October '21 Sunrises 

''Lights On” - 31/11/21

Throughout many countries of the world today people will be celebrating Halloween. Some will be having parties, some will be dressing up in funny costumes while others will choose the horrifying and scary ones. There’ll be knocks on the door with chants of, ‘trick or treat’ while others will be putting on the scariest film they can find, daring themselves to watch it. 

It’s funny how this is now what Halloween has become. Halloween is actually ‘All Hallows Eve’, or to put it another way the eve of All Saints Day. Traditionally it’s a day of celebration and thanksgiving for all the people who have gone before us that reflected the love of God in some way. 

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

Being light it’s not simply about rejecting the horrors of this world. It’s about doing our very best to reflect to Jesus. It’s refusing to tell lies, to gossip, to use cruel words that can harm and destroy, it’s about treating our fellow human beings with kindness and respect, and treating animals and our beautiful world with kindness and respect too. It’s about going the extra mile, forgiving those who’ve done us wrong, refusing jealousy and hatred and  unrighteous anger. Jesus was saying, at all times and in all circumstances reflect my light.   

However you choose to spend your Halloween, I choose to thank God for all the ‘light reflectors’ that have gone before us, and also each one of you and for the part you play in bringing light to our sometimes very dark world. Thankyou. Lots of love to you all

'The Budget' - 30/10/21

This week saw another budget announcement from our government, for some it’s a time of intrigue, others may worry, others won’t care. For some, it’s an opportunity to criticise or for others it’s a time to praise. For some, we sit back and see what will happen, how will we have to change our own spending to cope with the changes.

We may feel powerless about things going on around us, we can’t change it immediately, if at all, but it will most likely impact how we live our lives.

The same can be said about the climate conference in Glasgow, big decisions will hopefully be made that will lessen our impact on climate change. We can do our own little bit, we can share our opinions and thoughts, we can change how we live and do our part but others will be making those significant decisions.

As Christians, we can have our say and do so in love but also in confidence that our God is watching over us and he will be with us. We also have a hope and faith that God has plans for us, we may not know the detail but we can trust Him.

We can pray for those who can make those decisions that God will guide their conscience, for the Christians in government who can share their beliefs and values of caring for Gods world and people.

Our Melling church community has already shown how we can support and share with those around us.

Let’s continue to support those around us but also pray for those who are in government who need to make those big decisions.

In the bible book, 1 Timothy chapter 2, we are encouraged

The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation.

 

''A Day Full Of Rainbows” - 29/10/21

I spent a lovely day in the Lake District earlier this week. The scenery is rewarding at any time of year, but the colours of Autumn are particularly beautiful. My wife and I walked one of our favourite walks; from the chain link car ferry near Sawrey to Wray Castle. It is a four and a half mile stroll over fairly flat terrain along the shore of Lake Windermere. On arrival at the castle we took in the delights of Joey's Café - coffee and apple sponge cake, which is delicious; unless you don't like apples, or cake, or the thought of having to walk four and a half miles to get some.

The weather was typical of any day in the Lakes... changeable. We were well sheltered from the intermittent rain by the canopy of trees that hug the shoreline and were able to look across the lake to see the hillside opposite bathed in glorious sunshine. Of course, the combination of rain and sunshine produces rainbows and there were plenty on view during the day. They were all recorded for posterity in a series of photographs that were published on our family WhatsApp chat under the heading, "A day full of rainbows".

The changeable nature of the day's weather struck me as a metaphor for life in general. It is constantly changing and we never quite know what is around the corner. There will be sunny days and rainy days and sometimes there will be rainbows... a beautiful and joyful splash of colour that lifts our spirits. God once put a rainbow in the sky as a promise to Noah that He would not flood the earth again. I have often looked upon a rainbow as a promise not only that God would not flood the earth, but that He is always there in order to fulfil that promise.

Our lives and the events in them may change and some of them may feel overwhelming at times, but we should all hold on to the promise that God will be there. As sure as rainbows follow sunshine in the rain, God will be with us through all of life's changes. More than that, He himself will never change. He will always remain steadfast in His care for us and His concern for our wellbeing. He will always be there to love us and to guide us. "Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments".

We all live a life full of rainbows, so the next time you see one, remember that not only did God create the wonderful spectrum of colour that you are looking at, but that He also created you and that He loves you and that He always will... no matter what changes may happen.

''Perfect Love” - 28/10/21

“See now that it’s one of the paradoxes of life that if we love it so much that we are frightened of losing it, it can make us live a half-life, too scared to get out there and live whole-heartedly because we have too much to lose.”

Fiona Valpy, the dressmakers gift

This book is the story of three seamstresses in 1940 Nazi occupied Paris. Its shows how their secrets and the choices they make because of them affect not only their lives, but the lives of their families that follow them

I am sure we all have our own fears and worries. Some of them will be big, some small and fleeting. Many will be very understandable. After all, we only have to turn on the news or listen to the radio to discover that there is an awful lot of painful, distressing and fearful events and circumstances in our world at the present time.

I started going through in my mind all the things that we could be fearful about today. After about 20mins, I had to stop and have a nice cup of tea and a lie down. There is so much my head nearly exploded. It’s very overwhelming.

So, in the knowledge of all of these events, how do we carry on? How do we keep going?

Jesus tells us the answer is love. Not just any love, but the all-encompassing never-ending Love of God. Not that this love will make everything go away, but that knowing that Gods love surrounds us and is part of us, enables us to feel secure in that love, and to keep on loving others, and to keep going.

1 John 4:17-19

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved by God, now we love. God loved us first.

So whether today you are on top of the world, or you are still peeping out from under the duvet wondering if its worth getting up today, chose to love. Spend some time today letting Gods love enfold you, and take his hand in your and step out into the world with his love, and keep going.

And if you really are having a duvet day, let someone know. Church is all about being there for each other, and Melling Baptist is here to help

 

''Feathers In My Pillow” - 26/10/21

There is an old Jewish story that tells of an elderly man who told a little boy to go to the village square and rip open two pillows full of feathers and shake the feathers out. The little boy was confused, but thought it would be fun. He was then instructed to gather up all the feathers and put them back into the pillows. There’s no surprise that he couldn’t do it. Every time he tried to gather the feathers up they floated in to the air and drifted in all directions. After much time the tired and defeated little boy sat down on the ground. ‘I can’t gather them all up. It’s just impossible to get all the feathers back’. The old man came and sat beside him looking at the village square now covered in feathers. ‘These feathers are just like gossip and cruel words. Once spoken they are out there and can never be taken back’. 

The Bible puts it like this, ‘"The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing". Proverbs 12:18 

God hates it when we choose words to hurt, slander, insult and destroy. He wants us to use our words to bring encouragement, support, understand and blessing. Isn’t life tough enough without the addition of cruel words? 

Paul wrote a whole chapter on the importance of love…

‘Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love’.

Maybe we should all pause before we speak and ask ourselves, ‘Am I speaking the truth? Am I being kind? Are my words uplifting and encouraging? Will the person I’m speaking about be blessed by my words?’ If not, then let’s keep those ‘feathers in the pillow’ and help each other get through this sometimes tough and crazy journey called life.

 

 

''Feel The Love” - 26/10/21

This morning I woke up with a cold.  It’s the kind of cold that makes you feel really sorry for yourself with a bunged up nose, a croaky throat, shivers and headaches.  I could have picked my cold up from just about anywhere – except that I didn’t.  My husband picked it up from ‘anywhere’ and very kindly and generously passed it on to me – he’s very good like that, he’s very good at sharing.  

While I might be feeling a bit rotten today, I know that it is just a cold and in a few days’ time I will be feeling much better again, but others are really struggling and fighting very real battles with health or family problems or financial worries.  Not all of our problems will go away in a couple of days’ time.

Being part of God’s community, however, means that when we face these battles we never face them alone, we face them together and when things might feel just too difficult, that’s when God’s people can show His love through our prayers, through our practical support and by offering a listening ear.  The Bible tells us: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

But it gets even better than that!  God tells us: “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.  I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”  God has never promised that His people won’t face difficulties, or that He will fix every problem that we face, but He has promised us that he will walk with us; He will remain with us and when it feels just too difficult to keep going, He will give us the strength that we need.

If only all of life’s problems faded as quickly as a cold!  But remember that whatever you face today or tomorrow, you don’t face it alone.  Be encouraged because you stand with a whole community of God’s people surrounding you and supporting you and loving you; you stand in the strength of God the Father who is holding you close and will never let you go.

 

 

''Make Your Mind Up” - 25/10/21

I have a list. I imagine you have one too, or maybe lots of lists. You may have made one today because you intend to redecorate the kitchen and you need to know what to put in your trolley while you wander around the miles of shelving in B&Q. It’s a real pain if you realise when you get home that you forgot that the side of the door in the kitchen is a different colour to the other side. And that’s just one list, you could have many. I do too but the list I’m thinking about has been on my phone calendar for years. It all started when I thought that, as life was changing for me, it was appropriate to make a list of the things that I wanted to do just for me. That sounds really selfish, but I can defend myself by telling you that all I’ve done over the years is add to it. There are now 32 items on my ‘to do’ list. Some of them would only take a day to complete, but some would take months, possibly longer. My trip to New York hasn’t even made it to my list yet! I’m not complaining because my life is made up of other things, which are important either for me or other people. I guess that the truth for all of us is that we need (or want) more days in the week and more months in the year, and probably we would like more years in the life. Its possible of course that what we really need is more life in the years. Its very easy for us to be side-tracked by chatty phone calls, TV soaps, sitting in the garden when the sun shines, or checking who’s doing what on Instagram. Suddenly the day is over, so that thing we were going to do today will have to wait until tomorrow, if we can fit it in. 
I think many of us are familiar with Solomon’s words about time, such as, ‘…..There’s a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak….’ For some of us, it may be the time to make our minds up, be more disciplined and targeted. If we look back over the last five years, how many things have we done that have been worthwhile compared to things that have made no difference to anybody’s life? Time comes from God, let’s make sure He doesn’t regret His gift.

 

''Warning Lights” - 24/10/21

In many modern cars, when you switch the car on there seems to be a vast array of warning lights and symbols, and thankfully they then all go off. However, every now and then, one of them might come back on again!

The main issue is, what does it mean???

The thing about warning lights is that without having the book to refer to, a lot of them don’t always make sense. You need to scour through the many, many pages of the manual to find out what it is. But then, most of the time, you can t actually do anything about without going to a garage and sometimes it has to be back to a main dealer before you can resolve the problem and get the light turned off.

Sometimes, I get a warning from other people, or perhaps a polite reminder. I often need some advice and understanding from a friend to realise where I am going wrong.

There are other occasions when I get a warning from my conscience and I need to take notice and understand what the warning is about.  When you understand the warning, you then need to do something about it.

In the Bible, we are advised to listen to what God says to us and to do what it says.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. 

Let’s listen out for God’s voice, listen to His guidance and follow in His steps. He has given us a great manual for life already, the Bible. Let’s use it to make sure we are not missing any warning lights. Next time you sit in the car and see that array of warning lights, think how God is leading us.

 

 

''How Do You See The Glass?” - 22/10/21

You may at some stage in your life have been asked the question, “Do you see the glass as half-full, or half-empty?”. This question is, of course, nothing to do with your view of liquids in a drinking vessel. It is to do with your view of life. Are you likely to put a positive spin on your situation, or a negative one? Do you find yourself answering the statement, “It’s turned out nice again!” with the rejoinder, “Yes, let’s enjoy it while we can!”, or do you reply, “I suppose we better make the most of it, it’ll be raining tomorrow!”.

I was once asked this question at a job interview. My response was that I simply saw the glass as being twice as big as it needed to be. I don’t know if the interviewer found my answer profound or confusing, but either way, I got the job, so who cares?

How we view our respective situations is important and is usually informed by our past experiences as much as our current predicaments, but what if our view was influenced simply by our relationship with God? How would that change our outlook?

In the book of Ephesians in the Bible, the Apostle Paul prays for the believers in Ephesus, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”.

Paul is asking that the believers be filled with God. He doesn’t ask that their glass be half-filled with God, but filled to the measure and not just filled, but filled with the fullness of God... all of it; full to overflowing.

So, what does it mean to be filled with the fullness of God? Well, when we are filled with something, that thing becomes the overwhelming influence in our actions and behaviours. To be filled with the fullness of God means that He will be what determines our response to the situation in which we find ourselves. Our thoughts, our feelings, our desires, our hopes, our relationships, our words, our actions. To be filled with the fullness of God means that we will be conscious of His presence and will respond in His will, understanding that His way is based on love, peace and understanding. God wants us to be filled with His Spirit, so that we are His living image and that our lives will be the better for it and so will the lives of those we meet.

So, maybe the next time somebody asks you the question you will be able to say that your glass is full to overflowing.

 

 

''Moles or Moles?” - 21/10/21

“All that that I learn just teaches me that I know nothing.”
Philippa Gregory, The Lady of the Rivers

The Lady of the Rivers is a historical novel and covers the reign of Henry VI, and the life of Jacquetta of Luxembourg, mother of Elizabeth Woodville, who became queen consort.

I was reminded of this quote this week whilst attempting to help with my daughters’ homework. When I asked what the homework was about, she told me it was about Moles. In my naivety, I thought ‘I know about moles, they are small and furry with bad eyesight and they dig up your garden’. It actually turned out that the homework was not about these types of moles at all, but a unit of measurement in chemistry, also called Moles! It was very confusing, and it turns out that a knowledge of garden animals is no help at all when trying to balance chemical equations!

I must confess that there are many subjects in life that I know absolutely nothing about, and I get very easily confused. I once talked to an American man who told me he worked in a Body shop! I thought he meant The Body shop, and he actually meant a car workshop! The conversation was very amusing and confusing until I realised my mistake!

It is definitely true that the more you learn about life, the more you realise there is to learn, and I seem to lurch from wonderous amazement at how brilliant the world is, to utter confusion as to how things work.

Thankfully though, God never gets confused. Jeremiah 33 reminds us:

This is God’s Message, the God who made earth, made it liveable and lasting, known everywhere as God: ‘Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvellous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.’

Whether you are trying to figure out garden animals or chemical

''Would I Lie To You” - 20/10/21

The television programme, ‘Would I Lie To You’ is a quiz show where the point of the game is that you have to convince fellow contestants that whatever you’re saying is the truth. It’s very funny. Some of the stories are ridiculous and clearly a lie. Other stories are ridiculous and completely true!! It’s a great programme. But lying for a quiz show is a lot different to lying in our daily lives. 

I read these words the other day, ‘Tell a lie once and all your truths become questionable’. Isn’t that just so true?!! These don’t have to be huge, complicated lies. Being casual about our promises and speaking half truths can be just as damaging. Gradually people start to doubt our words and eventually all trust is lost. And once that trust is lost it takes a long time to be restored. 

The Bible says, ‘God can’t stomach liars; he loves the company of those who keep their word’.

The words that we speak are important. Not only is truthfulness important, but kindness, integrity and patience too. Let’s choose our words carefully and leave the lies to the game show!

‘May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer’.

''Wearing Love” - 19/10/21

I am sure you will have watched the news with the same horror as I did as we received reports of the murder of Sir David Amess MP.  A man who was doing the job that he was appointed by the people to do.  I take no political stance when I share my sadness that yet again we find ourselves hearing that a life has been lost simply because somebody disagreed with them.  Even now, as MP’s call for kindness to be shown they continue to receive death threats – is this truly a reflection of the society we have become? 

Thankfully, I don’t think it is.  I think it is a reflection of a minority of loud and angry voices that sadly can sometimes be heard above those quieter voices that seek understanding, progress and compromise.

As they seek to come to terms with their loss, David Amess’s family have asked people to set aside hatred; to set aside their differences and to show kindness and love.  

We will always have disagreements with people and differences of opinion; no one will ever have the perfect view point so that they never get anything wrong but the Bible is clear that there is no tolerance for us to hold onto hatred for one another: “Be gentle with one another, sensitive.  Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.”  

Not one of us is perfect, not one of us hasn’t made a mistake – but Jesus paid the price for our mistakes and imperfections.  Life is rarely as simply as one person being right and another wrong, what is more important is our willingness to listen to one another, to talk about our differences and to work together to bring about change for good.

God asks us to show love to one another – that doesn’t mean we will always agree or see eye-to-eye, but it does mean we respect one another as we search for understanding and to show compassion.  

“So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.  Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense.  Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.  And regardless of what else you put on, wear love.”

Each day as we get out of bed, let’s actively choose to wear love so that our kind actions and quiet, gentle and compassionate voices are heard over and above those that choose to carry hate.

 

''Lightbulb Moment” - 18/10/21

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-four more 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!

 

''Give A Little” - 16/10/21

Things are never the same, are they? Well sometimes they are quite close but subtly different! These last 2 years have been very peculiar and as we endeavour to move forward from Brexit and Covid, we struggle with Deliveries (this is going through the alphabet, what’s going to happen next that begins with ‘E’ ??). Fuel and food supplies are threatened but so far its not really been that bad. You may have to buy your turkey early and freeze it, you may need to plan your Christmas shopping a bit better and not try to do it last minute like I usually do. We may need to think a bit more and not just assume that things will be available.

One of the things we need to be careful about is that we think more about what we do.

It was so sad to hear about the MP being killed when he was just trying to help others, the stories of him being an MP known for having a smile on his face, known for caring for his community and wanting to do things for them, not to progress his own political career or private interests. Such a sad time for his family and friends.

One morning this week when I woke, there was the most beautiful sunrise, as in the one in the sky, not the written one, although that was good too! The sky was mottled with a gorgeous bright pinky/purply glow as the sun came up through the clouds. It made me stop to just enjoy seeing it.

As we start this day/weekend, lets stop and think about the beauty of nature around us, no matter what the weather (rain can be as beautiful as sunshine), lets think about how we can help people, through giving them a call to have a chat, through sending them a post card or letter just to say “hi”, through taking someone out for a coffee, through taking their kids out to give them a break. There are so many ways to do things slightly differently that would make such a huge difference. 

Don’t wait to receive, stop, think and give a little with a smile, it will make such a difference.

In the Bible, we are reminded

“I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving. God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything.”

 

''The Whipping Boy” - 15/10/21

I was listening to the radio the other day. I don’t usually get to choose the radio channels on car journeys, but, on this occasion, I was alone in the car and decided to avoid the selection of mindless pop music and banal discussions of the latest international football matches. Instead, I chose to listen to a discussion on punishment. Yes, it’s a laugh a minute when I’m in charge of the dial.

The issue that fascinated me was the concept of The Whipping Boy. This was a practice in the Royal courts of Europe between the 15th and 18th Centuries. It involved a boy of a similar age to a prince, who was educated alongside the would-be monarch. This boy would receive any punishment that was due to the prince, usually flogging, because, as the son of the King, the prince was of a higher status than those who wished to punish him. He was therefore allowed to go unmolested and the whipping boy took the punishment in his stead. Apparently, the poorer gentry saw this as an opportunity for the advancement of their family and would proffer their sons for this coveted position. I’m sure the boys were delighted. The errant prince would certainly have been happy.

The good news is that not all royalty is the same. Jesus is known variously as, “The Prince of Peace” – “The Son of the Most High” – “The King of Kings”. Like the princes of early modern Europe, He was certainly of a higher status than those who chose to accuse him. The high priests who called for Him to be put to death may have been important within the Jewish community, but their importance pales into insignificance when compared to the creator of the universe. Jesus did not choose to hide behind His titles, or His authority. He chose instead to take on board the punishment meant for all of us and, in so doing, gave us all the opportunity for a fresh start; a clean slate; a second chance. He allows us to walk away unscathed from the mistakes we have made and the punishment we deserve. His actions are best summed up in the book of Philippians, which says, “Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross!”. So, we would be wrong to think of Jesus as merely our whipping boy. He is so much more than that... He is our saviour.

 

''Finding Peace” - 14/10/21

For those of you who have ever been to my house, you will have noticed a lot of books. I love books, and it’s the one thing that I find hard to give away. So the number of books in my house get bigger, and the space gets smaller. I also have a number of books given to me by other people, which then become more important to me as they are linked with the person who gave them to me. My grandmother passed on a number of books to me, both classics and books that were special to her. This week I was reading one of these, a collection of poems by an author called Eddie Askew. The book was written in 1983, but the poem was just as relevant today as it was then. Its all about finding peace in the midst of chaos. May it bring you Peace and closer to God today, as it did me:

“Peace be with you,”, That’s what you said Lord

“My peace I give to you”, That too Lord

And yet at times it seems so illusive. So hard to find.

And when its in my grasp, and I hold on tight, It disappears.

Then I look at the world. All I see is struggle.

Conflict, suffering. People at war.

At war with each other, killing for peace.

Or so they say. Although how one can make the other I can’t work out.

At war with the world. Exploiting, destroying your creation, for a quick profit.

At war with themselves. Anxious, fearful, dislocated.

Without hope or purpose. Lonely. Living from one crisis to the next.

Where IS your peace Lord? What are you trying to tell me?

When Jesus offered his peace, He was facing the cross. Head on.

And it wasn’t just words. He could talk of peace, while he felt the pain,

Because he was at peace.

At peace with you, because he knew he was doing your will.

At peace with others, because nothing they did to him could break his love for them.

At peace with himself, because he was true to himself.

And as I identify with Jesus Lord, as I discover the strength of his love,

As I come to terms with what I am, and know that I am still accepted,

The peace is there!

I can drop my defences.

I pray for all those who need your peace today. Help me to reach out with your healing.

Not just medicine but healing.

Building community, relationships. Building your Kingdom. 

Making peace, in your name.

 

'Secretary of the Year' - 13/10/21

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?

''3 Wise Monkeys” - 12/10/21

If you look around my garden under shrubs and hidden amongst ornamental grasses you will find all kinds of weird and wonderful things including the customary gnomes that come with being part of the community in Melling.  Amongst them, underneath a small olive tree and half hidden by various herbs, are a set of 3 wise monkeys which I was given as a gift.  One is covering his eyes, one has his hands over his ears and the third covers his mouth.

Their names, apparently, are Mizaru, Kikazaru and Iwazaru (try saying that in a hurry!) but there seems to be some debate about their origins and intended meaning.  In our culture we know them to represent ‘see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil’.  There are many interpretations we can take from their possible meanings but one is how it emphasises the importance of immersing ourselves in good and healthy environments where the things that we see, hear and speak are a blessing to us and to those around us.  

There is a story about Socrates where early one morning one of his students came to his house quite anxious to tell him about a rumour that he had heard.  To the young man’s dismay, Socrates told him he must think about 3 things before sharing his news:

Is it the truth?

Is it good?

Is it useful or necessary?

The young man left without sharing his news.

Our world is filled with so many voices all wanting to share their opinion on just about everything and all believing that they are right – it is easy to become confused between real news and fake news; gossip or genuine concern.  Perhaps the next time we see or hear something which we think we must share with others, we could think about those 3 things and if we can’t answer ‘yes’, then maybe the best thing to do is to put our hand across our mouths and say nothing. 

In Philippians chapter 4 it says this: “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things …and the God of peace will be with you.”

Before we simply become one of the many voices adding to the noise of the world, let’s pause for a moment while we consider if what we have to say is rooted in things that are true, pure and lovely – if they are, then let’s speak out and open our ears to hear the truth and our eyes to see what is beautiful.  As the Psalmist put it – “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

 

''The Answers Don't Help” - 11/10/21

It’s been a difficult few weeks for me and my brain. I’m left tired and irritated because things that should have made my life easier and more efficient have worn me down. A word of warning; under no circumstances should you buy a new phone and a new computer in the same month. Its not that I’ve inherited a fortune, my phone is a birthday present from my family, and the computer will replace an ancient one that is simply exhausted and totally out of date, just like my phone. If you’re like me, the information on your phone, such as the diary, the list of contacts and phone numbers, the photographs, the messages; describe your life, your priorities, and your activities. I’ve often thought that if I lost it, I would need to ask somebody who I was. I was told (mostly by the people selling the new phone) that changing was not a problem. The transfer of data and the difference in operation would be childs-play. The problem is that I’m not a child. The first thing you notice is that the start button is in a different place. Why? What was the point of messing with things that work? But that was just the start of my problems. Sitting alone with my new contraption, I discovered a folder on the phone that claimed to be the instructions. Wonderful, now I can educate myself so that my grandchildren will not smile at me and make patronising comments under their breath. So I asked my new friend how I should send and save an email. Up came the answer and that’s when my headaches began because I didn’t understand it. It appeared to be in pseudo-English which contained words I grew up with and words (I think they were words) that were not in my dictionary. To cut a long sad story short I called the kids. Problems sorted! 
Many people in 21st century Britain are confused by the theology behind Christianity and prefer not to get involved because it’s just too complicated. If you go to church, you have to understand the system and the language and the way to behave. That’s what they think so they keep away; it’s easier. But the words of Jesus are very clear and relevant, because He spoke directly to fishermen and farmers, not philosophers and professors. And they all understood the words He used; nothing fancy. Something else they noticed was that He knew what He was talking about, not all their religious teachers gave that impression. ‘When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the Law.’ So if anyone wants to understand what God wants them to hear, don’t go to Uni, grab a Bible, sit in a corner with a cup of coffee, and read what Jesus said.

 

''My Redeemer Lives” - 10/10/21

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

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

“The very same God that spins things in orbit

Runs to the weary, the worn and the weak

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

They conquered death to bring me victory”.

Click on the link below to hear this beautiful song.

https://youtu.be/XRW-jr_PnbQ

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

Psalm 121:1-2 

 

''Barmy Weather!” - 09/10/21

The weather this week has been typically unpredictable for the UK. At the start of the week, we had torrential rain and flash floods. Some parts had a months rain in 1 day, by the end of the week Scotland had its warmest ever night in October. We seem to love the way our weather changes, we love to complain about it, yet we revel in it. 

In some parts of the world, weather is all the more predictable, the forecasters can tell you almost to the minute when the rain will start and stop, the temperature is the same each day. And then we think it’s boring! Our weather does seem to be changing though and becoming more extreme, how will we cope?

Sometimes, life’s other hardships are things we revel in, the highs and lows of our lives and our emotions. We love to complain about them and yet seen to enjoy them? Some people think that being a Christian will change our lives and we wont have the same highs and lows. Our lives will always be positive and great things will happen. 

But the real change is not how this life will happen, its about our relationship with Jesus. Our view of this world will change as we look through God’s perspective. There will still be the highs and lows, but our view on things will change. As a Christian, we have a hope and faith that no matter what this life brings, we have a heavenly father who loves us and the promise of eternal life with him in heaven. 

Some say that there no such thing as bad weather just the wrong clothes.

The bible tells us that

I surely rejoice in the Lord; my heart is joyful because of my God, because he has clothed me with clothes of victory, wrapped me in a robe of righteousness.

So lets revel in the fact that Jesus loves us, he will help us through those sad times because of that love. Lets wear the right clothes and no matter what the weather does, know that Jesus loves us.

 

 

''The Wood For The Trees” - 08/10/21

On a recent outing, I drove past a church that I didn’t know was there. To be precise, I knew it was there, but I couldn’t see it anymore. So, if I hadn’t known it was there, I would not have realised that it was there... if you see what I mean. The reason that I couldn’t see it was because it was hidden by the trees and foliage within its grounds, that have grown very tall and thick and now obscure the view of the church itself.

Of course, those responsible for the upkeep of the church have not deliberately allowed the greenery to hide the building, it has happened over time. An incremental shrouding of God’s house. The trees and bushes were no more than seeds and saplings when they first opened the doors of this house of worship, but time is relentless and so it would appear is this arboreal disguise. They simply haven’t noticed that, as the years have passed, things have changed and have now reached a point that, without some action on their part, nobody will realise that there is a church there at all.

I could go off on a tangent and make the observation that this is a metaphor for many churches today. Churches that have not noticed that the world has changed and that they need to make changes themselves in order to maintain a visible presence in society, but I won’t.

Many of you reading this will no doubt have been muttering at the screen that the church is actually the people, rather than the building and therefore it is the people and their actions and behaviours that are relevant and should be visible. You are correct, of course. Thank you for bringing me back to my original point.

Jesus reminds us of this fact when He is delivering one of His most famous sermons; known as, “The sermon on the mount”. He says, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”.

We need to be sure that we do not become hidden from view. We need to ensure that what we believe is front and centre of all that we do. To acknowledge God and the part He plays in our lives and the lives of others. To glorify Him in what we say and do. We should be able to do so wherever we are; we don’t need to be in a church building for God to be our focus. Indeed, if God was only our focus when we were inside a church building then we would not be the light of the world that Jesus talks about. So, let’s give ourselves a prune and make sure that there is nothing growing in our lives that prevents people from seeing our light.

 

 

''Mission Impossible” - 07/10/21

“...it is well known that a vital ingredient of success is not knowing that what you're attempting can't be done.”
Terry Pratchett, Equal Rites

Equal Rites is the third novel which takes place in the fantasy Discworld and takes us through the adventures of what happens when an important artefact is passed to the eighth son of an eighth son, who turns out to be a girl called Esk!

In 1939, a budding mathematician called George Dantzig was at university in California. He arrived late for a class to discover two mathematical problems on the blackboard. George assumed that they were homework assignments so copied them down. He completed them at home and handed them in. Several weeks later he was very surprised to learn that he had just solved two of the most famous ‘unsolvable’ problems in statistics. Dantzig went on to have an illustrious mathematics career, and the story went on to be the basis of the well known film ‘Good Will Hunting’.

I suspect that if George had been on time for the lesson and had known that the problems were considered unsolvable, he would never have attempted them. However, not having this information gave him a very different viewpoint on what was actually possible.

It wasn’t that the problems were actually unsolvable, its just that everyone thought that they were. 

In the bible, Jesus’s friends thought that something he was describing was impossible, but Jesus reminded them that God looks at things differently, and his power and love can change even the most impossible of situations.

Matthew 19:26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

There are lots of things that we face in our lives that may seem impossible, just like those impossible maths problems. Whatever it is, lets look at it with God’s eyes, not our own. God loves us, and reminds us daily that his love and power can and does change the world. He is with us in every situation, telling us that failure is not fatal, that death is not the end and that Gods love and hope is stronger than anything the world can throw at us.

With God, lets do something seemingly impossible today!

 

‘What? No WhatsApp?’ - 06/10/21

Well Monday evening saw the complete shutdown of WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram. And the shutdown lasted for hours! We couldn’t chat on chats! We couldn’t check what friends (and complete strangers!!) had done that day! Talk about being stressful!! What were people meant to do with all this free time??!! Some people decided to clean their bathrooms. Others did a late night shop. Some attempted the Times crossword while others resorted to getting their old games out of the cupboard and spent the evening playing snakes and ladders and buckaroo!! And still others picked up the phone and called a friend! It’s amazing how many of us across the country struggled to know what to do as our social media sites were taken from us. Time for re-evaluation?? Maybe. 

I for one have been SO grateful for our social media provisions, especially through lockdown. They have truly been a lifesaver to many. But it’s important to get the balance right. The Bible says,  

‘there’s a time for everything under the sun’. 

We’re not made to be glued to our phones. Nor are we made to lie in bed all day, or work all day. 

So maybe, we can all learn from Monday night’s events. Maybe we can challenge our phone addictions, or stop work for a time to play with our children, or choose to not have a day in bed but get up and achieve something, however big or small. Maybe we could buy a bunch of flowers and pay a visit to someone who we keep meaning to visit? I won’t be attempting the Times crossword any time soon but I am tempted with a game of buckaroo! 

Our time is very precious, let’s use it wisely each and every day. Let’s surround ourselves with good friends, let’s be good friends to others, and may we be able to say, with the Psalmist, 

‘This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it’.

'Running the Race' - 04/10/21

On Sunday we saw the 41st London Marathon take place.  After being scaled back last year due to COVID it was back with more than 40,000 people pounding through the streets of London and a further estimated 40,000 taking part virtually via an app.  Each participant had trained and dedicated themselves to this race; some ‘elite’ runners were running for the best time they could achieve while the goal of others was simply to reach the finish line - but they were all in the same race.  Personally, I take my hat off to anyone who takes on this challenge – 26.2 miles of gruelling, feet aching, blister-forming road!  Congratulations to everyone who took part!

In the Bible, our life journey is often likened to a race, a race in which if we run well and reach the finish line, the reward is great:

“Strip down, start running – and never quit!  No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins.  Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.  Study how he did it.  Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever.  And now he’s there, in the place of honour, right alongside God.”

No race is ever easy, it requires preparation, dedication and training.  It requires determination to reach the finish, a map to know the route to take and, ideally, some supporters to help and encourage us along the way.  In life, there can be times when the road may seem straight and easy but all of us at times will face a road that is rocky and steep and difficult to navigate – it is then that we need to keep our eye on Jesus to guide us and help us to keep putting one foot in front of the other. 

During the 2017 London race, only metres from the finish line, one runner found himself unable to carry on.  His legs were buckling beneath him and despite being so close, he simply wasn’t going to make it – until a stranger running the same race saw him and chose to pause and offer some help so that they could both cross the line and finish the race they had started.

Life can sometimes be just like that – the weariness can kick in, we can lose our way and the road becomes too hard - that is when we need one another most of all – that’s when an arm around our shoulder and an encouraging word from a fellow traveller can make all the difference to help us across the line. 

But the prize for finishing this race is so much more than a medal or financial reward: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.  And now the prize awaits me –the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return.  And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.”

I’m running for a crown of righteousness – join me and we’ll help each other along the way.

'Tomorrow is Ten Days Away' - 03/10/21

Time is a funny thing; we all seem to have our own personal interpretation of ‘soon’ or ‘shortly’ or ‘not long’ or ‘one of these day’s’ or ‘bedtime’. I’m sure you all know what I mean. Your friend says, “I’ll give you a lift in a minute, be ready.” So you stand in the porch and wait. And wait. And… You must have had this conversation with a teen; “Why are you not dressed, you said you would be up early?” “I am up early, it’s only half past eleven.” Our lives are measured in minutes, hours and days etc. so you would imagine that time was sorted, but one person’s ‘soon’ is another person’s “I haven’t got all day.” Globally it’s quite organized; a new day starts over by New Zealand, sweeps around the world and gets to us five hours before New York. It’s the same every day so we can plan our trips and phone conversations with confidence. However, on this day, 4th October, in the year 1582, everything changed. Thirteen centuries of accumulated variations between the Julian calendar, the Lunar calendar, and the real moon meant that the Catholic Church was no longer celebrating Easter at its original time of the year. So in the reign of Pope Gregory XIII, the Gregorian calendar was adopted by the Catholic Church and the Papal States. It meant that the day after October 4th was October 15th!

How odd that would be for many of us, there would be a gallop to

re-organise birthdays and anniversaries, holidays and Sunrises! None of us would lose any days of course, we all understand that dates are just numbers and God is not impressed with our ability to count. We do need to remember that our time on earth is in God’s control, David wrote, ‘I trust in You Lord, I say ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands.’ In our difficult days God is there for us, ‘You are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.’ David was also certain that God’s contribution to our lives is continuous and reliable, ‘Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.’ Let’s not worry about the date, let’s fill the time we have been given by God by demonstrating to those around us the love of God.

'Black and White' - 02/20/21

There has long been a tradition of using “black” and “white” to identify bad and good. I remember watching the Westerns with my Dad, the good cowboy always wore a white hat and the baddie always wore a black hat.

There is an expression that is used when we want to know a clear difference between 2 things, “its black and white”.

This week, I have been learning about computer security and this concept even translates into modern technology. When we define a website that is good, we add it to a “whitelist” and when we want to stop people accessing a bad website, it is added to a “blacklist”. In order to test computer security, there are “ethical hackers” who will try to break a computer system who are known as “white hats”. And, of course, the malicious hackers are known as “black hats”.

Sometimes, black is defined as the absence of light, and white is the presence of all the colours of the spectrum.

In the Bible, when Jesus goes to spend time with God and he then comes back to see his disciples, Jesus’ face was shining and his clothes became as white as light. When Moses spend time with God and he was given the 10 commandments, as he came back to the people of Israel, he had to put a veil in his face as he was “radiant”.

Jesus is known as the light of the world and will “cast out the darkness”. For Jesus, there is no grey and there is no darkness or sin, there is love and light.

Jesus will be a light for us and show us the way, His light will shine through us and we can be a light for others.

'Edward's Cousin' - 01/10/21

Regular readers of Sunrise will be familiar with Edward the squirrel. For some time now, we have vicariously enjoyed his antics and I for one have enjoyed the sporadic updates. I have a particular fondness for squirrels and therefore thought I would write a bulletin about Edward’s cousin, Mr. Squirrel. Unlike Edward, Mr. Squirrel is a red squirrel, hence the more formal name (red squirrels are sticklers for formality). He too is very active at the moment. Neither red, nor grey squirrels hibernate (although grey squirrels do sleep for weeks on end during the winter months). This requires them to collect as much food as possible before the supplies are exhausted. They gather food, particularly nuts, and hide it for later consumption – hence the expression, “to squirrel it away”.

Mr. Squirrel uses my garden, and that of my neighbours, as his personal pantry. Over the coming winter, he will return often to recover the bounty he has stashed away. I look forward to his visits.

Unlike the many people we have seen on our television screens over the past eighteen months, panic buying everything from toilet paper to petrol, Mr. Squirrel has to store away the food he gathers, because without it he will not survive the winter. He is not panic gathering, but rather ensuring his survival. His behaviour does not mimic that of humans, who tend to store away, “stuff”, whether they need it or not – sometimes selfishly and at the expense of others.

In the Bible, Jesus has something to say on the subject; “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.

He is not suggesting that there is anything wrong in earning a good living and providing for your family, moreover that your focus should not simply be the acquisition of wealth... the storing up of treasure; at least not earthly treasure. So, what then is the treasure in heaven He refers to? Put simply, He means that your focus should be on those things that have a different type of worth. To take care of others, as well as yourself. To practice the fruits of the spirit that have been mentioned in previous Sunrises, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control".  In other words, to do the things that Jesus would have us do and to value the things that Jesus would value, because that is an eternal treasure.

So now, whenever I see Mr. Squirrel, he will be my little red reminder of the things that actually matter.