March '21 Sunrises

                                                'Here is Love' - 31/03/21

‘Then one of the Twelve – the one called Judas Iscariot – went to the chief priests and asked, ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?’ So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over’.

Matthew 26:14-16 

How sad this passage is. How heart-breaking. For 30 silver coins Judas betrayed the one who had healed the sick, mended the broken hearted, taught with such wisdom and shown love to all. He turned his back on Jesus. 

And Jesus still loved him. 

https://youtu.be/FX6u6ULIdmk

 
 
                                          'No Mess Too Great' - 30/03/21

"When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Simon, I have something to tell you.’ ‘Tell me, teacher,’ he said. ‘Two people owed money to a certain money-lender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.’ ‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus said. Then he turned towards the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.’ Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ The other guests began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’"

Luke 7:36-50 

Jesus came to Earth for everybody. No one too unlovable, too messed up, too old or young, too educated or uneducated, too happy or sad....Jesus came for everybody. That means you and me. Whatever our mess. Whatever our lives look like. He knows us. He loves us. Thankyou Jesus.

https://youtu.be/ore7feFfD40

 

'Something Inside So Strong' - 29/03/21

Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.  “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”

Matthew 21:12-13 

When Jesus entered the temple and threw the money changers out, people were horrified. They were outraged that he did this. But Jesus saw just how corrupt they were. They weren’t in the temple as an act of worship, they were there to cheat people and make money. It was all wrong. And Jesus knew that He had to do the right thing, even though it would make Him unpopular. 

Doing the right thing can sometimes mean standing alone. Standing out. Being different. It  can be really difficult. But doing what is right is important. Martin Luther King put it like this, "The time is always right to do what is right."

It may take courage and bravery and determination, but doing the right thing is always right!

https://youtu.be/PcKoYGNj0BU

'He Is' - 28/03/21

Over the next 7 days, Sunrise will be following the week leading up to Jesus death and resurrection. With music and a short thought we hope you will be blessed and encouraged.

‘As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it’

Luke 19:41 

This was the day when people cheered and celebrated as Jesus rode towards the city. We call it Palm Sunday. 

But in the midst of the excitement and praise, Jesus wept. 

He wept because people had missed Emmanuel - God with Us. 

He had lived amongst them, loved them, encouraged them, been a friend to them, and taught them. But they didn’t understand. 

And soon the cries of ‘Hosanna’

would be swapped for ‘crucify Him!’ 

Jesus wept.

And today, our world still misses Him. 

With pride and arrogance, and the need for power and significance, we can miss what’s most important. Who’s most important! 

Jesus still seeks to bless us, guide us, teach us and give us hope-filled lives. 

May we see for ourselves this Easter that Jesus weeps because He loves us.

‘He Is’ is the new song by Crowder. Click on this link to hear this beautiful, truth-filled song.️

https://youtu.be/ZvvKa9vyixw

'Let's Call The Whole Thing Off...' - 27/03/21

This week I have been reviewing a number of documents with a new colleague who started working with us during lockdown. I am sure it's been a tricky start to a new job without being able to meet up with people. It's been a bit tricky process reviewing documents and people start to question individual words and phrases when what you are really wanting to do is understand the bigger picture. Does the sentiment behind the words actually just mean the same thing? Actually, it’s often better to read the whole story and get an understanding of the message behind the words. For me, it was difficult to be patient, as changes were being made to words that did not actually change the meaning.

When we are dealing with each other or we are getting to know someone, we should ensure we try to see the whole person. If we start to look too closely at smaller, individual traits, we can sometimes not be fair to others about accepting our differences and celebrating each other.

You say “eether” and I say “eyether”

You say “neether” and I say “nyther”

You like “potaytoe” and I like “potahtoe”

Lets call the whole thing off …

It’s a great song from Gershwin and performed by Fred and Ginger, at its heart its about is not letting our differences come between us.

In the Bible, the apostle Paul was writing to the Colossians to encourage to put God’s ideas first.

"Since you have been chosen by God who has given you this new kind of life, and because of his deep love and concern for you, you should practice tender hearted mercy and kindness to others. Don’t worry about making a good impression on them, but be ready to suffer quietly and patiently. Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Most of all, let love guide your life".

Lets understand each other for who we are, let's work together for the bigger picture and not pick holes in our differences but celebrate each other.

 

'Change' - 26/03/21

I have an aunty who has come out with some wise and wonderful sayings down the years. One of my personal favourites is her assertion that the most dreaded expression in the English language is, “New and improved!”. She's right, of course. How many times have you seen an advert claiming that the thing that you have regularly bought and enjoyed down the years has changed; it has been updated and is now, “New and improved!” - only to find that it has actually changed beyond recognition and is no longer a product that you desire?

We can all think of them. Pears Coal Tar soap improved its fragrance and is no longer the eye watering treat that I remember from my childhood. Wagon Wheels improved to the point where they appear to be half the size they once were. Microsoft regularly improve their software products to provide us with, “a more intuitive experience”; which then requires us to relearn everything we thought we knew about the application. Coca-Cola improved the taste of its product to such a degree that nobody bought it any more and the original formula had to be reintroduced. My personal bugbear is the bag-less vacuum cleaner. How is this an improvement? Yes, I no longer need to spend a few pence every couple of months on new vacuum cleaner bags, but the improved alternative sees me covered in skin cells, hair, clothing fibres, bacteria, mites, soil particles, pollen and microscopic specks of plastic, as I tip the contents of the removable dirt container into my wheelie bin! Still, I'm sure billionaire, Sir James Dyson is convinced that it was a good idea.

Wouldn't it be nice to know that there was something that we value, something that we rely on, something that we love that won't change? The good news is that there is. Down the ages, indeed from the beginning of time, God has never changed. The Bible tells us that He never will, “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments”. God's love and His desire to provide for us is never ending and never changing, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows”. Whilst God doesn't change, there is one thing that is new every day, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness”. Now, that's something that you can't improve on.

 

'All For Love' - 25/03/21

“To save my son, I would plot with the devil himself.”

Philippa Gregory, The White Queen

The White Queen is a historical novel. It tells the story of Elizabeth Woodville, queen consort of King Edward IV. Although she marries the King for love, his family plot against her, and she spends most of her married life trying to safeguard the future of her five children. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end well for her two sons (known as the princes in the tower). This quote is taken when Elizabeth is fighting to free her sons from the tower.

This quote really brings home the emotion and feeling that Elizabeth would do anything to save her family. Whilst she wasn’t ultimately successful, her love and desperation are clear.

Whilst I hope that we would never be in a situation where a member of our family is held captive and we are desperate to free them, unfortunately in the world today, it is a reality for some families. 

One current situation is the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Held for over five years now, her husband has never stopped fighting for her release. His depth of love for his wife is clear and enables him to keep persevering.

As we approach Easter, we look back to a man who died over 2000 years ago, because he loved his family. Jesus was prepared to give up everything for us.

John 3:16 describes it like this.

"This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life."

Jesus was prepared to do anything for us, his family. He loves us, each one of us, and even though we are not perfect and we mess up sometimes, he still loves us with a love that is stronger than death.

In the midst of our Easter preparations, lets never forget the love that Jesus has for us, and what Jesus went through so that we could be part of his amazing worldwide family.

 
'My Name is...' - 24/03/21

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

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

'Enjoying His Company' - 23/03/21

Are any of you suffering hardships?  You should pray.  Are any of you happy?  You should sing praises.

James Ch5 v13  

Exactly 12 months ago I wrote my first sunrise which included the following words:

The sun is shining, the camellia’s are blooming, the blue tits are nesting and Edward, our local neighbourhood squirrel, has just visited.Do you know what, as I sit here today, the sun isn’t exactly shining at this moment in time but the camellia’s are blooming, the blue tits are nesting and Edward has just visited.  We’ve come full circle.  It’s been a really trying time with many moments of weariness, sadness and grief but it’s also been a joyful time of friendship, laughter and community at its very best.  Over the last 12 months, we’ve been able to come alongside one another (socially distanced of course!) sometimes with requests for help, sometimes with words of encouragement or kindness, sometimes with a joke and sometimes, when there are no words, it’s been said with flowers on a doorstep.  We’ve shared the good days and the bad days with one another but the point is that we didn’t have to do it alone.As we come to the end of our reflections from the book of James, the above verse felt like a really good one to finish on.  We didn’t make it through the last 12 months alone; we didn’t even make it through just as Melling Baptist Community – we made it through with Emmanuel, God with Us.  God has been part of our journey and has been invited into every aspect of it.  He’s shared the tough times and our bi-weekly prayer meetings have taken all of the requests for prayer to him, but we’ve also had the privilege of taking our praises and thanks to him as well.  God wants us to share every aspect of our lives with him from our requests for help for others and for ourselves to our thanks for the big and small joys to be found in every day.  1 Thessalonians says it quite simply: Pray without ceasing.  That doesn’t mean spending every moment on your knees, it simply means allowing God to walk through every moment of every day with you.  It means keeping the line of communication open so that he can share the hardship along with the joy.  It means enjoying the companionship our father God.

As I look out and see the signs of spring I am filled with hope – hope for warmer days, hope for gatherings of friends and family, hope for a post-Covid world.  But most of all I’m filled with hope because I know that I can share it all with God. 

'The Bag is Ready' - 22/03/21

‘Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness’. Desmond Tutu. 

 A few years ago during a choir practice one Monday evening, an elderly lady turned up to listen to us. She sang, clapped, and beamed from ear to ear. At break time she dashed over to the urn and began making cups of tea and coffee for the ‘Lovely Choir’ members. That was our introduction to Vera. And ever since that evening she has been our amazing and ever-faithful choir tea lady! I was chatting to Vera the other day on the phone. We were having a catch up and laughing...and singing! As our conversation was coming to an end, Vera, now in her 90s, announced to me, “don’t worry Jo, the bag is ready for when choir practice starts back.” Vera was simply letting me know how excited she is to re-gain her role has choir tea lady, just as soon as we are able to return. Neither Vera nor myself has any idea what tomorrow may bring, but there’s hope. 

 When we finally all get back together again, whether that is at the Choir, or at the Hub, or any of our other weekly/monthly activities and events, there is guaranteed to be much excitement and laughter, and also tears and sadness. This last year we have all been through very different experiences... from some experiencing too much noise in the house to others experiencing no noise at all, from people staying well to others experiencing loss and much grief, and then there’s those who haven’t suffered financially and those who are financially broken...the truth is, we have all had different experiences and all need each other. And with each new day, we are one day closer to being back together. We weren’t made to be alone or kept apart. The bible says, 

 "Laugh with your happy friends when they are happy, share tears when they are down."

 We would be lost without the amazing technology we have had over this last year, but nothing replaces actually physically being together and supporting one another. So as we face a new day and a new week, let’s get just a little bit excited, as we creep towards that day when we can see each other face-to-face. And while we don’t know what the future holds, may we find some comfort and help in the God who holds the future. And in the meantime I’m going to get my bag ready.

 

 

'Don't Be Negative' - 21/03/21

I’ve been working my way through millions (it feels like that) of old negatives and scanning them onto my computer. It means that I can then make copies for my daughters so I don’t have to print any. Clever hey! The memories come flooding back; it’s more like a tsunami, and can be quite overwhelming. You see your life before children and much more of your life before grandchildren. There are scenes which are clearly from my past but I don’t remember them, although I know my wife will, she forgets nothing which is sometimes difficult for me. There are images of people who are no longer around and even places that don’t exist anymore. Strangely, some of the most moving pictures from the past are of our failed Labrador (not quite 100% Labrador) and the cat that used to live across the road but got bored and moved in with us. We loved Dougal and Sooty, it feels like we still do. It’s interesting how we can still love people, places, and animals that are no longer with us. But when we see some of these negatives, they remind us of difficult and sad times in our past, and we experience feelings of regret as we remember mistakes that we made or opportunities that slipped through our fingers, or we are relieved that we have survived hard times. 

 There are lessons in this for all of us; every life has its easy days and its tough ones. Whatever our status and circumstances, we all have days when we laugh and days when we cry. It’s called ‘Life’. St. Paul tells us to, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” This may not be easy for us, but if we believe that God loves us and wishes only good for us, it helps us to realize that God is allowing our difficulties for a purpose. There are lessons we need to learn and experiences we need to go through in order that we can understand and sympathise with the people around us in their difficult days. Writing to the Christians in Rome who knew more about hardship than we will ever know, Paul said, “We can rejoice when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us to develop endurance, and endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” Life’s twists and turns can be unsettling to put it mildly; King David was often in serious trouble and danger but even in the worst of times he could still say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His faithful love endures for ever.”

​Don’t be like my old films; negative.

'How To Become a Hermit' - 20/03/21

In Economics there is a wonderful concept called Marginal Utility. It lies at the heart of the subject and helps to explain patterns of economic behaviour. It simply means extra Satisfaction ie; if I eat one more burger having already eaten 2, how much extra satisfaction will it really give me? In our consumerist society today, we tend to apply a different meaning to these words. Marginal means to be excluded, to be on the margins. Utility is about usefulness and those who are not seen as useful, are regarded as marginal. In Celtic Christianity, some of the Celtic saints chose a life of marginality by becoming a hermit. They would withdraw from society and choose to become marginal, useless. Their role changed to simply being available, walking alongside others in love and devoting themselves to prayer. We are not all called to be hermits ,thank goodness, but if Lent is about love, grace, mercy & forgiveness, surely one of the most love filled things we can do is to serve one another in love; to put the needs and wants of someone else before our own; to put our desire for  satisfaction or recognition out of the way. Philippians chapter 2 puts it like this: “If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favour: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.”

It is such a sacrificial act to become marginal but  as Holy week draws closer perhaps now IS the time to give something up…our need to serve self.

'Sheep' - 19/03/21

I recently watched a programme about farming. I’m not particularly interested in farming, but it was a rainy Sunday afternoon and I had nothing better to do. The farmer featured in the show was a sheep farmer. His entire life revolves around the keeping of sheep. His livelihood is dependent upon the wool and meat derived from these animals. He invests a lot of time and effort in their safekeeping and care.

 You would think, therefore, that he would have a fondness for these woolly money makers. Not so! The sheep caused him nothing but problems; largely due to their relentless stupidity. He made the good natured, but exasperated comment, “I spend my life trying to keep these animals safe, but they will find a million different ways to put themselves in danger. They are the most stupid animals on the planet”. We were then treated to the sight of the poor farmer having to rescue a sheep that had fallen in a river. Time and again, just when he had the sheep on the brink of safety, it turned tail and plunged back into the water. It was hard to tell if the sheep was just plain stupid, or if it was deliberately and wilfully frustrating his efforts. I have to confess to a sense of amusement at the farmer’s plight, but, in his position, I may well have given up and joined the vegan lobby.

 The Bible makes hundreds of references to sheep and shepherds. Most famously, Jesus describes himself as, “The good shepherd, who lays down his life for his flock” and similarly, He says, “I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me” and again, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me”. There is clearly an indication of a relationship between sheep and shepherd; the passages describe a close bond.

 Unlike our frustrated farmer, who viewed his flock as something to be tolerated and treated as a means of income, Jesus was invested in His sheep as individuals for whom He cared deeply. “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”. Jesus was prepared to lead His flock and to show them the way. He loved His sheep and spent time teaching them, healing them and ultimately laying down His life for them.

 That same Jesus is our shepherd too. He still leads, loves, teaches and heals. His sacrifice was for everybody who chooses to accept Him as their shepherd. I’m happy to be a sheep and I’m very glad that my shepherd is prepared to love me, despite my relentless stupidity.

'Negative Numbers' - 18/03/21

Do you know what the mathematical expression is for longing?... The negative numbers. The formalization of the feeling that you are missing something.”

Peter Hoeg, Miss Smilia’s feeling for snow

​Miss Smilia’s feeling for snow is a detective novel set in Denmark. Miss Smilia is a scientist/detective who is from Greenland but lives in Denmark. She feels out of place where she lives as she doesn’t feel as if she belongs, hence the quote above.

​Unlike the character in the book, I am terrible at maths. However, the idea that negative numbers is a way of expressing that something is lacking is really intriguing to me.

​Like Smilia, we can often feel like our life is heading into the negative number range, as if there is something missing. It could be a longing for something we know we don’t have, or simply a feeling that there is ‘something more’.

​It’s a very common feeling and one that God understands that we can all feel at times.

​In the bible, Jesus encountered a large crowd of people with these feelings. In Mark 6: 34 it says:

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

​Jesus knew that these people, had what Smilia described as a negative numbers feeling. They had a longing for something more. Jesus knew that what these people needed was a relationship with the living God. By teaching people what God was like, it started them on their journey of faith towards that relationship with him.

​Jesus offers us the same today. He wants us to know that we are loved by an everlasting all loving God, and that God wants to teach us and help us through this crazy world we are living in. 

​So today, whatever we are doing, lets mentally take a step towards God, to let him love us and teach us, and move from the negative numbers, into a positive, life restoring relationship with God.

'We Become What We Behold' - 17/03/21

My Dad is a visionary, I am not. He can look at a square of mud and see a beautiful church or a dwelling. I see a square of mud! He is an architect and still sort of working at the tender age of just over 80.I am in awe. When we first told him and Mum about the fact that , thanks to adoption, our family would become 6 not 4 and it would happen overnight, he looked at our slightly run down home, realised that it might not be quite big enough, and saw something I could not. He sketched some modifications and an extension on the back of an envelope. And saw how home could work for our family.

​“We behold what we become” is a quote by a monk called Richard Rohr.  When I read that, I first think of beautiful images of the sun and gazing on that and allowing myself to become all sunny in my disposition and annoyingly cheerful. It is so much deeper than that. It is looking at our workplace or our community and beholding it as something awesome, full of potential, full of the Kingdom of God. It is looking at that person who annoys you or has vilified you and beholding in them as an opportunity for forgiveness. In becoming what we behold, we have to act. Celtic Christianity sees hospitality as a key aspect of living. That does not mean having to open your home and feed the neighbours (although, when restrictions are lifted that would be ace);it means seeing those that we meet today and beholding in them ,something of God. Beholding them and treating them as more than just a human being but as a valuable, precious , unique created being, whether they be ‘Billy’ at the checkout in Lidl or a former member of the royal family. In Matthew 25, Jesus says this: “‘For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’  Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?  When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’”

​If we want to try to become more Christ like each day, we need to behold and treat those we meet as if they were Christ Himself.

'I Love It When a Plan Comes Together' - 16/03/21

Look here, you who say, “today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year … how do you know what your life will be like tomorrow?  What you ought to say is, ‘if the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that’”.

James Ch4 v13-14   

For those of you old enough to remember the 1980’s action TV series The A Team, you may recall how this group of disavowed members of the American military travelled the country standing up for those who couldn’t stand up for themselves with lots of car chases and explosions along the way.  Their leader, Hannibal, was the brains behind everything they did and just as everything started to work out (they always won!), each week he would be heard to say “I love it when a plan comes together” while feeling very pleased with himself for yet another successful mission. 

Whether its holidays or education or plans to move house, change our career or to retire – whatever it might be, we love to make plans for our future.  There is nothing wrong with that, it is good and natural and it propels us forward in life.  But there is a joke in Christian circles that says ‘if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans!’  The point being that for all of our plan-making, we don’t own tomorrow and only God knows what is ahead of us.  In fact, if we’ve learned anything over the last 12 months it must be that even the best laid and carefully made plans can suddenly become very fragile and be taken from us.

Those of you who are regulars to our Sunrise messages will have become familiar with the words we read in Jeremiah 29: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord.  “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a hope and a future”.  Only God can truly take care of tomorrow so as we make our plans for the future; for the holidays that we missed; the education or career that we desire or simply for the physical gathering of friends that we yearn for – let’s remember to hold our plans loosely.  Let’s receive and give thanks for the gift of today and put our plans for our tomorrows into God’s care because his plans are better than we can imagine and he really does love it when his plans for us come together.

'Everyone's a Winner' - 15/03/21

There are millions of people who every year pay to take part in crazy and very muddy events, apparently because they enjoy them. They run for miles over an obstacle course, climb vertical walls, scramble up inside an upright pipe with water pouring down inside it, slip and slide through mud that’s feet deep, frequently disappearing completely. They swing or try to swing over filthy pools of smelly disgusting water (I think it’s water) and squirm through very claustrophobic tunnels, and after all of this they get a certificate that confirms their insanity. They insist on doing it all again next year and collect another certificate that joins all the others, proudly framed, on their kitchen walls.

​Some of them consider it to be a personal challenge to overcome their fears and test their limit of endurance. For others, the attraction is teamwork where the crazy competitors help and support each other. One competitor came up with the expression, ‘The No Judgment Zone’ because people who are complete strangers go out of their way to help and support each other. It doesn’t matter about colour, gender, age, size; everyone helps everyone. There’s no 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, everyone who gets to the end of the course is a ‘winner’.

 In the early days of Christianity it was understood that the way forward was to imitate Jesus in His approach to people of all kinds. He broke all society’s laws and customs by talking to, listening to, and helping anybody. The leaders who made the rules were appalled but He ignored them, and He changed the lives of many individuals and families by demonstrating respect and concern. Nothing has changed, being prepared and willing to help anyone, if we have the ability and opportunity, is still a biblical principle and a demonstration of God’s love. In the Bible book of Hebrews, we read these words of advice to all Christians, in all countries, and at all times in history, including us here in Melling today, ‘Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together (as some people do), but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.’ When they talked about meeting together, they didn’t have Covid to deal with like we do, but they didn’t have phones and Zoom like we do. When lockdown ends and we start meeting each other, let’s make sure we are not strangers. And as new people join us, let’s remember ‘The No Judgment Zone’.

'THANK YOU' - 14/03/21

Today is a difficult day for many people. Mother’s Day can bring back good or bad memories. It can fuel such painful emotions. Or it may cause great excitement and ‘I’ve made you breakfast’ moments.
‘Mums’ may be mums, dads, carers, aunties, uncles, nans, grandads, neighbours, friends.....but we all have one thing in common, we’re not perfect.

Today I want to say THANKYOU to all the ‘mums’ who have been up countless nights with a screaming baby and still managed to get through the next day;
THANKYOU to all those ‘mums’ who have sent their children in to school in their uniform only to realise its own-clothes day;
THANKYOU to all those ‘mums’ who felt like crying when they made dinner only for it to be looked at with eyes that said ‘what’s that???’

THANKYOU to all those ‘mums’ who have felt like failures....I complete relate!

Being a ‘mum’ can be really tough. Happiness, good health, success and contentment is what any loving ‘mum’ wants for their children, but it’s not guaranteed. There can be great, happiness, and there can be immense sadness. Like the song says, ‘love hurts’. When one of my daughters hurts, I hurt, but when they are having a great time, well, that’s wonderful!

THANKYOU to everyone who has filled the role of ‘mum’ in some way for someone and experienced the laughter and the pain.
At this strange time of social isolation let’s use our time wisely. Let’s remember to be thankful for the wonderful, amazing, imperfect ‘mums’ both past and present. May God bless us with wonderful memories. May He comfort those who grieve. May He rejoice with those having fun. May He heal those in pain. May this be a time when families and friends, whilst physically apart, can be drawn closer together. Whatever you are feeling today, the bible says that God knows, He understands, He cares.
"You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."
Psalm 139:1-10

'Doing What I Tell It' - 13/03/21

Its not often that you here someone complaining about doing as they are told. However, a colleague of mine would often call about his computer and sounding very frustrated would tell me “Help, the computer is doing what I tell it to do, not what I want it to do!”

The many types of technology that we have available these days can sometimes be quite confusing to operate, and its still because of this underlying fact. If you know how to tell it what to do, it will do it. However, if you are not sure how to do it, it can be very frustrating when you cannot make it do what you want.

​Usually, this is the other way around, with parents saying their children are doing what they want to do and not what I tell them to do. Sometimes, its wives about husbands, but obviously that’s not me!! It can be frustrating when you want someone to do something but they do something else instead. 

​I sometimes feel that God must become very frustrated because I may do what I want and not as he guides and instructs us. But God does not get frustrated, He keeps loving and forgiving us when we get things wrong, he understands us and he also knows how we should behave. The bible can offer us lots of great advice on what we should do, but God gives us the choice of what to do. 

​The bible is filled with many passages that can help us to live our lives in a loving, caring, selfless manner. With God’s help we can strive towards that goal. One book full of many short phrases that can be help is Proverbs, and there is one passage that sums it up

Proverbs 3

​"Don’t forget all I’ve taught you; take to heart my commands.
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."

 God loves us so much, that he allows us to choose. Read or listen to His words from the Bible and they will guide us to his saving love. Trust in him, trust in his teaching and his love and peace will fill us.

'Effort' - 12/03/21

Here we are in March, a full year into the pandemic and we now have a roadmap for the gradual escape from lockdown.  Children have returned to school; offering relief to some parents struggling with maintaining their own performance at work whilst juggling home schooling. Hairdressers will soon be open; offering relief to some people struggling with split ends and unruly curls. The hospitality and entertainment industries are set to be re-opened in June, offering relief to those who have missed going for a drink with friends or desperately wanting to see what happens to James Bond.

​A return to normal is on the horizon, but I wonder if it will be the old normal, or will we have moved on. The pandemic has been a time when we have all needed to find new ways to live our daily lives.  The lack of options to occupy our time and the need to spend more time stuck indoors, looking at the same old faces every day, or perhaps not having any faces to look at, has put a strain on us all.

​For the majority of us, these are the lives we chose and the last year has put us in a position where we have had to face up to those choices. After all, those people we have been stuck with twenty-four hours a day are the people we decided to spend our lives with. We have had to do so for months on end without the benefits of the usual respite mechanisms. There has been no cinema or theatre to occupy a few hours. Our opportunity to socialise with friends and let them take some of the strain has been denied us. We have simply had to get on with it… with varying results. It will be interesting to see how we all come out the other side.

​The many people who have chosen to view the situation in a positive light have benefitted from the effort versus reward ratio. I know some people who chose not to send their young children to school, even though they are key workers and could have done so. Their reasoning was that the chance to spend so much time with them was unlikely to come again. Their decision turned their world upside down for a while and had its share of difficulties, but they believe the benefits outweighed those difficulties.

​Another friend, who lives alone and has been required to shield due to health issues, decided to take steps to alleviate his loneliness by mastering social media and continuing his relationships online. He has even established a transatlantic darts tournament in which he competes via video call with his friend who lives in Chicago. He believes that this has actually strengthened his relationships and each friend is grateful to the others for the efforts they have made.

​In some ways this mirrors our relationship with God. With or without Covid, our lives change to varying degrees all the time and we adjust to cope with whatever new reality we are faced with. We have to change our schedules to fit everything in. Just like the people who made the effort to make lockdown work for them by ensuring they still spent time with the people who matter to them, we need to make sure that we make the effort to spend time with God and give Him the position he deserves in our lives. We made a decision to include God in our lives just as we made a decision to spend our lives with the people around us. Whilst we may have found it a struggle to adjust to being with people twenty-four hours a day in strained circumstances, God is always happy to spend twenty-four hours a day with us and He lets nothing get in His way, “I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created”.

'All the King's Horses...' - 10/03/21

You’re an incredibly rare person, if, in these last few days, you have not read something, nor watched something, nor heard something about Prince Harry and Megan Markle and the shocking interview they gave to Oprah Winfrey last week. 

 Indeed, for the last several years, almost on the daily, we have been bombarded with headlines about what Harry did, what Megan said, how rude she was, how angry he got… it has just gone on and on! And to be honest, if I saw a headline, I turned the page or scrolled past it. Since the interview was aired on British TV on Tuesday, there are more headlines than ever before! Only this time they are slightly different. Now they raise questions about racism, cruelty, lack of help and support… and it would seem that you are either for the Sussexes or against them, for the royal family or against them. 

 But there is a problem with this. None of us have any idea what is true, what is a lie, what has been exaggerated, or misunderstood on either side. These are people we haven’t met, and we don’t know personally. And yet the pressure is on for us to take a side!! But how can I take a side when I don’t have all the facts? 

 But there are things that I do know. I know that racism it’s 100% wrong! 

I know that poor mental health can be devastating and must be given the help it needs! 

 I know that two young boys that went through tragedy and loss  grew up to be two young men who have dealt very differently with their grief and their pain. Both dealing with it as best they could! 

And I know, that this entire royal family, regardless of their wealth, position and power, are a broken, devastated, hurting and imperfect family! 

 Mistakes have been made, words have been spoken and actions taken. 

And here we are. 

 Jesus, when asked about the greatest commandment, responded with these words... 

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength, AND love your neighbour as you love yourself’.  

 Jesus knew what he was talking about. He knew that each one of us is capable of pride, and selfishness, prejudice and seeking position. He knew all about the hurt we are capable of causing. We may not make the headlines, and we may not have family problems like the royal family have at the moment, but we have all messed up. Each one of us is imperfect. 

 C S Lewis spoke with wisdom when he said, 

 ‘you can’t go back and change the beginning but you can start from where you are and change the ending’. 

 My prayer for each one of us is that we can look at today as a new beginning. May we learn from the past. May we choose better words, and kinder actions. May we choose daily to love God and to ask him to help us to love our neighbours (even the difficult ones!) Whatever our beginnings have looked like, may we choose to have even better endings. And as for the royal family, what an almighty mess! May they seek the Almighty God for answers, guidance, wisdom and reconciliation. I wish them all well.

'Humility' - 09/03/21

Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up in honour.

James Ch4 v10   

​We live in a culture that holds celebrities in high regard so it’s hardly surprising that this would eventually go the heads of some of them.  When appearing on a show or on tour, celebrities are in a position to make demands of the venue – the demands that some of them make, say a lot about who they are.  For example, while on tour Mariah Carey required a person to be on hand whose sole purpose was to throw away her gum!  Singer Christina Aguilera on the other hand really doesn’t like a traffic jam – so much so, that she requests a police escort stating that under no circumstances are the vehicles in her entourage to be allowed to encounter any delays due to traffic.  After her break up with Justin Bieber, actress Selena Gomez stated that she would not work with anyone named ‘Justin’ requiring a number of crew members to change their names so as not to upset her.  Madonna on the other hand requires a 200 person entourage and her backstage room must resemble her own home complete with flower scented fabric furniture! It would seem that the higher up the celebrity ranking you go, the more outrageous the demands you can make.  

​Jesus told a story in the book of Luke of a Pharisee (Jewish leader) and a tax collector – the Pharisee was filled with his own self-importance and prayed to God to give thanks that he wasn’t like other people; that he wasn’t like that despised tax collector.  The tax collector, on the other hand, stood at a distance, not even able to lift his eyes heavenward, and prayed that God would be merciful to him for the many things he had done wrong.  Jesus summed the story up: “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God.  If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”  (The Message).  

​God doesn’t measure our importance by the size of our entourage or the demands we make – we are enough just as we are; God’s request is simple, that we “act justly and to love mercy and walk humbly with your God”.  CS Lewis put it this way – “true humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less” – once we know we are enough just as we are, we don’t need to draw attention to how important we are and we can turn our energies outwards towards others.

​Let’s remind ourselves this week that we don’t need the distraction and fluff of self-importance to get God’s attention, we already have that, and that’s more than enough.

'Look At Him Now' - 08/03/21

Yesterday I saw a photo of a tiny boy, between 1-2 years old, who had been suffering from starvation in Nigeria. It was taken 5 years ago in 2016. We’ve all seen those kinds of images haven’t we? Desperation and injustice! Except this time, it came with a couple of other photos. Photos from now, 5 years later, and that same little boy is beaming, dressed in a very smart suit, going to a wedding, looking the picture of health and happiness. It is such a beautiful image, and to top it off, his name is Hope!

​5 years ago no one could be blamed for thinking that this little one was beyond help. Too ill. Unbearable circumstances in the country. Limited access to medical care. But somebody saw this little boy and had a glimmer of Hope. And they helped him.

​Maybe you’ve experienced tough times, traumatic circumstances, loneliness, bullying, illness, family worries. And maybe, just like with little Hope, we can’t imagine things getting better. Maybe the struggles are continuing now, or maybe they’ve gone, but we’re still living with the memories of them and we can’t move forward. 

​I heard recently of someone who received a phone call from a friend who was so upset they could barely talk. Life had become so difficult, they had lost hope, the struggles were just too big. The friend receiving the call listened, offered support, and promised to be there....and a glimmer of hope was restored. 

​Take a moment to look at the photos of Hope. They speak for themselves. Whether you’re the one struggling or you know someone who is, remember Hope.

'A Man Of Few Words' - 07/03/21

Maybe because I’m impatient or not very bright or just not willing to pay attention, I get bored when people use more words than are necessary. I like one-liners because the humour is instant and you can get a lot in a short amount of time. One of my favourite comedians is Tim Vine who has won many awards for very brief jokes like, “I’m so lazy I’ve got a smoke alarm with a snooze button” or “The advantages of easy origami are two-fold.”  You must all have struggled with legal documents that seem to use five times more words than are needed. I came across this recently, ‘References in these regulations to a regulation are references to a regulation in these regulations.’  It’s not very long but it’s still too long. If you listen to an interview with a politician, you could believe that they get paid for the number of words they use to answer a question, or maybe not answer a question. In Jesus time there were many people who wanted to express their beliefs and use as many words as they could get away with. He was always able to respond and frequently silenced people in the process. But often He ended a conversation with a single statement that summed up the entire subject. 

 Sometimes He was happy just to use a few words that spoke volumes. He saw a man who had been an invalid for 38 years and asked him, “Do you want to get well?” The man began to explain why he had been there for so long, but Jesus just said, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” Job done. I like that, so did the man. One dark and wild night as the disciples were struggling to row across stormy Galilee, Jesus walked across the water to them and they were terrified but He simply said, “It is I, don’t be afraid.” They didn’t get a lengthy explanation which is just as well because He didn’t give them one. At the end of a theological conversation, Jesus wrapped it up by saying, “Before Abraham was, I am.” How profound is that? Five words that expressed an earth shattering truth. There are many more but probably the shortest and most amazing statement from Jesus was the last one before He died, “It is finished.” 

The past year has caused huge anxiety, fear, loneliness and confusion and the last thing that most people want is a lecture. Let’s keep our word count low but our concern and compassion high. What we say is much more important than how many words we use to say it. Jesus said, “This is my command: love each other.” Seven words; even I can remember that.

'Staying Connected' - 06/03/21

Our connections with people are very different currently. When you can’t see who you are talking to, you miss out on so many visual clues to how people are responding to the conversation. The funny look you might be getting, or the squirming in the chair or getting fidgety and restless. Even on a video call, the interaction with people is not real enough to truly get a feel for a conversation when you only see their head and shoulders. I recently attended a training course for my job which would normally have been in a nice hotel, sat in a comfortable conference room, chatting with colleagues or getting to know people from different companies. Instead, I was sat at home, on mute, no video, listening to a trainer trying desperately to bring to life the training and interactions between the delegates. We have had to rely upon a reduced way of keeping in touch, which is not quite the same and not always reliable.

​Last summer, when we were able to meet people in a garden having not seen them for ages, it felt a bit strange at first, and then it quickly felt like we hadn’t been apart at all. We are now looking forward to the next step as lockdown is gradually eased, how will it feel when we can meet up with another family, meet in a group, go to a cinema or restaurant, or squash into a busy train. We will get used to it again probably far quicker than we imagine.

​We are a social people, we enjoy the company of others, we enjoy the contact with others. One of the benefits of lockdown has been a realisation that our relationships with each other is important. As we get through this lockdown, lets remember that the things we cant do now, when we are able to do them, will have more value when we can do it together. Going for a walk in a group, going for a coffee in a group, having a group of people sat in our lounge.

​In our relationship with God, He longs to be close to us and when we get distracted by other things, our time with Him can be interrupted. But when we realise that our relationship with Him is key, it adds to all the things we do. Our connection with God can sometimes be difficult with things going on around us, but then when we get back to Him, it feels like the right place to be.

​Lets stay connected with a God who loves us. In the book of James Chapter 4v8, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you”.

'Spring' - 05/03/21

We have reached that dangerous time of the year. The time when my wife’s thoughts turn to Spring. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Spring. It is a time of hope, a time when things are made new, and let’s be honest, we could all do with some of that at the moment.

 The problem with Spring is that, for my lovely wife, it is also a time to throw things away. We are all familiar with the term Spring cleaning, but she takes things to a whole new level. She doesn’t clean things per se, she just throws them away! Well, I suppose it saves having to clean them. Nothing is safe. Anything deemed surplus to requirements - her requirements, that is - finds its way into the wheelie bin. I have found it best to keep moving, or wear a hi-vis jacket marked, “Still in Use”, so that I too don’t fall victim to the purge.

 Now, her basic principle has merit. There is no point hanging on to things that have outlived their usefulness. If you don’t use it, get rid of it. Otherwise, it simply takes up space that could be used for more useful things, or just used as free space. It’s just the vigour with which she applies the principle that takes the breath away. That is until we come to the matter of coats. Apparently, coats are exempt from the scorched earth policy. Coats; many of them unworn since the dawn of time, inhabit entire wardrobes, safe in the knowledge that they have special dispensation from the authorities to remain there for as long as they wish.

 It’s funny what we choose to cling on to. For some it’s coats, for others it’s shoes or tee shirts, old football programmes or cuddly toys. For others it’s anger or bitterness, sadness or despair. We sometimes keep hold of things that are not good for us. Things that hold us back. Things that would be better left behind.

 That is not what God wants for us. God wants us to leave behind the things that hinder us. He wants to make us new. For God, every day is Spring. “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”. For us to be a part of the new things that God is doing, we need to leave behind the baggage. We need to be renewed. For this, we usually need God’s help, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me”. Once we have done so, we become a new person, the person God would have us be, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; the new has come”.

 So, is it time to make space for God to help us change? If the answer is, “Yes”, then we can start by throwing away the coats.

 

'Love is Worth it' - 04/03/21

When he asked my grandmother if she would mind being poor, she said she would be happy just to have her daughter and himself: 'If you have love, even plain water is sweet.”

Jung Chang, Wild Swans

​Wild Swans is the true story of three generations of women living in China in the 20th century. In this part of the book, Jung’s grandmother has escaped the opulent but oppressive life of a concubine in a wealthy general’s home with her daughter and falls in love with a much poorer man, hence his concern.

​Jung’s grandmother knew that without love, even the opulence she had been used to wasn’t worth it. She chose love and did not regret her decision, even though life for them was very hard. 

​If we can cast our minds back to before the pandemic, society was very good at telling us that money and position really mattered. What house you had, what car you drove, what holidays you went on, were how society would define you. The realities of living in a pandemic have helped us realise that these things are not as important as society would have us believe. Love, health, and family are far more important.

God tells us again and again in the Bible how wonderful His Love is. In 1 Corinthians 13 he makes it clear how strong and powerful that love is;

​"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."

​God loves us and that love is amazing. It is everything he describes here and more. He longs to surround us with this wonderful love, and when we accept it he enables us to love others with that same love. 

Just like Jung Chang’s grandmother, he invites us to choose love every time. The amazing all-encompassing, death defeating Love of God, Father, Son and Spirit. Gods Love is worth it.

'You're Useless' - 03/03/21

​Mental health is so important and yet I damage mine by trying to fix things in my mind; often even imagining future situations so that I have something to work on. The human mind lives so often like this, in a hamster wheel of problems and problem solving. It comes from our need to be useful and to be in control. Our need to control, to be in charge can sometimes, however well meant, be unhelpful. How often, when asked to pray or to listen, do we feel that urge, to fix the problem, to offer solutions that have not been asked for and even worse, to step in and take over.

​One of the Celtic Saints, Thomas Merton said this: “The monk is not defined by his task; in a certain sense he is supposed to be useless, because his mission his not to do this or that job but to be a man of God.”

​When Jesus was in Gethsemane shortly before his death, his request of his dearest friends was that they should keep watch and pray: Matthew 26: v.36 :Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’

​One of the most encouraging things about our community is that when Jo posts a prayer request, so many folks simply reply “Praying” or put an emoji of the praying hands. With prayer we do not need to fix anything. With prayer we can keep watch over those who need help, even if we do not know them. With prayer we can be useful at the point when we feel useless. When we pray, God hears and that is more than enough.

'God's Family' - 02/03/21

Come close to God, and God will come close to you.

James Ch4 v8  

As we start the month of March, I find myself still sitting at home working from my dining table.  I have now spent 12 months watching over my garden as I work, seeing how the seasons have changed it; watching the squirrels and seeing the return of the Blue Tits to nest in our box.  Who would have thought we’d still be here in lockdown, 12 months later!  What we thought would be a few weeks of separation from friends and family has now been a year with just a few relaxations of rules along the way.  

 

The last 12 months brought about many changes in our lives, we’ve learned how to use technology in a way we couldn’t have imagined; we’ve spent time online on a Sunday morning getting to know one another, drinking coffee and chatting over God’s word; we’ve laughed over virtual Bingo while playing for worthless and bizarre prizes; we’ve sung ‘Happy Birthday’ over Zoom more times than I care to remember and most of them I would rather forget!  We’ve played quizzes and held fundraisers – who would have thought we could be so busy and productive without ever being able to sit together!  But through all of this we’ve shared more than just laughter, we’ve been able to offer support to one another.  A phone call, a text message, a bunch of flowers on the doorstep – or perhaps a gnome.  The laughter has been so much more than just laughter, it’s been family.

We are a community of people who gather, albeit virtually at the moment – but we are so much more than that because we are a community of people who have God at its heart.  Throughout everything that has taken place over the last 12 months, God has been with us.  He has laughed with us and cried with us, he has heard our prayers and felt our anxieties but at no point has he ever left us.  When we look for God, he will be there and what’s more, he will stick around through the good times and the bad.

 In the book of Joshua we read: “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”.  

 We’ve become quite used to uncertainty over the last 12 months and while we have cause for great hope for the coming months, let’s not lose sight of the fact that God has been with us through everything we have experienced so far and will continue to be with us through the joys and the tears of whatever is to come.  Let’s invite God into every aspect of our lives and let’s face tomorrow with the strength and courage that comes from knowing that God is with us because when we open our lives to God, he moves in and he stays.  

 

'Remember to Remember' - 01/03/21

‘Remember the way He led you up to the top of the highest mountain

Remember the way He carried you through the deepest dark

Remember His promises for every step on the road ahead

Look where you've been and where you're going

And remember to remember’

(Steven Curtis Chapman)

 On May 31st 2008, Christian musician and singer/songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman’s youngest daughter, Maria-Sue passed away in a tragic accident. Maria, just 5 years old had been playing in her garden when she saw her 17 year old brother, Will, arriving home in his truck. As Will backed into the path, Maria appeared from nowhere and was knocked down. For many people it will be hard to comprehend the devastation felt by the Chapman family. Not only for the loss of their adored little daughter and sister, but also the pain and guilt felt by Will. In the days and weeks, months and years since the accident, the family spoke of having great days and terrible days. But one thing remained constant, their belief in a God who laughed with them and wept with them, and never left them. 

 Remember to Remember is one of Steven’s most recent songs. It speaks of the trials and traumas of life, the good times and the bad. Life! And it’s the words of a man in the midst of  both joy and deep grief acknowledging that God has walked with him through it all. It’s a powerful and beautiful song. 

 Sometimes life can be tough, painful, overwhelming, at other times we can have so much joy and happiness. Whatever place you are in at the moment, can I encourage each one of us to look back and see all that we can be thankful for. And in those toughest of times may we recognise and remember a God who said, ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you’. May we all remember to remember.