Au Naturel - 31/03/20
Part of the adjustment that we’ve all had to make over the last couple of weeks has meant that we’ve had to think about different ways to stay in touch and communicate with one another. For work, I now have meetings over ‘Zoom’ and I have a screen full of smiley, well dressed and presentable people – or are they? The last team meeting we had, I found myself smiling to myself. They all looked very presentable but then I guess I did too - the truth is my family have found it very amusing to observe my choice of outfit some days. From head to waist is very presentable but the waist down is all about comfort! I wouldn’t dream of leaving the house like that, or even answering the door! And then there is the hair. We might be ok for now but what will we look like in a month or two’s time? Should we just let our hair grow or should we risk the home cut?! For many of us it’s not only hair growth that we have to contend with and the promise of the return of the wonky do-it- yourself fringe, but what about hair colour?! I’m quite intrigued to find out what my natural colour is – I haven’t seen it since about 1985! I’m guessing it won’t be anything like I remember it but more of a middle-aged grey. It did make me smile though when I was doing some essential shopping a few days ago and whilst in search of the essential toilet roll; essential soap; essential shampoo; I noticed that the shelves of hair colour had also been decimated. Essential hair colour? This made me think about how we present ourselves to other people. How honest and true to ourselves are we really? How often do we only show the bit of us that we think is worth sharing while hiding away the bits of our personalities that we don’t want others to know about? Perhaps we don’t want people to think of us as being weak, anxious, sad or angry; but what if that is the reality? Thankfully, the truth is that we don’t need to hide from God because he already knows us. Psalm 139 says,
“O Lord, you have searched me 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 know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in – behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”
Can I encourage you to read the rest of that Psalm – it’s beautiful! It speaks of how well our God, our creator, knows us and even knowing our every thought and action, our every imperfection, He still surrounds us and embraces us and never leaves us. I’m not going to promise to go all au naturel when it comes to hair colour and I’m definitely not going to stand up during a video meeting but I am reassured that I don’t have to have any pretences with God. I can bring it all to Him.
Here's Hoping - 30/3/20
We all have hopes. We hope we can avoid getting the virus. We hope we’ll be out of our homes before Christmas. Some people hope that Liverpool will win the League, some hope that they don’t. Not everyone’s going to be happy! Just hoping achieves nothing. Sometimes our hopes are in our own hands. “I hope I pass my exams.” Well if all you do is hope, you won’t. Teens and students all over the country will not have to sit exams this year. They didn’t even think to hope for that! I can still see the ear-to-
ear grin on the face of one of my granddaughters when she realised she didn’t need to do that ten hour art exam. Some students are now wishing they had worked harder for their mock GCSEs, but they can’t hope for that because hope is always and only in the future. You can’t hope that you had done something yesterday. It’s too
late. Mostly we hope for things which are outside our control. Often we hope for events that we believe are not humanly possible. But we hope anyway. The Israelites had been in Egypt for more than four hundred years, and were slaves. They wondered where God was and hoped He actually cared about them. There are people all around the world today thinking the same thoughts. God decided it was time to release His people from slavery but He didn’t send an army, He sent one man, Moses. His response to God’s plan was, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” God’s reply was simply, “I will be with you.” Moses didn’t understand then that one person together with God is unstoppable, because God is in control. Always in control! That was going to be a lesson for Pharaoh as well as Moses. So let’s get a sense of perspective, this virus is worldwide but it’s God’s world, and we may not understand what’s going on, but God does. Our hope that the virus is defeated is not a forlorn hope, Jesus said, “With God all things are possible.” Writing to the Christians in Rome, Paul said, “May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with Hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Let’s trust in the God of Hope.
You've got this! - 29/03/20
For roughly the last 5 years I’ve felt it has been my calling to be a nurse. In September 2017 my dreams began to become a reality as I went to university to start my training. There have been days when I’ve felt privileged, humbled and proud; other days I have felt like I am using all my energy just to keep my head above the water. Days like that really make me contemplate why I am doing this, especially when you’re paying in excess of £9k a year to provide labour for the NHS. Yet a voice in my
head says, “keep going!”, “you’ve made it this far!”, “You are here because you are capable!” That voice comes from God, he walks by my side as I enter the hospital on those cold, dark winter mornings. He holds my hand while I hold the hands of those patients who might not make it though the next 24hrs. He pushes me to get up every morning and go do my job.
The Bible says in Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Now when our NHS has asked me to step up, and work for them 6 months earlier than I was intended to, I opted in. Despite missing out on 6 months of theory, feeling scared and out of my depth God stands by me. He has given me the courage to say, “Yes I will step up and support our NHS”, so will not leave me now. Through God I am capable of so much more than I am alone. So, whether you too are a frontline worker, or need the mental strength to stay positive through this
time of social distancing, just know God is there. He will not forsake you now. He didn't promise us the easy road, however he did promise that he’d never leave us as we travel along it.
Grace - 28/03/20
Hello everyone and greetings from sunny Swindon! You may or may not know me. I grew up in Maghull but have lived in Swindon for almost 25 years. I’ve been friends with Jo since we were small and we have kept in touch throughout the years, meeting at Costa in the square for our annual catch up.
So it was with interest that I started to read the daily Sunrise messages and commented to Jo that they were really encouraging and up lifting. Now for those of you who know Jo well, know that she never misses out on an opportunity! Within seconds of me texting her , I received a message back asking me if I would like to contribute. Me and my big mouth!!
Like many of you at the moment, I find myself at home with my family. I work as a Teaching Assistant at my local primary school and although school is open for our most vulnerable children and those who have parents who are key workers, we are working on a rota so I’m not in school all of the time.
Since last week , my husband has been working from home. He has turned our dining room into his office/ work space, with a number of computers and screens set up on various surfaces. He often has his head phones on and informs when he’s due to be taking part in a conference call. That’s my cue to leave the room!
Our daughter is also home. She lives in London and works for a publishing company but like many is also working from home. She has commandeered the lounge as her work space!
Then there is our son Dan. He is home from university after having lectures cancelled indefinitely. He’s what I call a ‘ shifter’. He starts off doing his work in his room, then moves to the spare room, and then I might find him sitting in the kitchen..he’s happy moving.
The final family member and newest addition is Peanut. He is our class pet rabbit, who has taken up residence in my front room. For a very small animal, he certainly takes up a lot of space!
So where does that leave me, you may ask? Well, at the moment I’m sitting in the garden, enjoying the beautiful spring sunshine. But when I’m not outside, I’m normally tiptoeing about, trying to navigate my way around those, who through no fault of their own, have invaded my space.
It’s now that I find that little word ‘ grace’ is having it’s moment in the spotlight.
In his book ‘ What’s so Amazing about Grace’, Philip Yancey urges Christians to be ‘ dispensers of grace’. He goes on to explain that ‘ grace is God’s unlimited favour to those who have no claim or reason to expect it’.
In other words “ There is nothing we can do to make God love us more, equally there is nothing we can do to make God love us less”.
Even when we fail, grace is always there to rescue us.
So in this time of great uncertainty, how can we be dispensers of Gods grace?
Psalm 86 v15 says “ But you oh Lord are a merciful God and full of grace, slow to anger and abiding in love”.
Responding to one another with grace means ‘ bearing with’ or graciously putting up with others. It means acknowledging that everyone has areas of weakness and that we are all ‘ works in progress’.
To be bearers of grace is to be more than tolerant. Grace is heartfelt ..more of a spill over gift of the God who extends undeserved favour towards us.
So as we try and navigate our way through these difficult times, let’s try and extend grace to those around us...Amazing Grace!
You'll never walk alone - 27/03/20
Some of you may have seen the film, “Hook” starring Robin Williams as Peter Pan. If not, you might be able to catch up with it during your social distancing.In the movie, Peter has grown up and is now a successful businessman in New York. Nonetheless, through the magic of fairy dust, and a host of special effects, he revisits Neverland and confronts his old enemy, Captain Hook. Peter looks him up and down and declares, “I remember you being a lot bigger”. To which Hook roguishly replies, “To a ten year old I'm huge”.Which goes to show that age, which is just another way of describing time, provides us with a different perspective. Things that worried us as children don't trouble us now that we are adults. Looking back, we can see examples of difficulties that we as individuals, or we as a nation have overcome. Some of them more serious than others, but all of them given a different perspective by the passage of time.Those problems may have seemed dreadful, but with the benefit, and possibly wisdom, of hindsight we can look back and see that we were able to endure them, painful though they might have been. We came through them. We are here now.There are many stories in the Bible that speak of God's people facing difficulties. Sometimes those difficulties looked insurmountable. Sometimes the people wanted to give up, to turn back, to lament their plight and fall into despair. On every occasion, God walked alongside them and helped them through to the other side.We need to see our present difficulties through the lens of time. One day, all this will be behind us; but right now, right at this moment whilst things might seem overwhelming, we need to look back to see who it is that walks alongside us. It is the God of history. The God of love. The God of peace. The God of hope.“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8).
Squash Your Enemies - 26/03/20
When I was a bit younger than I am today, my family moved house to a new town. I had to go to a new school where I was duly picked on and bullied because of; my haircut (my mum cut my hair, (those days may well be returning!),my shoes(they were not the platforms that everyone else seemed to be wearing) and my accent (black country twang was definitely weird in posher Bromsgrove).
One day I was in the playground when ‘Bob’ (not his real name) the bully, started on me again. Something inside me must have popped because this quiet, shy retiring 10 year old, turned round and promptly bashed him and his mate in with more punches than Mohammed Ali on a good day. Overnight, I became top dog in the school and was now hanging around with the ‘cool’ kids, including ‘Bob’ and his gang. I do remember, in the inevitable detention that followed the fight, being stuck in the English classroom singing Showaddywaddy songs with the rest of the gang and a poor teacher not being able to control us.
Today, my enemies are more likely to be the things that rob me of my peace. Worry,anxiety, stress, hurts, anger.
In Psalm 110 verse 1, it says this: “…Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
In these weird times, we will face enemies that rob us of our peace and bully our minds. God invites us to take time out, to be still, to sit alongside Him. He will then deal with the enemies for us, if we let Him. It is not always easy to hand over our battles to God as it means we have to let Him be in control not us.It might require repeated attempts to force ourselves to sit and hand them over, but those bullies can be squashed under our feet without us raising a finger.
Waiting for the Sheriff - 25/03/20
The other day I received a phone call from the Sheriff’s County Court in Alabama. It was a deep American accent and I was told I had to attend a court hearing or pay the fee. I asked them what the court hearing was about, he said he couldn’t discuss that with me. I told them I couldn’t attend because I was in Melling! He didn’t accept that excuse! Then I had an idea, ‘Do you want to join our choir?’ There was a moment of silence which I took advantage of....‘They’re the best choir in the world and on top of that they are the kindest, most wonderful people in the world. You’d be made so welcome! And...’ He hung up!
I drove through Alabama about 20 years ago but I haven’t been since. I was intrigued to know what I’d done!
After that calI, I received several voicemails asking for me to deposit money. I did the dutiful thing and deleted the messages. The Sheriff is going to have to come and get me.
Since that call just a few days ago, I have been thinking so much about what kind of person chooses to benefit from other peoples hurt and fear, bank balance and vulnerability. Are they desperate? Vengeful? Were they brought up encouraged to cheat and abuse people’s trust? Do they some how believe it’s just fair game? Plain old uncaring and vile? Whatever their past, whatever their motives, scamming is wrong! Completely unacceptable! And can cause so much pain. But the scammer is not beyond God’s love. He loves the scammer. He hates the scam. I’m no scammer, I wouldn’t dream of doing that, nor would I murder or steal....but I have messed up. Many times. Wrong thoughts. Wrong words. Wrong actions. As I sit at home surrounded by my girls and black Labrador, I’ve been spending some time thanking God for not giving up on me. Time and time again I’ve experienced God’s grace, His forgiveness, His love. And when I mess up again, I experience them all over again.
Lamentations 3:22-23 says, ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, new every morning. Great is His faithfulness’.
So, today I get up, get dressed, and thank God for His new mercies and great faithfulness....and wait for the Sheriff.
Living the life of Edward - 24/03/20
So I’m sitting at my dining table looking out over my garden. I shouldn’t be here of course, I should be at work in the office where I can only get a glimpse of daylight if I precariously lean back on my chair! However, here I am, still working but the view is considerably better. The sun is shining, the camellia’s are blooming, the blue tits are nesting and Edward, our local neighbourhood squirrel, has just visited. Don’t they know that the world is in crisis? Clearly not. Just 2 weeks ago at Melling Church Jo talked about ‘what a difference a day makes’ - well it’s been a little longer than a day but our lives have been changed beyond our imaginations in a very short space of time and we are all grappling with what this means for us. Our plans have been disrupted, we’ve had to rearrange our lives and worst of all we’ve had to distance ourselves from friends and family – the truth is, we don’t like it. We don’t like it when we’re told we can’t go out; we don’t like it when we can’t visit our mum’s on Mothers’ Day; we don’t like it when we can’t buy the brand of beans we normally buy. But all the while the garden is springing to life, the blue tits carry on making their home cosy and Edward continues to skip around the garden presumably searching for the nuts he hid. Our lives have indeed been disrupted and I don’t like it any more than the next person but as difficult as things may be and may yet get, it is important that we keep some perspective. I can’t tell you why this is happening or what God’s plan is but I can assure you that God has NOT taken His eye off the ball.
In Matthew Chapter 6 it says this:
‘Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.
27-29“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen colour and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.
30-33“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?’
When a crisis comes along its all too easy to become all consumed with the doom and gloom and miss the beauty. The beauty of friends checking up on one another; the beauty of a joke that made you laugh; the beauty of a flower lifting its head to the sunlight. Let’s try and use some of this extra time we find ourselves with to look for the blessings in life –they are still there - and trust that God is holding us close to him. God is providing Edward with all he needs; Edward isn’t worrying about tomorrow. Let’s be more Edward.
The Vaccine - 23/03/20
Many of us have a huge collection of memories going right back to our earliest days. Remember your childhood? Some of us have to go a long way back through history to get there. What’s your earliest memory? I can remember being in my pram, being pushed by my mum with my two brothers each side of her. I’m amazed my memory is that good, although my brothers tell me I was fourteen at the time! Do you remember where you were when you heard that President Kennedy had died, or Princess Diana? Can you remember your first plane flight or getting your first mobile phone? Can anybody remember Everton winning anything? I can remember electricity coming to our house and replacing gas light! My grandchildren think I went to school on a chariot. Talking to my youngest two granddaughters, I told them they would always remember the year 2020, not because Liverpool won the League (maybe), but because none of us have ever experienced what we are going through now. Ever. It’s like one of the Biblical plagues, but actually it’s bigger. This plague is global and all of us are affected. It makes no difference if you are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or Atheist, right now all of us across the world have the same need, a
The Bible says God sees us in the same way. He’s not interested in, or influenced by, colour or language, He just tells us we all have the same need. A kind of vaccine. A spiritual vaccine, something that will make our relationship with God healthy. Jesus asked the question,
“Who needs a doctor; the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting the sin-sick, not the spiritually fit.” (Mark 2.17) The Bible puts it like this, ‘God loved the people of this world so much that He gave His
only Son, so that everyone who has faith in Him
will have eternal life and never really die.’ (John 3.16)
So while we all wait for a physical vaccine, God offers us a spiritual one. We wouldn’t refuse
the first one would we? What about the second one?
THANK YOU - 22/03/20
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.
And Breathe - 21/03/20
I was talking to a good friend of mine this week. We were talking about the obvious disruption to life and how everybody is trying to navigate their way through it. Each person with a slightly different way of dealing with the situation. Some people get very anxious, others appear very laid-back and almost unphased, some people want to talk about it while others want to put on some headphones and listen to music. We are all different! It’s wonderful that we are. Imagine what our world would look like if we were all the same. And as well as being all different, we all have equal value. Not one of us is more important than the other! But in situations like we find ourselves in now, our differences can cause stress. One of us may speak too much and annoy the other who wants to be silent. Maybe somebody’s laid-back attitude is seriously annoying the anxious person? It’s really difficult isn’t it? And even more so when we are feeling trapped and can’t escape. We are called to be patient with one another. How can we possibly do that when the other person is SO annoying? Well we can stop for a moment and take a look at ourselves. Not one of us is perfect, not one of us says the right thing or does the right thing all of the time. I know for myself, that I often put my foot in it and say the wrong thing. I apologise often and I am constantly learning. People are incredibly gracious towards me, and I need to be gracious towards them. Let’s choose to see the good in people and exercise patience and grace, and, where needed, forgiveness.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Flippin' 'Eck - 20/3/20
I was presented with a jigsaw last week. I’m confined to home, probably many of you are too, so Kathy thought I should have something to occupy my brain. I can’t stand jigsaws. You get a picture broken up into hundreds of little pieces and you’re expected to put it all together. Then when it’s finished, all you can do is break it up again and put it back in the box. Hmmm.
However, being the obedient husband that I am, I carefully and tediously collected all the outside pieces, and after three hours I had completed the frame. I looked at the picture; it’s full of little birds, all the same, on pink flowers, all the same, with green leaves, all the same.
When Jo heard that her Mum had managed three pieces in three days, her response, “Flippin eck”, meant either she was impressed with her mum’s commitment and determination, or she was shocked by her doziness. To be fair, Kathy is very good with jigsaws if she sits down and concentrates, rather than fitting in a piece if she happens to pass that way.
Some things just seem to be more effort than they’re worth. Like jigsaws.
“Should I really remove all the old wallpaper before putting the new stuff on?”
“ Must I go back to Lidl to tell them they didn’t charge for the sprouts?”
“ I know I said I would teach our three year old to ride her bike, but couldn’t I just say I’ve sprained my back?”
But some things are worth the effort. It appears that our Melling Community has been switched off. That’s not true, it’s just changed for a while. We can’t meet/talk/sing/eat/paint or photograph together, but that will end and we will have a party (well OK, cake). We just need to be who our friends need us to be. They may just need a chat, or some shopping, or medical advice, or a joke for the day. We can do that, our friends are worth the effort.
There’s a brilliant account in the Bible about a man called Ananias who was told by God to meet Saul who was there to kill Ananias and his friends, but God said He had other plans for him. So Ananias went and world history was changed for ever. Despite his fear and the risk, Ananias thought it was worth the effort.
The only thing we need to fear is that we don’t meet the needs of our friends. In our Melling Community, that’s not going to happen.
So despite the disruption to our plans and lifestyles, let’s thank God that He put us together, and we have decided that’s how it’s going to stay. Because we are worth it.
What Would I Want? - 19/03/2020
Last week I had to cancel all of our weekly activities and meetings. No more choir practice on Monday evenings. No more breakfasts on a Wednesday morning. No more lunchtime church, bible studies or prayer meetings, photography or watercolour classes...’Until further notice!’
I did not enjoy cancelling them! It felt very uncomfortable. Like I was giving in. I love being with the people involved in these activities. And it’s not just a small church in the North West of England that’s affected. People would be forgiven for looking at the news and likening this Coronavirus pandemic to something out of a Marvel film. These are such strange and difficult times. And it’s not just the obvious health concerns that are worrying people but the loss of work, the loss of income. We’ve heard about the panic buying and the fighting over toilet rolls and tins of beans...BUT....we are also hearing countless stories about the best of humanity! Communities pulling together to look after the elderly and the vulnerable. Doing shopping for one another, checking on those who live alone, whole communities singing together and people sharing ideas and advice on how to help families with young children survive! These are amazing stories that prove to us there’s a lot of great people out there! Let’s look at our own situations and ask ourselves, ‘what can I do to help?’ Maybe you’re able to do some shopping for someone? Or pick up the phone and call someone to check how they are? A text message? Or maybe it’s about coming off your phone and playing a game with your children? Or maybe, it’s simply showing your gratitude when your shopping is delivered or someone has called? Whatever we are capable of doing in this difficult time to help and appreciate others, let’s do it. If Jesus was on the earth today He would be helping with shopping, calling people, encouraging and supporting them. Our church activities may have stopped but let’s show everyone that our church is more alive than ever. The Bible has sooooo much to say about how we should care for and treat others. How we should love others, whoever they are. If we’re not already doing that, then now is a great time to start.
“Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that"