us on the inside – I can come before God with a dirty face and sticky hands but it is the condition of my heart that he will be looking at.   

The penultimate commandment that we are looking at today refers to ‘false testimony’ – in other words, lies.  But it is more than me just claiming that I am 47 when I am really 52 – that would indeed be an untruth, but the commandment goes on to say ‘against your neighbour’.  Yes, my honesty might be in question but once again, this commandment is about how we live our lives together in community; how we treat one another and the respect that we hold for each other.  If we share gossip and exaggerate untruths about one another, we’re not only spreading hurtful lies and slander but we are making our own hearts unclean and unacceptable in the sight of God. 

This commandment is calling us to be a people of love; people that care enough to wash our hands in order to protect one another but also people that care enough to speak of one another with truth, kindness and integrity.  As the Psalmist said “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

 

 

'The Moon and Babies' - 14/06/21 

It wasn’t much of an eclipse of the sun last week was it? Only about 40% of our star was covered by our moon following its very predictable journey through the heavens. So predictable are the movements of these spheres that we know that the next total eclipse of the sun viewable in the UK will be in the year 2090! Enjoy the view. I’ve always been in awe of the mechanisms at work in the cosmos; the distances involved and the number of heavenly bodies talked about by astronomers renders me speechless. One sad aspect of our modern lifestyle, due to the all-night street lighting, is that we so seldom get really good views of what’s over our heads. Children living here a hundred years ago saw more then than we see now. They could indentify many of the constellations that we struggle to see; and today’s children are mostly oblivious of the sky at night. 

This reminds me of Mrs. Webb. She was an elderly Christian lady years ago who was excited by every aspect of God’s creation. Before a mid-week prayer meeting the church members had been talking about the previous night’s harvest moon and how beautiful and large it was as it rose above the horizon. At this point in the conversation, Mrs. Webb announced in a joyful voice, “Don’t ever miss the chance to show your babies the moon.” David the psalmist would have applauded Mrs. Webb if he had been there; neither of them had any intention of worshipping the moon or the stars, but they were both very keen to draw people’s attention to the fact that the sky at night is convincing testimony to the creative power of the God of Heaven and earth. 

David wrote in Psalm 19, 

‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. 

Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. 

They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. 

Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. 
It would be good if we all encouraged the people around us, from babies to grandparents, to just stop….look…and appreciate our amazing cosmos that speaks to us of the glory and power of the Creator God. Let’s be prepared to express our awe, not just in words but also in our actions as we try to treat our world with respect and admiration. David ended his Psalm like this, ‘May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.’

 

'Being An Example' - 13/06/21

Being a parent can be quite a challenge!  As your children are growing, you try to teach them how to behave when playing, how to share with their friends, not making a mess when eating or how to use cutlery. As a parent, you try to help your children be a friend, which can sometimes be a hard lesson to teach or learn.​

It is also a time when we sometimes see that our children are often very good at learning from our example. Isn’t it a bit scary when we see our children behaving as we might, sometimes not always in a good way!! It is not just about teaching them to do as I say but it is very much about teaching them by saying do as I do and living our life as an example to them.​

Through all of this, we also do our best to show them how much we love them, as this is what drives our relationship and behaviour towards them.​

There comes a time when your children need to start making their own decisions and choices. We may not always agree with their choices but you hope and pray that the years of guiding them and setting an example has helped them find their own values on which to make those choices.​

This is like our relationship with Jesus, we need to understand how Jesus lived and how he guided his disciples. If we spend time learning about Jesus and how he lived his life, we can follow his example and his teaching. He has shown us His way and He leaves it for us to choose how we respond. Jesus did this because He loves us and we can choose to love Him too, and to follow Him. Our Father has shown His love for us and has taught us His ways. As Jesus encouraged us in Matthew 11 “Be my follower and work for me. Listen to the things I teach you and you will feel good inside yourselves, like your spirit is resting.”

 

'Anything Can Happen' - 12/06/21

It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien,   

The Lord of the Rings is a trilogy of books written about the adventures of Frodo the hobbit and his companions, as they battle to beat the Dark Lord Sauron, and the evil that was infecting the world of Middle Earth. It’s a well known story, and if you haven’t read the book, you might well have seen the films. 

In this part of the tale, Gandalf the wizard is explaining to Frodo the journey he must take.

Whilst we live in the UK, and not middle earth, it still true that no one knows what might happen when we step out of the door each day. Good and bad things can happen to us without warning. 

Our lives can be complicated and unpredictable. I am reminded of that old children’s TV show, Stingray, which had as part of its theme tune “Anything can happen in the next half hour!”. This is certainly true of my life. 

Whilst some people long to see the future and go to great lengths to try and work out what will happen in their life, it’s not something I have ever wanted to know. Whilst I admit some information would be useful (to know when you were going to run out of milk, or when the weather was going to be definitely sunny for example), I don’t really want to know if there are difficult times ahead, as it would then spoil the present as I would worry about what is to come. 

Jesus reminds that that whatever happens each day, He is there for us and can be trusted. He will not let us down, and if we ask him, will walk beside us each day, his hand in our hand. We never have to face anything alone. 

Proverbs 3:5-6 

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. 

Whether today goes as expected, or not, know that Jesus is in it with you and can be trusted to help you through.

 

 

'Anything Can Happen' - 10/06/21

It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien,   

The Lord of the Rings is a trilogy of books written about the adventures of Frodo the hobbit and his companions, as they battle to beat the Dark Lord Sauron, and the evil that was infecting the world of Middle Earth. It’s a well known story, and if you haven’t read the book, you might well have seen the films. 

In this part of the tale, Gandalf the wizard is explaining to Frodo the journey he must take.

Whilst we live in the UK, and not middle earth, it still true that no one knows what might happen when we step out of the door each day. Good and bad things can happen to us without warning. 

Our lives can be complicated and unpredictable. I am reminded of that old children’s TV show, Stingray, which had as part of its theme tune “Anything can happen in the next half hour!”. This is certainly true of my life. 

Whilst some people long to see the future and go to great lengths to try and work out what will happen in their life, it’s not something I have ever wanted to know. Whilst I admit some information would be useful (to know when you were going to run out of milk, or when the weather was going to be definitely sunny for example), I don’t really want to know if there are difficult times ahead, as it would then spoil the present as I would worry about what is to come. 

Jesus reminds that that whatever happens each day, He is there for us and can be trusted. He will not let us down, and if we ask him, will walk beside us each day, his hand in our hand. We never have to face anything alone.

 Proverbs 3:5-6 

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. 

Whether today goes as expected, or not, know that Jesus is in it with you and can be trusted to help you through.

 

 

'Happy Birthday Peace' - 09/06/21

Its that time of year again when I write about my daughter, Peace. It’s 14 years today since she was stillborn. And this afternoon me and my chicks will buy flowers, visit ‘Peace’s Garden’, smile, laugh, remember, and have McDonald’s for tea. Tradition!  Back in 2007, not long after Peace was born, I wrote my hurting, grief stricken, jumbled words down… 

‘To Peace, 

I loved you from the start, 

Delighted you were there, 

Excited to plan a future, 

You were in my every prayer.

But God had other plans for you, 

To lose you was such pain, 

Why you were taken I’ll never know, 

But I thanked Him that you came.

I imagine what you’d look like, 

I can hear your laughter in my mind, 

To run and jump and clap and sing, 

But life wasn’t to be that kind.

I am so, so sorry that I had to let you go, 

I carried you but couldn’t hold you, 

Such pain I’ve come to know.

And I called you Peace, 

No other name would do, 

Now you’re perfect in every way, 

And Mummy so loves you. 

God made you, 

Then God took you, 

Empty arms can hold such pain, 

But you are still my little girl, 

With a footprint in a frame’. 

Since that time, I have come to realise more and more that life is a gift. God gifted me with four beautiful and amazing chicks who I get the privilege of being mum to every day. We all experience good times in life, and heartbreaking, painful times. But I’m learning to appreciate EVERY single day of my life, recognising what’s important, like kindness, gratitude, being generous and forgiving. Being able to love. Not how many ‘likes’ you get on social media or whether you’re thin enough, rich enough, most important, most popular, always right....I don’t understand why ‘my Peace’ couldn’t be with us here on earth, but I don’t understand many, many things. What I do know, with all my heart, is that God offers us ‘His peace’ here on Earth. And it’s on offer to us all. God has blessed us all with gifts and abilities to help make our world wonderful. May we use these gifts and abilities to help a hurting world and continue to learn how to be grateful and see what good there is, even on the toughest of days. I thank God for this gift called life. Happy 9th June everybody. Happy birthday my Peace ️ 

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.

'Giving Generously' - 08/06/21

“You must not steal.”

Exodus 20: 15 

In an attempt to steal cash from a cash machine, two men attached one end of a chain to the front of the machine and the other to the bumper of their pickup truck.  However, instead of pulling the front off the cash machine, they managed to pull the bumper off their truck.  Having caused a great deal of noise they rapidly left the scene leaving the chain attached to the machine – which was attached to their bumper – which was still attached to the license plate of the truck!  Needless to say, they didn’t get away with anything.

Another man attempted to siphon off petrol from a motor home which was parked outside the owner’s home.  It helps to know what you are doing though and the Police were called out to find a really poorly man lying on the ground next to the motor home – in attempting to syphon off the fuel, he mistakenly put the hose into the sewage tank instead and got a little more than he was bargaining on!  The owner of the motor home decided not to press charges saying that it was the best laugh he’d ever had! 

It is really amusing to read stories of robbery fails – especially when it feels like justice was done in the end even if it was served through their own incompetence – and of course we all know that to steal is wrong.  But are we always as innocent of this crime as we might think?   

Stealing can come in many guises from outright theft of property to theft of time or skills if we consistently cheat an employer of our efforts or working hours.   This law is simple, it doesn’t distinguish between big theft and what might be considered small and inconsequential theft – it quite simply reminds us of the respect and responsibility we should have towards one another and that something that hasn’t been earned quite simply isn’t ours to help ourselves to.

But there is another kind of theft that we might overlook and can all too easily fall in to.  In the New Testament we read about an occasion when the Jewish leaders approached Jesus to try and trap him into saying something that he could be arrested for.  The taxes imposed by the Romans at the time were crippling for the average person but it would have been an arrestable offence if Jesus began to tell people not to pay their taxes.  Jesus’ response was simple: ‘“give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”  His reply completely amazed them.’  Let’s not deprive our Creator God, our Rock and our Redeemer of everything that is rightly His – ourselves!   

Let’s not withhold from Him what He bought and paid for through His death on the cross.  Let’s give back to Him with a generous heart our resources, our time, our skills, our love, our lives. 

 

'The Great Treasure Hunt' - 07/06/21

We are probably all shocked at the sudden appearance of the sun in the sky. People who booked holidays in the UK for last week are arriving home with tales of swimming in lagoons and needing sun cream to avoid being burnt. It reminded me of a story about a young couple in America who were given a metal detector for Christmas and had to wait months for decent weather before hunting for treasure. They didn’t expect to find any of course, that’s just a fairy tale. So they were shocked on the first sunny day out in their overgrown back garden when their new toy started bleeping. They found a rusty can partially unearthed by the months of rain. When they opened it in their kitchen they discovered it was full of gold coins more than a century old. What would you do? Well they did the same! Back in their garden they found seven more cans. In total they rescued 1,427 coins. It’s now called the Saddle Ridge Hoard and it’s worth $10 million! Now that’s what I call treasure; and it reminds me of another story, this one was told by Jesus. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” 

People have dreamed for centuries about finding hidden treasure that would transform their lives, but it almost never happens; it’s just a dream. But Jesus talked about treasure that is not only real but also accessible. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever trusts in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” This is treasure that will never end; it will carry you through this life and into the next one and will always be yours through eternity.  

So keep looking for old bean tins if that’s what turns you on, but my treasure doesn’t need digging for, you just need to accept the offer; and put your metal detector on eBay. You won’t get much but it will save you wasting your time.

 

 

'Because He Lives' - 06/06/21

Bill and Gloria Gaither were high school teachers when they first met and began writing songs together. That’s was in the early 60’s. To date they have written over 700 songs and continue to be in awe of how their music has blessed people throughout the world. 

During the 1960’s they had two children and were expecting their third. It was at a time of great upset and struggle for them. Bill had been ill, they had faced family upset and hurt and they were witnessing increased violence and hatred in their country. Gloria began to fear for her children. She was anxious and couldn’t see a way forward…. 

"It was on New Year's Eve that I sat alone in the darkness and quiet of our living room, thinking about the world and our country and Bill's discouragement and the family problems - and about our baby yet unborn. Who in their right mind would bring a child into a world like this? I thought. The world is so evil. Influences beyond our control are so strong. What will happen to this child? 

I can't quite explain what happened at that moment, but suddenly I felt released from it all. The panic that had begun to build inside was gently dispelled by a reassuring presence that engulfed my life and drew my attention.

Gradually, the fear left and the joy began to return. I knew I could have that baby and face the future with optimism and trust. It was the Resurrection affirming itself in our lives once again. It was LIFE conquering death in the regularity of my day." 

Out of that experience, Gloria wrote the words to their most well known song, that has now been sung across the world for almost 60 years.  

Click on the link below to hear this beautiful song, recorded during lockdown, for Easter, 

https://youtu.be/La9Zy917JcQ 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 

'We Shall Not Be Moved' - 05/06/21

During the 1950’s and 60’s Civil Rights Movement in the States, music was a powerful weapon. The black people would gather together to protest the horrendous treatment they experienced, and would often use gospel music, to declare their faith in God, to encourage one another, and to give a message to the world that whatever their circumstances, their faith in, and love for God would remain.  

Two songs that were made popular during that time were, ‘This Little Light of Mine’ and ‘We Shall Not Be Moved’. Both of these songs speak of having a strength and endurance that only comes from God.  

All these years later, we are still seeing prejudice, hatred and violence. It would do us well to listen to these songs, to remind ourselves that Jesus came for ALL people of every colour, race, language and background, and to be that light to a hurting, broken world. 

Click on the two links below to hear these two, old, beautiful, gospel songs. 

This Little Light of Mine: 

https://youtu.be/Xx3nTsFJEQE 

We Shall Not Be Moved: 

https://youtu.be/UcDpmzQh3YU 

Jesus said, ‘You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven’.

Matthew 5:14-16  

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers.

Psalm 1:1-3 

 

 

'Great Is Thy Faithfulness' - 04/06/21

This beautiful and well known hymn was written by Thomas Chisholm in 1923. Thomas was born in a log cabin in Franklin, Kentucky, in 1866. He suffered ill health for most of his life and that led to him earning very little. However, he loved to write poems. Hundreds in fact. One poem was looking at the faithfulness of God and being in complete awe and gratitude of Him. His friend read the poem, wrote music to go with it, and the result was one of the most well loved hymns known today. ​

Click below for a beautiful performance of Great Is Thy Faithfulness, performed by Carrie Underwood and Cece Winans. ​

https://youtu.be/NT0HcAr9aeI

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”

Lamentations 3:22-24 

'Soon And Very Soon' - 03/06/21

Andrae Crouch passed away in 2015. Many people won’t have heard of him, but in the world of gospel music, he was a giant. Throughout his life he was awarded, seven Grammys, six Dove awards, an Oscar nomination, induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1998, and he was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2004.   

At a very young age, his father, a church minister, asked Andrae if he would ask God to give him the gift of piano playing because their church really needed somebody who could play!! That following Sunday, Andrae sat down at the piano, and played. And never looked back.  

His story is amazing and his humility and gentleness was evident for all to see.  

He wrote the beautiful gospel song, Soon and  Very Soon. A song which acknowledges tough times here on Earth and how God gives us the strength to face the day, and speaks of Heaven where there will be no more pain, or sadness or dying.  

Andrae Crouch may have won many awards during his lifetime, and experienced some wonderful times, but his goal in life was never worldly gain, but that of being with Jesus. 

Hear him sing his beautiful song here 

https://youtu.be/lmGiu9JfbIs  

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’

Revelation 21:3-4

 

'Dear Lord And Father Of Mankind' - 02/06/21

In 1872, John Greenleaf Whittier penned the words of a new poem, ‘The Brewing of Soma’. Whittier was a Quaker. He had a devout and real love for God but in true Quaker style he believed that silence and nature were the only ways to experience the ‘still, small voice of God’. 

Soma was a drink, native to Asia, made from milk and honey and known for its hallucinogenic properties. It would send people into a wild frenzy and was sometimes drank in an attempt to ‘experience God’.  

Whittier had his opinions! He was angry and frustrated with Christians who sang, listened to music and were in any way louder than silent! ‘The Brewing of Soma’ was his reaction to this. The poem begins,  

‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, Forgive our foolish ways’ 

People could’ve reacted badly to his poem. They could’ve argued, complained and gossiped about Whittier. After all, his opinions were quite hurtful. But the words of his poem were really quite beautiful….if only they were put to music…..and sang! Just two years after Whittier wrote those words in disgust of those who praised and worshipped God through music, people were singing a new song! And they were very thankful to Whittier for providing the words. Oh, the irony! 

I don’t think Whittier would appreciate the noise that we make here in Melling! In Psalms we are told to, ‘Make a joyful noise unto the Lord’, and the use of singing and music in worship is mentioned right the way through the Bible. But God also says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God’. Whether we like noise or like quiet, like singing or like silence, whatever we choose, there ought to be room for everyone, and a time for everything. May Melling Baptist always remain ‘a church without walls’. All welcome!….EVEN those who

sing! 

Click the link below to hear this beautiful, peaceful hymn. 

https://youtu.be/YAxiN0egN-I

 

 

'My Redeemer Lives' - 01/06/21

Nicole C. Mullin was a shy, little girl with a stutter, growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio. She grew up, got married and found herself in a horrific, violent, loveless marriage. The abuse she experienced was extreme. And she recalls how she just ‘longed for Heaven’.  Eventually she escaped from the abuse. Years later she wrote these words, "There is a beautiful truth that I know. For the things that have ended in ashes, God has given me beauty. Where there was mourning, He has given me joy. For times when I have felt overwhelmed by fear and depression, He has given me clothes of praise. For all of the questions that are still unanswered and situations without closure, there is the hope of redemption”. 

Our song for today is one that Nicole wrote. My Redeemer Lives is a beautiful song, looking at the wonders of creation and seeing God in it all. The second verse speaks of this awesome, creator God looking upon each one of us and being there for us even when ‘the storm rages on’.  

“The very same God that spins things in orbit

Runs to the weary, the worn and the weak

And the same gentle hands that hold me when I'm broken

They conquered death to bring me victory”. 

Click on the link below to hear this beautiful song. 

https://youtu.be/XRW-jr_PnbQ 

I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2