Something Better - 31/5/20
I read about a mum who walked into the lounge to find her seven year old son and five year old daughter watching a news report about a nasty and frightening event. She grabbed the remote and changed channels and told her children in a gruff voice, 'You shouldn't watch nasty stuff like that, find something better.' Later that day after the evening meal, the children were pottering upstairs while mum and dad settled down to catch up with the day’s news. Along came the report
about the nasty event. While they were watching, the door burst open and in charged the stroppy five years old. She grabbed the remote, stood in front of the screen and said in her best mum's voice, 'You shouldn't watch nasty stuff like that, find something better' She pressed a button on the remote and walked out leaving her shocked parents gazing at Gardeners World. Adults (we tell ourselves) are better able to process the news than our children or grandchildren. We got to the stage in our house, if we had grandchildren staying, that we would censor even the lunch time news because there was so much depressing, and sometimes violent content. The behaviour of the little five year old mimicking her mum makes us smile, but hopefully makes us stop and think too. We like to think that adults can cope with whatever the news channels throw at us, but what is broadcast for our consumption across all news channels is almost universally bad news. Depressing news. Scary news. If that is our daily diet of viewing, it will eventually lead us to believe that reality itself has nothing to offer but depression. Remember yesterday’s Sunrise? We are surrounded by daily miracles, but we so often take them for granted. Come on folks, we can do better that this, where’s that remote, let’s flip channels and hear God’s news for a change.
‘God showed His love for us by sending His only Son into the world, so
that we might have life through Him. This is what love is: it is not that
we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the
means by which our sins are forgiven.’
”Have you heard the news?” “Yes I have, and it’s all good.” Where’s that remote. Thank you little girl.
And i think to myself, what a wonderful world - 30/5/20
When you woke up this morning, did you think, ‘Woohoooo it’s Saturday’, or were you more of a, ‘Oh it’s Saturday’, or were you a, ‘Not another day! I can’t take many more like this!’ To be honest, I’m a very positive-minded person but I’ve had a real mishmash of thoughts and feelings not just over these passed few months but over the years. During the good times it’s been all singing and dancing, but during some rough times, I’ve genuinely felt like God had given up on me and gone to ‘perform miracles’ elsewhere! I suspect I’m not the only one who has sometimes felt like this? BUT, right outside my bedroom window, in fact any closer and they’d be on my bed, there’s a nest if starlings. With babies!! Every single morning I’m woken by the raucous noise of these little chicks yelling at the top of their voices, desperate for breakfast! It could, for some, be an annoying noise, but for me, well I love it! It’s cheeky, it’s demanding, it’s relentless. But more importantly it’s a sign of life. It’s a miracle! I’ve taken to looking at the dandelions on my grass. I know they’re weeds, I know that they are going to be cut down very soon, but they are stunning flowers! A miracle! I saw a woodpecker the other day, bashing his beak on a tree trunk, just beautiful! A miracle! My dog is a bit naughty, a bit cheeky, and has the most incredible loyalty towards me and can read me like a book! A miracle! My children! Who all have their worries and struggles but bring so much joy and laughter into my life! Miracles! My family and friends! Living, breathing miracles! The bible says, ‘God counts the stars and calls them all by name’. Miracle! I don’t have answers to life’s big questions. But I can open my eyes and ears to what’s around me, and see that the God of miracles hasn’t gone anywhere! He’s right here. Emmanuel, God with us.
Worth - 29/5/20
Michael Jordan can probably lay claim to being the greatest basketball player of all time. He was also the first sporting superstar to realise his own marketing potential. He understood that his name carried weight in certain circles. When he put his name to a particular brand of sports shoe, the “Nike Air Jordan” became the best selling sports shoe of all time. The move into merchandising made Michael Jordan more money away from the basketball court than he ever made on it. Today his net worth is estimated at $2.1 billion. A pair of these famous shoes, worn by him during his first year in the professional game, recently sold for $560,000 in an online auction arranged by Sotheby's. $560,000 for what are essentially second-hand shoes. It seems madness to most people, but we all value things differently. I possess an envelope, on the back of which are the signatures of the entire 1933 Everton FA Cup winning team. It's special to me, but not necessarily to anybody else. I also have a fairly extensive collection of comic books and some original, commissioned, comic book artwork. It's of value to me, but it's market value is debatable.If I were to ask you what your prized possession was, what would you say? I imagine most of you don't have a cellar full of priceless vintage wine, or an extensive collection of fine art, so you would no doubt settle for what some people might consider mundane... photograph albums perhaps, or a keepsake with particular sentimental value. Things that other people wouldn't give tuppence for, but which to you are priceless. Others wouldn't understand, but why should we expect them to. We probably don't understand their choices either. At the end of the day, a thing is worth what somebody is prepared to pay for it. Which makes God's love for us all the more remarkable; because of what it cost. “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” It's probably the most quoted verse in scripture and because of that it doesn't always have the impact it should. God, as the Father, paid the price of giving up His only Son. God, as Jesus, paid the price of giving up His life. For what? What did He buy? He bought you. He bought me. He bought all of us. More accurately, He bought eternal life for us, whilst He paid the greatest price imaginable. Take a moment to think about that. If something is worth what somebody is prepared to pay for it, then what does that tell you about God? Perhaps more startlingly, what does it tell you about yourself?
The god of the lost things - 28/5/20
“Has anyone seen my glasses?”, is a frequent cry in our home. I put them down and then have no idea where they are. Losing things is one factor that is guaranteed to stress me out and unfortunately would appear to run in my
family. There was one Christmas afternoon that my dad will never forget as, in the cold and the snow( it was Yorkshire), he spent a good 30 minutes foraging in our bins for an envelope with £50 quid in that had been our Christmas present. I must have accidentally chucked it out with all the wrapping paper. When my Nan died, I inherited her eternity ring. It was simple but very pretty. On the day that I was given it I wore it to go shopping and test to see if it needed adjusting; it did and fell off and is now probably adorning someone else’s finger. It is not always me who loses the goods. I was admitted to hospital just before our first born arrived, I was quite poorly. My husband had
one job and that was to take home my wedding ring that had been removed from my finger. This ring was a family heirloom, passed down from generation to generation. Precious and beautiful. He lost it. Losing things stresses me out but finding them is just wonderful. I read this piece this morning by (I think) Frederick Beuchner: “But this much I tell you ,what’s lost is nothing to what’s found, and all the death that ever was , set next to life, would scarcely fill a
cup.” In Luke’s gospel there is this amazing parable told by Jesus: “Or imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she
finds it you can be sure she’ll call her friends and neighbours: ‘Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!’ Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.” God searches for us when we are lost, astray from the right path or in a dark place. He searches until he finds us. We are that precious and beautiful in His eyes and He wants us to have life with him and life to the full, not an empty existence searching for things that do not satisfy. As you finish reading this, perhaps listen to or sing the song ‘Amazing grace’ ...I was lost but now am found,twas blind but now I see”. Right, where did I put my glasses?
Who are you? - 27/5/20
I don't know who reads Sunrise. I have no idea who you are. You could be older or younger than me. You could be male or female (I'm not telling you what I am, you'll have to guess). You could be one of my friends but you don't know that I wrote this. Possibly I've never met you and I don't even know you exist. Most professional columnists and novelists have a good idea who their followers are, what section of society they belong to, what interests them, and what they are passionate about. This means that they can write to satisfy their audience. I find myself wondering about you. Could it be that you live in Liverpool, and yet have no interest in football, but you quite enjoy watching shuffleboard? Maybe you left school at fifteen and went straight into the family business, or possibly you spent three years in University and have a first class degree in the history of EastEnders. You’re a mystery to me so I don't know what to write to please you. You could be sailing through life, untouched by illness, sadness, loneliness, or poverty. Or these could be your constant companions. So in my ignorance of you, what can I say to you that would be meaningful? Perhaps I should shut up and go away? But before I do, let me introduce you to a friend who does know you (better than you know yourself). He knows your strengths and weaknesses, your hopes and fears, He’s aware of your educational journey and your relationship experiences, and He wants to tell you something.
‘The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the Earth. He will not grow tired or weary; His understanding is beyond searching out. He gives power to the faint and increases the strength of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall. But those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and
Was my friend helpful? Are you ready to start the week?
Who do you think you are? 26/5/20
On Sunday I had a wonderful conversation with some family members and one of my nieces who is attempting to put together our family tree. Apart from her amusement at discovering people’s middle names and the confusion of working out who was married to who and how the various relationships could be shown on a family tree, it was a lovely opportunity to take a trip down memory lane. As we began to speak of relatives who are no longer with us we also shared stories of times we spent with them, of places we have been, homes we lived in and the inevitable horror as my niece discovered that toilets weren’t always to be found indoors! As we chatted though, it occurred to me how much our ancestry matters to us. To be able to remember the people that have gone before us, the people who have influenced us and to one degree or another (for better or for worse) have made us who we are. We may have personality traits that we have inherited – “Oh you are as stubborn as your mother!” or “you have a gentle nature, just like your grandfather”. Or we may have simply made a decision to imitate someone we have loved and respected; perhaps they taught us how to be a better person. Either way, I know I have much to be grateful for as I recognise the positive influence that others have had on me, notleast of all because I was raised by a family who instilled in me not just to imitate the good character of good people, but to try a little harder each day to imitate the love of God. In Ephesians we read this: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”I can never hope to display the perfect love of God – at least not in this life – but I can keep trying. Each day I can get up and commit to try again and when I fall short, which I inevitably do, I can pick myself up and try again. We have a perfect role model, someone who is truly worth imitating and the more time I spend with God the more I learn how I can be more like him. Our ancestry matters because the people who have gone before us have helped to shape us into who we are – but that is only a part of the story; our ancestry matters because we are children of God and there is no one better to shape us into the people we are yet to be.
Who do you trust? - 25/5/20
Most people are looking forward to seeing all the shops open and the children back in school. We are already imagining that first day back with family and friends whose company we have missed for so long. We anticipate hugging and sitting down for our first social meal for months. Won't life be great! But we all know that it's going to be tough. Taxes are bound to increase, some companies will not re-open, and many people will lose their jobs, maybe you will. Does this give us permission to behave in ways that normally we wouldn't even think about? I remember one recession when business was very tough, companies were closing down every day, and getting payment from clients was almost impossible. A man I knew was busy working, his mind distracted by thoughts of his company closing, when his phone rang. It was his accountant who told him he owed the Inland Revenue £650. He didn't have £650. His accountant then told him he could make his debt disappear, it would be irregular but it would work. What a temptation; it wasn't right but it was a way out of trouble. He took a deep breath and told his accountant he would pay the tax bill. As he was saying that, he was telling himself, "You're an idiot." But then his accountant said, "Every one of my clients would tell me to hide the debt, but I knew you wouldn't." This man’s lifestyle and standards were visible and predictable. Our actions tell the truth about ourselves more effectively than words. The point is that principles should not fluctuate with circumstances. What is right is right. It's simple, but tough. In our present situation, many people are tempted to break the rules as a way out of trouble. The Christian always has that option but knows that is not the way to go. Inour Melling Community, we have a wide variety of circumstances and people, and we are all struggling to look after ourselves, family, and friends. God is aware of our feelings, fears, and temptations, and the Bible tells us that trusting in God is the way forward. ‘Youwill keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You. Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the Eternal Rock.’ And we are reminded that, ‘The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him.’
Corona-coaster - 24/5/20
Garfield, the cartoon cat created by Jim Davis, is a temperamental, lasagna loving creature. His long-suffering owner, John, is hopelessly devoted to his overweight, lazy pet. The cartoon strips are funny and you can’t help but fall in love with this unpredictable character. There was one scene where John was playing with Garfield. Garfield was loving every minute of it and behaving like a tiny kitten. Suddenly out of the blue, he swiped at John and walked off saying, “I’m through with playing“. like I said, temperamental. The other day I was reading about what people are now calling the “Corona Coaster “. This rollercoaster of emotions that seems to be overwhelming people at this particular time. One day we laugh, the next we cry. Or it could quite possibly be, one minute we laugh, the next we cry. And yes, so many of us do have much to be thankful for, and thankful we must be, but that doesn’t mean life can’t be tough, it doesn’t mean we can’t cry. And as I sit here, writing this Sunrise, I am very aware that I don’t know who will be reading it. Some of you may be having a really pleasant lockdown experience. Life seems to be going well for you regardless of the current circumstances, and a really happy “all singing and dancing” Sunrise, may be exactly what you want? On the other hand maybe you’re reading this and you feel like your world is falling apart? You’re really struggling? You need to hear something of encouragement and support? The truth is, not one of these Sunrise thoughts that we have been writing, will cater for every person, in every situation, every day. But the God that we love and serve and talk about knows each one of us inside out, and back to front. He knows our every thought. Our every emotion. Throughout the Bible we read, ‘The Lord is good’, ‘The Lord is near to the broken-hearted’, ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want’, ‘My peace I leave with you’....Can I suggest that however you are feeling today, on this Corona coaster, you will find enjoyment, or encouragement, or support and comfort, not necessarily from these words I’m writing, but from the God who knows you and knows everything about you. Happy Sunday everybody!
Secretary of the year - 23/5/20
Way back, in my past life in Texas, I found myself between jobs. My friend was going home to visit her family in Fiji, and I was asked would I step in to her role for a couple of months. She was PA to the charity’s Chaplain. J, was a lovely guy, partly responsible for some major international decisions and having the broad responsibility for the welfare of all involved with the charity, near and far. I, on the other hand, was a health teacher. A creative-minded, people person. Not known for my administration skills! But it was only for a couple of months! What could go wrong? Everything started off well! I kept my head down. Smiled at people. Photocopied. Answered the phone. Chatted to people. And chatted to people. And chatted....I’ve got to confess, the job wasn’t really me. I was getting bored by the end of about the 2nd day. I found the spinney chair a bit of light relief! Then one day, the phone rang, it was the CEO, he was in West Africa. He wanted to talk to J, ! Of course, ‘I’ll just put you through!’ Click! Oops! Where’s he gone? The phone rang again! ‘I’ll just put you though!’ Click! Oops! I went through to J, ‘there’s something wrong with these phones, Jack keeps cutting off....’ He rang again, ‘Jo, don’t try to put me through, just tell J that I’m calling him on the direct emergency line, but it’s not an emergency!’ The days went by. I was bored! One morning I decided, ‘Right I’m going to be proactive,’ so I went to work and before J got in to the office I had tidied, boiled the kettle, faxed, emailed, and shredded his, ‘To Shred’ pile. I was on a roll! When J arrived I was really pleased with my attempts at admin! ‘J came through to me. Er, Jo, do you know where my To Do pile has gone?’ ‘No. I’ve not seen it. I only saw the pile to shred’. As the words left my mouth, the realisation hit me! ‘Oh J, I’ve shredded your To Do pile!! I’m so sorry!!’ I was devastated! A mess! ‘Was it all very important stuff?’ I knew it was. J hadn’t said anything. He just stood there. Probably out of shock! And then he smiled at me, ‘Nothing important Jo, come on, I’ll take you out for lunch’. Later that month he told me that they were taking me for a meal to celebrate Secretary’s Day. I thought it was a bit odd but went along with it. After the meal, a guy stood up and said that it was time to announce the new, ‘Secretary of the Year’. There was great anticipation from the other guests present and a noticeable ‘holding of breath’. I continued to eat my fruit salad. Before I knew what was going on, I heard my name announced down the microphone. The room erupted into cheers and claps as I was pushed to the front, completely bemused and with a piece of pineapple stuck in my throat, to receive a bouquet of flowers and a gift token, for a job well done! J was leading the clapping. He beamed at me. But I shredded his To Do pile!!! It was ALMOST the most undeserved title I’ve ever been given! Second only, to ‘Loved by the King of Kings’. We read in the Bible, Paul saying, ‘For I am convinced, that neither death nor life, nor angels, principalities nor powers, nor things that are now, nor things that are to come, (nor bad admin skills) can separate us from the love of God.’ I’m rubbish at admin but I was ‘Secretary of the Year 1997’. I am imperfect. Good at some things and not at others. Maybe you question your role in work, in your family, life...maybe you feel like you aren’t much at all, just plodding through life, no one special! You couldn’t be more wrong! We share the title, ‘Loved by the King of Kings’. I was very happy to hand my PA role back to my friend, and needless to say, it was the only year I won that title. But ‘Loved by the King of Kings’ is a title I’ve held since before I was born, and no matter who we are, what we think, say or do, we’ll never lose it! Anyone need me to shred anything?
Some good news - 22/5/20
American actor and film maker, John Krasinski has, since the start of the Coronavirus lockdown, written, produced and presented a weekly show on YouTube. It's called, “Some Good News” and it is exactly that. Krasinski seeks out good news stories from across the world and broadcasts them; interspersed with good deeds of his own making. The show is funny, sincere, heart-warming and unabashedly sentimental in parts. I'm not ashamed to say that I have shed a tear several times at the demonstrations of simple goodness seen on the show. Obviously, he has the advantage of being able to call upon his showbiz friends to pitch in and help and yes, he is married to Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt), so obviously he can do stuff that us mere mortals can't, but the fact that he puts his time and available resources to work to bring us a show that is so uplifting is to his credit. He could have taken the easy route and joined those that court fame and easy applause by criticising everything around them. I'm sure you're familiar with them; the back seat drivers and Monday morning quarterbacks who always know the right way to go, or a better way to do things. The people who use Twitter and other social media outlets to express negative and critical opinions, knowing they are safe in the knowledge that nobody can prove them wrong because nobody is ever going to put their theories to the test. Krasinski decided to take the road less travelled. He chose to expend his time and energy on the positive. To actively seek out the good. To go out of his way to find those who had made a positive difference to the world around them and tell their story. He chose to spread the good news and, in the process, to make us all feel better. As Christians, we have the best news of all. We don't need to scour the Internet to find it; we have it in front of us... a whole book of it! The Bible is packed with the good news of God's love for us – all of us. The word Gospel actually means good news. We find story after story of the love that God poured out on His people. That love, that goodness, is still being poured out today. God’s nature never changes. He always makes a positive difference. We need to be like John Krasinski and to expend our time and energy on the positive. To tell the story. To share the good news of God’s love with the world around us. The book of Romans says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” You may be unable to get a pedicure during lockdown, but you can still have beautiful feet. I’ll leave you with the words with which John Krasinski ends every show, “Remember, no matter how bad it gets, there’s always good in the world”.
Time for a short test - 21/5/20
Ok, time for a confession. I like exams! Well, not quite but I would have failed miserably at school if we had coursework as I have no stamina and cannot be bothered with writing and rewriting stuff to improve it and make it better. Give me the short, sharp shock of an exam any day…if I have to be tested at all. Let’s face it, given a choice between 8 weeks of making tea, doing online catch ups and eating ice cream OR 8 weeks of sweat and revision, I know which I would choose. The last 8 weeks have felt like a weird examination course with no end. Unlike school, we have had no syllabus, no structure and no graduation.My upper 6th students should have sat their first exam today. Whilst a few are a touch relieved, most feel cheated. They do not have the chance to prove themselves, to show how much they have learnt, to be rewarded. So, I have written them a letter and decided to share it with you, to give you a glimpse of my world. So, here is my letter that I sent to my students at school “Evening munchkins, today would have been component 1 and I am very much aware that some of you might feel a bit cheated. This is just to say that I have been thinking of you today and that you are all simply amazing. In the last 8 weeks our lives have become like a sociology lesson. The digital divide has really widened, health inequalities have been exposed and I have attended my first online funeral...so weird. BUT, in the last few weeks our culture has changed for the better. As you listen to the Downing street briefings, bring your sociological minds to the facts , the stats and the research. We may not all be in the same boat but we are all in the same storm and I am praying that you will continue to be protected as we gradually loosen lockdown.” I then shared with them one of my favourite Bible verses from Thessalonians, where it says this:"..but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good"We may not be able to see the end of this ‘test’ but each day we can thank our God for the good things that He provides ,and we can hold onto it for dear life in the storm.
I don't know - 20/5/20
I recently bought my husband a gift, it was a smart watch – the kind that tells you your heart rate; how many steps you’ve done so far today; how far you’ve walked and the route you took; it can turn the lights on and play music and it even records the quality of your sleep and tells you if you were snoring. A couple of days ago he got up and announced that his watch told him that he had had a very good sleep and hadn’t snored at all. At that point I had to protest – the watch was clearly asleep while I was awake listening to him snoring at 3 o’clock in the morning! His watch is an incredible piece of technology which can process huge amounts of data – but it doesn’t know everything. His watch can’t unlock the mystery of why our daughter finds it so hard to pick up the clothes off her bedroom floor. His watch can’t tell him why I can’t bear the taste of coconut while he likes it or why I instinctively jump up on a chair if I see a spider. His watch can’t tell him what tomorrow will bring or when we will be able to sit in a room with family and friends again. Sometimes the answer is simply “I don’t know”. When will we be able to shake someone’s hand again without worrying that we might make them ill? I don’t know. When will our wonderful choir be able to sing together again without the disastrous but hilarious time lag that video conferencing gives us? I don’t know. How long will we remember that we actually enjoyed that new hobby or skill we learnt during lockdown? I don’t know. We are facing a time of great uncertainty and “I don’t know” is all too often the answer to our questions. In Ecclesiastes it tells us: “I discovered that there is ceaseless activity, day and night. I realised that no one can discover everything God is doing under the sun. Not even the wisest people discover everything, no matter what they claim”. Politicians, scientists, reporters, friends and neighbours all have their own views on what should happen next and what our ‘new normal’ will look like but the truth is they don’t know. It doesn’t stop us asking those questions and neither should it, but instead of making us restless or anxious it’s good to know that sometimes it’s ok to settle with “I don’t know”, not because I don’t care anymore but because I do know who has the answers and I trust that the answers are in safe hands. The answers to all my ‘don’t knows’ are in the hands of a God who never sleeps and who works tirelessly and faithfully
“for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8: 28).
I hope that I always ask questions and look for the answers but it is reassuring to know that when all I can come up with is “I don’t know”, I at least know who does know. So, how does a smart watch work? I don’t know.
Eyes in the back of my head - 19/5/20
When I was young my mum used to claim that she had eyes in the back of her head. It was said as a threat more than anything else because it was her way of telling us that she didn’t miss a trick and always knew what we were up to – or so she thought! On the one hand, having eyes in the back of our heads might be quite useful – always knowing what was going on behind us as well as in front;being able to see where we have been as well as where we are going. But on the other hand, wouldn’t that cause us huge amounts of confusion? Which way would forward be? In March it felt like our world had been turned upside down as the nation was put into lockdown. In a very short space of time our movements, our socialising, our shopping and our work lives were all changed beyond recognition and we wondered how we would cope – but we have coped. It hasn’t been easy and there have been many significant challenges but we were forced to find new ways forward. And now, the hope that we would all simply be told one day that we can open our doors and run to embrace strangers as they pass by has long since faded as we realise that opening our doors is a very tentative action with social distancing remaining with us for some time still to come. It is easy to look back and yearn for the ‘good old days’ and wish for everything to simply return to how they were. In the book of Genesis we read about a man called Lot and his wife and family who had to flee from a truly wicked city before God destroyed it. They did flee, but Lot’s wife looked back with disastrous consequences. Why? She yearned for the life that she had known, for everything that she was leaving behind, for everything that was familiar to her and she lacked the faith to follow God into the unknown. It can be really difficult to adapt to changes and keeping things the same can offer us some sense of security. But sometimes going back isn’t an option, only forward. It is important to learn lessons from the past, but we can’t go backwards - trying can cause us to trip and fall, we have eyes facing forwards for a reason – that’s the direction of travel. As we begin to think about life after lockdown, let’s dare to imagine not just the return to life as we knew it, but a better, brighter more fulfilled life. A life where we walk because we can, where wereserve precious time for family and friends because they are important; where we treasure our natural environment and where we love one another rather than feeling frustration and impatience with people because we just don’t have time.God doesn’t want us to look backwards and yearn for what used to be, he wants us to place our hand in his and by faith take a step forward towards all of the wonderful things yet to be.
Peace. Perfect peace - 18/5/20
Some years ago I was in a four seater aircraft flying over Snowdon. We were at 5000 feet and the mountain range below was covered in snow and ice. It was January. These little planes are very noisy and you have to shout to be heard.After a while the noise becomes painful and you wish it was quieter. Suddenly it was quieter, much quieter. With a frozen carburettor, engines don't become quiet, they become silent. The peace was wonderful. The significance of the peace was terrifying. Within five seconds I desperately wanted the noise back. As we glided lower and lower, I decided that if we survived this trip, I would never complain about the engine racket, in fact I would learn to love it. It's amazing how quickly you can learn something if it's important. Clearly you have already realised that I survived. The noise was wonderful. What do we mean by peace? Politicalpeace when politicians are working together? Peace in the office between colleagues? Peace in a marriage? Peace of mind because Corona didn't get us?Peace means different things to different people. 2000 years ago, Jesus told His disciples that He was leaving them.They wondered which one of them would be the leader. How will we cope with the Romans, Greeks, and Jews? Where will we go, what will we do? And their peace evaporated instantly. Jesus said to them, 'I give you peace, the kind of peace only I can give. It isn't like the peace this world can give. So don't be worried or afraid'. Later St Paul wrote about, 'God's peace, which is far beyond human understanding'. The followers of Jesus were given a gift from God which the world can't match. So whether your world is noisy or quiet, the peace of God can calm your soul and remove your fears.
Well, you can't just sit there - 17/5/20
I heard a true story of a 73-year-old retired truck driver by the name of Larry Walters who was sitting in his garden chair in his backyard one day wishing he could fly. For as long as he could remember he had wanted to fly but he had never had the time, money or opportunity to be a pilot. So, he spent a lot of summer afternoons sitting in his backyard in his chair… wishing. One day Larry hooked 45 helium-filled weather balloons to his chair, put a CB radio in his lap, tied a paper bag full of Jam butties to his leg, and slung a Air Rifle over his shoulder to pop the balloons when he wanted to come down. He lifted off expecting to climb a couple of hundred feet over his neighbourhood. But instead he shot up 11,000 feet right through the approach corridor to the Los Angeles International Airport. Asked by the press why he did it, Larry answered: Well, you can't just sit there! It's a great story which got me thinking about our time in lockdown. It seems like we’re all spending loads of time just “sitting here” doesn’t it? The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Philippians from “lockdown” – well, he was actually in prison! However, he was convinced that God was still at work – “I want you to know… that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel…” (Phil 1:12). I wonder how God is “advancing the gospel” through our lockdown? He went on to say that he wasn’t content to “just sit there” wallowing in prison… “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Phil 3:12). Maybe this time is a time to reflect on what God has been doing in you – what he has “taken hold of you” for and begin to explore how you can “press on towards it!”
Well, you can’t just sit there can you?!
No looking back - 16/5/20
The world has changed. We have come a long way without actually going anywhere. We have stayed at home. We have modified our behaviour. We have learned to do things differently. The crisis in which we find ourselves has brought out the best in the vast majority of us. For those who have not suffered loss or personal tragedy, the world is in many ways a better place. We have demonstrated love for each other by simple acts of caring; by keeping in touch, by asking, “How are you?” and actually being interested in the answer, by shopping for those unable to do it for themselves, by putting bars of chocolate through our neighbour’s letterboxes and in many other strange and inventive ways. We have encouraged each other with positive words and actions and despite our circumstances have brought joy to one another. It has been a time of peace; less traffic, less people, less stress, less noise, more birdsong, more calm. Our patience has been tested and not found wanting. We have worked from home, or simply stayed at home and got under the feet of our household members, who have patiently accepted the change in domestic routine. We have frantically “Zoomed” and “Skyped” and been kind and helpful to our friends and family who are unused to the technology needed to maintain contact in this topsy-turvy world. We have seen goodness demonstrated in hundreds of different ways in thousands of YouTube clips posted from all across the world. We have faithfully honoured our NHS workers by clapping for them every Thursday night. Our children have been gently persuaded of the wisdom of social distancing and we have exercised self-control in our response to our government’s call to observe the restrictive measures placed upon us. Those who have exhibited these admirable qualities may be unaware that they are mirroring the very nature of God; putting into practice His Spirit. In the Bible, the book of Galatians tells us of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”. When we return to some sense of normality; when we don’t have to think about how we need to act in a given situation; when we can be ourselves again; I hope that we recognise that the world we have created through necessity, the world that has seen us demonstrate what we can actually be, the world that God would have us inhabit, is a world that we all want to be a part of. I hope that we choose not to go back.
Looking Good - 15/5/20
On a hot day in Paris in 1838, Louis Daguerre who was one of the early pioneers of photography, set up his large and very heavy camera high up in a building overlooking Rue du Temple. It was a very busy area filled with horse drawn carriages and pedestrians rushing up and down. Because it took about ten minutes to record an image, anything moving would not be visible, so the photograph would show an empty street. Normally. But today was going to bedifferent because on the pavement below, a man stopped to have his shoes cleaned. Because both he and the shoeshine boy were still enough for long enough, they were recorded in the photograph. Then they walked off, going about their normal daily business, totally unaware that they had just become the first people in the history of the world to have their photographs taken. They were anonymous then and they are now. How is it possible to be so significant, unknown, and not even know what you had done? Well you could be in the same boat! These are frightening days and many people are scared, some are lonely, some sick, some sad. And there you are in the middle. You may have made phone calls, delivered flowers, explained Zoom so someone so they can meet with their friends. Maybe you have knocked on a door, stepped back, had a chat, and transformed someone's day. Some may have been strangers, you just saw a need and met it. Any of these could have been highly significant for the individual, but you were unaware of it. You didn't do what you did to achieve fame and fortune, you did it because it was right. That's all. The Bible says, 'Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.' Maybe in the eyes of the person you blessed, you were the angel. You'll look good with wings.
Love letters straight from the heart - 14/5/20
The arrival of the post is now a major event in our house. What exciting letters, cards and, even better, packages will be delivered today? It is almost worth posting yourself a care package just for the excitement! I still love old fashioned letters and cards and keep lots of them in a big box. In that box, stuffed full of precious memories are: thank you letters from students, mothering Sunday cards made by my children years ago, congratulations letters from my Nan on some past achievement long forgotten plus the odd letter from the Queens lady in waiting (that is for another reflection). Some of my most precious letters are sloppy love letters from my husband, back in the day when he was still romantic. They are so cheesy that to be honest, they make me cringe reading them. All of these letters, cards and notes are precious because they remind me of the sender. They bring back happy thoughts of past times. In the book of Jeremiah God says this to the people of Israel:
‘Long ago the Lord said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”’
Being a practical type of person, I would really quite like God to write me a love letter now. One of reassurance, peace and hope. Don’t get me wrong, I love this verse from Jeremiah, it is so beautifully encouraging and reminds me that I am loved. However, when I am feeling a bit low or in need of a hug, it is not that practical. I need something tangible. My daily walk is very much a vital and tangible part of life for me right now. It is physical, beautiful, peaceful. The wind, the sun, the birdsong, the sound of water and even the rain is like a daily love letter from God waiting on my doorstep for me to open it. I may not be able to store it with my other letters and cards but it is a gift from the God who loves me with an everlasting love.
Alexa! Please stop! - 13/5/20
I live in a very noisy household! Me and my four chicks all love music and if they’re not playing one of the numerous instruments in the house then they are keeping Alexa very busy! Even Louis, my black Labrador, will join in with great enthusiasm the moment he hears a harmonica! Noise, noise, noise!!! I have to admit, I love it! Most of the time! We go from Billy Joel, to Les Miserables, to Frank Sinatra, a bit of Paloma Faith, oh and then there’s The Mamas and the Papas, maybe the odd Don Williams song, what about The Everly Brothers....don’t you just love their harmonies?! And let’s not forget the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir! Their version of How Great Thou Art is coming to an event near you....just as soon as we can start choir practice again...not on Zoom! We love music! Of pretty much every kind. Alexa keeps VERY busy! But some days, just occasionally, I’d love there to be no noise! Occasionally Alexa gets a few hours off. And there’s silence in the house....but still there can be noise! Not from Alexa, or my chicks, or Louis, or my very busy phone, but in my head! Do you know what I mean? A million thoughts going round your head that makes it almost impossible to hear anything clearly! A traffic jam of thoughts, worries, stresses, more thoughts, ‘what ifs’, busyness, loneliness.....You don’t have to live with four chicks and a big dog for there to be noise in your head. Sometimes silence can be the most deafening of all. Your external circumstances may look wonderful and calm and beautiful.....but maybe you’re screaming inside for some peace? God said these words in the Bible, ‘Be still, and know that I am God’. He wasn’t saying, ‘stop all the music, everybody shut up, nobody speak’. Nor was He saying, ‘I’m going to explain everything to you and tell you just what I’m going to do next’. No. He was saying in the midst of the deafening silence, the excruciating loneliness, the constant music, the relentless ‘To Do’ list....I am God. Trust me. Allow me to walk with you. Know my peace. My home will never be quiet. And I love that. But to know peace in the midst of a bit of Status Quo....it’s a gift from God!
It's only a day - 12/5/20
It’s funny how a twenty four hour period can be significant. We mark the day we were born or married, when we started work or retired. There are birthdays and anniversaries, and those days that we can’t put a date to, like the day we learned to ride a bike or the day we passed our driving test. Do you remember that magical life transforming day when you first saw your future wife/husband? Might need to be careful with that one! Can you put a date to it? I can’t. Sunday is a special day celebrated by two billion people worldwide because it reminds us of the day God rested after Creation, and the day Jesus was resurrected. Then there are those ‘special’ days, organised by unknown individuals or groups for mysterious or obvious reasons. This year we have already had Jelly Bean Day, Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Day, and National Skipping Day. Coming up In May, we can look forward toMother Goose Day, (when’s Mother’s Day?) and Nerd and Geek Pride Day. Later in the year Yorkshire Day makes an appearance. We’ll all celebrate that won’t we! But in these scary days people are beginning to realise that every day is special. We wake up grateful for another day to live our lives, and hopefully make the twenty four hoursworthwhile by our attitudes and activities. Did we make a contribution to someone’s life yesterday? Will we today? The Bible tells us that Jesus taught His followers to pray, and part of that prayer includes the words, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ It’s areminder to take life a day at a time, and also that our daily needs are provided by God. In the most famous of all the Psalms, the 23 rd Psalm, David starts by stating, ‘The Lord is my shepherd,’ indicating his relationship with God, and he ends his Psalm with these words, ‘Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all thedays of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.’ This indicates that all of our days, yesterday, today, forever, are in God’s hands. This fills me with gratitude and optimism. What does it do for you?
Dream on - 11/5/20
So here we are, still in lockdown. How many days have we had like this? Don’t know. How many more days to come locked up? Don’t know. What do we think about? Most people think about the freedom we used to have. We could walk to the park without getting arrested. Good grief, we could actually sit on the same bench as a stranger! In those mad days we could jump on a train full of people and walk around Liverpool One. And it wasn’t even an essential journey! Did I dream that? Do you think about the places you have been to, and re-live your holidays and those exotic locations, like Scarborough and Yarmouth? Some of you may even have flown somewhere. Remember jet travel? Many people have run out of memories or are bored by them so they’ve given up looking back and have decided to risk looking forward. Dream on! I want to go to New York. Some of my family, or maybe all of them, would like to join me. We could do lots of things together, but for one or two days I just need, really need, to look at some buildings but I don’t want to bore my companions so I will do that by myself. Brilliant. Dream on! One of the really amazing aspects of Christianity is that whatever our current circumstances, no matter how bad or scared we feel, we can always look forward. Always. Listen to what St Paul writes, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.’ The Bible tells us that God will make a new Heaven and a new Earth, and Jesus told those who follow Him, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” Forget going to the park or Liverpool One or even New York, God has better plans for those who have faith in His Son. If I just have a shed in Heaven, I will be ecstatic.
And I’m not dreaming.
Lightbulb moment - 10/5/20
Forgiveness is a funny thing; it warms the heart and cools the sting. Thomas A. Edison was working on a crazy contraption called a "light bulb" and it took a whole team of people 24 hours to put just one together. The story goes that when Edison was finished with one light bulb, he gave it to a young helper, who nervously carried it up the stairs. Step by step he cautiously watched his hands, obviously frightened of dropping such a priceless piece of work. You've probably guessed what happened by now; the poor young fellow dropped the bulb at the top of the stairs. It took the entire team twenty-fourmore hours to make another bulb. Finally, tired and ready for a break, Edison was ready to have his bulb carried up the stairs. He gave it to the same young boy who dropped the first one. Now that's proper forgiveness! When Paul wrote to the quarrelsome people in the Colossian church, he said “Bear with one another and forgive one another… forgive as the Lord forgave you.” When the Lord forgave us at the cross, he wiped the slate clean and gave us a brand-new start – a brand new life! Let’s be thankful today that God has forgiven us – but let’s take on board what Paul said – “forgive, as the Lord forgave you.” Now that’s proper forgiveness!
How cold my toes, tiddly pom - 9/5/20
Don’t you just love Winnie the Pooh?! I grew up listening to the stories. Always feeling sorry for Eeyore, always identifying with Tigger. They went on many adventures together with the rest of their friends, often involving honey bees, Heffalumps, Woozles and the wisdom of Pooh Bear! Yes, this, ‘Silly old bear’, seemed to speak such wonderful common sense! How about, ‘Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your hearts’? Every grandparent will be nodding now! Or what about, ‘We didn’t realise we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun’? And then there’s, ‘Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them’? Wow! Straightforward, simple, easy language! Winnie the Pooh had such a simple and humble take on life and he’s been teaching us ever since! If only we didn’t complicate things quite so much. Maybe you’re a bit like me and you want to figure everything out, find answers to life’s big questions, fathom God out??? Do you want to understand exactly what He’s up to? Me too!! But, in the Bible God is talking to Isaiah and He explains to him,
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways....As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”.
I can look at the world and stress and fret and see all the injustices and question and question and question where God is in it all. And when I don’t get the answers I can become angry or bitter or blame God. Or, I can accept that I don’t understand everything (most things!) that are going on in the world, and I never will. But, like Pooh Bear, I can do my part to make this world a better place, trust the One who does know what’s going on, take a deep breath and thank Him that He holds the future.
Another brick in the wall - 8/5/20
I have now been employed by the same government department for forty three years. In that time I have done many different jobs; it's the way of the Civil Service. Today you are the expert in a particular field, tomorrow you'll be expected to turn your hand to something else. I have been a specialist in my present field for the past seventeen years. Without being immodest, I'm good at what I do. It was not my plan to retrain in order to do a completely different job. It was my plan to potter along for the next year until I retire, but then Coronavirus happened. Suddenly there is a need for people from across government to pitch in and help. A need to do something different. A need to deal with the millions of people who find themselves without their normal source of income. A need to do what is necessary to deal with the problem of the day. A need to do what is in front of us... and in so doing, rebuild our society. In the book of Nehemiah we read about the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. All but a remnant of the Jewish nation had been exiled to Babylon and in their absence, “the wall [of Jerusalem] had been broken down and its gates had been burned with fire”. Nehemiah saw what was necessary to deal with the problem. He enlisted everybody available to help with the rebuilding. Priests and high priests, goldsmiths and perfume makers, merchants and district rulers – together with their sons and daughters - all took on what was needed. Wall building and gate repairs were not their forte, but they took on the challenge. We are told that they rebuilt the part of the wall that was in front of their house. They literally did what was in front of them... and in so doing, they rebuilt the walls. We too have the opportunity to step out and deal with the problem of the day. We can take on the challenge. We can be an NHS volunteer responder, we can do shopping for people, we can send somebody a bunch of flowers to let them know they're not forgotten, we can give somebody a call and relieve their loneliness, we can present a quiz for our friends on a WhatsApp group, we can run bingo sessions on Zoom, we can pray for people... we can simply do what's in front of us... and in so doing, we can build God's kingdom.
Ticket to ride - 7/5/20
I have a love hate relationship with coach journeys. Those journeys squashed up with a stranger who will not stop talking all the way from Glasgow to Campbeltown…4 hours of unwelcome company! The time that, en route to our hotel in Germany, I had to administer first aid in the aisle, whilst we were travelling at 70 + mph on the autobahn and remain calm as blood leaked from a poor 15 year olds arm.No idea how it happened either but we discovered no bandages in our first aid kit. I had to improvise with women’s feminine products! That was definitely up there on worst trips. Then again, coach journeys are also wonderful. As a teacher, the months of planning a 4-day foreign residential trip were so stressful. However, at midnight, as the coach pulled away from the local swimming baths in Coventry, I would ease back and breathe. The kids were all on the bus, passports had been checked, nap time beckoned. When I travel up to Scotland the 4 hour bus journey from Glasgow to Campbeltown is simply stunning. I can read, gaze at the scenery and again, kick back and chill. As a Christian, we sometimes refer to our life as a journey of faith. However, we cannot be passengers, gazing out at the scenery. If that is all we remain, we become a tour bus Christian. We become insulated from the real-world activity and excitement of Gods work. OK, it might be a darn sight easier at times as there is not much to do if you are a passenger; but we are called to be light and salt in Gods world and we cannot do it from the comfort of the passenger seat. Matthew chapter 5, puts it like this:
“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?”
We may have lots of reasons or excuses as to why we want to stay on the bus but age, ability, gender, job, lifestyle, etc are no barrier to getting involved. An American pastor called Lee Strobel said this: “I don’t want to just observe cathedrals through my bus window; I want to roll up my sleeves and build one. Lord use me to build a living cathedral dedicated to your glory”.
Right, stop the bus, I want to get off and join in Gods adventure.
Knowing the Father - 6/5/20
Today is my Dad’s birthday, he is 81 years old. Like many people who have celebrated birthdays during lockdown, he will have to mark the occasion in a slightly different way. There will be no going out for a celebratory lunch, or family and friends popping in offering their best wishes. As social distancing dictates, there will be no hugs and kisses (apart from those given by my mum). Still, he is in good company, as even the Queen cancelled her customary birthday gun salute last week as she celebrated her 94th birthday. But whilst the parties may have been postponed, people across the UK are getting creative and forging new and unforgettable birthday memories. I’m not sure my Dad will throw a virtual party, or make a party playlist, but I think he might open a tin of his favourite rice pudding and help himself to an extra packet of sweets from the sweet tin (which my Mum keeps hiding, and my Dad keeps finding). Anyone who knows my Dad will know that he has a passion for the sweet stuff – and we’re not talking about my mum, Mary! Probably the most catastrophic event to happen during lockdown is the fact that he will miss out on the birthday box at church! I have also inherited my Dad’s sweet tooth, along with his short stature, brown eyes, and of course, his good looks… I know what food he likes, what TV programmes he enjoys, and what books he reads. I know the things that make him smile and the things that bring him the most joy. You see, I know my Dad pretty well.
Timothy Keller, a well-known Christian author, writes “knowing the Father is essentially what Christianity is all about, it’s about relationship”. You can’t have a personal relationship without knowing anything about the person. Jesus says in John 15, verse 6 –
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus coming to this world in human flesh, living a sinless life, dying on a cross, resurrected to life, making a way for us to come to the Father, is all about God wanting us to know Him in a personal way. Our example of how to know the Father comes through Jesus. He didn’t just know about us, he moved towards us. He knows our innermost thoughts, our struggles, our desires, and he loves us even with all our flaws. Knowing the Father is more important than anything else.
Promises, promises - 5/5/20
25 years ago I stood at the front of our church dressed in white in the middle of a heatwave and promised to love, honour and something else that for the life of me I can’t remember. I know it definitely wasn’t obey - I remember that much. I think my words were “I’m not promising to obey because he might be wrong”. In fairness there have been occasions when he was wrong and I know for a fact that he would say the same of me. Love – tick. Honour – tick. But how do I know if I kept my other promise when I can’t remember what it was? I’ve made lots of other promises along the way: I promise I won’t be late; I promise to remember to put the bins out; I promise it’ll be my turn get up early with the kids tomorrow – and if I’m honest, I’ve broken lots of my promises along the way. “Sorry, I got held up”; “Sorry, I forgot”; “Sorry, I was too busy”.We live in uncertain times when everything we thought we could depend on has changed and we’ve had to adapt very quickly. Many people are struggling with anxiety, stress and loneliness while others are desperate for the time to come when they can hug grandchildren and loved ones again. As we move forward, there are more changes to come as we work out as a nation how to come out of lockdown safely. Nothing feels very easy at the moment, a visit to the supermarket needs to beplanned to make sure that nothing is forgotten while the route around the shop is mapped out for us and we are served from behind a perspex screen. Even going for a walk is fraught with new etiquettes when you meet others on the way. But as we work out what the future looks like and what this new ‘normal’ will be, we need to remember one of God’s promises to us:"So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic for the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”We can face each day with a bold confidence knowing that God goes with us and before us. He will never leave us to get on with it, he’s beside us in everything we face, every uncertainty and every rocky road. But what if he forgets? He won’t. The Psalmist tells us: He will keep his agreement forever; he will keep his promises always. That is something that you can rely on – he won’t ever forget and he’ll ALWAYS deliver on his promises. So, sorry Jon, I simply can’t remember what I promised but I guess after 25 years then I’ve either done it or you haven’t missed it!
No hiding place - 4/5/20
On Saturday evening we sat down to watch two celebrity quizzes. There were twelve celebrities in total, and we knew none of them. Not one! It made us wonder where we had been for the last forty+ years, or where they had been. Many people follow celebrities and mimic their lives. They base their choice of clothing on the fashionsense of the celebrity, or they copy their activities, attitudes, or beliefs. David Icke has900,000 followers on his blog, despite Facebook and You Tube banning him. It could take Sunrise the rest of the year to build up that kind of following! To put it into perspective, Beyonce has a following of 141 million!!! So many people want to be like their heroes, but the truth is you can’t be anybody but yourself. The first case in legal history where a suspect was convicted of a crime based on the uniqueness of fingerprints was in USA in 1903. Even identical twins have unique fingerprints. When I was (wrongly) arrested for theft, I spent fourteen hours in a police cell and my face was photographed from three different angles, they took a sample of DNA, and nineteen impressions of my fingerprints although I only have ten fingers. If I had broken out of my cell, it wouldn’t matter where in the world I ran to, and how I changed my appearance, my DNA and fingerprints would identify me out of sevenbillion people. There is only one me. There is only one you. This reminds me that God said, “I am God, and there is no other, I am God, and there is none like me” The Bible tells us that God knows us individually, and He knows where to find us amongst seven billion. King David asked the question, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” He concluded that he could never hide from God. This was not meant to be frightening or intimidating; David was delighted that God always knew where he was. We need to remember that we are unique because that’s how God made us, and we can take comfort in the knowledge that He can find us amongst seven billion other unique individuals. However you feel this morning, you are not invisible to God. If you can trust Him like David did, He will walk with you.
Oggy, oggy, oggy! - 3/5/20
I have a confession to make! Brace yourselves! I think some people may be offended by this, but here goes.... Up until the middle of this week, I’d never heard of Max Boyce! I’m sorry. Sorry to all you committed Max Boyce fans out there. Sorry to all my Welsh friends...I’ll do my best to make it up to you! Call me dozy, call me mindless and ridiculous. But I’d never heard of him! To be fair, maybe I look older than I am, I was -2 when he started out. But yes, I have been known to be a bit spacey on occasions, like the time I returned from Guatemala and didn’t have a clue who the Spice Girls were during their most popular time, or then there was the time I shredded my bosses ‘To Do’ pile....that’s a story for another day! But this week, a lovely friend of mine, sent me a poem, written by Max Boyce. It’s a beautiful poem called, ‘When Just the Tide Went Out’. And Max, or Mr Boyce, reads it with such meaning and heart. I replied to my friend, ‘That’s just beautiful’ and then came those shocking words....‘who’s Max Boyce?’ Me and my big mouth! My friend, lovely Will, went in to a mini meltdown. I tried telling him, ‘Will, I’m a lot younger than you....’ But it fell on deaf ears! I then got educated on the wonderful Max Boyce! Oggy Oggy Oggy!!..... Oi, Oi, Oi!!! I’m still confused! After that wonderful and hilarious revelation, it got me thinking....isn’t it good that I’m not God! I mess up, cause trouble, say the wrong things, do the wrong things, don’t have all the answers and in the whole scheme of things, I only know very few people....and I don’t know everything about anybody! Not even myself! On the other hand, God never messes up, He never says or does the wrong thing, He has an answer for everything and He knows everything about everybody! What an awesome God we have. He didn’t create us and then forget about us. On the contrary, He created us, He knows us and He desperately wants us to know Him. He knows Max Boyce. He knows what makes him tick. He was there when Max thought up ‘Oggy Oggy Oggy’ and then thought up ‘Oi, Oi, Oi’. How wonderful that our creator God is interested, in fact, completely besotted, in you and me!! There’s so many bible verses I could put to this, saying God is our friend, God is all knowing, all loving, God is our creator and rescuer....I could go on all day! And so, today, let’s thank God that He is God and nobody else is! Let’s thank Him that He knows us intimately, and He loves us unconditionally. And Max, er Mr Boyce, I’m sorry I didn’t know you, if you like, we can be friends, and I promise, that from now on, when you say Oggy, I’ll say Oi.
Let there be hope - 2/5/20
Working as a doctor is always a privilege. Every day, I get to see the very best of humanity. I see immense courage, unshakeable love and impossible resilience in my patients and in my colleagues. I remind myself daily that the position of trust I find myself in requires my all, and that I should take joy in being able to serve in this way. But, if I’m honest, the last month has been really, really tough. Our patients with coronavirus can become very sick very quickly. It’s impossible to predict who will recover and who won’t. Families can no longer come to visit their loved ones and our patients can no longer see our faces because our countenances are obscured by masks and visors. Many of our patients do not survive their admission, and as I hold their hand and they take their final breath, my heart breaks, again, because another has been lost and another family has been torn apart. Our efforts feel futile and it seems that death has won. The darkness is all consuming: is there any hope? Despite everything – all of the pain, all of the anguish and all of the despair - I do still have a sure and certain hope. This hope I have isn’t a nebulous, can’t-put-your-finger-on-it, far off idea. It isn’t just a dream of better days ahead or a longing for sunshine after the rain. The hope I have is bold and fierce and it guards my heart. The hope I have is a person, and his name is Jesus Christ. The suffering we experience and observe is so real and so devastating, but because of Jesus, hope is alive. Even when it feels that the night will never end and that morning will never come, He is Emmanuel, God with us: in the suffering, in the sorrow, in the trials and the darkest valleys – He never gives up and never fails, He is always good and always true.Perhaps you’re reading this feeling angry: if God is real and is as good as I’m saying He is, why is this global pandemic occurring anyway? Surely if He is all-powerful and all-loving, He would never allow something like this to happen? I certainly do not profess to having a straight-forward answer. But what I can offer you is the truth that my weary soul is clinging to: God’s love for us was proven by Jesus’ death on the cross, and His power was proven by his glorious resurrection three days later. Jesus declared on the cross that it is finished: the power of death and sin was left in the tomb and the victory had been won: His death had secured for us eternal life and His suffering had bought our salvation.Looking around us, it might not feel like this is the case. Battles are indeed still being fought, but the war has, without a shadow of a doubt, been won. One day, Jesus will return to make everything perfect, as He created it to be. On that day, everything will be made new. There will be no more death, no more sickness, no more sorrow and no more pain, and Jesus himself will wipe away every tear from our eyes. But until that day, I live in hope. The hope of Christ sustains me, because Jesus is a King Triumphant, alive and reigning sovereign over it all. The hope of Christ anchors my soul, and I hold firm to it, because He who promised is faithful.
More than just a number - 1/5/20
When I was born, I was given a number. It was my National Health number. I still have the card with it printed on. Later, when I attained working age, I was given a National Insurance Number. It still appears on my payslip, together with the staff number I was given forty three years ago. I can recite all of them on command. My Dad can still remember his National Service number from 1953. Some numbers just stick with us. Many of you will have similar numbers attached to significant events and milestones in your life. Numbers are all around us... I'm one of more than sixty seven million UK citizens, I'm fifty nine years old, I'm five feet eleven inches tall, I weigh eleven stone, seven pounds and the youngsters among you can spend the next ten minutes converting the figures to metric. Numbers quantify us, numbers identify us, numbers measure us. Many of us are currently fascinated with numbers. We study them on a daily basis; numbers of people infected, numbers of people in hospital, numbers of people tested, numbers of people dying. We see the numbers, we see the graphs, we see the statistics. We don't want to be included in those statistics. We don't want to be one of those numbers. It's easy to forget that each of those numbers is a person. You may remember the sixties TV show, The Prisoner. It has a classic set of opening credits, containing the oft quoted and parodied line, “I'm not a number, I'm a free man!” Some of us may have felt like yelling that at one time or another. Well, it's true. You are not a number. Not in God's eyes. In God's eyes, you are so much more. The Psalmist puts it this way, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well”. He is telling us that God not only knows us, but He made us and did a good job of it too! God values us and understands us. We are His precious and wonderful creation. He knows all about us. He even knows the number of hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30). He values us so much that He sent Jesus to die for us. All of us; “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes on Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”.