September '21 Sunrises 

'You Only Live Twice' - 30/09/21

You only live twice: Once when you are born And once when you look death in the face.”
Ian Fleming, You Only Live Twice

Ian Flemings James Bond books and films are the stuff of legend. I am sure we have all seen at least one film, and may have even read the books. At the moment the news is full of the latest Bond film premiere.

The plots follow similar lines. The typically British secret agent saves the world in superhero fashion. He often looks death in the face several times within the course of the book/film, but just about escapes to kiss the girl and make everything ok again.

This quote puts forward the idea that you can only live when you have faced the possibility of not living. To understood the value of life and to be prepared to give it up is to be ‘born again’ and live twice.

Now you might not equate James Bond and Jesus in the same sentence, but the Bible records Jesus saying something very similar to his followers:

Matthew 16:24-25

 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If you truly want to follow me, you should at once completely reject and disown your own life. And you must be willing to share my cross and experience it as your own, as you continually surrender to my ways. For if you choose self-sacrifice and lose your lives for my glory, you will continually discover true life.

This is really hard teaching from Jesus, until we remember that he loves us so much that he gave up everything for us

Philippians 2:6-8

Jesus existed in the form God, yet he gave no thought to seizing equality with God as his supreme prize. Instead he emptied himself of his outward glory by reducing himself to the form of a lowly servant. He became human! He humbled himself and became vulnerable, choosing to be revealed as a man and was obedient. He was a perfect example, even in his death—a criminal’s death by crucifixion!

Jesus gave up his own life, so that we could have a way back to God, and he beat death and became alive again to give us hope for the future.

Jesus really did live twice, and he did it to offer us a new life with God in it with us. He doesn’t promise us that life will be perfect, but that our lives will be filled with his wonderful love. Lets follow him today and like Jesus, live twice.

'Tough Times' - 29/09/21

Last weekend a lot of things happened that I really didn’t expect or enjoy. Problems appeared that were difficult to resolve. And by Monday morning I felt battered and exhausted and hurt. 

Have you had those days? Or weeks? Or months? They’re painful times aren’t they? And with no apparent answers. 

David was having a really rough time when he wrote the 23rd Psalm. He didn’t have answers to his problems either. But he knew a God who did. He wrote these beautiful and familiar words,

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. 

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. 

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

I still have no answers for the problems faced. I still feel hurt and confused. But I do have peace. And I know I’m not alone.

If you are facing trials and tests, problems and hurts, then know you’re not alone. May God make His presence known to you, may you sense His perfect peace and may He grant you the wisdom, courage and strength to face the day.

'The Missing Nut' - 27/09/21

Those of you who have been reading Sunrises regularly may remember Edward, a very friendly little squirrel that visits our garden.  We haven’t seen so much of him during the summer but we were regularly reminded of him as we worked out in the garden and would often come across buried nuts – all of which were carefully put back where we found them so as not to diminish his food supply (apart from the acorns that had actually started to grow!).  But in the last couple of weeks Edward has been a regular visitor again and has amused me as I watch him scurrying around the garden, digging little holes here and there looking for the nuggets of treasure that he has stored away. 

To be honest, I don’t think he actually has a system by which he hides his supply – it seems pretty much to be a hit and miss game of seek and find as he appears to anxiously search out every last nut that he knows is somewhere, if only he could just find it.

It reminded me of a story that Jesus told in the Bible: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do?  Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost?  And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away!  In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.”

But God is not so haphazard as Edward, it’s not so much a case of having lost where He put one of His sheep as one of His sheep has wandered away.  Do you know how precious you are to God?  Are you aware of the rejoicing and celebration that takes place in Heaven when you agree to follow Him?  If you are feeling distant from God, let me reassure you that He hasn’t gone anywhere but perhaps the path that you have taken has moved you away from Him.  God is actively seeking you out and wanting to bring you safely into His family.  He doesn’t want a single one of us to be lost or struggling to find our way home; He is waiting on you to call out to Him so that He can bring you safely back into His care.  To put it in Edward’s terms – you are quite simply the missing nut that he is never going to give up searching for! 

Whatever today may bring, whether sadness or celebration, tears or laughter, God wants you to face the day knowing that you are safe in His presence, walking each day in His care and with the support of His community.  If God is seemingly far away today, simply call out to Him and He’ll come and get you.

'Waiting for the Sheriff' - 26/09/21

Some time ago I received a phone call from the Sheriff’s County Court in Alabama. It was a deep American accent and I was told I had to attend a court hearing or pay the fee. I asked them what the court hearing was about, he said he couldn’t discuss that with me. I told them I couldn’t attend because I was in Melling! He didn’t accept that excuse! Then I had an idea, ‘Do you want to join our choir?’ There was a moment of silence which I took advantage of....‘They’re the best choir in the world and on top of that they are the kindest, most wonderful people in the world. You’d be made so welcome! And...’ He hung up! 

I drove through Alabama about 20 years ago but I haven’t been since. I was intrigued to know what I’d done!

After that calI, I received several voicemails asking for me to deposit money. I did the dutiful thing and deleted the messages.  The Sheriff is going to have to come and get me. 

Since that call, I have been thinking so much about what kind of person chooses to benefit from other peoples hurt and fear, bank balance and vulnerability. Are they desperate? Vengeful? Were they brought up encouraged to cheat and abuse people’s trust? Do they some how believe it’s just fair game? Plain old uncaring and vile? Whatever their past, whatever their motives, scamming is wrong! Completely unacceptable! And can cause so much pain. But the scammer is not beyond God’s love. He loves the scammer. He hates the scam. I’m no scammer, I wouldn’t dream of doing that, nor would I murder or steal....but I have messed up. Many times. Wrong thoughts. Wrong words. Wrong actions. As I sit surrounded by my girls and black Labrador, I’ve been spending some time thanking God for not giving up on me. Time and time again I’ve experienced God’s grace, His forgiveness, His love. And when I mess up again, I experience them all over again. 

Lamentations 3:22-23 says, ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, new every morning. Great is His faithfulness’.

So, today I get up, get dressed, and thank God for His new mercies and great faithfulness....and wait for the Sheriff.

 

 

'What A Friend' - 25/09/21

This week I was back in my work office for the first time in 18 months. It was a strange feeling, as in some ways it felt normal but in other ways it did feel strange. It was familiar yet different. It seemed like the same roadworks were still there, but in a slightly different place and had multiplied. What had they been doing for the last 18 months? What was good was to see some of my colleagues again and see them for real not on a screen. 

I also bumped into another friend I had not seen for some time and it was great to greet them with a smile and a hug, to catchup on what has been happening with him and his family.

What I find interesting is how quickly it becomes familiar. When we return to doing something we were used to doing, it feels a little odd but we soon restore those friendships and the separation is soon forgotten.

It’s the proverbial “riding a bike”, once learned never forgotten. True friendship is not something that is easily lost and, even though parted, it remains strong and is rebuilt as we meet up and talk to each other.

There is a popular Christian hymn, “What a friend we have in Jesus”, being a Christian involves being in a close friendship with Jesus. That includes talking to each other, trusting each other and not forgetting that closeness even though we are apart. Our relationship with Jesus is based on this love and trust. In the Bible, the book of John includes these words

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you”

As we re-connect with our friends and restore that closeness, let’s remember that Jesus knows and loves us better than anyone and if we choose to re-connect with him, his love will be with us.

 

 

'A Common Purpose' - 24/09/21

One of the advantages of having children, or grandchildren, is that they provide you with an excuse to revisit some of your favourite childhood memories. This week, I have been able to spend time, “deep in the hundred-acre wood, where Christopher Robin plays”. I found, “the enchanted neighbourhood of Christopher’s childhood days”. I was reminded that, “a donkey named Eeyore is his friend, and Kanga and little Roo. There’s Rabbit and Piglet and there’s Owl, but most of all Winnie the Pooh”. I’m hoping the purists will forgive my use of the Disney lyrics, but it’s a shorthand way of setting the scene. I am of course referring to the timeless A. A. Milne classic, Winnie the Pooh. You will notice that I didn’t use the term, children’s classic. That is chiefly because the stories have something to offer every generation. The wonderful characters reflect a broad spectrum of humanity, all be it an anthropomorphised version.

Pooh himself is, “a bear of very little brain”. A simple, innocent, honey obsessed bundle of fur, who ambles though life enjoying whatever comes his way. Eeyore is the donkey with the gloomy outlook and sarcastic wit. Kanga is the archetypal maternal figure, who looks after not only her little baby, Roo, but everybody else as well. Rabbit is the know-it-all who is generally thwarted in his attempts at maintaining order by the calamitous behaviour of the rest of the group. Piglet is the timid, nervous companion of Pooh, who is regularly caught up in Pooh’s misadventures and Owl is the blustery, would be intellectual, who is usually guilty of misunderstanding whatever is going on around him.

They all have different personalities and idiosyncrasies, but they have one thing in common. They all take time to help each other, whatever the situation. They are a diverse and caring community. They are a model of what a group of individuals can achieve when they come together with a common purpose and a tolerance of each other's foibles.

I’m reminded of the Melling Community Project, not that I am suggesting that any of you are like a bear with very little brain, but simply that the individuals that make up the community are as diverse as the denizens of the hundred-acre wood. My experience is that helping each other has been a core feature of the community and I have not come across any examples of intolerance. That just leaves the common purpose... which is, of course, that Jesus is at the centre of all we do.

The Apostle Paul sums it up in his letter to the church at Philippi, “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others”.

So, whether we are an Eeyore, a Kanga, a Rabbit, a Piglet, an Owl or a Pooh, we know that our differences are all accepted by Jesus and that He gives us all our common purpose.

'Just A Cup Of Coffee' - 22/09/21

 

I absolutely love coffee! When I say coffee I do mean the proper, filtered coffee. I’m afraid a jar of instant just doesn’t do anything for me! It’s got to be strong and not burnt, oh and with hot milk, if I’m having milk! I wake up every morning very grateful that God made the coffee bean! If you ever come over to our house, (and you’re very welcome!) I’ll be delighted to make you a very good cup of coffee, or a decidedly average cup of tea!

Yesterday I woke up to no coffee. It was a tense moment! It was stressful! Tea just doesn’t do it for me first thing in the morning. 

I was reminded of caffè sospeso. It’s Italian for ‘suspended coffee’. Over a hundred years ago in the working class areas in Naples the practice of caffè sospeso was born. If someone was  fortunate enough to have a little bit of spare change one day, they would go into their little local coffee shop, pay for two coffees but only take one. If someone was unable to buy themselves a much-needed coffee that day, they could go into the shop and ask for a ‘caffè sospeso’, This practice of paying for two and taking one, was a simple act of anonymous charity. And a much appreciated one. In recent years I’ve heard that this practice is not so popular anymore. I’m not sure why, maybe for financial reasons, maybe there’s less of a community spirit now. I don’t know. But it seems a shame.

As far as I know, Jesus didn’t make any hard and fast rules about a cup of coffee, but He did have something to say about our attitude....

“Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them”.

Paul, some years after Jesus said, 

"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus...”

A simple cup of coffee provided for someone who couldn’t afford it, was a beautiful gift. But why should we stop at coffee? We all have gifts and skills to offer. Things that maybe we take for granted and think little of, but to someone else they could be an enormous blessing. 

I eventually got my coffee yesterday! And it was wonderful! And so was the chat I had with the lady serving me in the shop. She’d had a long, difficult day. But she was so very lovely. I was encouraged by our conversation. I hope she was too. We have no idea what our words and actions do for others. May God encourage us to treat others as we would like to be treated. We will all be blessed!

 

'Something Better' - 21/09/21

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. We are surrounded by daily miracles, but we so often take them for granted. Come on folks, we can do better than 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.

 

'Armour' - 20/09/21

“Mr. Pickwick was a philosopher, but philosophers are only men in armour, after all.”
Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers

The Pickwick Papers was Charles Dickens' first novel. Its about Samuel Pickwick, and three other members of the Pickwick club, who make journeys to places remote from London and report on their findings.

This quote made me think. I wouldn’t describe a philosopher as a soldier, or someone who would wear armour, but I would perhaps them describes as being ‘armed with knowledge’. Maybe Charles Dickens believes that a philosopher would be a good person to be on your side in a debate, or argument, or a battle of wits?

It occurred to me that the word armour can be used to describe many types of protective layers. An insect’s shell is its armour, its protection against being squashed by the world. Some people would even describe make up as a type of armour, protecting your face from the world and hiding your real features underneath foundation and blender. 

The bible describes a type of protection as armour as well. It describes how we can use our faith and trust in God to help and protect us when things get really tough.

Ephesians 6

God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything He has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best matter. Be prepared. Take all the help you can get, every bit of armour God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is indispensable. In the same way, prayer is essential. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

God knows that life isn’t always easy or straightforward, but he provides us with all sorts of tools to help us keep going. The truth that God loves you and will never stop loving you, the peace of mind that God can be trusted, and the knowledge that Jesus died for you so you could have a way back to God. These are described as armour for life. Knowledge to enable you to stand up when the world tells you that you are not good enough, or that you are not worth it and tell the truth of Gods love.

Don’t let the world get you down today, stand with the protective armour of these words around you and know that you are loved by an amazing God.

'Missed The Goal' - 19/09/21

I was going to photograph our football team in their second match; they didn’t score in the first one and I wanted to record the first goal in their history. But I was late (my fault), very late, so I needed to get a move on. My satnav said it gave me the fastest route, but I don’t believe that. I became very agitated within minutes of starting out; we crossed dozens of very large junctions, followed hundreds of L drivers, got stuck behind more coaches, lorries, dozy taxis, and blokes on bikes than I have seen all week. Every traffic light turned red as I approached, and I was followed by at least ten police cars; I’d lose one only to collect another one! I may have exaggerated a little but the journey seemed designed to wreck my mental health. It’s taken six hours for me to calm down and I deeply regret not recording our team’s first goal. Or the second. Or the third! I cannot possibly be content with my performance and failure today. It’s funny how things get out of perspective; this was a football match between two church teams with absolutely no spectators, but I still can’t sleep peacefully tonight. Driving home I was reminded of the Apostle Paul who wrote this, “I’ve worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death’s door time after time. I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, and stoned once. I’ve been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a day and a night…..I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers.” There’s more like this if you want to read it in 2 Corinthians Chapter 11. This is the man who also wrote, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” This puts my trials today into perspective, maybe I should calm down and learn to thank God for His blessings and protection. This past month could have been very trying for you and you may still have issues that you do not want, but please remember that despite his situation, Paul could still find peace and contentment because he trusted the God who loved him. I think I will sleep soundly tonight; I pray that you will too.   

 

'Stepping Out' - 18/09/21

“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings is set in Middle-earth, where the Dark Lord Sauron, has created the One Ring to rule over all, and the hobbits, along with a company of Dwarves, elves, men and a Wizard, set out to save Middle earth.

This quote really resonates with me this week, as whilst you are reading this sunrise, I will be heading off on a journey to take my daughter off to university for the first time. This truly is a new adventure for her. New people, new city, new adventures. And of course, it will be new for us, as we get used to living without her in term time.

Emotions for both of us are a mixture of excitement and nervousness. Excitement at all the great adventures that will happen, but nervousness at the new things and people to get used to. These are very understandable emotions for anyone taking on something new.

I am sure we have all had first day nerves at some point. New job, new house, new school. On my first day in my present job, I bought a new pencil skirt to make a good impression. All went well until, whilst getting out of the car on the way into the office, I realised how tight it was when I split the skirt several inches up the back! I had to quickly run in and introduce myself by asking if anyone had a needle and thread! It was an interesting way to make a first impression!

Thankfully as part of Gods wonderful family, we don’t have to have any adventures on our own. The bible reminds us that God loves us and is with us wherever we are, or whatever we are doing.

Isaiah 41:12-13

I, your God, have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go. I’m telling you, ‘Don’t panic. I’m right here to help you.’

Whatever new adventures you have today, whether they are good or not so good, planned or not, know that God is right there with you, holding your hand and seeing you through. Take time to talk to him today and tell him how you are feeling. Be still and know God’s peace.

'Time Well Spent' - 17/09/21

When Tom Hanks won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in Philadelphia, he gave one of the best received Oscar acceptance speeches of all time. In the movie, Hanks played the role of Andrew Beckett, a young gay man dying of AIDS. His speech, like his performance in the film, was both moving and memorable. Yes, he remembered to thank all the important people in his life and those who had made the film possible, blah, blah, blah, but then he spoke about the thousands of people who had been lost to the AIDS epidemic, “They finally rest in the warm embrace of the gracious creator of us all. A healing embrace that cools their fevers, that clears their skin, and allows their eyes to see the simple, self-evident, common sense truth that is made manifest by the benevolent creator of us all and was written down on paper by wise men, tolerant men, in the city of Philadelphia two hundred years ago”.

When asked why he had used his speech to highlight the plight of AIDS victims, he stated that it seemed to him that to waste the opportunity to say something meaningful when given the chance to speak to so many people, would be criminal. He wanted to use the time well.

Now, most of us will never have the opportunity to give an Oscar acceptance speech, but all of us have the opportunity to talk to people on a regular basis. So, what are we going to say? Well, dear reader, I am given the opportunity to, “talk” to you every week and, just like Tom Hanks, who began his speech, “Here’s what I know...” I try to convey to you what I know. Yes, each week, “what I know” is expressed differently, but the core of what I have to tell you never changes; God loves you. At the heart of everything is that one simple fact; God loves you. It is best summed up by the passage of scripture that I most often quote; “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”.​

Now, obviously I have an advantage, in that I get to write a little missive each week and therefore have a platform from which to pass on, “what I know”. That said, the Bible tells us that we all must take such opportunities as present themselves to share what we know, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”. So, take a leaf out of Tom Hanks’ book, get your speech ready and tell people what you know. It will be time well spent

 

'Still Talking About Him' - 16/09/21

Some of you may have seen the last day for a BBC Breakfast presenter after 20 years as a news presenter, it seemed to me that a lot of people had found her smile, determination and gentleness a reassuring approach to sharing news stories, helping the guests and audience to feel at ease.

In seeing this, I did think about how would people see my dealings with people over the last 20 years. How would my family consider me over those years? How would my friends think of me? How would my colleagues think of me? Would those opinions differ or would there be a common theme. 

Then I also thought about some of our young people, growing up and beginning to make their own mark, what have they learnt from us and how would they be seen as they become adults. As they move through education and start their working lives. It is also becoming much more common not to do the same type of work through your working lives and to change careers a number of times, so doing the same type of work for 20 years is quite different.

There has been such an impact from the stories of Jesus that still affect today’s world and his stories only covered a few years. Yet people will still talk about the impact he has had, his love and gentleness, his understanding and compassion, his sacrifice. We are reminded in the bible that 

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end.”

“But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”

Lets remember how Jesus can bring us a sense of ease and peace, an empathy, compassion and love that we can also share with others.

 

'Alexa! Please Stop!' - 15/09/21

Me and my four chicks live in a very noisy household. We all love music and keep 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, or Charlie Puth, oh and then there’s Meghan Trainor, 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 the choir have conquered our Christmas music! 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! 

 

'Thankfulness' - 14/09/21

For those who were able to join us last Sunday, we gathered together and spent a wonderful afternoon enjoying good food and good company.  But this wasn’t simply our normal Sunday gathering, this was our harvest celebration.  Traditionally the harvest celebration was only held when the last of the crops had been gathered in and the work was done.  Everyone within a community would be involved in the process one way or another from cutting and digging to gathering and gleaning and storing; the work brought men, women and children together as they prepared for the forthcoming season of winter.  It was literally a matter of life or death as to whether the food they had managed to grow and harvest would be enough to get them through the long winter months.  

With modern technology and travel we are far less dependent on the seasons but we should be careful that we don’t become complacent and take for granted the food and provisions that God has given to us.  

There is no doubt that sometimes the days can seem dark and just too difficult but in Psalm 100 we read these words: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!  Serve the Lord with gladness!  Come into his presence with singing!  Know that the Lord, he is God!  It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.  Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!  Give thanks to him; bless his name!  For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”  It doesn’t say simply to give thanks when all is well, or perhaps when you are in a good mood or have had a good day – regardless of any of those things, we’re told to give thanks and make a joyful noise!  I don’t pretend that it’s easy to do, and I don’t pretend that I always manage to do it, but I can say that whenever I do it I can’t help but begin to feel brighter simply because I am taking the time to remind myself of all of the wonderful things that I have been blessed with.

As we gathered last Sunday, we hadn’t completed our harvesting, we hadn’t gleaned the fields and stored the food for the winter, but we were still able to give thanks to a gracious, loving God for his provisions over the last 12 months.  Of course we can give thanks for our food but let’s also remember to give thanks for the gift of a caring community – the gift of laughter whether over Zoom or in person, the gift of a bunch of flowers on a doorstep or the gift of a phone call simply to see if someone is ok.  This harvest, amongst the many things that we have to be grateful for, let’s give thanks for the wonderful, crazy, joyful and caring people that make up Melling Baptist Community Hub.  As the Apostle Paul put it “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God”.

 

'Who Do You Think You Are?' - 13/09/21

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, not least 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.

 

'Not My Fault' - 12/09/21

I was sitting in the garden reading and drinking tea. Birds were tweeting and there was a gentle wind rustling in the trees. Perfection reigned; for a while. Then it started; crash bang wallop; the lovely neighbours next door had decided to knock a shed down. You don’t need me to tell you that sheds don’t go quietly. My book required concentration so I kept going. My neighbours on the other side heard the shed demolition and thought that as the silence had been blown away, it wouldn’t be a problem if they chopped their tree down. Stereo destruction! Frustrated, I retreated indoors. My peace was wiped out and it wasn’t my fault.

 I’d had a good day; the client was pleased, even promised to pay me. The M60 was busy with everyone homeward bound so it was normal occasionally to sit in stationary traffic four lanes wide. The radio was off, the windows closed and everything including me was calm. The driver in the huge lorry was reading his phone messages up to the time he wiped out six cars, one of them mine. We brought four lanes to a halt for two hours, we had six ambulances, five police cars and a fire engine. The violence of the crash was colossal and the noise was indescribable. Peace disappeared in a flash and it wasn’t my fault.

 We all know people who have been asking for trouble for years, so when it turns up, the most common response is, “They should have known that would happen, it’s their own fault.” Now what about us, we don’t go looking for trouble do we? But it turns up anyway! And it’s not our fault. Life can be very unfair.

 A man called Asaph who wrote some of the Psalms in the Bible struggled when he saw arrogant and nasty people succeeding in life when he found life tough. He complained to God about the unfairness he could see around him, “They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They don’t have troubles like other people; they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else...These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for! Look at these wicked people enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply.” By the end of the Psalm he realised that what he had was so much better than wealth, health, or power. “My health may fail, and my spirit grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever...I still belong to You; You hold my right hand”

 Many of our pains in life are not our fault and they are not reduced by envying people who are sailing along. But if can trust in God’s love He will walk with us and give us His peace. And nothing can wipe that out.

 

'The Lord is My Shepherd' - 11/09/21

One of the great things about Sunrise, is time to stop and think. I have found that’s even more so when writing it down. Life can be busy and cluttered, with friends and family, with work or school, with planning out your week, with worrying about your week, filling the quiet with TV or radio.

Sometimes its good to find quiet, to connect with the beautiful world around you, whether that’s your garden, your family and neighbours, the countryside, and to think about where God has been with you.  As we bustle through our week, its far too easy to not see how God has been there. Some people will find a time to stop everyday, others may do it once a week and some will also have a “retreat” break, taking time out from ‘normal’ life removing the interruptions and thinking about how God has been there and how we wants to help us in the future.

There is a well known passage in the bible which tells us all about this and we should remember what this means to us, in Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness[ for his name's sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever

Take some time today, to sit and think and remember Gods goodness.

 

'Plennie Lawrence Bingo' - 10/09/21

Few people have heard of Plennie Lawrence Wingo and yet he did something quite remarkable... bonkers, but remarkable. On April 15th 1931, he set off from Santa Monica, California to walk around the world... backwards. On October 24th 1932 he finally stopped. He didn’t manage to walk all the way around the world, but he covered some 8,000 miles. Having walked to New York, he sought passage on a ship to Germany, from where he walked across Europe, before finally stopping at Instanbul.

Plennie didn’t do it to set any records, although he still holds the Guinness world record for, “the greatest extent of reverse pedestrianism”. He did it because he hoped to make some money from his efforts. He had found himself out of work during the great depression and thought that people might pay to see him perform such a stupendous feat. In truth he returned home from his travels with just $4 to his name... and was only able to return to the United States at all because a wealthy Italian paid his fare back to Santa Monica – from where he walked home to Abilene, Texas... backwards of course.

I feel a little sorry for poor old Plennie. He walked 8,000 miles backwards across three continents and returned home to his wife and children eighteen months later with $4 in his pocket. Imagine their delight. Captain Tom (Captain Sir Thomas Moore) walked one hundred lengths of his garden and made more than £30 million for charity, had a number one record, became the hero of a nation and was knighted as a result.

You see, it’s not always what you do, it’s why you’re doing it and who you are doing it for that counts.

The wonderful Captain Tom wanted to show his appreciation for the NHS and the marvellous job they were doing during the pandemic. So, what did he do? Well, he did what he could. At ninety-nine years of age, walking one hundred lengths of your garden is not as simple as it might sound, but he knew it was something that he could probably achieve and so he set about it, determined to do his bit. Whether it was the NHS charity that is now £30 million pounds better off than it was, or just those of us whose spirits were lifted by his endeavour during those dark early days of the Covid 19 outbreak, Captain Tom touched the lives of many more people than he ever thought possible when he took that first shuffling step.

All of us have things that we can do. All of us can do our bit, but sometimes we think that what we have to offer is not good enough... it’s not as good as the thing that somebody else has done... it won’t make a difference. That is simply not true. We all have something to offer. God designed it that way. “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully”. So, be encouraged. Just like Captain Tom, you just need to do your bit. You never know what it might be, or where it might lead, but your little bit, given in the service of a great and wonderful God, will have a greater impact than you might think.

'God Knows It All' - 09/09/21

"The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it's as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues.”
Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures

Moving Pictures is a fantasy novel by Terry Pratchett about the Discworld. In this the tenth book, the alchemists of the Discworld have invented moving pictures, which seems very exciting, but in this word, it alters the structure of reality and life imitates film, until things are set right.

Whilst I am very glad that in real life films do not have the ability to change the fabric of time and reality, I can relate to this quote all too easily.

My life at the moment is pretty hectic, as I am sure it is for many people. I often enter a room and a conversation and it takes me a few minutes to work out what is going on, and then the conversation has moved onto something else!

In our house there are often several things that have to be done all at once, so there are times when the wrong thing gets done for the wrong person, the outfits that are needed urgently are to be found languishing at the bottom of the washing basket, and someone has always forgotten to buy the milk!!

When life gets a little confusing or overwhelming, I am really glad that God never gets confused or overwhelmed.

Psalm 139 reminds us that God knows us inside out and he loves us:

I’m an open book to you God; even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back, I’m never out of your sight.
You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too, your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful, I can’t take it all in!

Let’s take time today to thank God that even when we are not sure what is going on, we can be reassured that we are never out of Gods sight, and he has everything under control.

 

'In the Hands of the Master' - 08/09/21

Have you ever wondered what makes a masterpiece a masterpiece?

There is a story that one day the artist Pablo Picasso was in a park when a woman asked him if he would do a portrait of her.  He agreed and set about drawing the woman.  When he had finished and handed over the artwork, the women was stunned and delighted with the resemblance that he had captured.  She asked him how much she owed him for the drawing, to which he replied “$5,000”.  She was horrified and said “but it only took you 5 minutes!” his reply was simple – “No, mam.  It took me all my life.”

Picasso showed talent from a very early age and his father, a painter and professor of art, recognised this and began to formally train him from the age of 7.  By the age of 13 he was accepted as a student at the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona and continued his studies in Madrid at the age of 16 where he spent a great deal of his time in art galleries carefully studying masterpieces and developing his own style of art.  The portrait that he produced for the woman may have only taken 5 minutes of pen on paper time, but the image created was an accumulation of a lifetime’s work.

In Ephesians ch 2 v 10 it says “For we are God’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago”. 

None of us are the same as we were when we were children, we have grown and changed physically but we’ve also grown and changed in character, abilities and knowledge – we are, and ultimately will be, the accumulation of a lifetime’s work.  

I looked up the definition of ‘masterpiece’ and it said that it is a work of outstanding artistry; the work of an acknowledged master.  Masterpieces don’t come from nowhere, they are carefully crafted and created; they are the product of skill, devotion and love.  The master commits to the subject and the canvas submits itself to the skilled hand of the master.  The question is, which master do you submit to?

Way back at the beginning of time Genesis tells us that when God had finished creating the world, the birds, the trees, the animals and humanity, he paused and “looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!”  I may not seem very special and I’m definitely a work in progress – it’s a work that will take all of my life, but when I submit to the hands of God the Master I have the potential to become one of His masterpieces.  They say that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ – well, when God looks at us, does he see the beauty of his creation?  Does he recognise the work of his hands? 

I choose to submit to the hands of God the Master.  Who will you choose to be your master?

'Mamma Mia!' - 07/09/21

Exciting News!!! Abba have re-formed!  In the midst of all of the depressing and deeply saddening news of the last week came the joyous news that the members of Abba were reuniting in order to bring out a new album.  I quite appreciate that you may be reading this thinking ‘but I’m not a big fan’, but the fact is that there are many, many people who are and testament to that is the speed at which their concert tickets are selling.  But here’s the interesting thing – the band members won’t actually be at their own concerts.  By the wonders of modern technology the group – all now in their 70’s - are being recorded and then transformed back in time to their twenty-something selves of the 1970’s.  What fans will actually see will be some kind of computer enhanced hologram.  Now I could do with a bit of that!  How good it would be to press a few buttons and have the grey hairs disappear; the wrinkles around my eyes (that I insist are laughter-lines) would be smoothed and the trim waist of my youth returned.  That sounds wonderful – to stand up without hearing the sound of creaking knees and to save a fortune on unnecessary hair colour!

But it is important not to forget the advantages that come with age.  In the book of Proverbs we read: “The glory of the young is their strength, the grey hair of experience is the splendour of the old”.  There is a saying that says ‘youth is wasted on the young’, which implies that it is the wisdom gained through experience that causes us to look back and realise how we spent our youth worrying about things that didn’t need worrying about or doing things that weren’t good for us. 

Life changes as we get older and work our way through the various phases of life, but that doesn’t mean we become less important or able.  The lessons and wisdom gained from our experiences are for sharing with the next generation – our usefulness simply changes its form. 

The Psalmist put it like this: “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God.  They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.’” 

We cannot stop time, we can hide the grey hair but we can’t stop it reappearing – but none of that makes us less valuable in the eyes of God.  There is no need to pretend to be something that we are not; there is no need to try and become a computer enhanced version of who we are – what God wants more than anything is that we come as we are, with all of our experiences and all of our brokenness and all of the wisdom we have gleaned on our journey so far.

I see the strength of the youth, now I’m going to show them the splendid grey hair of experience!

'Time to Climb a Hill' - 06/09/21

I’m giving my bike away after using it for many years for little local trips, and allowing it to collect rust and spiders webs in the shed. It was given to me by someone who wanted a better bike and needed space to keep it in. Now I’m passing it on to someone who is learning bicycle maintenance and would like to ride it when it’s been restored to road-worthy condition. So this collection of metal parts will have a new life and could go on for years. Who knows, it may even be passed on again. I still dream of winning the Tour de France; however if I’m honest I probably won’t do better than 3rd or 4th at this stage of my life. My passion for cycling started when I was about eleven and was boosted significantly when my dad bought me a beautiful touring bike. With my best mate we headed for the hills. We toured North Wales, the Lake District, then headed south from Bristol train station and toured all the way through Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall down to Lands End. That bike served me wonderfully and I loved it, but everything has its day, and my bike was no different so I kissed it goodbye. The world of work took over, so I never went hill climbing again. But I still dream! 

When he was speaking to people in Antioch 2,000 years ago, the Apostle Paul said this, “When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep and was buried.” This reminds us very forcefully that God provides us with a specific amount of time and allows us the freedom to decide how we spend it. But when its gone, its gone! I have a birthday coming up and I find myself asking how I have used the time given to me by God. I tell myself I could have done better. Much better! But I’m still here, and so are you and another week beckons us. Maybe it’s time to ask ourselves what God wants us to do in the coming days. Let’s imitate my beautiful bike, accept the challenge and climb some hills. There’s a great view at the top.

'The Girl With the Dragonfly Tattoo' - 05/09/21

That’s me! It was about 8 years ago when I found myself in a tattoo studio in Liverpool, at the mercy of the loveliest hairy biker I’ve ever met! We chatted and laughed as he carefully created an everlasting dragonfly on my back!

Dragonflies are such beautiful creatures! Their colours and delicate shape are just amazing! But they weren’t always like that. In the ‘baby’ phase they are wingless bugs. Living under the water, wallowing in the mud, and eating most things that come their way! Hardly beautiful! And that phase can go on for up to 2 years! In the mud!! And then, one day, DA-DAAAAH!...

Wings! Colours! Flight! That’s SUCH a good day!! And everything about them seems excited and happy! 

Dragonflies can fly at speeds of nearly 60 miles an hour! They can hover like a helicopter, fly forwards, backwards, up and down, they catch their food in mid flight and mate in mid flight! Now there’s a talent!!! 

But they’re not without their struggles and threats. Global warming is threatening their existence, and birds, spiders and frogs love to snack on them! Life isn’t easy for the dragonfly but when I look at one I can’t help but believe that it’s loving life and living life. 

Our days can be fraught with problems and worries and difficulties, all very real, that in some way or other, threaten us, distract us, drain us. David, in the Bible, was no stranger to struggles and worries and real life threatening situations, and it was during such a time that he wrote these words, ‘This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it’. He wasn’t ignoring his problems but he was choosing to get the best out of his day. Recognising each day as a gift from God, and choosing to be thankful. If dragonflies had a favourite Bible verse, I think they’d choose that one! And if David has to be an insect, I think he’d opt for a dragonfly! I love my tattoo, and whatever is going on in my world, my dragonfly is a constant reminder to be real and to be thankful and to seek the best out of my day. I’m SO glad I didn’t pick a dung beetle!

'A Personal Experience' - 04/09/21

Whilst visiting London to catch up with friends, it was great to amble around the city, seeing the sights. There are many lovely places to visit, the tourist places like the London Eye, Tower Bridge, Westminster, Trafalgar Square. There are also many green spaces and parks throughout the city and its beautiful to transition from walking through the buildings to suddenly enter a green space and forget about the hustle and bustle. There are a growing number of parakeets living wild in the parks now as well. In places, they will feed on your hands and show off their amazing colours.

In all of the busyness of the city, there are still quiet places to find. At one part of our ramblings, we wandered through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, and one of our group said “I am glad I discovered this place”, to which I reminded them that most people already knew about Hyde Park. Thinking about it later though, I realised that there are times when we hear about things so much that they can seem well known to us but until you actually experience it for yourself, you don’t actually know it. This can happen in so many aspects of our lives. Many people will have seen photos of the northern lights, but to actually experience seeing those colours in the sky is a very different experience than the photo.

So it can be with Christianity, many of us will speak of what Christianity is, what we learned at school or when we have seen others in churches. But have you really experienced Jesus in your own life? Knowing about Jesus is not the same as walking through life with him, of learning more about him each day and understanding his love more and more as you get to know him

Psalm 100:3

Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

'Buongiorno a Tutti' - 03/09/21

You may remember that, eleven months ago, I mentioned that I was in the process of learning Italian. Well, it’s now been a full year of study and, whilst I am reasonably happy with my progress, I am still a long way from being fluent. I’m not too bad when it comes to the written word, but the spoken language is causing me more problems. Of course, every time I go to an Italian restaurant, I am encouraged by family members to test out my new found abilities. I am hesitant to do so, to say the least. The reason for my reticence is that I don’t think the waiter wants me to inform him that, “The girl has a blue dress”, or that, “A horse is a useful animal”, or that “My uncle’s house has a red roof”. What he wants to hear is a clear, concise request for something found on the restaurant’s menu.

Of course, the people who designed my language course want me to understand the Italian language in all its glory and complexity, so I am taught about adjectives and adverbs and conjunctives, rather than simply how to order a particular pasta dish and a glass of red wine. To some people, this would be frustrating. To some people, the seeming inability to get to the core of what they want to learn would dissuade them from persevering with the course, but to fail to take in all that the language has to offer is to miss the point.

I have to say that I have, on occasion, been guilty of missing the point when it comes to the Bible. This is a book that contains a massive amount of detail... and some of that detail seems needless, particularly in the Old Testament. There have been times when I have felt like the Italian waiter being told something he doesn’t need to know. Why is it important to know the family tree of various Biblical characters? Why do I need to know how many men of fighting age belonged to the various tribes of Israel? Is it really important to know which foods were permissible and which foods were not? Surely, all I need to know is that Jesus loves me so much that He was prepared to die for me ,“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”.

Well, yes... sort of. It is true that if you can grasp that basic fact; if you can acknowledge and accept that basic truth, then you have all you need to know to understand the fundamental tenet of Christianity.

However, to understand God’s nature in all its glory and complexity, you need to spend time reading everything you can about Him. You can’t simply skip over the detail that takes time to assimilate. You need to dig deeper. You need to spend time reading all of the Bible... and having finished reading it, you need to read it again – and again. Every time I read it; I find something new. Some gem that I missed the first time round. Some wonderful insight into God’s purpose for my life.

I have spent a year studying Italian and have barely scratched the surface. I have spent thirty years reading the Bible and can say the same. One day, I may consider that I have learned all there is to know about the wonderful language of Italy... I will never be able to say the same of the inexhaustible wonders of God’s word.

'The Stage We Are In' - 02/09/21

“All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.”
William Shakespeare, As You Like It

As you Like it is a Shakespeare comedy in which Rosalind and Orlando, along with several other people, find love, despite her uncle, the Duke, conspiring against her, and forcing her to flee into the forest and disguise herself as a boy.

This is a very famous Shakespeare quote, and last weekend I had the privilege of standing in the Globe in London hearing this play performed, and those famous words being spoken on a stage, by an actor (ironically). The actor went on to describe, with some humour, the seven ages of people, from a baby, up to an elderly stooping person. Interestingly the humour was found in describing the worst of each of the stages, and it got me thinking not about the worst of each, but the best of the stages to be thankful about:

One, a baby, and the miracle of new life

Two, a child, and the wonder of new experience and learning

Three, the teenager with the confidence and energy of youth

Four, the adult who has the enthusiasm to change the world

Five, the middle age, who has the experience to continue changing things

Six, the retirement age, with the time to invest in the next generation

Seven, the elderly, with the wisdom to pass onto others

Whilst we are all at different stages of life, we all have our different roles to play. Not many of us are full time actors, but we are all in different situations with different life experiences to bring to each one. The Bible reminds us that we are all made different for a reason, and the God has a plan and a purpose for each one of us. in Jeremiah 29, God reminds us that he has the most amazing plans for us:

For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 

When Paul is writing to the church in Ephesus, he reminds them and us, that God has created us all differently as we all have different roles to fill:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Whatever you are doing today, lets take time to ask God to inspire us and everything we do, so that we may be Jesus to everyone we meet. Even if it’s a tough day, lets hold onto the promise that God has good plans for us, and he will never leave us.

'It's the Way I See Things' - 01/09/21

A trip to an art gallery is usually a pleasant experience, something you can look forward to, anticipating seeing art that pleases and excites. Since the Tate arrived in Liverpool in May 1988, there have been a great number of exhibitions that have excited or shocked or baffled audiences. I remember one particularly mystifying modern art project using ordinary everyday items that coincided with some reconstruction work. Some of the exhibits were arranged more casually than you would expect in an art exhibition, which led to serious conversations concerning a step ladder and a builder’s shovel leaning against the wall. Was that clumsiness on the part of the workman or was it placed there for patrons to admire and understand it’s deep significance? None of us had the nerve to ask! But recently there was a display of 200 black and white photographs that were not difficult to understand but they were difficult to view. These were examples of the work of photographer Don McCullin who has spent most of his adult life recording human inhumanity around the world. There were images from Berlin and Lebanon, Vietnam and Cyprus, the Congo, N. Ireland and Biafra, not forgetting London’s East End and Liverpool during the 60’s and 70’s. Many people reading this will instantly recall events in these places and will not go out of their way to be reminded of these human catastrophes. Most of his prints have very dark tones which are in keeping with the subject, but he gave up war images for a while and began producing British landscapes, and even when the sun was clearly shining his pictures are still very dark. He comments, “It’s just the way I see things.” When you consider all the horrors he has witnessed close up, its not surprising it has had a profound effect on his outlook.

 Not long after God created mankind and said it was, “Very good” we read, ‘The Lord saw how evil humans had become on the earth. All day long their deepest thoughts were nothing but evil.’  Looking at many places in God’s creation today we can imagine that He’s thinking ‘Nothing’s changed.’. But there’s good news because God has plans for the future of those who love Him and follow His Son. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new.”’ So, while we celebrate and thank God that we are spared the horror of Afghanistan and many other places in our sad world, let us also thank God that He has control over the future, and inhumanity will give way to peace and joy. And Don McCullin could go back to landscapes but print them lighter.