May '21 Sunrises

 

'How Great Thou Art' - 31/05/21

In 1885, Swedish preacher, Carl Boberg, was heading home after morning church when he witnessed a short but stunning thunderstorm. Out of nowhere it seemed to come, and a short time later it was over, and a rainbow appeared. 

Boberg was so shocked and in awe of the power and beauty he had just witnessed that he sat himself down and began to write the start of ‘How Great Thou Art’.

 Years later, an English man by the name of Stuart K Hine was so inspired by what was now a melodic poem that he wrote more verses for it and made it into the hymn we know today.

 All these years later and with this hymn having been translated into many languages, How Great Thou Art continues to be one of the most favourite hymns of all time. 

 There are many different versions of this hymn. You can find them on YouTube. Here is just one version by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. Click the link below to listen.

 https://youtu.be/QOoTueC1cow

 Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens.

Psalm 8:1 

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

Psalm 121:1-2

 No one is like you, Lord; you are great, and your name is mighty in power.

Jeremiah 10:6 

 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

'Every Praise' - 30/05/21

 ‘Every Praise’ is a simple, repetitive, easy to learn song that 9 year old Willie Myrick learnt at church one day in 2014. He loved the song so much that he sang it and sang it.

 In April 2014, Willie was playing outside his home in Atlanta, Georgia, when he was kidnapped. He was bundled into the back of a car and the kidnapper told him to shut up and sit quietly. Willie had other plans. He was going to sing the new song he had learnt at church. And sing he did. For 3 hours, nonstop. 

 The driver shouted at him and threatened him, insisting that Willie stop singing that song! He didn’t. And eventually the kidnapper, exhausted by 3 hours of ‘Every Praise’, stopped the car, threw Willie out, unharmed, and drove away. 

 In thanksgiving for Willie being returned home safely, the church had a special celebration, and sang the song again….’Every praise is to our God, Every word of worship with one accord, Every praise, Every praise, is to our God’.

 This simple song may be a little bit repetitive, but the words cry out thanksgiving and adoration of a God who deserves our every praise. 

 Click the link below to listen to the song, performed by Hezekiah Walker.

 https://youtu.be/UuuZMg6NVeA

 ‘I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever’.

Psalm 145:1-2

'2 Ears and 1 Mouth' - 29/05/21

One of the aspects of working for a large company is some of the training that they send you on. “How to run a meeting” or “how to give a presentation” or “Running a workshop”.

 Some of them seem very obvious and you wonder what on earth can they teach you. But sometimes they do actually give you a little insight into some thing which is obvious when you think about but we don’t very often actually do it.

 One of these is about “active listening”. It may seem a strange topic but how many times do we meet with someone and talk with them but don’t actually listen. Do we understand not only what they are saying but why they are saying it? We are not really paying attention and are maybe just waiting for a chance to interrupt and say what we want to say. Sometimes people who are in need want to be able to talk with someone who will really listen and hear not just the words but the person behind those words.

 It is sometimes said that God gave us 2 ears and 1 mouth, so why do we spend more time talking than listening? It is something we should think about in our relationships with people but also something we should consider in our relationship with God. We should make sure we give time for God to talk to us, so that we can hear His voice, hear what He says and why He says it. Make time to just sit and listen.

One of the parts of our recent lockdowns has included more time to listen to each other and chatting over phones or computers can help us to focus more on listening. When we meet each other in person, it brings more enjoyment to that conversation. 

 In the book of James, he encourages the other Christianity is about our actions, not just about talking.

19 Dear brothers, don’t ever forget that it is best to listen much, speak little, and not become angry;  22 And remember, it is a message to obey, not just to listen to. So don’t fool yourselves. 23 For if a person just listens and doesn’t obey, he is like a man looking at his face in a mirror; 24 as soon as he walks away, he can’t see himself anymore or remember what he looks like.

 Lets ensure we carry on listening and hearing, so we understand our friends and community. Lets listen to God and follow him as he guides us.

'Wait And See' - 28/05/21

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

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

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

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

'Miracles' - 27/05/21

Just because you can explain it doesn't mean it's not still a miracle.”

Terry Pratchett, Small Gods

 Small Gods is the thirteenth of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, It’s a science fiction series based around the fictional Discworld and the city of ankh-Morpork

 Whilst Terry Pratchett’s fictional world is nothing like our own real world, this quote reminded me of Psalm 8, where the writer of the psalm expresses his feelings at the amazing world that we live in

 Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens…… When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? 

 Our world is a truly wonderful place. When we think of how many tiny details have to be right for a tree to grow, or how a bee knows where the best flowers with the most pollen are at any one time its astounding. Of course thanks to modern science, we know the answers to a lot of our questions nowadays, but that doesn’t stop the process being amazing and miraculous. 

 Did you know that certain trees can warn each other of danger? When a giraffe starts to eat the leaves of an Arcadia tree, it releases a cloud of ethylene gas, which triggers the trees around it to produce more tannins in their leaves, which make them bitter tasting to the animals, so their leaves don’t get eaten as well! Isn’t that amazing!

  Whilst we understand how this process works, its still amazing and miraculous that this happens at all.

  Next time you are out on a walk, or have time to sit outside, take a moment to thank the amazing creator God for all of his creative genius that creates so many miracles each day. Lets also give thanks for his great love and care for us, that in the midst of this amazing world, he loves each one of us individually so much.

'Bee-Ware' - 26/05/21

“Advice, when most needed, is least heeded”.

 I was reading an article the other day about elephants. It was all about how elephants are absolutely terrified of honeybees. Elephants have often been portrayed as being scared of tiny mice, which isn’t true, but I’ve never heard about their fear of honeybees. 

 If a honeybee senses danger or threat it releases a chemical called a pheromone which acts as a warning to the rest of the honeybees, who then come out in force to defend their ‘threatened’ colony. 

 However, unlike a human who doesn’t appear to be receptive to the bee pheromone, the elephant is. And that’s all it needs to make the worlds largest land animal retreat in absolute fear!

 Now compare this to my very adorable and selectively intelligent, black Labrador, who once saw one of my dahlia bulbs and decided it was good to eat! This was after sniffing it several times and physically recoiling from the scent. He spent the following few hours running in circles. He seemed to be having a wonderful time….a wonderful, dizzy time, but I can’t help thinking he was seeing unicorns and pink squirrels and rainbow cats!

 The Bible is a book that is full of good advice, and warnings, and examples of what happens when we choose not to listen. It’s not a book dictating to us, we have free choice, but God gives us guidelines to help us and protect us and show us a better way. With such good advice all in one book it would seem the perfect guide for life! And yet we are often stubborn and determined and don’t like being given advice. The ‘I Don’t Need Your Help’ syndrome! We all suffer from it! 

 The Bible says, ‘Fools are headstrong and do what they like; wise people take advice’.

 The advice that the Bible offers us may not seem great at the time, maybe we want to go and yell at the person who is annoying you in the queue, maybe you’re really tempted to go to ‘that’ place, maybe you’re trying hard to tell yourself that it’s ok to do ‘that’ thing because nobody is looking?…….

 Proverbs says, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do, and he will show you the right way’.

Proverbs 3:5-6

 A dahlia bulb isn’t the only wrong thing that my daft dog has eaten over the years! He won’t listen to my warnings, but maybe I’ll do a little better listening to God’s?

'R-E-S-P-E-C-T' - 25/05/21

“You must not commit adultery.”

Exodus 20: 14

 Have you ever been disappointed and maybe hurt by someone’s behaviour so much that you have struggled to believe that you would ever be able to trust them again?  There is a saying that goes ‘trust takes years to build, seconds to break and forever to repair’ – I hope that that isn’t true but I think it is fair to say that if we do something that causes someone to lose trust in us, then it is often hard work to earn that trust back again.

 Once again we have a commandment that, on the face of it, is clear and straightforward in its meaning.  But I would suggest that the principles behind this commandment go beyond the relationship between spouses.  All of the relationships we have with those around us are built on some level of trust – when I order food in a restaurant, I trust the chef not to poison me; when I get into a taxi, I trust the driver to get me to my destination safely; when I chat with a friend, I trust that I won’t become the subject of gossip.  But I wonder what people think of me?  In my daily interactions with people am I always to be found trustworthy?  Today’s commandment isn’t simply an instruction to married couples (although it is that as well) but it is an instruction to all of us as to how to behave in all of our daily relationships.  This might be both those close relationships as well as those transient interactions we have with strangers - we should display attitudes of respect, integrity, honesty and love that lets those around us know that we value that relationship.  

 In practical terms what this means is that our own desires, wishes and greed must come second to the needs of those around us.  In the book of Philippians we read “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves”.  If we are concentrating on the needs of others, our own desires fade into insignificance.

 How amazing it would be if we became known as a community of people who were known for our reliability and trustworthiness; for the love that we show to all around us and the respect, integrity and love from which all of our actions came.  That love and respect is evident in every helping hand, every caring text and every concerned phone call.  It is evident when we laugh with one another and when we cry with one another.  Let’s keep on keeping on because with every small (or big) act that shows we value others above ourselves, our relationships grow stronger with one another and grow stronger with God.

'Not Out Of Date' - 24/05/21

I’m surrounded by equipment that is well built, very professional, but out of date. It all works and does what it was designed to do but is no longer appropriate for the world we live in. It’s like having a bicycle in very good condition that still works and is reliable, but it just happens to be a Penny Farthing. If you moved house and discovered a large shed hidden by trees which contained amongst other items a genuine vintage Penny Farthing you would certainly be surprised. If it was in working condition one of your options would be to sell it. I’ve looked on eBay and found one priced at £3, 499! My guess is that you would sell it rather than ride it. It’s amazing what people will buy just because something is old, not to use it but just to own it. As years go by, many things change for a variety of reasons; if you’re old enough to have grandchildren, how did you get to school, how did you spend your spare time, where and how did you go on holiday? Tell that to your grandchildren and watch their reactions. I’m sure many of you consider your way of life to have been better than theirs. But things change, it’s not just equipment that becomes redundant, lifestyles and attitudes go the same way. During the pandemic many aspects of life needed to change; it will be interesting to see how many people and organizations prefer the new ways. 

 As Christians get older and look at today’s world and its culture, music, politics, attitudes etc., there’s a real danger that they begin to feel redundant and weary. That’s not how God sees us; each of us has been given a race to run; a course to complete. Paul said, “My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me.” We have lost in recent years people we loved and who were loved by God. They have gone ahead of us because they completed their God-given tasks and are now enjoying their reward. Whatever we think about today’s world and our place in it, God still has plans for us and we read, ‘He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young people stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint.’ 

 Our days here are not determined by age but by God’s purposes, so let’s ‘hope in the Lord’ and aim to ‘complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me.’

‘Bee Thankful!’ - 23/05/21

 May 20th was World Bee Day. An annual celebration of ‘the bee’. This tiny creature is absolutely fascinating! 

Bees live in colonies and they all have a role. Every single bee is important to the colony. The Queen Bee is the chief! Her primary role is to lay eggs....up to 2500 a day! 

The drone bees are male bees, their job is to mate with the Queen!  

And then there are the worker bees. These are the bees that go out to collect nectar and bring it back to the hive. In the hive they hand it over to other worker bees who chew the nectar for about half an hour. After this time, the honey is almost ready and is placed in the honeycomb. Oh yes, the honeycomb, a mathematical phenomenon! A structure made by the bees, out of beeswax, which consists of perfect hexagons all joined together!  

If all of this isn’t stunning enough, one worker bee creates about one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its very short life, so for every teaspoon of honey you consume, you have at least twelve bees to thank! 

 And then there’s the actual health benefits to honey, being known to reduce the risk of certain diseases and some types of honey have even been used to aid the healing of burns and ulcers. These tiny buzzy creatures are simply incredible! 

Having been reading about bees this week I was reminded of two things! 

One is our obligation to care for our environment! Bees need our help!! Do plant more flowers and leave water out for them to drink. Without bees many of our plants/crops will suffer. 

And secondly, how incredible is our world! The tiny world of a bee is absolutely incredible! Intricate! Mind blowing! And this is just one insect! There are over one million known insect species in the world, but thought to be millions more. Each one different, important, and fascinating!  

In Psalm 24 we read, ‘the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it...’ While some people may struggle to believe that a God in Heaven could be the ‘creator of creation’, I truly struggle to believe that this vastness, diversity and beauty, where everything has a purpose, could be created by other means.

 The bible says, ‘for nothing is impossible with God’. 

 I look at the humble bee and have one of many reasons to believe it to be true.

'Get Out Of The Way' - 22/05/21

Do you have that terrible feeling when you wake up late and then realise you are going to have to be quick? You know you are going to have to be super-fast, showering, getting dressed, having breakfast, making the lunch, jumping in the car, dropping the kids off and starting work, so much to do and I am late!!!

And then your in the shower and you leave your towel on the back of the door across from the shower, the clothes you wanted to wear aren’t clean so you have to choose something else, the dishwasher did not get switched on so there are no clean dishes, you run out of milk for a hot drink, no snacks for lunch and then a driver who insists on driving very carefully and slowly, giving maximum space to all other vehicles on the road but not allowing you to overtake…….. “Get out of the way!!!”

Sometimes, it feels like everything is going wrong, everyone is against you, you can’t do what you want to do. Have you ever felt like having a complete tantrum like a toddler?!  

But then you talk to someone who is very calm and collected, they can see your frustration and simply suggest you take a few minutes to relax and get your head in the right place. In that small moment, you can suddenly breathe. It wasn’t so bad, everyone got where they needed to be, no one was injured, no one was actually late, it was fine.

Sometimes in our own small world things can seem really intense but in reality there is no need to panic.

When Jesus was with the disciples, they had spent the day talking to a growing crowd next to Lake Galilee, the crowd was so intense that Jesus had to talk from a boat on the water. At the end, He asked the disciples to take him to the other side of the lake and in the journey a storm came to the lake. Jesus was not just calm, he was asleep. The disciples were terrified and shouted to Jesus for help. Jesus commanded the storm to be quiet and still, he asked them “Why were you afraid? Do you not have faith?”

There are times when we are fearful or stressed or anxious, but we have a God who can calm the waters and the wind. In our times of trouble, lets remember that God is with us and he can bring us a peace like no other.

'Loyal Supporter' - 21/05/21

Another domestic football season is fast coming to an end. I for one will heave a sigh of relief. I can spend the next few months without checking my phone every couple of minutes to see the latest scores. No more having to calculate what my team's result means when compared to the fortunes of their competitors. No more hanging my happiness upon the outcome of the efforts of a bunch of men kicking a ball around. I can now spend more of my time following the fortunes of my favourite Major League Baseball team instead!

 What is it about sport that makes so many people feel this way? Other hobbies may be engaging, entertaining and even educational, but none seem to have the emotional effect provided by sport. Why do we stick with the team of our choice through thick and thin? If we try a hobby and find that we are not as proficient as we might have hoped, then often we give it up. If our artistic efforts prove that we are to oil painting what Picasso was to spot welding, then we move on to something else... perhaps spot welding. If the scarf we started knitting six months ago now resembles a woolly boa constrictor, we set aside our needles and burn the pattern. If our green fingers fail to produce the crops we hoped would fill our larders, we give up the allotment and return to the supermarket vegetables - but no matter how badly our chosen team perform, we don't abandon them. We stick with them through thick and thin. They may delight and disappoint us in equal measure, but we continue to support them. We still take an interest and remain emotionally engaged no matter what.

 It seems that God feels the same way about us. No matter what we do, He sticks with us. We behave and perform just like a sports team; we have good days and bad days; we delight Him and disappoint Him in equal measure and He is always by our side.

 Of course, the difference is that whilst we offer support to our team, we are simply part of an amorphous mass of supporters who are anonymous individuals to our favourite players. I'm sure they enjoy having people cheer them on, but there is no relationship between us. God on the other hand, has a personal relationship with each and every one of us. He cares for us deeply and offers us so much more than simple vocal support.

 He created us, He loves us and He offers us life in all its fullness, not just for today, but for eternity and nothing will change that, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”. Let's take a moment to remember that God is our greatest supporter and, “Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever”.

'Hang On' - 20/05/21

Fortitude. ... It means fixity of purpose. It means endurance. It means having the strength to live with what constrains you.”
Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel 

 Wolf Hall (2009) is a  fictional historical novel by Hilary Mantel. It is set from 1500 to 1535, and is a fictional account of the rapid rise to power of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII.

 The idea of carrying on in the most difficult of circumstances is a trait that is often admired in our culture today. We see it in many different ways in public life, such as Olympic athletes battling on through injury to win championships. We see it in public figures who keep persevering to achieve success. Did you know that before Henry Ford founded the Ford motor company he had had 5 failed business ventures which left him bankrupt! James Dyson made over 5000 versions of the dyson vacuum before he found one that worked, and Thomas Edison made over 1000 unsuccessful lightbulbs before he created a successful one!

 In our own lives we have all had experience of situations where we have had to keep on going, even when it seemed like the world was against us. It may not have made the evening news, but I am sure we have all had days where just getting out of bed was a major achievement.

Whether this is one of those days, or a great day, or something in between, Jesus is in it with us. Paul experienced this in his walk with Jesus. When he was writing to the Corinthians, after being beaten and imprisoned for his faith, he wanted to remind his fellow Christians that Jesus is with us, even in the really tough times

2 Corinthians 4 8-11

'We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken….. Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us.' 

 We all have different lives and different constraints upon them, but whatever your day looks like, look to Jesus, and let his light and love shine through you as you make your way through the day. He will not let you down.

'It's The Way I Tell 'Em!' - 19/05/21

When was the last time you really laughed? Where you watching TV? Chatting to a friend? At home witnessing someone do something funny? Can you remember the last time you really laughed? Or was it too long ago?

 Life can sometimes be really tough can’t it? Stress and upset, illness and worry. It can become overwhelming. Laughter may feel like a distant memory. 

 It’s a well-known fact that people who have particularly difficult and stressful jobs can often find humour to be a great help. In fact they would go as far as to say that laughter is essential!! I found this to be particularly true in some of the relief and development roles that I had overseas. When circumstances can feel desperate, overwhelming and quite hopeless, laughter can be the greatest of medicine. 

 So do you have a favourite comedian? How about Ken Dodd?...

 ‘I haven’t spoken to my mother-in-law for 18 months, I don’t like to interrupt her!’

 Or maybe Eric Morecombe?....

 ‘My neighbour asked if he could borrow my lawnmower, I told him of course he could, so long as he didn’t take it out of my garden’.

 Ronnie Corbett?...

 ‘ I wasn’t a very athletic boy. I was once lapped in the long jump!’

 Tim Vine?...

 ‘So I said to the gym instructor, “Can you teach me to do the splits?” He said, “How flexible are you?” I said, “I can’t make Tuesdays”. ‘ 

 The bible says, ‘A cheerful heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit makes one sick’. 

 This isn’t about ignoring the struggles and pain that we ourselves, or those around us may face. Nor are we to dismiss the daily news and ignore the tragedies that are happening internationally. But it’s about finding a moment of relief. A moment of light-heartedness. A moment where mental and physical batteries can be recharged. A moment to release a whole lot of stress with one big laugh.

 If you’re needing to laugh, find that person or those people who can bring a big smile to your face. And if you are somebody who is able to laugh and encourage, pick up the phone and pass that gift on to somebody today.

 The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.

Proverbs 11:25 

'Just When You Thought It Was Easy' - 18/05/21

“You must not murder.”

Exodus 20: 13

 According to the Oxford Dictionary the definition of murder is “the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another”.  You will be pleased to know that I can honestly say that I have not murdered anyone.  In fact, I will go one step further and say that (to the best of my knowledge!) I don’t know anyone who has murdered anyone.  So surely that makes for a very brief Sunrise this morning and we can all get on with our day…I’m afraid not.  The thing is, while this week’s commandment sounds pretty straightforward, Jesus actually expanded on it in the book of Matthew – “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘you must not murder.  If you commit murder, you are subject to judgement.’  But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgement!”  

​Anyone else feel like Jesus moved the goal posts there?

​For most of us it is relatively easy to abide by a ‘do not murder’ law – but to agree not to be angry with someone is something far more difficult to agree to.  The first thing to say is that there is such a thing as righteous anger – anger at injustice, anger over a selfish act, anger when an innocent person is harmed – we need to get angry over these things, we need to find ways to express our anger at such things so that we can bring about change for good.  However, the anger that Jesus is referring to is anger that comes from a place of hatred and rage.  Once again, Jesus is asking us to look into our hearts and examine our motivations.  We may refrain from committing murder but if we are consumed by anger and hatred, those things will simply get in the way of everything else we try to do and come between us and God.  Once again, we are reminded that God doesn’t just see and judge our actions but sees and judges our hearts, our intentions, our thoughts and our motivations - not so easy after all.  

​As we go about our week feeling really good about ourselves that we haven’t committed murder, let’s remember to humbly examine our hearts and make sure that we’re not harbouring any unresolved anger or hatred.  Let’s use the words of the Psalmist as our prayer that not only will our actions be pleasing to God but our intentions, our thoughts and our motivations will be found to honour him:

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

'Foundations For Life' - 16/05/21

At the back of our house many years ago we employed a landscape gardener to build an area of decking. It was quite large and substantial and was good looking with a lovely balustrade complete with spindles, newel posts and very functional steps into the garden. We were very proud of the elegant addition to our property. It became a place to meet people, chat and have coffee. It even had for some years, overhead weather protection. I took great delight in sitting out there in any kind of weather between 6am - 8am before going to work. Inevitably the years and the cold/hot/wet/windy weather conditions began to cause deterioration in the timber which led to our interfering family pointing out (rightly) that it may not support our weight for much longer. My wife and I joked about who would go through the floor first and we laughed a lot about something that wouldn’t be funny if it happened. Then one afternoon, one of my daughters turned up with her muscular husband; he was carrying a crowbar and worryingly she was armed with a large mallet. We backed off. Two hours later we were presented with what appeared to be the result of an earthquake and two highly satisfied,  violent, family members. It took us two seconds to realize that life had changed in an afternoon. It needed four cars, two trailer trips and two bin loads to clear the debris. Our family now sleeps at night knowing that they have removed imminent danger staring their dozy parents in the face. When all the wreckage was removed we discovered something very encouraging; the flags that the decking had been built on were undamaged, still in place and still level, with not a single plant or weed in sight. All we need to do is wash it down. Brilliant. The fact that we had not seen or even thought about the hidden flags for fifteen years did not destroy their ability to provide a solid foundation. 

 Jesus told a parable about two men building their homes; one built on sand and one on rock, you can imagine what happened to the house which had a sandy foundation. This is what Jesus said about the house standing on rock, “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock.” He also said, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like the wise man who built his house on the rock.” We all need stability in life, let’s listen to Jesus and build our lives on the rock.

 Just one problem; the flags are two feet lower than the decking was, so getting out of the house is risky. I think I’ve sorted it; I built two steps out of loose bricks. I imagine that the family will be back soon. With the mallet.  

'Learning From The Past' - 15/05/21

We recently had to empty and move a book case which has been packed with “stuff” for a long time. Emptying it was straightforward enough and once empty it was easy to move. Then we found items which had slipped down the back, like an old DVD, a hair bobble and a receipt. It needed a good clean but also brought back some fun memories. 

​You may have seen in the news, the café, Leaf, on Bold Street in Liverpool, were renovating part of the building whilst they could not have any customers inside and they found an old piece of paper. The paper was actually a menu from 1913 when the same location was a different café and showed a great piece of Liverpool history. The café has even decided to re-create some of those dishes as part of their current menu.

​I think its really interesting when you can find things from the past and understand what was happening in times gone by, whether that’s 5 five years ago or 100 years ago. Whether it be a menu from a café or newspaper clipping or football programme, its heart-warming to learn about people’s lives.

​Today’s technology can sometimes shorten time and distance so that we can see in real time what is happening around the world and we are hardly ever out of touch with people through mobile phones.

​In the future, when people find a hidden item from our world today, what will people think? Will we look back fondly on lockdown and think of the friendships that deepened. Will we remember our loved ones who have not seen or sadly the loved ones who we have lost? Will we look at the WhatsApp messages and pictures wondering what on earth was going on? Finding hidden gnomes in clusters around certain gardens and asking why?

​When we look back through the Bible, we see the stories of other Christians, their lives and experiences. What can we learn from reading and hearing about those stories? We can learn that through history God has been the same loving God, that despite the many changes in this world, God’s message is still the same;

'For God so loves the world that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

Each day is new but some things never change, what message will you leave behind that will guide people in the future?'

'Horsing Around' - 14/05/21

I saw something a little out of place the other day. Three young girls were riding horses along the beach. Now that in itself is not unusual; horses are often ridden along the beach and more often that not, it is young girls that ride them. What was out of place was the fact that all three of the young riders were intent on their mobile phones whilst trotting along. Now I am aware that it is illegal to use a mobile phone whilst driving, but I'm not sure such a law exists for those in control of a horse.

 It was not the potential for equine illegality that caught my attention, but the fact that whatever was drawing the girls attention towards the screens of their phones was drawing them away from the natural beauty of their surroundings. Now I am aware that I am not the first person to lament the ubiquitous nature of the mobile devices that are an everyday accompaniment to modern life, but I was particularly disappointed on this occasion, given the incongruity of the scene I was witnessing.

 This is not the first time that I have been disappointed by mobile devices, or, more accurately, the content that can be accessed through them. Social media is both pervasive and pernicious, but seems irresistible to many. Now before I sound like an old man having a rant at this new-fangled thing the youngsters get up to nowadays, I must clarify that I am well aware that social media is used and abused by people of all ages.

 Far too often, people choose to use it as a vehicle to judge, to criticise and to bully. As recently as last week, Premier League football clubs and their players boycotted social media in protest at the abuse that is so regularly aimed at players and managers alike – much of it racist in content. Footballers and other media celebrities are not the only ones to suffer from negative opinions posted online and sadly these unwarranted and unsolicited comments can have a serious effect on the mental health of the victim. It is easy to suggest that no notice be taken of such critical opinions, but not so easy to take that advice on board when you have been hurt by the comments.

 So, what can be done about it? Well I believe that social media is no different than any other aspect of our lives. I was always told that if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. The same should apply to social media. We can use it to effect positive change. So, if you are a user of social media platforms, why not take the time to say something nice. Encourage somebody. Be kind. Find the good in a situation. Let's make the wider social media environment as positive a place as the online Melling Baptist Community has been this past year, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing”.

'A Place For Me' - 13/05/21

“I am just a tiny person in Africa, but there is a place for me, and for everybody, to sit down on this earth and touch it and call it their own.”
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith.

 The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is a detective novel about a female private detective in Africa, Mma Precious Ramotswe. She starts the first detective agency in Botswana after her father dies.

​One of the problems Mma Ramotswe encounters is when people move to the ‘big city’ from their home village, and they end up in all sorts of trouble, because they haven’t settled and found a place where they fit in.

​As restrictions around us are eased and we start to emerge from our lockdown cocoons, it can seem like so many things have changed. Some things that we have missed are returning, some things are not. Some restrictions may well remain for us for a long time to come. Home working is now commonplace for many jobs, zoom and video calling as a regular way of keeping in touch is with us to stay, and many high street shops are gone forever, and we can only order online for lots of familiar brands now.

In this brave new world, it can be daunting to work out where we are all going to fit in again, as our roles and places of work and lifestyle may have changed beyond recognition.

​God reminds us that there is always a place for us with him. He even goes further than that. He tells us that there always has been, always is and always will be a place for us in his family. We will never be without a home with God.

​Psalm 90; 1-2 says this:

Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! 2 Before the mountains were created, before the earth was formed, you are God without beginning or end.

​Whilst our circumstances may change, God does not and neither does his love for us. Our past present and future are safe in Gods hands.

As we go about our daily life today, hold tight to the promise that there is always a place for us with God.

'Tree Hugging' - 12/05/21

So, Lebanon. An incredibly beautiful country with the most stunning coastline, amazing history, fabulous food, dodgy dancing and whopping great big trees!....commonly known as the Cedars of Lebanon. These stunning trees have very wide tree trunks, branches that spread out in every direction, and the roots of the tree are known to go very deep and very wide. Putting it bluntly, these trees aren’t likely to get blown over! They are just beautiful! And as soon as I saw them I wanted to go over to them, walk around them, maybe give one or two of them a hug.....after all, some of these beautiful trees are over 2,500 years old! If they could speak, imagine the stories they could tell. There was just one problem. After the devastating war that took place in Lebanon, the ground next to the trees had been covered in landlines. I couldn’t help but feel so sad that the painful past had left it’s mark.  We all have a past don’t we? The proud moments. The funny moments. The moments you record in a photo album. And we all have moments of pain and sadness. Sadly it’s a part of life. And we can become a lot like a Cedar of Lebanon surrounded by landlines and a barbed wire fence, keeping people at a distance. Have you ever felt like that? I have, and it’s a lonely place to be. We all need friends. Good friends. The kind who will enjoy the good times with us, but still be there for us during the bad times. The kind of friends who will help us remove the ‘landlines and the barbed wire fence’ that surround us. And we need to be those friends to. The Bible tells us we ought to be like Jesus, who was, and still is, the best friend we could ever have. 1 Peter 5:7, says these words, ‘Cast all your anxiety on Him [Jesus] because he cares for you’. So, let’s recognise ‘barbed wire fences’, let’s be something of Jesus to one another, let’s give Him our daily struggles and pain, and let’s draw closer to Him, and one another...even while we’re very much apart.

'Like Father, Like Son?' - 11/05/21

“Honour your father and mother.  Then you will live long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”

Exodus 20: 12

​Have you ever said or done something and then stopped suddenly in horror as you realise that you’re turning into your mum or dad?  Very often it will be the precise thing that as a young person you swore you would never do but slowly and surely we find ourselves picking up their idiosyncrasies, usually to the huge embarrassment and mockery of our own children!  If I’m honest, I’m watching with fascination as I realise that in just a few more years I will effectively be married to my father-in-law as my husband gradually morphs into him.

​Our parents play a huge and important role in our lives but it is often only much later in life that we understand the lessons that they taught us and how they shaped us into the people we become.  As we look today at this 5th commandment we must first understand that it isn’t saying that parents are always right and therefore you must always do exactly as they say (although, if my children are reading this, just remember – mother still knows best!), this is about recognising that none of us are ever completely independent and all self-sufficient.  We owe our parents gratitude and respect for their care of us as children but even as we grow we continue to need one another, it is a lesson in humility as we acknowledge that even if we can only rely on our memory of a parent, we never really stop drawing on the things they taught us - even when it turns out that they didn’t actually know everything!

​A mother once said to her children – “Never make fun of having to help me with computer stuff.  I taught you how to use a spoon”  (Sue Fitzmaurice, author)  This is a helpful reminder that we are interdependent on each other – one brought us into this world and supported and taught us but as our children grow and become independent themselves, they then have a responsibility to support and care for the generation before them.   

​But neither does the Bible let parents off the hook.  In Proverbs it says “Train up a child in the way they should go; even when they are old they will not depart from it”.  Parents have a responsibility towards their children too, not only to provide for them, but to be an example of unconditional love, honesty and integrity so that our children can learn from a young age the behaviour that God expects of them throughout their lives.

​Whether you have parents that you still depend on; parents that depend on you or simply the memory of your parents, let’s give thanks to God for them and honour them for the love and commitment that they have shown us.

'Counting The Press-Ups' - 10/05/21

Louis the black Lab and I go walking two or three times each week, so I need to know where the best places are. When I say ‘the best places,’ Louis and I disagree about this because ‘best’ to him means ‘wettest’ but to me it means ‘driest’. I have narrowed our choice down to three local parks and I select which one based upon the time available and the weather. But now another consideration has arisen-people. Last month we arrived at our destination to find the car park almost full at 9 o’clock on a Saturday morning. As I squeezed the car into one of the last available spaces I became aware of noises I had never heard there before. There was a lot of screaming and shouting, all of it female. I looked around and saw a young ladies boot camp in progress about 100 yards away. I smiled to myself knowing that we would walk the other way to the park so I opened the door for Louis and was shocked to see him heading for the source of the racket. There were about 40 ladies in two long rows all gyrating to music and being yelled at by the leader and all yelling back. In the middle of this organized chaos was a black Lab attempting to greet everyone. He was delighted by the welcome he received but when he discovered that none of these energetic ladies had thought to bring biscuits he came back to the person who always had some. Since then they have been there every Saturday and Louis always visits them and always gets a noisy welcome. I would like to join them but that would be frowned on. So soon I shall be back in my gym, gently and cautiously trying to recover a degree of fitness. 

Many people see fitness as the ultimate aim in life; get fit and life is great. But the reality is that you could be as fit as a gladiator and still find that satisfaction eludes you. The truth is that we are spiritual creations made in the image of God and satisfaction that lasts comes from Him. In the Bible book of Isaiah we read, ‘Turn to the Lord! He can still be found. Call out to God! He is near.’ Physical fitness is wonderful, but there’s more to life. Jesus explained why He came to visit Earth, He said, “I have come in order that you might have life - life in all its fullness.” So let’s keep counting the press-ups and running on the spot, but remember we are spiritual beings and we need more than cute calves and beautiful biceps.

'Let's Go Outside' - 09/05/21

George MacCloud, the founder of the current Iona Community in Scotland , was quite a radical minister in the church , some would even say a maverick.  Many folks still take retreats to the island of Iona. The life in that community is simple, pared down, basic. I will shortly be going on a retreat and whilst I relish the time alone with God, the silence, the simplicity and the rest ;I know that this is not where I am meant to be permanently.​

 When writing about Easter George MacCloud wrote this: “The cross must be raised again at the centre of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. I am claiming that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves; on the town garbage heap, at a crossroads so cosmopolitan they had to write His title in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. At the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble, because that is where He died and that is what he died about and that is where churchmen ought to be and what churchmen should be about.”​

As I read those words I substitute the word churchmen for Christians. As Christians we are called to be salt and light in our communities, making a difference and carrying Christ into those communities. We are emerging slowly from an enforced time of pared down life and as we emerge we need to remember that we should be ready to carry the good news of the risen Lord Jesus wherever we go. It will require us to be sacrificial with our time perhaps, or it may require us to be bold and brave when we feel anxious inside. ​

I have shared these precious words of Jesus before but here they are again as a gentle reminder : Salt and Light

( Matthew 5:13-16) “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavours of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage."

 “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.

​Lets get out there!

'Take a Fresh Look' - 08/05/21

Having moved to work in a new department in work, I have been on a definite learning curve. I like learning new things and it can bring a great sense of achievement when you are recognised as having learnt something. When I started in this new department, I was looking at the other team members, at their skills and experience, how they had been doing the job for a good few years between them.

But I was able to join the team and look at things from a different perspective. I was able to look at things differently and bring a fresh viewpoint. It has become apparent that as much as I have had to learn, I was also able to teach the existing team to look at things differently. They knew all the detail, they could discuss and debate that detail with real depth. However, I was able to join that discussion without that detail and raise the thinking to a different level, do things a fresh way that could help resolve some of the detail issues by approaching it in a new way.

Sometimes, we can live our lives deep in the detail of how things should be and trying to tweak things to improve things. When what may be better, is to look at things differently. Instead of looking at how we can tweak our existing daily routine, stop and think about whether we can do things completely differently. It may bring a new lease of life to us.

As a Christian, our relationship with God can bring us a different perspective. In Isaiah 55, we are encouraged 

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are your ways my ways,”

declares the Lord.

9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 If we stay hidden in the detail of our current way of life, we may miss an opportunity, lets talk to God about our lives to understand how He would want us live our lives. He can bring a fresh view but we may need to be prepared to let go of the detail we are used to and do things differently.

'It's Got Me Stumped' - 07/05/21

For the past few weeks I have been engaged in a running battle; a war of attrition; a fifteen-round heavyweight prize fight if you will... with a tree. A laburnum tree to be precise. I won the first few rounds quite easily. The branches and the trunk succumbed to my hand-held wood saw with surprisingly little resistance. The remaining stump, however, is proving more of a challenge. It left my chainsaw looking like Shane McGowan without even shedding any bark. I feel that my arboreal opponent is getting a second wind and is digging in for the final few rounds. I have a nasty suspicion that if I don't land the knockout punch soon, I will be defeated on points.

​Now, obviously I can hire somebody to come along with a stump grinder and take care of the problem, but that would be no fun and would also be expensive. It also means that I would have to admit defeat... to a tree. So, I ventured onto YouTube and found a really interesting way to get rid of a tree stump. It involves power tools, petrol and fire! Now we're talking. Having drilled the requisite holes, poured in the petrol, set the fuse and lit the match, I stood back to watch the resulting controlled burn apply the coup de grace.

​When the smoke cleared and the flames were exhausted, there it still was, blackened but unbowed. Taunting me with its woody resilience. A laburnum tree stump that was burned, but not consumed by the flames.

I was instantly reminded of Moses. In the book of Exodus in the Bible, we are told that Moses was tending his father-in-law's sheep, when he saw a burning bush... and though the bush burned, it was not consumed by the flames. On closer inspection, Moses discovered that God was using this bizarre spectacle to get his attention, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob”. Once Moses gave God his full attention, God told him what He had in store for him. He told him that he would be used by God to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.

​This is one of my favourite stories in the Bible, because Moses proceeds to argue with God, coming up with excuse after excuse to avoid having to go on what must have been to him a frightening odyssey. God of course confirms that He has everything in hand and will be with Moses throughout. Still Moses finds excuses, until eventually God convinces him that with His help, Moses will be both safe and triumphant.

I can't help but think that I am guilty of doing something similar when I hear God's call. I look for a reason why I can't do it rather than accept that God has already put everything in place and will be with me on the adventure.

​Now, I can't say that God has been speaking to me through the flames of a burning laburnum tree, but this little escapade has served as a timely reminder to listen for His voice and to trust Him when He speaks.

Right then, where did I put that dynamite?

'Another Person's Eyes' - 06/05/21

“So many memories and secrets, so many burdens. Every life has such weight. I don’t know how anybody carries even one.”

Stuart Turton, The seven deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

​This book is a detective novel with a difference. In order to solve the murder, the detective relives the same day over and over again by waking up each day in a different person’s body, literally looking at the world through another person’s eyes. He then uses this information to solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle. 

​Now this is only possible through literary imagination, but in doing this the detective realises that every person he becomes has a different set of issues and problems that he may have otherwise been unaware of, hence the quote.​

Sometime its easy for us to look at other people’s lives and think that they may have it ‘easy’, or that their life is somehow better than ours. The reality is that as in the book, and as Plato is often quoted;

“Be Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”

​Jesus, when he talks to his disciples in Matthew 11 is well aware of this. Jesus reminds us that even though life can be hard, we don’t have to go through it alone. 

​Matthew 11:28-30

28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

​Jesus offers his love and care and grace to everyone and anyone who turns to him. Jesus went through betrayal, heart break, torture, and death because he loved us so much. Wherever you are today, Jesus gets it, he knows how hard life can be. He sees the hidden pain and disappointment as well as the visible scars, and he loves you.

​Let’s come to Jesus with everything we have, ‘warts and all’, and let him walk with us, sharing our pain and allowing us to rest in him. And let’s also let that amazing love shine through us, so that we can love others with that same love, and stand with them, sharing their burdens.

That’s what the family of God is all about.

'Coffee!...Please' - 05/05/21

The owner of a small deli was recently fed up with bad mannered customers. He decided to do something about it. He put a new price list for coffee on the board outside. It said this...

‘Coffee!’ - $5

‘Coffee please’ - $3.50

‘Hi! Can I have a cup of coffee please?...and thankyou!’ - $1.75 

The change was instant! People didn’t want to be paying $5 for a coffee and were therefore given a wake up call to their not-so-great manners! This story can bring a smile to our faces but how important it is to show manners.  

Jesus met ten men one day who all had leprosy. This was an incurable disease. And highly contagious. They shouted to Him. ‘ 

‘Jesus, have mercy on us!’  

He told them to go and present themselves to the priests. While they were on their way, their leprosy was cured. One of the men was so shocked and delighted he turned around and rushed back to Jesus straightaway. He was full of praise and gratitude. Jesus looked around, 

‘Weren’t there ten who were healed? Where are the other nine? Have they not come back to give praise to God?’ 

Then Jesus turned to the one thankful man and said, 

‘On your way, your faith has healed you’. 

The men had been cured of leprosy. What a gift! And yet only one came back to say Thankyou.

In our frustrations, tiredness and rushing, let’s be careful to still exercise good manners. They cost nothing and may even get you a half price coffee. But more importantly, they show respect to the one you are talking to. 

Jesus said, ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you’. 

So if you like to hear ‘please’ and ‘thankyou’ and have people hold a door open for you and help you pick up the papers you’ve just dropped all over the floor, then let’s do it first for them.

 

'Time For a Rest Day' - 04/05/21

“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God.”

Exodus 20: 8-10​

As the Olympics approach there are athletes up and down the country and all around the world working incredibly hard, pushing their bodies to the limit of what they can endure trying to become the fastest or strongest and most accomplished at their particular sport.  Their training regimes are gruelling but one thing they all have in common is that they all need their rest.  Not one of them can just keep going without taking a break.  All of them have planned rest days and sleep programmes in place so that their bodies have chance to rest and repair – without these rest days they will not only succumb to physical injuries but will also begin to suffer from mental health problems such as anxiety and stress.​

I can’t possibly liken myself to an athlete but, regardless of their chosen sport, what I do have in common with all athletes is that we all need our rest.​

Our weeks tend to be busy, filled with often mundane tasks but nevertheless the things of life that must be done – the shopping, the cleaning, the washing and ironing, the school run, not to mention somehow fitting in a job!  The list could go on.  All of these things are important and must be done but in this forth commandment God asks us to take one day away from the busyness of life.  Traditionally as Christians we set Sundays aside but there is no rule that says it must be a Sunday, simply a time set aside when you can rest whether that be physically, emotionally or spiritually.  God wants us to make sure that in the busyness of life we don’t forget to allow time for him.

In Matthew 11 we read these words spoken by Jesus “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  This invitation to set some time aside for God is for our benefit – time to remember what is important; time to recuperate from the batterings of life; time to spend in the presence of our creator God who wants to offer you rest and healing and refreshment.​

There is no doubt that life can be tiring and demanding at times but, like any athlete will tell you, not taking the time to rest won’t get the job done in the long run.  Let’s make sure that we take time this week to stop and spend some time with God so that we can know real refreshment to be able to carry on.

 

 

'Let's Not Be Choosey' - 03/05/21

We have seen in recent years examples of extreme weather with increasing regularity and they are getting closer. But it’s still the case that the earth shattering disasters are abroad. We have watched transfixed as TV news programmes have shown the results of monstrous tornados, uncontrollable flooding, and terrifying forest fires. Our prayer is always that the people escape unharmed even if their homes and careers are wiped out. During a recent forest fire that was made worse by strong winds, a driver who was escaping in a hurry saw something that made him stop and switch on his video camera. The footage swept around the world and brought spontaneous applause in millions of homes. It showed a man on the edge of the field that was about to be destroyed by massive rapidly advancing flames, and he was on his knees. Everyone who drove past including the driver filming it wondered what on earth this madman was doing. He seemed to be talking to something in the long grass and everyone ‘knew’ it was his dog and they expected that his pet would leap into his arms; instead of that after an agonizing minute a terrified rabbit crawled in front of the man who swept it up in his arms, put it in his car and rocketed away. The man was praised globally for his courage but much more for his compassion; after all, it was only a rabbit!

 In our world there is a tendency for people to elevate those who are high achievers; the wealthy, the educated, the powerful, and the famous. Often people in elevated positions consider themselves more important than the rest of us. Some of them even seem to think that they can bend the rules to suit themselves. But God disagrees with their opinion of themselves; Paul writing to slave owners who assumed they were more significant than those around them says this, ‘Remember that you and your slaves have the same Master in Heaven, who judges everyone by the same standard.’ To those who think their status on Earth impresses God and makes them more acceptable to him, God makes this point, ‘God saves you through faith as an act of kindness. You have nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from God.’ Jesus considered the tramp in the street to be as important to God as the king on his throne. So let’s not be choosey, let’s just meet needs where we see them. Remember the rabbit!

'I Can't Get No Satisfaction' - 02/05/21

My head is clearly in retreat mode. Since looking up George MacCloud (founder of the current Iona Community) I keep finding these snippets of his wisdom. Here’s one that got me thinking: “Do not be prepared to tolerate the obscenity of the now”. 

​When on retreat, it is easier to be contemplative, holy even and live in a simpler way than when at home in the middle of a normal, busy life. The distractions are less, there is less pressure to do and more time to be. Back in the cut and thrust of normal life it is a lot harder to be contemplative and, dare I say it, holy. Normal life seems to be one big juggling act. There are the demands of family, work, commitments, hoovering, ironing (who does ironing??), walking the dog, taking out the rubbish, zoom calls, WhatsApp chats etc and if we get dissatisfied, it is with this juggling act.

​As I write, the news and social media is full of anger at possible changes to the football league but when I read George MacLeod’s quote again I am challenged because I am aware that I get cross more about literal obscenities like bad language than I do the obscenity of injustice. We get angry at football clubs but tolerate poverty because we do not have time to sign a petition, write to an MP or pray. I am more likely to pray for a nice place to live than I am to remember to pray for those who are displaced by war.

​In Matthew 23 Jesus says this:  ‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practised the latter, without neglecting the former.’

​We are a community and it is right that we come to our Father with our petitions, requests and prayers for each other and ourselves, but I have been gently reminded that I need to cultivate a more holy dissatisfaction; a holy desire for more life & more love for others. There is more that God wants to give and there is more that God wants to ask of me if I dare to ask.

'You've Got Mail' - 01/05/21

In these days while I am at home quite a lot, its actually quite rare to get a voicemail on my phone, as I am regularly here to answer it. I am also here to receive a lot of posted goods when my family (obviously not me!) keep ordering things. Its great for people trying to get in touch with us as they know they are likely to find someone at home. ​

In days gone by, in the dim and distant past, we would come home to the dreaded “we missed you” card through the letter box. Sometimes, they would just try again the next day, but mostly you would have to then start searching for where your parcel has gone. Then finding out when that new place is open so that you can then go and collect your parcel. Of course, it is important to check what you need to take with you as proof that the parcel is actually yours so they can give it to you. 

It was all such a fuss but now feels so much easier.​

Sometimes, when we try to take time out to talk to God, it sometimes feels like there is no-one there to answer. We keep leaving a message but we don’t hear anything back. Why is God not answering my prayer!

However, we should be assured that God hears our prayers every time we say them, he actually knows what we are going to pray before we do. So it is not about God not answering, He hears every word we say and feels every word we say. Jesus is not actually at the other end of a letter or phone, he is actually sat right next to us speaking the same words as we are. In Romans Chapter 8 we are reminded;

Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Our God is not apart from us, He is by our side, He does not need a letter or phone call, we can simply turn to Him and talk to Him. He knows and He loves us. We should remember that as Jesus is with us, we can trust Him that He will have the right answer at the right time.