Here Comes Big Phil- 30/09/20

It was just like any normal day for me in 6th form. Lessons, chat, lunch… And a cancelled lesson! Our teacher was sick and we had a free lesson before our final lesson of the day. We were feeling a little bit bored. Wondering what to do with our surprise free time. Then we found a long handled floor brush. Perfect! 

“Who wants to play the broom game??” 

We all thought this was a great idea. We took it in turns to get spun in a circle holding the brush up in the air. After 20 spins, whilst feeling completely dizzy and unstable, we had to lower the brush and try and stand on it. What could possibly go wrong? People were spinning in all directions. We laughed and laughed till we thought we could not laugh anymore. Then it was my turn. Just as I was about to be spun, who should walk in to the room but Big Phil! “Oooo can I play too?“ Big Phil was tall and built like a tank! He rushed over towards me and before I knew what was happening I was spinning faster than everyone else put together! I remember thinking to myself that if he didn’t stop soon I would probably throw up on him! As they shouted out “19 and 20!” They all stepped back, and as I brought the brush-head down to the floor, I spun across the room straight into two stacks of chairs. The chairs collapsed onto a table, the table tipped over, and a glass jug full of water, and a pile of plastic cups tipped onto the floor! It’s fair to say, that along with the crash and the bang, we were laughing so hard that tears rolled down our faces. The room had turned into a disaster! As I was pulled to my feet, the door opened. There stood our Head of Year. I won’t say he looked angry, it was more a look of dismay. He’d not been gone for long and suddenly the room looked like a tornado had passed through. We got the speech. The one about how it wasn’t very responsible of us and how we could’ve got really hurt. We all apologised. And then, he smiled, and laughed, and offered to help us put the room back together before our next lesson. 

Sometimes life can feel a bit like the Broom Game. We have times where circumstances cause us to feel completely out of control and then sometimes we end up ‘crashing’. Family crises, loss of a job, stress and ill-health…we’ve all been there. During those times, we need people around us who are a bit like that teacher I had all those years ago. They step into the mess, they help pick us up, they offer wise words and they hang around to help bring some order. And just as we all need those people on occasions, we ought to also be those people. The Bible says, 

“Treat others as you wish to be treated“

And the greatest news of all, is that there is our all-loving, ever-patient, gracious God who we can turn to in any moment, however out of control or close to crashing we are. 

“The Lord lifts the fallen and those bent beneath their loads“. 

These are such comforting words to hear. But it doesn’t stop me loving the Broom Game! Anybody want to play??

Something Borrowed- 29/09/20

“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.”

Last Thursday a new world record was created as the national treasure that is Sir David Attenborough launched his Instagram account and gained one million followers in just 4 hours and 44 minutes, beating the previous record (held by Jennifer Aniston) by an hour and a half.  In an interview he said that social media was an unfamiliar territory for him but that he wanted his message to reach as many people as he possibly could, including as many young people as possible.  

So what is his message that he is so desperate to spread?  Well, he has spent decades thrilling us with images of species that most of us will never see in the flesh and educating us about the world we live in.  More recently, however, he has brought us stark warnings about the damage that we are doing to the world with our carelessness and self-centeredness and who can forget the images he brought to us of miles of plastic waste floating in the ocean?  His Instagram launch precedes his new documentary ‘A Life on Our Planet’ - but whilst I admire his work and agree with so much that he has to say, there is one point that I must pull him up on - this planet that we live on has never been ours.  

We are merely temporary guardians who take a turn before passing it on to the next generation and into their care.  At the very creation of the world “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” – what does he see now? But it’s not just the earth that belongs to God, it’s everything in it as well.  That means our homes, our cars, our phones, our shiny kitchens, our clothes and expensive trainers – all belong to God.  Does that change how we view those things and what we do with them?  It should do.  If instead of holding our possessions tightly, what difference would it make if each day we started by asking God, ‘how can I best use YOUR car today?’, ‘how can I best use YOUR phone today?’, ‘what would you have me do with this home today?’ The answer may be to not use that car today, you can walk; or use that phone to check up on someone who may be feeling lonely and uncared for.  Perhaps he might suggest that the shiny kitchen could be used to prepare a meal for someone or a cake to just raise a smile.  

This is traditionally the time when we celebrate harvest and give thanks for the provision God has given to us – that’s the wheat and the corn, the fruit and the vegetables but he’s also given us so much more.  Perhaps this harvest we should remember to give thanks for this earth and EVERYTHING in it – including one another.  And when we keep one eye on the giver, the gifts take on a whole new value.

The Nail in the Road- 28/09/20

Last week, I dropped my daughter at college for 9am. College is about 10 miles from home and as I dropped her off, I was already thinking of all the things I was due to do that day. I had a whole plan. Beginning from 9:30am and going right through to school pick up. It was a really full day, too full, and I needed to work quickly and efficiently and with full concentration in order to get everything done that I needed to do by 3pm. As I pulled out of the side road to leave the college, I drove over a huge big nail and suddenly I’m stranded with a flat tyre. I parked the car about 20 metres from where I dropped my daughter off. And staring at my very flat, front tyre for a brief second, a very brief second, I wondered whether I could drive home really quickly without doing too much damage!! I quickly dismissed that thought as completely ridiculous and so got back in the car and wondered what to do! After a few phone calls I finally settled down to wait for the RAC to come and rescue me! And 3 hours later I was finally sorted with a new tyre, and free to get on with my day.

When I got up on Thursday morning I had no idea that I would be spending so much time sat in my car, that I would meet a friendly man who would come to my rescue, and that all the plans I had for my day would be completely messed up. And there was nothing I could do about it.

The truth is, every morning when we wake up we have absolutely no idea what the day will bring. Our lives can be changed forever, in both good ways and bad ways, within a split second.

Sat alone in my car last week I was forced to look at my busy day and prioritise. Some things that had been ‘urgent’ at 9am could now wait until Friday. There were some people I wanted to see and they suddenly became my priority for the day. And when I finally got to bed that night I thanked God for keeping me safe in the car that day and for teaching me a lesson in what was really important. Friday was a busy day. But as I entered that day, I did so with the knowledge of what was really important. The Bible says, ‘Don’t be foolish; be wise: make the most of every opportunity you have for doing good’.

So today, as we enter a new day, with our busyness and pressures and deadlines, let’s just pause for a moment, thank God for a new day, and choose to make every moment count, for good.

Anywhere. Anytime.- 27/09/20

If you watch school pupils emerging from the school buildings in the afternoon, it doesn’t matter how many hundreds there are, they all seem to have mobile phones. And it could be a junior school! We can see TV news bulletins from almost anywhere in the world, including many of the poorer nations where people are living in shacks which are falling down, but you will still see huge numbers with mobile phones. If you go out to the shops or to play golf or fish or just go walking, and you realise that you have left you phone at home, don’t you feel slightly vulnerable? It’s not that long ago when we would go out all day and have no easy means of communication, but that was life and it was normal. It’s so intrusive now that schools ban them, cinemas, theatres and churches ask (or tell) you to switch them off, and for obvious reasons they are banned while you’re driving. This most modern method of communication is now restricted in many places as we try to win back normal conversation. Let’s hope that they are banned from restaurants and dinner tables soon!  

There is a very ancient means of communication that many people have forgotten about despite there being no restrictions anywhere or anytime. It’s called prayer. You may have heard of it. It’s simply conversation with the God who gave us the give of speech and language. It’s important to realise that you don’t need special words or phrases, clothes or locations. And you don’t need to listen to boring music because God is talking to someone else; in fact St Paul encourages us all to “Pray continually” even while driving! Paul also tells us that he prays, “night and day.” Jesus told us to get on with it without waffling, “When you pray, don’t talk on and on like people do who don’t know God. They think that God likes to hear long prayers.” And Paul tells us, “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Wherever you are in the world, you will not lose the signal (even in Asda), your battery will never let you down, and God will not keep you waiting.

Be Disruptive!- 26/09/20

Up in western Scotland, the blackberry season is about 3 weeks after the rest of the country and to be honest, there are only so many blackberry crumbles that I can eat but I hate to waste free food. So I tried to be inventive with some cheap yoghurt and recreate the equivalent of a Muller fruit corner. It was rather successful but was lacking the essential bit of the ‘corner’! When Muller invented the ‘Fruit Corner’ yoghurts, they were revolutionary; they were square not round; large, not small; separate fruit to yoghurt…not all mixed up; premium priced not value for money. That was the whole idea. They aimed to disrupt the market and get noticed and as a marketing strategy it really worked. 

We notice disruptive elements and people. I am more likely to remember pupils like Lauryn, JR, Jeevan and Derrie because they were disruptive. They got my attention. I am not advocating that this is the way forward for us as disciples of Jesus but I do think that we should not be sat at the back doing little and saying nothing. We are called to be in the world but not of the world. Paul, in his letter to the Romans says this: “Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” We have to be different and distinctive. At times that might mean being disruptive by calling out injustice when we see it and standing with those who are being trodden upon and sidelined. At all times it means challenging our own behaviour and each day trying to become more like the Christ that we seek to serve and follow.

We’ll Always Have Paris- 25/09/20

I’ve spent the last three weeks avidly following the Tour de France. I have done so from the comfort of my living room via ITV 4. Physically following the Tour de France would be a wonderful adventure; three weeks spent in the French countryside, enjoying the scenery of the Alps, the Pyrenees, the Cote d’ Azure and, finally, on to Paris… all whilst enjoying the greatest sporting event in the world. The problem, of course, is that I would need the time, the money and the language skills to complete the task. I would also need to be able to find my way around France at the wheel of some sort of campervan… on the wrong side of the road. My wife will tell you that my navigation skills are not of the highest standard and my employer will tell you that I don’t have the time. Add to that the fact that my bank account won’t stretch to cover the cost and that the only words of French I know are, “croissant” and “Pernod” and you begin to realise that the likelihood of such an odyssey is remote.

There are people who manage to follow the tour every year – devotees of cycling who structure their holidays and their bank account around the route and calendar of, “Le Tour”. This year, their annual pilgrimage was disrupted by Coronavirus. The crowds that usually line the roadside were told to stay away. Strict restrictions were put in place. In some cases, limited viewing was possible, but only in sanitised, socially distanced enclaves. Out on the mountain roads of the Alps, policing spectators is more difficult and some fans were still able to get uncomfortably close to the passing cyclists. This of course, resulted in the French authorities imposing tighter restrictions and actually closing the remaining mountain roads to prevent further pedestrian incursion.

In miniature, the tour reflected the issues that we all encounter; how to live our lives in the face of a virus that is not going away as quickly as we would like. Somehow, the organisers managed to deliver this magnificent spectacle with very few problems. Despite himself contracting Covid, race director Christian Prudhomme was able to remain upbeat. When asked about a tour without spectators, he philosophically replied, “A football match without spectators is simply a game played in a dull, empty box… Le Tour without spectators still has France”. Watching the TV pictures of the cyclists weaving their way through rolling fields, rugged mountains and the architectural marvel that is Paris, I had to agree with him.

We’re back to living our lives with restrictions again, but we should echo Monsieur Prudhomme’s attitude. There are things that we will miss, but we are surrounded by people who care for us… people that make our difficulties bearable… people who simply make us smile... those people are reading this article. We also have a God that is not diminished by the restrictions placed upon our lives… a God that cares for us… a God that makes our difficulties bearable… a God that makes us smile… that God is here with us, always. “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” the answer is, nowhere… not even France.

Winter Sunshine- 24/09/20

It’s officially Autumn! I like Autumn, it brings sights and events that are beautiful and unique to this time of year. I live under the flight path of the geese flying in and out of the country. It’s a beautiful sight and sound, a miracle of nature. These creatures fly thousands of miles and land in just the right place; no maps, no satnav, and no signs in the sky. We sometimes insult people by calling them, ‘Birdbrain’. That’s a massive insult, not to the people but to the birds. What goes on in their heads is beyond us. I know some people who couldn’t find their way to Bootle! And what about the trees; most of them start the year with no leaves and the shapes of the trunks and branches are miraculous; then along come beautiful leaves that provide colour and shape and shade for months. At this time of the year, many trees provide fruit for us which is pretty clever of them. Then to finish the year’s performance, they put on new clothes and the world is transformed by an onslaught of yellow, orange, and red. Brilliant! There is a downside of course, the trees shed their leaves and go to sleep, a bit like teenagers, and we have to tidy up and there’s never enough green bin collections. But the wonderful autumn display is worth the trouble. The point is that every season brings its own glory if we only keep our eyes open. We are now able to enjoy amazing misty mornings if we bother to go out. Even in the middle of winter we have the fabulous blessing of being able to see a sunrise without having to get up at four o’clock. 

We all live through our own personal seasons of life of course, and just like in nature, these seasons have specific characteristics, opportunities, and blessings. Even old age can be wonderful; we’ve finished work, we’ve raised our offsprings, and we’ve paid off our mortgage (hopefully). We mark our seasons with birthdays that we put numbers to, but the numbers are just numbers and can be misleading. I know people older than me that I can’t keep up with, and some younger than me who can’t keep up with me. And we treat some numbers as more important than others, but they’re all the same, each one is a reminder that God has given us another year. As each birthday passes and we look back, inevitably we will have sad memories but also good ones. So let’s thank God for the seasons we have lived through and let’s trust him for beautiful and fruitful seasons still to come. 

David wrote, ‘I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God: I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.’

Ying Tong Iddle I Po- 23/09/20

A few nights ago, I woke up around 3am, with Spike Milligan on my mind! This isn’t a normal occurrence. I can only assume he had popped into one of my dreams from the deepest part of my sub-conscience! But whatever the reason, I then did what any normal person would do, I got up, picked up my phone, and googled The Goons. I must confess I wasn’t around when The Goons were airing on the radio, causing havoc and much hilarity, but I have listened to them since! Just over two hours later I had laughed a lot, and discovered a lot. Harry Seacombe appeared to live a very happy existence, but not so much the others, and definitely not Peter Sellers. They had all experienced loss and hardship and struggle. But it was Peter Sellers story that continued to play on my mind. He was born Richard Sellers but his parents always called him Peter in memory of his older brother who had passed away as a baby. The story continued that throughout his entire life Peter Sellers struggled massively with his identity, often saying that he had to always be in character because he didn’t know who the real Peter Sellers actually was. It was a heartbreaking story to read, at any time of day. This incredibly talented actor and comedian, was an enormously troubled man who went on to hurt his wives and children greatly. He didn’t know who he was. 

We all have questions at some point in life about who we are, where we came from, what our great grandparents looked like, why we look and sound the way we’s only natural for us to want some answers! I know that my lack of sense of direction comes from my mum, I’d like to know why I’m such a bad photographer, and I can’t help but think I’m part Italian-New Yorker. There’s a lot about me that I will never really know. But God does. He knows me inside out and back to front. He loves me completely and wants only the best for me. He knows what’s best for me. 

The Bible says, ‘O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit or stand. When far away you know my every thought.....You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit them together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it. You were there while I was being formed. You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book! How precious it is, Lord, to realise that you are thinking about me constantly! I can’t even count how many times a day your thoughts turn toward me. And when I waken in the morning, you are still thinking of me!‘

Whatever life throws at us, however we are feeling, in our fun times and our times of struggle and loneliness, when we have big questions and no answers, may we each find comfort and peace in knowing that the God who created us, loves us and wants the best for us. He is still with us. Nothing is unknown to Him and no struggle we have is beyond His help. 

He knows who we are.

Preparing For Uncertainty- 22/09/20

Have you ever played Pin the Tail on the Donkey?  One person at a time is blindfolded and spun around so they don’t know which direction they are facing and then they have to find the image of the donkey and stick its tail on – the one who gets the tail closest to the correct spot wins.  The person in the blindfold has to tentatively find their way around the room being careful not to walk into anything, outstretching their arms in the darkness trying to feel their way while avoiding tripping over or crashing into anything.  I don’t know about you but it feels to me like I am stumbling round in the dark at the moment with my arms outstretched, tentatively trying to find my way through so much uncertainty.  

As we prepare for extra restrictions and lockdown measures to be enforced upon us, there are so many questions - should I dash out and get my hair cut in case I’m not able to go for another 8 weeks?  Should I buy some extra toilet rolls in case stocks run low again?  My son is preparing to go off to university – what will that look like?  Will he still be able to go when he’s supposed to?  How do you make new friends when you’re not allowed to meet up with people? 

The problem is that we feel like we’re blindfolded, fumbling in the dark and unable to see what is in front of us.  We may have health uncertainties, job uncertainties, financial uncertainties – how easy it would be to become weighed down by these as we feel like we’re stumbling around.  But the fact is, there are also some certainties if we choose to look for them – such as the certainty of friendship and companionship that comes from being part of a wonderful community of people; the certainty that if we have a need, we only need to make it known and there are people who will do everything they can to meet that need – we have that!  

The Bible also tells us of another certainty that we have, In Romans we read: For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation [nor coronavirus], will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We may face many difficult and uncertain times at the moment but let’s remember that we’re doing it together and what’s more, we’re doing it with the absolute certainty that whatever tomorrow may bring we can face it with the confident knowledge that it will not and cannot come between us and God’s love for us.  Let’s step into the unknown together, with confidence, because God is with us all the way.

It’s In the Details- 21/09/20

When you add a new piece of software to your phone or computer, you’re frequently asked to agree terms of use which will identify your responsibilities and theirs. This could allow the company providing the software to have access to personal information. For your peace of mind, they provide terms and conditions. I wonder if anybody reading this Sunrise has ever in their life read this document from beginning to end. Most people simply click on the ‘Agree’ button and get on with life. However if you ever have a disagreement with the company, you will be referred back to the document you agreed to before you loaded the software and told to read Para 19, Section 13, Subsection F. This states that you relinquish all rights to privacy which includes your bank account and if you have lost money, that is your problem because you agreed to these conditions. We all sign many agreements during our lives; maybe you signed a mortgage agreement, or life insurance, or something as short-lived as a holiday insurance, but now you wish you had spent five hours with a dictionary and a solicitor friend deciphering the language in the document. The expression used frequently to describe your dilemma is, “The devil is in the details”, which means of course that it’s the little things that you don’t notice that do the damage.

Whenever I hear this phrase I smile because I prefer to think that, ‘God is in the details.’ The astonishing creation all around us which is made up of unbelievably tiny particles working in unison is God’s handiwork. ‘The heavens and the Earth belong to you. And so does the world with all its people because You created them.”  God understands the details because He put them together. But for us in our daily walk, the most important fact is that God cares about the details that make up our lives.  St. Peter wrote to Christians, ‘Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.’ You may not wish to talk about some things, but God already knows about them, ‘Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.’

Many of us are feeling lonely and fragile and sometimes we don’t want to talk to anyone about our worries. That’s OK, talk to the God who already knows and cares. You won’t need a solicitor or a dictionary and there’s nothing to sign.

The Same But Different- 20/09/20

I’m sitting in exactly the same place as I always sit when I’m writing Sunrise. I’m on the same seat in the same room at my normal time for writing and on the same computer. Even the clear evening sky that I often see is there tonight. Nothing’s changed! But something must have because normally on a night like this the sun would be blinding me and I would have to close the curtains a little. So where’s the sun tonight? Ah, it’s gone behind the houses opposite, it’s just a little lower than it was last time I sat here on a clear night. So even though I’m the same person doing the same things at the same time, my world is different. And the leaves on the trees I can see are turning yellow, and the room is colder than it has been for months. One of my family members has returned to Uni so I won’t see her until Christmas. Our Choir and Hub, Shoot and Watercolour and other activities have all been mothballed as well. Now that I think about it, most of my world has changed and I have no control over any of it. And we haven’t even mentioned the pandemic. The nights are going to get darker and the days shorter and the flowers in the garden are already dying and we can do nothing about any of this. 

But let’s understand that there are things we can do, we still have the freedom to make choices. We can choose to practice the fruit of the Spirit that we are hearing about every Sunday morning; we can demonstrate love and joy, peace, patience, and gentleness. We can make each other feel loved and important just by being the people that God wants us to be. This is in our control. The seasons and the weather and the vicious pandemic have not removed our ability to be valuable to each other. We can still visit, phone, text, send cards, go shopping, tell each other jokes and express the truth that we are all important to each other. Melling is alive and well, let’s take back control!

Jesus said, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

Keep On Keeping On- 19/09/20

Is anybody else fed up yet? We have now been socially distancing for 6 months. We can’t easily meet together, life as we knew it has changed drastically, and I don’t think I'm the only one getting a little bit fed up now. When the lockdown started in March we faced the battle head on didn’t we?! We encouraged and supported, we laughed and chatted. People got to know each other better over phone conversations and on text messages. Photographs of times gone by, beautiful gardens, or a DIY project at home were posted on group chats for all to see. And the support and unity were strong. But as time has gone on the lonely get more lonely, the struggling struggle that bit more, those who’ve lost jobs feel that bit more anxious and financially unstable, and those working from home when they really need to be in an office are feeling the pressure mount! While many of us are doing ok and maybe are privileged enough to live happily with others, not have financial struggles and have hobbies and activities to keep us entertained and distracted, let’s not forget that for many others this just isn’t the case.

The Bible gives this wonderful little instruction, ‘Never tire of doing good’. 

It may be a short sentence but if we do as it says then our good words and actions will have a massive impact! Sadly the war with this microscopic enemy is not over but we can continue to help and support eachother, every day, by a simple phone call, a text message, a photo of your garden you’ve been working on, a story of something funny from years ago....

Aesop, the Greek storyteller said, ‘no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted’. 

So, let’s take a deep breath, the battle continues, let’s fight it together and not tire of doing good. 

Seasons- 18/09/20

Yesterday, I looked out of my office window and saw my wife begin the annual ritual of closing up our summer house for the winter. I realise that this statement raises questions. How can you see your summer house from your office window? Why were you watching your wife rather than helping her? Why was she making such an early start on the job?

Well, thanks to Covid, I have to work from home, so my back bedroom is now my office, therefore I have a view of my garden and my summer house. I was busy at work, so I couldn’t help her with the job. She always starts the job during the last spell of sunny weather that we have in early autumn, so that she can get everything away before it becomes damp. Now that we’ve got that sorted out, I’ll continue.

The weather outside is still bright and sunny and it’s difficult to believe that we are on the cusp of a new season, but other signs are there. The children have gone back to school, the football season has started, the garden is full of spiders, the mornings are cooler and have a smell that can only mean that it’s early autumn and the geese are back, flying over my house in their thousands every day. All these are indicators that it is now autumn and the summer house needs to be put to bed.

My wife is not a fan of autumn. In autumn, everything points to winter. She’s not a fan of winter. It’s not the cold or the rain or the snow that she doesn’t like… after all, there’s no such thing as bad weather; merely poor clothing choices – no, what she doesn’t like is the dark. The dark is limiting. It reduces your opportunity to do many of the things that you like to do in spring and summer… walking on the beach in the evening; sitting in the garden enjoying the sunset and watching the bats make their nightly rounds in the twilight. When it’s dark at four o’clock every afternoon you can’t do these things. The only good thing about winter is that it’s one step nearer to spring, which is my favourite season. A season of hopefulness, of new beginnings and lighter nights. A time for hope. A pointer towards warm days and longer nights… before autumn comes along and we start the cycle again!

The seasons come and go, bringing with them their own particular pleasures and dislikes. But whilst the seasons change, God remains constant. Always present, never changing. No matter the vagaries of the weather, or the length of the day, we can be sure of one thing… God is faithful. Come rain or shine, hail or snow, He is there. A steady presence that we can turn to when our own lives pass through seasons. Those seasons may be seasons of age, or seasons of famine and plenty; they can and will change as time passes, but God will remain there, present and steadfast to see us through it all.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5).

What a Shame- 17/09/20

When you look back over your life, do you think you made decisions which changed the direction of your life? If you could go back would you do the same again or do you now think that you made a mistake that devalued the years and your career path? Many of you reading this have finished with employment so a change of mind now is probably a little late but still possible. But many of you are still working; do you find your employment satisfying and meaningful or are you still open to re-routing your life if you have the courage? We only get one opportunity to live our life down here and when it’s over we can’t go back for a second go. When you make the big decisions in life, were you or are you assisted by family or friends or are you a loner? 

You probably have never heard of Lilias Trotter (you should Google her); that’s because she made decisions that most people wouldn’t. Raised in a wealthy Victorian family, highly educated, and well used to expensive European trips in the summer, she could choose many paths through life. The most obvious one was as a painter. She was introduced to John Ruskin who didn’t believe that women could paint, but he eventually changed his mind because of the quality of her work; and he made it public. He mentored great artists like John Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, but his opinion of Trotter was that, “She would be the greatest living painter and do things that would be Immortal.” So her life’s direction was sorted. Just one slight problem; she said, “No.” Her Christian convictions led her to walk London’s streets at night alone trying to persuade prostitutes to join her classes where she would teach them other ways of earning a living. A few years later she believed that God wanted her to go as a missionary to Algeria where she spent the rest of her life. John Ruskin commented, “What a shame.” She continued to sketch and write books; these are available on Amazon and are beautiful. Her decision on a ‘career’ left people baffled, but she never regretted the path she had taken. 

Whether you and I are working or not, we still have to make decisions constantly. What is our motivation; to make money, or be famous, to live in a beautiful location, or to do as little as possible? The Bible says that God has ideas for our life’s direction if we want to listen to Him as Lilias Trotter did, “I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 

Some of us are beyond a career plan but whatever time is left for us, God can make it worthwhile and satisfying. We just need to turn up at God’s Job Centre, and don’t listen to people who say, “What a shame.”

Do-nuts and Compassion- 16/09/20

So, setting the scene, a grief-ridden family, coming from a double funeral, are leaving San Francisco to go back home. Before leaving, they stop off at a do-nut store late at night, to get something quick to eat and drink. As they enter the store, and sit themselves down, they don’t notice Robin Williams sitting at another table. But he notices them. He notices their smart, dark coloured clothes. He notices their desperately sad faces. And he wanders over to say hello. He introduces himself simply as Robin. One of the family members writing about this encounter said that he, ‘can’t remember what Robin talked about but I know it made us smile. And as time went on, he made us laugh’.

It was Maya Angelou who said, ‘ I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel‘.

Jesus was amazing at making people feel loved, special, accepted. If they needed encouragement, He gave it; if they needed a friend, He was there; if they needed correcting or challenging, He did it with love. People would travel far and wide to see Jesus, to listen to Him, to talk to Him. Why? Because wherever He went and whatever He said and did, He made people.....young and old, male and female, from every place and background, feel precious and loved and important to God. 

The Bible says,

‘Jesus had compassion on the crowd‘.

And again, ‘Jesus showed great compassion’.

And yet again, ‘Jesus was moved with compassion’.

And again, and again, and again.

Let’s go and show compassion as Jesus showed compassion. Let’s leave people feeling better about themselves, encouraged, heard, valued. 

Let’s give people our time. 

From what I know about Robin Williams he seemed like a really lovely guy who had compassion for those who were struggling and finding life so tough. And while that family don’t recall much of what he said to them during their time of grief, they do remember that he made them smile again.

Am I My Brother’s Keeper- 15/09/20

I looked at the news headlines today and was greeted with the headline “Report your neighbours for breaking rules”.  This is with reference to the new rules that have been introduced that say that we should not meet in groups larger than 6 people from multiple households.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am as frustrated as anyone with the complete disregard that some people seem to be showing towards the rules that have been put in place in order to try and halt the spread of coronavirus – I find I am particularly annoyed when I walk into a shop complete with my face mask only to realise that I am in the minority with many people choosing not to wear one.  I am well aware that for some of them there will be very good health reasons why they can’t wear a mask, my niece is one of those who can’t – but are there really that many people who can’t wear a mask?  

Even this morning I listened as reporters interviewed people on the street who were simply saying that they would not be obeying the new rule of no more than 6 people – I could feel my blood pressure rising!  But when I read this headline I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of community we have become.  Is our only reason for obeying a rule, fear of being caught?

In Matthew Ch 22 we read Jesus giving us this simple instruction: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all you mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: Love your neighbour as yourself.”Imagine a world where love of God and love of one another were the driving force behind all we do rather than fear and stubbornness.  There would be no hesitation from us to do those things that expressed our love, whether that was wearing a mask, delivering groceries or buying a coffee for a stranger who looks like they need it.

In Genesis we read the story of Cain who becomes jealous of his brother Abel and so kills him.  When God asks Cain where Abel is, Cain’s defiant reply is: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  Well actually, the answer is a resounding ‘yes!’  We all live alongside one another so that we can take care of one another and express that love that Jesus asked us to show.  I can’t control the actions of others but I can choose to show my love for God and those around me by my own actions.  Wouldn’t it be great to shift our thinking away from rules and fear to expressions of love - rather than the headline “report your neighbours for breaking the rules” we could read “show your neighbour how much you love them today”. 

Maybe I could just change my tiny little corner of the world in some small way by choosing each day to try a bit harder to be my brother’s – and my sister’s – keeper.

Gentle Giant- 14/09/20

In 1986 five year-old Levan Merritt fell 20 feet into the gorilla enclosure of Jersey Zoo and lay unconscious on the ground. Parents and zoo visitors understandably panicked and started screaming. As they watched terrified, Jambo came on the scene; he was an adult male silverback, huge and powerful. He placed himself between the small child and the other gorillas and began to stroke the boy’s back gently. As Levan woke up and began to cry, Jambo led his gorilla family into another enclosure allowing zoo-keepers and an ambulance driver to rescue the injured young boy. That was more than 30 years ago but Levan still talks about his Guardian Angel gorilla. Wouldn’t you? The shocking event, the appalling possibilities, and the astonishing outcome, left the family and visitors shaking and speechless. The bedlam in the crowd and the noise they made was in total contrast to the gentleness of the hugely powerful beast of the jungle.

In the Bible, Elijah was frightened of his enemies and their threats and travelled far to escape the danger. He ended up in a cave half way up a mountain, hiding from both God and man. But God approached and decided to teach Elijah an important lesson that we can all benefit from. Shocked that God could find him, Elijah watched in awe as God created a terrifying storm that shattered rocks around him. As the storm died God presented Elijah with a nerve-jangling earthquake that he thought would kill him but God protected him and then surrounded him with an enormous fire that destroyed every sign of life as far as he could see. Then there was nothing; absolutely nothing; just silence. Then God spoke; He didn’t shout to show He was angry with the terrified prophet, He whispered to show Elijah that He cared. 

Sometimes people try to hide from God and hope He can’t find them. They may want a relationship with Him but feel that their lifestyle has separated them from Him and are afraid of God’s reaction. The story of Elijah teaches us that the all-powerful God who can create storms, earthquakes, and wildfires, can also be gentle. He can whisper. And if we listen we will hear the voice of the ultimate gentle giant.  

Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Three Years- 13/09/20

Can you remember what your life was like three years ago, September 2017?  My wife has a memory like an elephant; not only can she remember things I forgot years ago, I almost believe she can actually remember events that didn’t happen. Not only can she tell me in detail about conversations we had with people, she can describe how we were all dressed, where we were, and what we had for lunch and how much it cost. And she claims that she paid for it. I have no memory of the people, I don’t think we have ever been to the place she described, I can’t remember what we ate yesterday but whatever we tucked into three years ago, I’m not convinced she paid for it. Our lives are constantly shifting and changing. Three years in the life of your child or grandchild can transform a little angel into a bigger monster; happily it can work the other way as well. Has your life drifted during the last three years with no memorable events, meetings, or journeys? Do you look back and see wasted time with nothing achieved, or do you relive sad events? Maybe you smile as you celebrate improved health, better finances or new friendships? Have there been events that you couldn’t have predicted which were either brilliant or dreadful? 

All through the Bible, practically on every page, there are accounts of men and women facing situations they hadn’t planned for. Their reactions varied; anger, sorrow, joy, confusion, despair, or gratitude; all the same responses that we experience when faced with something or someone unexpected. Three years in our lives is not a long time, but its events can transform the years still to come. Solomon had spent a lot of time considering the ups and downs of life and he understood that even he as the great wise King of Israel could not control everything in his life but he could make the point, “God appoints a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” We may not appreciate Gods timing or the events we meet along the way, but Solomon says that God can make “everything beautiful in its time.” That might be hard to believe but often during the hard or sad days, we learn lessons which help us to help others, or we find a new positive direction in life, or maybe we encounter new friends who walk with us on our journey. The possibility for Christians is that by trusting in God He can bring something good out of bad times. By telling us that, “God has also set eternity in the hearts of men,” Solomon is reminding us that there is more than this life and God can make the next one beautiful too.

The Real Gym- 12/09/20

I’ve been reading about body building because I need to get fit and look great again. I don’t look very impressive at the moment and clearly our culture is telling us that appearance matters. I discovered that body builders put themselves through a brutal regime of exercises and a calorie controlled diet that is noted for its total lack of taste and its sheer size. The point is apparently to win competitions by looking more perfect than their rivals. They start by building up size and strength until they are massive, and then as the competition day approaches they focus on losing any fat. A few days before they step on the stage they reduce their water consumption so their muscle tissue is easily visible. Because of the reduced nourishment they are taking in, they are at their weakest on the day of the competition, despite looking like Hercules. 

I don’t think I want to go to these lengths, I am just responding to some photos that have appeared during a tidying session that required us to empty some drawers. These pictures haven’t seen daylight for forty years and the images of me are both shocking and impressive. They are impressive because they show a young man who is six foot two tall and weighs ten stone four pound. He looks as if he could run a marathon, (which he couldn’t but he did cycle to Lands End), and the photos are shocking because he is five stone lighter than the writer. I start going to the gym again in October and it could take me weeks to lose five stone. OK it could be longer than that but I can dream can’t I? Because I’m not stupid I realise that I may never reach my target but I would be pleased to lose a stone and a bit. Having targets is probably necessary for most of us; there must be something we can improve. I’m not too bothered about my appearance but I would like my heart to have an easier life.

The Apostle Peter who was a very fit man talked about having targets and a regime that would improve all of us. He wrote, ‘Do your best to add goodness to your faith, to your goodness add knowledge, to your knowledge add self-control, to your self-control add endurance, to your endurance add godliness, to your godliness add Christian affection; and to your Christian affection add love. These are the qualities you need, and if you have them in abundance, they will make you active and effective in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

Nothing there about body building but a lot about character building. Nothing there about appearance but a lot about people seeing Jesus in our attitudes and priorities.  We don’t need the gym down the road, our real gym is where we are. Let’s give each other some time and see if we are in better shape than we are now.

Will You Join Me?- 11/09/20

When Tommie Smith and John Carlos stood on the Olympic podium in October 1968 to receive their Men’s 200 metres gold and bronze medals, respectively, it was the culmination of years of hard work. Years spent in early morning training; pounding the pavements come rain or shine and working long hours in the gym. Years of sacrifice and physical effort. It was an achievement to be savoured. Something to tell their grandchildren. A personal triumph. A moment to remember.

When the U.S. national anthem began, they did not stand hand on heart, as so many of their triumphant countrymen had done. Instead, they donned a single black glove and, heads bowed, each thrust an arm into the air in a, “Black Power” salute. A moment to remember, indeed.

As a result of their actions, they were both expelled from the games. The Olympic Committee President suggesting that their gesture was, “a deliberate and violent breach of the fundamental principles of the Olympic spirit”.

Back in America, reaction to their statement was almost universally negative. They were accused of disrespecting their flag, their country, their national anthem and the Olympic movement. They were criticised in Time magazine and a great many news outlets. They were described as, “ignoble, juvenile and unimaginative”. Both they and their families received death threats.

Smith and Carlos took their stand to provide a platform for debate. They were the forerunners for many sportsmen and women of today, who take the opportunity to use their status as public figures to highlight their concerns. These statements are better received today, but they still attract criticism in certain corners. The, “sport should be separate from societal debate” mantra can still be heard. It should be remembered that sportsmen and women are, first and foremost, simply men and women. They have concerns and opinions just like the rest of us.

Nonetheless, I have heard people complain regarding these statements of discontent; “Why do they have to keep banging on about it?” The simple answer is, because nothing has changed. Despite reminders down the generations, various elements of our society are not treated as they should be. It’s not just black lives that are affected. In many countries women are, at worst, actively discriminated against or, at best, not treated as equal. Even this country had to enshrine it in law before it began to happen. If it takes an act of parliament to make women equal, then something is very wrong with our society, but then something is very wrong with our society. The simple fact that people of colour actually feel it necessary to point out that their lives matter, or that women have to lobby parliament to be treated as equal, should tell us that something is wrong.

So, what do we do about it? Well, I’m not suggesting that we all start rooting through our cupboards to find a black glove, or that we join radical political movements to campaign for change. No; I’m suggesting that we do something simple. That we simply do something. That we treat people, all people, with dignity and respect. That we are kind and patient and understanding with people. That we act when we see injustice. It isn’t just politicians and law makers that have a responsibility to improve things. It is incumbent upon us all to be agents for change.

Why? Because I believe that Jesus valued everybody. Not only did He value them, but He showed them that He valued them. Time after time we see instances in the Bible of Jesus demonstrating His love for people… all people. Men, women, rich, poor, sick, downtrodden and social misfit alike received care and attention from Jesus. He spoke out against injustice and took action to put things right. He made the ultimate sacrifice for everybody, not for the select few; “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son that whoever believes on Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”. Jesus did not stand by and sympathise. He got involved. He did something. If I am to follow Him, I need to do likewise. Will you join me?

Rough Day- 10/09/20

You know how it works don’t you; the Sunrise writers live idyllic lives filled with tranquillity and provision, and order reigns. It’s amazing how everything in the house always works, the car always starts, and the health of friends and family sails on and on untouched by Covid or any other interfering monster. So it’s very easy for us sheltered and pampered people to sit down in peace with coffee and chocolate biscuits to amaze you with our brilliance and wisdom. 

OK let’s get real. Today has been a beast; a combination of bad health and bad behaviour together with the fact that I have sat in for four hours waiting for a phone call which I have just discovered won’t happen until tomorrow, it’s turned into a rough day. It’s the kind of day that we all experience more often than we wish, and Sunrise writers are not immune from the ‘poor me’ disease. My thoughts turned to Katie, a young schoolgirl I read about who was given an essay to write called, ‘My Perfect World.’ She wrote, ‘In my perfect world, ice cream is free, lollipops are everywhere, and the sky is blue all day with just a few clouds that have interesting shapes.’ Sound good, I like this world. She continued, ‘No one will come home to bad news. And no one will have to be the one to deliver it.’ Now she really is dreaming; we find it easier to believe in free ice cream than the absence of bad news. That’s not the life we know. 

Jesus lived a life that was filled with bad news, just like us. He experienced sadness, frustration, and irritation, just like us. He knew that life down here would never be any different, just like us. But He still managed to offer hope to people who thought that hope was fiction. He looked ahead and promised ‘My Perfect World.’ It’s a world full of ‘no more’ – ‘no more evil, no more death, no more mourning, no more pain, no more tears.’ This promise of a new world order allows us to, ‘With joy give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to have your share of what God has reserved for His people in the kingdom of light. He rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us safe into the kingdom of His dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.’

My day is still a mess, but the great Creator God says I can look forward to a much better world. And the ice cream is free.

An Unexpected Visitor- 09/09/20

Have you ever been caught out by an unexpected visitor and found yourself apologising for an untidy house or unwashed dishes?  I have.  Many times!

I remember after I had Ben and the Health visitor called round in the way they do to check on the progress of the baby.  Alice was little and had been playing when the doorbell rang and there was the health visitor – I had washing everywhere - the maiden and every radiator was covered and there were toys all over the floor.  Alice loved to play with some small plastic animals – everything from dinosaurs to cats and dogs and everything in between – and she would create an animal parade which would wind it’s way around the house.  I answered the door and immediately started apologising for the washing and the toys and quickly trying to pick things up so she didn’t trip over a small leopard or giraffe.  Straightaway, she said ‘oh don’t apologise!  It’s the immaculate houses I worry about where I can’t tell what a child is allowed to do or play with’.  That worked for me!

In the book of Luke we read a story about 2 sisters who responded quite differently to some unexpected visitors: “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.  She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Jesus and his disciples had been travelling and simply turn up one day at Mary & Martha’s home.  They have no hesitation in welcoming them in with no mention of whether the bathroom was clean or the hoovering done; they are simply welcomed in and Martha sets to work to prepare some refreshments.  But this is where the sisters differ.  While Martha is busy with preparations, Mary is sitting listening to Jesus.

As Martha becomes more and more exasperated with her sister (we’ve all been there!) she eventually cries out to Jesus “Tell her to help me!”  She doesn’t actually address Mary or complain to the disciples, she goes straight to Jesus.  She knew who to take her problems and anxieties to and she knew she didn’t have to wait until she was less emotional or make her words pretty.  She came as she was.  Jesus isn’t offended by our emotions or our stresses he just wants us to share them with him.  How often do we spend time worrying and stressing over things and letting problems build up inside us because we don’t think it’s important enough to bother God?  He wants to hear from us, he wants to be a part of our lives, even the seemingly mundane.  If it’s enough to worry us, it’s enough to be of interest to God.

I can imagine Jesus smiling at Martha – he knew Martha and he loved her – even in her moments of frustration.  He accepts us as we are.  It wasn’t Martha’s preparations that were the problem, they were appreciated, it was the fact that she was worrying about things that didn’t need worrying about.  Jesus gently reminds Martha what was important – to keep her focus on him.

This isn’t a story about one person doing the right thing while another did the wrong thing – it’s a story that reminds us to ask ‘what is God asking of me today?’  Do I need to serve or do I need to listen?  The answer will be personal and different for each of us – and very likely different to what will be asked of us tomorrow.

Whether today is a day to serve or to listen, let’s not worry about the unimportant things, let’s find satisfaction in our work and recognise the need to keep Jesus the focus of all we do.

A Child’s Eye View- 08/09/20

So good to learn recently that God sees the end from the beginning. He understands why things are happening (the whys and wherefores) whether there is an immediate remedy (a quick fix) or whether in this pandemic we all have to just patiently pull together (the long haul) until the exit appears. Meanwhile we hold our needs before Him, waiting to understand, and roll up our sleeves when necessary. Enough of the mixed metaphors!

I remembered recently one very surprising realisation I had as a child. My father was very keen on protecting our eyes when studying and if possible would get us to sit with the daylight coming from the right! Or he would put the electric light on for extra illumination. (Dads are like that I suppose and he loved photography of the family variety) One day he mentioned that the sun was much brighter than the bulb: I was astonished and I don’t think I really believed him. After all it was a very dull day and I could see immediately what a difference the electric light made! It seem dramatic, it was nearby and it was instant.

In John’s Gospel 8:12, Jesus declares that he is the Light of the World. We recognise that this is true when we encounter his brilliant mind and graced character. He makes the statement in the context of healing a blind man (ch9), making a massive difference to the direction of that man’s life and revealing the love of God to the onlookers. Heaven in its brilliance came close through a perfect human being. Not many of us could duplicate what Jesus did that day.

Yet Jesus told us elsewhere that we are the light of the world? (Matthew 5: 14-16)…..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.

So as we’ve also been learning, we are required to show kindness in order to reveal the Light of Heaven into our dark times. Thank goodness the sun is still shining, it is incredibly large and constant, hidden at night but returning faithfully at every dawn. This is the Godlike light and heat that holds everything together, that renews us and inspires continuing life. But for the instant effect, the dramatic impact, the immediate benefit we are chosen to be the main actors. We have all benefitted from the hands-on actions of another human being, or their listening ear, especially when it is unexpected or even feels undeserved. A few years ago I was feeling despondent, not sure where God was and certain that there were no friends thinking about my needs, when a special lady arrived at my door with a jar of pickled herrings. Now I understand that not everyone likes pickled herrings. But I do and I felt very loved and protected. There was an instant light-bulb moment of human kindness and a long-term Heavenly reassurance. We should go for it!!

God’s Perspective- 07/09/20

Most of us are within ten minutes of two motorways that link to other motorways that link to other motorways. It is possible to travel all the way to the south coast or south Wales, the east coast or Scotland, London or Glasgow and never see a set of traffic lights, a zebra crossing or a roundabout. But we know that life is not usually that simple. We have all experienced that moment when speeding along we see in front of us three lanes of stationary traffic. We need to decide instantly which lane to join and the car’s occupants all have different advice to give. I’m sure there is a law at work that states whichever lane you choose, it’s the wrong one, and your fellow travellers will point your mistake out. We can sit there wondering what could possibly hold us up and how far away it is, then suddenly it’s all clear and off we go and we never see the reason for our infuriating delay. 

A little while ago, thoughtful friends sent us a meal token for the restaurant that is the closest to Heaven in Liverpool. It’s possible to get a nose bleed just travelling up in the lift. But when you walk into this facility in the sky you immediately forget about your nose and stare out of the window with your mouth open, which is a good thing to do as you’re in a restaurant. Looking down on the streets below is like looking at a 3D map complete with pedestrians and vehicles all moving along. But in one long winding back street the traffic was going nowhere. From my position in the sky I could see why. At the far end a lorry had shed its load so the traffic stopped and those at the other end could see no reason for their delay. 

I felt a little bit like God because I could see the situation that some people were in and what had caused it and how long they would have to sit there fuming. We don’t have to be in a traffic jam to feel confused and helpless, but it’s worth remembering that God’s perspective is different to ours, we read in Psalm 102, ‘The Lord looked down from His holy place on high, He looked down from heaven to earth.’ He sees more and He knows more than we do. There’s a Bible story about a lady called Hagar who was dying in the desert all alone but God sent an angel to help and guide her. As she realised what had happened she gave God a new name, she said, “You are the God who sees me.” How brilliant is that. He didn’t just see what nobody else could, He got involved. Whatever your situation, however you’re feeling right now, even lonely and fearful like Hagar, nothing has changed, our God is still ‘The God who sees me.’

All or Never- 06/09/20

It’s strange and a little scary how we talk to each other sometimes. Conversations can start very amiably and gently and continue for a long time then suddenly one person quite innocently mentions a subject that is for the other person a raw nerve. And the conversation explodes. Tempers become frayed and statements are made that can be thoughtless, hurtful, and extreme. Ordinary normal little words can be very damaging. Words like ‘All’ or ‘Never’ or ‘Everyone’ or Nobody’ etc. To be told that, “You never listen to me”, or “Everyone tries to avoid you” is so damaging because it’s so total in its condemnation. There is no room for moderation, ‘Never’ and ‘Everyone’ are conversation stoppers and can cause good friends to walk away. “You do this all the time” or “Nobody believes you” is so unfair because it’s almost certainly untrue. Without an apology or forgiveness it could be the end of the road for a beautiful friendship. We need to weigh our words very carefully because they can be savage and destructive. For someone to write a document that includes repeated use of the word ‘All’ for instance might cause people to be cautious about treating it seriously.

King David wrote Psalm 145 in which he uses the word ‘All’ fifteen times to describe God’s love and character. David only wanted to tell the truth, this is not an exercise in exaggeration so David could receive a pat on the back from God. As we read through this Psalm the picture of God we see is that of the great creator God caring for all people including you and me. Listen to some of the statements that David makes, “The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made...The Lord is trustworthy in all He promises and faithful in all He does...The Lord is righteous in all His ways...The Lord is near to all who call on Him in truth...The Lord watches over all who love Him.” It’s comforting to know that whatever our history, no matter how many times we have disappointed or offended Him, His compassion and concern for all of us is all the time. God loves All of us, Nobody is ignored by Him, Everyone can approach Him, and He will Never give up caring for us.

Let’s be careful with our words and let’s celebrate God’s.

One Day At a Time, Sweet Jesus- 05/09/20

I have been on YouTube again. This time listening to country music. Who remembers the song, ‘One Day at a Time, Sweet Jesus?’ It was first recorded in 1974 by the singer Marilyn Sellars, and has since been re-recorded over 200 times by other artists. As I listened to the song I found myself swaying to the music. Something our gospel choir members will totally understand. ‘Sometimes you’ve gotta sway!‘ But it’s popularity over the years, has not just been because it is good ‘sway material’, but the words carry meaning to many of us. The singer is asking Jesus for help and guidance today. Not tomorrow. Not in a week‘s time. But,

‘One day at a time sweet Jesus 

That's all I'm asking from you. 

Just give me the strength 

To do everyday what I have to do. 

Yesterday's gone sweet Jesus 

And tomorrow may never be mine. 

Lord help me today, show me the way 

One day at a time’.

Just this last week, schools and colleges across the country opened their doors for a new school year. After five months children and young people are getting up in the morning, and heading back to classes and hopefully good friends. Workplaces are also opening their doors to more people. And then there are the people who have lost their jobs, and those who are ill or vulnerable and needing to remain at a safe distance. Whatever our current, personal situation may be, we are guaranteed to have times of difficulty, anxiety, stress and sadness. And fear of the unknown can be immense. Jesus knew what He was talking about when He said, 

‘ not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of it’s own’. 

Worry is something we all do, the ‘what ifs’ in life can be overwhelming. But when Jesus was talking to His disciples about prayer He taught them to say,