Previous Sunrises

Home Sweet Home...Maybe- 04/7/20

I love my home. It’s not just a house. Not just a place to sleep. Nor, by any stretch, is it perfect! My girls are noisy and untidy and, well, noisy and untidy. And Louis, my black lab, collects slippers and shoes and deposits them around the house. Our home isn’t a ‘show home’, and it’s not filled with perfect people, but it is filled with love and acceptance and safety and forgiveness. And good coffee! We can all argue and disagree, but home is still where we all run to when we’re tired, sad, lonely, hungry, needing encouragement and love.

I’ve lived in many different places over the years. In many different houses. But they’ve not all been home. Home should be special. And it can be any flat, house, apartment, tent(!!!!)....as long as there is much love and safety and care. Home is not dependent on the amount of possessions owned. 

But for some people, ‘home’ is not defined like that at all. Home for them may be scary, lonely, abusive, freezing cold with no food, no peace. For these people, ‘Home Sweet Home’ just doesn’t ring true. 

Jesus was big into social justice. He cared. He got angry about injustices. Peoples lives mattered to Him. ALL peoples lives. And He made the point over and over again that we are to care for others. Even when it gets messy and inconvenient and requires sacrifice. When He said, ‘Love God and love your neighbour’, He wasn’t talking just about the people next door. 

Maya Angelou knew what it was like to go through many abuses and tragedies, she said, ‘As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself and the other for helping others’.

For those whose home life is suffering because of neglect, abuse, illness, poverty, addiction, loneliness....if we can help, then let’s do our bit. Let’s put away all judgement, and treat others as we’d want to be treated. What a difference it would make to our world if more homes were sweet.

What's In A Name?- 03/7/20

When I was born I was given a name. Strictly speaking, I was given two, but the first one had been decided months before I was born; although, as you are about to read, it changed at the register office. The second one was decided following my birth, but that one too is not what it should have been.My Mum was determined that I would have a name that could not be shortened. She toyed with the idea of Mark for a while, but on checking the births in the Liverpool Echo she decided that there were too many Marks already, so she decided on Ian. Of course, she didn't count upon the determination of the average Scouser to shorten even the shortest of names, so I am often referred to simply as, E. Thanks Mum!My middle name was something my Mum and Dad could not agree upon. The one thing they did agree was that I would not be named after my father or either of my grandfathers. They eventually agreed that I would be named after the doctor that delivered me. This was a decision they were very pleased they had made as I was three weeks late and was a very difficult delivery. I was so starved of oxygen that I was black when I was born. It seemed a nice tribute to the skills of the doctor who ensured my safe passage into this world to give me his name. So my Dad asked after the name of the doctor and was told it was Andrew; which just happened to be the name of my late paternal grandfather, but despite the original agreement regarding familial names, Andrew became my middle name. It was only after my name had been registered that they discovered that Andrew was the other doctor on duty that night... the doctor who delivered me was actually called Colin. To this day my Dad maintains it was an honest mistake, but my Mum never believed him. Oh, and my other name was registered by my Dad as Ian instead of Iain. Another mistake for which he was never forgiven. Personally, I'm happy with both the names and their spelling, so no harm done.In the Bible we find names have a great significance. The meaning of the actual name is important in itself, but often people were given other monikers that described their character or what their role would be.God himself never revealed His name. When asked by Moses, He simply said that His name was, “I am”. That was enough. This was, after all, the God who had created everything, so it was enough to know that He was.Jesus went by many names. His given name was obviously Jesus, but in Isaiah 9:6 we read, “He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”. These titles speak of His divinity, His power, His faithfulness, His nature and purpose. It is Jesus that provides us with our salvation; Jesus who gives us life in all its fullness; Jesus who loves us and watches over us. So, the next time you hear His name spoken, remember that the simple name Jesus is not enough to encompass all that He is or does. He has so many more names... and none of them are a mistake.​

Wardrobe Dilemmas- 02/7/20

When our children were younger (not that little either), getting 4 of them up, fed, dressed and out onto buses for school etc was a daily struggle. They also all went to the school that I worked in but chose to get the bus cos being taught by your Mum was bad enough but sharing a car with her was much worse! However, the youngest would often get a lift if she could, along with her maths teacher who lived around the corner. Picture the scene I am late for work and she cannot find her black regulation school socks. Eventually, I gave up waiting and we drove off, leaving her on the pavement screaming and crying.

Clothes matter, the regulation school socks, and uniform told folks to which school she belonged. They were part of her identity. On Saturday, I am attending a virtual wedding. I will dress up in my fancy outfit to watch it on my laptop…because it feels tight and symbolic to do so. Wearing that outfit will remind me that I am witnessing a special occasion and that I am part of it.

In Galatians chapter 3 verse 27 it says this: “for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” When we belong to Jesus, we should be clothing ourselves with Him. Putting on Christ means putting on His characteristics or it could mean that we put on His armour and protection. Either way, folks should be able to look at us and know that we belong to Jesus by the way that we are. Our identity, our very being should be recognisable as Christian or of Christ. No ironing needed, and yes, there will be times when we mess up and go out with the wrong clothing on; when we don’t put on Christ. When that happens, we need to turn to him and say sorry and He always comes back for us.

The Girl With The Dragonfly Tattoo- 01/7/20

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!

Treasure- 30/6/20

One of the tasks we set ourselves to do during lock-down was to clear out the loft.  We have been promising ourselves for a long time that we would do this but there just never seemed to be a good time – well now we’re out of excuses.  For many years things have conveniently disappeared through the hole in the ceiling and then forgotten about.  Some of these are precious items that, while not valuable, they are wrapped up in treasured memories – photographs, loved toys and books, memento from the various special stages and celebrations of life including my wedding dress (which I absolutely refused to try on just so that everyone else could have a target for their mockery!) 

However, there was also a huge amount of, well, rubbish.  Computers and games consoles that have been replaced and we simply didn’t know what to do with the old ones…..put them in the loft.  Hundreds of teddy bears, many of which have no sentimental value but as the children grew out of them we…..put them in the loft.  Clothes that are no longer in fashion (and no longer fit)…..put them in the loft.  Soft furnishings which have become obsolete after we’ve redecorated…..put them in the loft.  I was hoping that we might find some long forgotten, hidden treasure up there but, no, it was mostly just ‘stuff’.   ‘Stuff’ that had been accumulated over many years and held onto for reasons we have long forgotten.  ‘Stuff’ that is now covered in dust and dirt and has become the hiding place for spiders and moths.

In Matthew 6 it says “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

We surround ourselves with so many things that we place a value on but the truth is that even the photographs and memories will eventually fade and the generations to come after us won’t understand the value that we placed on these things.  But the things that we do and say, the way that we behave, the role model that we all have the potential to be – that’s what real treasure is made of.  God has placed treasure within each of us – the ability to love the seemingly unlovable; experience joy during hardship; know peace during turmoil and offer kindness to a stranger.  The Bible tells us that “…we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us”.  We are just jars of fragile clay, imperfect and maybe a little bit chipped but inside us God has placed treasure to share and pour out over one another.  God doesn’t want us to hoard this treasure that he has given us, he wants us to give it away. And the more we give away, the more we find we have to give. 

Let’s not store our treasure to gather dust, let’s share it generously as God intended and experience the lavish nature of God as he refills us over and over.

But if anyone does want an off-cut of carpet or a box of cassette tapes, just let me know!

What's He Talking About?- 29/6/20

We read books for a variety of reasons. Sometimes we are studying for an exam, or we need to understand a new piece of technology. If we are planning to visit somewhere new, a guide book is a good idea. Do you like history? It could be about your favourite football team or an ancient civilisation. Maybe you just want something simple to close the day with. Whatever the reason or subject, there is one condition we all need, it must be understandable. It’s possible to understand all the individual words but when the author assembles them, our brains hurt and we wonder why we started.

 I opened a new book recently on a subject that is interesting to me and which I think is important. Each chapter is written by a specialist, and the purpose of this compilation of chapters and authors is to give people a complete understanding of the subject. It didn’t start well because the introduction was 53 pages long and it made no sense to me. I gave up on that and moved on to the first chapter in the belief that because each one dealt with a single subject it would be understandable. Wrong! I learned that when dealing with ‘History’, I needed to know that there were 11 different meanings to the word. I finished the chapter after reading and re-reading over three nights. By then I couldn’t remember how the chapter started or what the point of it all was. The second chapter was concerned with ‘Truth’, that was much better because there were only 8 ways that we can think about that, but the author disagreed with all of them. I think.

 All of this made me think of John the Baptist, (you were ahead of me weren’t you?) When John and Jesus walked the streets of Palestine 2000 years ago, the Jewish religion was stunningly complicated and most of the population were totally confused. Along came John who thought it made more sense to speak simply and directly and leave out all the big words. He knew that people would wonder who Jesus was so he told them, “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world...I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.” Simple. Job done.

 Jesus was as straight with the people as John was. He taught about God, Heaven, murder, adultery, promises, revenge, love, sin, charity, prayer, fasting, money, death, ambition, worry, and other things. But always in language that ordinary people could understand. The Christian faith is for all people whatever their status in life, so it needs to be expressed simply. The Bible says, ‘This is love; not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.’

 Which bit of that don’t we understand?

How Things Change- 28/6/20

When we moved into our current house, it’s our third, there were five old apple trees at the bottom of the garden. Some of the apples were edible but most of them had worms in them. We tried for a few years then gave up trying to get to them before the worms and wasps did. So we took the trees out and it looked very empty, so in my wisdom I thought we should have just one tree. But not an ordinary boring tree, I wanted the biggest tree around. So I bought a Pyramidical Hornbeam. I bet you’re impressed! It didn’t grow out, it grew up. And up. And up again. I achieved my ambition, it was enormous and I was very proud. The birds loved it and I assume they loved me too. Then came the storm! It left devastation all around, but my tree stood firm and proud but I was a nervous wreck. Looking at it during the strongest gusts I’ve ever seen, I thought ‘If that comes down, it will flatten that house and the people in it.’ So because I’m a considerate and thoughtful neighbour (you’d love to live near me), when a ‘tree surgeon’, (that’s what he called himself) knocked at the door, I asked him to remove eight feet from the top of my prized possession. Which he did and I took pictures of him, suspended from a branch with a monstrous saw in his hands. Job done, he took his money, smiled and walked away. And the tree died. And a little bit of me went with it.

 A few years later my youngest granddaughter was in the garden with me when I saw and heard a thrush singing joyously from the top of my tree. Hope asked me where the singing bird was and I told her it was on the top of the tree. She asked me which tree, I pointed to my faded masterpiece and she said, “That’s not a tree.” Puzzled I asked her what it was to which she replied without hesitation, “Sticks.” That was a painful moment because she was right and I hated the truth.

 Life is full of change; things, jobs, people, health, relationships come and go and we can’t stop it. But our Bible tells us that not everything or everyone changes. We read that God said, “I the Lord do not change.” In the New Testament we read, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever." And something else doesn’t change, King David wrote, "From everlasting to everlasting, the Lord’s love is with those who trust Him." Our lives are changing constantly, but the really important things are fixed for all time. Happy?

Anyone Seen Brian?- 27/6/20

My dad bought me a bike. It was my second bike and I wanted it because my first one wasn't cool. That was a sit-up-and-beg bike, OK for going to school and to Sayers on Saturday morning for bread and buns. But my bike riding had become serious, so I needed a serious bike to go travelling. And we travelled far and wide. You will have noticed I said ‘we’; that's where Brian comes in. We went to different schools but in our teens we rode together. Everywhere. We liked climbing hills so we had low gears and legs like Charles Atlas. If you don't know him, try Google. We rode up many steep hills in Wales, and we could ride 150 miles in a day. At the age of 15 (15!!!) we took the overnight train to Bristol and spent two weeks touring Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall right down to Lands End. We took great risks without batting an eyelid; I look back and am astounded we survived. But we did, but our friendship didn't. We started work doing different things in different places. Our bike rides had to stop, mobiles hadn't been invented, and we were two blokes who didn't write letters. By the time we were 21 it was all over. My best mate for ten years disappeared. Now I find myself thinking about him, does he have children or grandchildren? Where is he? Could I find him on Google? Should I bother or should I confine it all to history? What would you do?

Many who read Sunrise have lost a friend this week. No point trying to find him, he has gone where we can't go. Yet. Many of us could talk about our friendship with Steve and share our stories and memories, but we can't bring him back because God has said that his work is complete. So now he's got his reward, it's a bit like a pension and nothing like a pension. It’s nothing like a pension because all his needs are met by God, not by the state, and they are limitless and eternal. Steve is not in God’s family because of his work but because of his acceptance of Jesus’ work at Calvary. In the New Testament, Paul writes, ‘For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.’ Steve can rest now, his work is finished but God’s love continues.

 Now then, has anyone seen Brian?

Would You Like Some More?- 26/6/20

They say, A little of what you fancy does you good”, but they also say, “You can’t get enough of a good thing”. I’m not exactly sure who they are, but you will have heard them say it. You’ve probably also heard them say, “All things in moderation”.

So, what are we to believe? Certainly, it’s nice to have a little of what you fancy. I’m partial to a good cup of coffee and will have a few cups during the day… but never more than three. Why? Because I like my coffee strong; very strong. If you can’t bounce a pound coin off the top of it, it’s not strong enough. Now studies have shown that strong coffee can have beneficial health effects - it can apparently ward off dementia, but too much coffee can damage your liver and give you high blood pressure and palpitations. So in this case you can get too much of a good thing.

Now, what if the good thing you’re talking about is spending time with the person you love? How could you possibly get enough of that? Well, I imagine that if you were to ask some of the people who have been locked down with their loved ones for the past thirteen weeks whether they want another thirteen weeks, you might be surprised by some of the answers. Obviously, nobody reading, or writing, this missive will fall into that category!

So, perhaps all things in moderation is the way to go. It’s certainly true of most dietary considerations. We may be trying to eat healthily, but our body needs sensible amounts of all the major food groups… even carbohydrates, fat and sugar. Simply not eating, or completely removing certain foods from our diet is not actually healthy. A sensible, moderate approach is always better.

So what are we going to do? Which option will we choose? A little, a lot, or something in between?

Former college football star, Tim Tebow had a saying which I found interesting, or more accurately, I liked how he applied it. In his autobiography he says he lived by the adage, “If some is good, more must be better”. He used this in his approach to all things. When his team mates ran a mile in training, he would run two. If somebody lifted 200 lbs in the weight room, he would lift 250. If his college professor suggested he spend two hours studying a subject, he would spend three… and so on. Always wanting to do more. Always wanting to prove he could be the best. In the end, it nearly killed him. He trained too long and too hard. He did too much. His body couldn’t cope with the demands he put upon it. He was physically exhausted and his body shut down.

During his enforced bed rest in hospital, he had time on his hands. He turned to his Bible. Tim is a devout Christian and would make time to connect with God whenever he could, but his punishing schedule had meant that he had spent less time than he would have liked on what was really important. Now, finding that he had spare time forced upon him, he was able to spend quality time getting to know God better. He realised that his previous life style had been of his own choosing. He had chosen to do too much. He had chosen to drive himself too hard. He had chosen to fit God in around the edges.

Here in the stillness he realised that he needed to rethink his schedule. He knew that he didn’t want to go back to how things had been. So he didn’t. He changed his way of doing things. He adjusted his training demands and his college work and still graduated and led his team to the National College Football Championship, but all of that came after he had put God at the forefront of whatever he did.

We too have had an enforced time of change. We too can take time to reassess what is important to us. We too have the opportunity to reflect and come to the same conclusion as Tim Tebow… that when it comes to God, if some is good, more must be better.

Put Away The Sanitiser- 25/6/20

I returned to work a couple of weeks ago; not that I have stopped work but physically, went into my actual workplace. It was scary and exciting. Our college is so proud of its support for local workers and the NHS and is now making its own sanitiser. As you step through the doors it is the first thing you do…sanitise your hands. However, let’s face it, sanitising hands is hardly an exciting moment in the day and the novelty of it wore off along with the fragrance. UNTIL…I took the hubster into town for a tentative look around. He invented a new game. Rate the shops by their sanitiser! We tried them all. There were gloopy ones, sticky ones (yuk), spray ones and industrial ones (check it out in the toilets in Liverpool one!) ‘Next’ won! The sanitiser in Next is so nice that every day it gets stolen! It is like a perfume, just beautiful. In religious language, Christians sometimes talk of things like being cleansed by the blood of the lamb or the cleansing power of Jesus. The first statement, although very true, can also be a bit off putting if you have never been to church before. After all, lambs’ blood is hardly going to compete with the scented beauty of the ‘Next’ sanitiser is it?

Jesus did not come to sanitise us. Jesus did not come to sanitise our world and make us and it sterile. He did come to cleanse and to heal. The stuff that needs cleansing is not always visible. It’s a bit like a virus in that it is dangerous, harmful but pretty invisible. Sin or wrong doing is harmful. It damages us and our relationships and no amount of posh or industrial sanitiser will deal with it.

When we follow Jesus, he invites us to hand over that sin to Him. He dealt with it on the cross, once and for all.

In John 10 verse 10 (I know I have quoted this before, but it is our college vision and I love it), it says this:

 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Sin robs us of joy, relationships and life but Jesus promises to give us life and life in all its fullness.

One For All and All For One- 24/6/20

Quite a long time ago now, I studied A level art. My favourite style of art was pointillism. Whole images made up of tiny dots. If you stood very close to the picture you would see the combination of coloured dots very clearly, but as you stepped back you would realise that each and every dot helped to make the big picture. I was never particularly known for being patient, however I would sit for hours and hours creating images made up of thousands upon thousands of tiny dots. And what seemed funny about it was that every single tiny dot was relevant. Every single tiny dot vital to the big picture. When I messed some of the dots up, I messed the whole picture up. I had to sort the mess if I wanted the picture to be beautiful.

The Bible tells us that, ‘we are God’s work of art, his masterpiece’. He takes delight in creating us and gifting us, and He loves it when we give ourselves to the bigger picture. When people come together with their different personalities and traits and all offer what skills and abilities they’re able to, it’s a bit like a pointillism image, every single dot, every single person, vital to the bigger picture. And when there’s a mess, a hurt, a grief, a desperate time, for just one person, it’s only right that it affects the rest. It’s only right that we join forces and help where needed. 

Pointillism wouldn’t work if each dot stayed on its own. Community wouldn’t work if each one of us didn’t need the others. Pointillism needs lots of dots all working together for the big picture. Community needs all of us, working together, recognising each other as ‘God’s work of art’. And when we do that, when we truly learn to appreciate one another, we can become part of God’s big and beautiful masterpiece.

The Repair Shop- 23/6/20

Have you watched The Repair Shop on TV?  I love it.  People bring in treasured possessions and family heirlooms that are broken and battered, that are rotting away and have become unusable and sometimes dangerous – the team of restorers then set about repairing and restoring the item to its former glory.  I’m amazed at what they can do.  These are things that to me look like they are irredeemable and the only place for them is the bin but the restorers never seem phased, they just go about, bit by tiny fragile bit, bringing new life to this beloved possession.  Often the owners have wonderful, personal stories of the people who gave them this item, or the family occasions when it was used etc.  The thing is though, the restorers don’t make it look like it was when it was brand new.  They are careful to keep the worn edges, the scratches and the child’s name etched into the bottom.  They restore its function and its beauty but are careful to maintain its character and its history.  The things that are most precious to us tend to be the things that have journeyed with us, things that remind us of happy times and special people; things that bear something of our own story.

We’re not so different though are we?  Life leaves its mark on us.  Sometimes that is a physical scar or wound but often it can be those scars that are unseen which have left their mark on us invisibly but no less real or deep or painful and which, if untreated, can weaken us and even eat away at us restricting our ability to function.  But the good news is that we have a great restorer who has promised us that one day “He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes.  Death is gone for good – tears gone, crying gone, pain gone … “Look! I’m making everything new.””

I like the idea of being all shiny and new and free from the scars of life but it does beg the question, what do we do while we wait?  On those days when life feels just too hard and we’re just not strong enough; not good enough; not capable enough; not happy enough? Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth spoke about his own frustrations of his weaknesses and how he’d asked God to make him stronger – God’s reply to him was simple: “My grace is enough; it’s all you need.  My strength comes into its own in your weakness”.  It was then that Paul understood; when he was at his weakest, when he stopped trying to do things in his own strength, that’s when God was able to step in and Paul no longer lived in his own strength, but God’s.  Paul’s response to his weaknesses changed – “I just let Christ take over!  And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become”. 

God offers us exactly the same.  We are his beloved possessions and none of us are irredeemable - while we wait to be restored to shiny newness; while we have to put up with the worn edges and the scratches that life has imposed on us – we don’t have to do it in our own strength, he’s waiting for us to lean on him.

Meeting and Eating- 22/6/20

Celebrations are an important part of our lives. We celebrate our birthdays, anniversaries, and other important days. We throw parties, take pictures, give flowers and gifts, and most importantly we eat cake. We not only have personal celebrations, we have national ones. There’s St George’s Day, St Patrick’s, St David’s and St Andrew’s. Then there’s New Year’s Day. Have I missed any? Guy Fawkes. Lord Mayor’s Day. Red Nose Day. But I’m sure you will agree that the most important one is Fathers Day. How could you disagree? Some of these celebration days are marked by time away from work, by leisure and laughter, fun and gifts. We picnic, parade, barbecue, and launch fireworks.  We spend time with family and friends. Such celebrations lift us from the routine of our lives. (I quite like my routine). They cause us to remember our collective past and the people who used to celebrate with us, and be thankful for our present circumstances, and as we celebrate in the present, we hope for more years and more celebrations.

As Christians, we have our own celebrations; Christmas, Easter, Ascension Day, etc. But if these special Christian days are just events that come round each year, allow us time off work and encourage meeting and eating, we’ve missed the point. They are meant to be transformative. When we rightly smile at youngsters acting out the birth of a baby in Bethlehem, do we understand that this baby created the world and everything on and around it? Many people in the world struggle with this, but two thousand million of us don’t struggle, we celebrate!

 Speaking about the baby, the Bible says, "Everything was created by Him, everything in heaven and on Earth, everything seen and unseen, including all forces and powers, and all rulers and authorities. All things were created by God’s Son, and everything was made for Him." It’s the same with Easter and Ascension Day, these are not rituals, they are realities. When Jesus left Earth on Ascension Day, an angel told the disciples, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way as you have seen Him go.”

 If people are ready for that, it will be a celebration day to end all celebration days. See you there.

Thank You Dads- 21/6/20

It’s Fathers Day! A day that has been celebrated around the world for over 100 years. A day started by a little girl in the States who wanted to say a huge big Thank you to her wonderful, loving dad! So, Happy Fathers Day to all you wonderful dads; step dads; foster dads; uncles; cousins; granddads; and all others who have taken on the tough and challenging role of a dad! May you have a very happy and blessed day!! Thank you for being there to help make tough decisions; to show excitement and delight and pride in ‘your children’; for the laughter; the tears; the support and the fun. Thank you!

And for those of us left only with memories of a wonderful ‘dad’, may your day be filled with smiles and gratitude. 

Throughout the bible we can read stories of different kinds of dads. Some of them wonderful, some of them not. All of them imperfect. But the bible talks about one dad who is perfect. This dad made the world, put the stars in space, counts the grains of sand on the beaches, made you and me, knows how many hairs are on our heads, knew us before we were born and knows every moment of our life here on Earth. He loves each one of us with the most extravagant, relentless love. He knows our names. God is our perfect father. 100% perfect, accessible, love. That’s our father! Happy Father’s Day God....and thank you.

No I Can't...Yes I Can- 20/6/20

My husband and I met,married and worshipped at a church in Liverpool until, very sadly it closed. One day Dave was approached to be Treasurer as the current one was retiring. He was an engineer, never having been involved in figures or balancing accounts! His immediate answer was - "No I can't" . Needless to say Dave,very capably did the job for quite a number of years.I was recently asked to contribute to 'Sunrise'. My response, without even having to think was "No I can't"Moses was asked by God to help free the Israelites from slavery. He immediately replied "No I can't" But reading the story of Moses in the bible, we know that he was able to do what God asked of him.Dave was encouraged to be Treasurer by the Church Officers.I was encouraged by someone who has become very special to me.Moses was encouraged by God. We all need encouragement in our lives. God says "Encourage one another" So why not give it a go! You don't know how you could affect someone's life for the better. You might know of somebody who would benefit from an encouraging word. Maybe you are the one to give it.1 Thess 5 : 11  "So encourage one another and build each other up just as you are already doing "

Poppies- 19/6/20

In the film, “You've Got Mail”, Meg Ryan's character claims that daisies are the friendliest flower; whilst roses are considered to be the flower of romance. My Mum's favourite flowers were anemones and I have a friend who loves sunflowers (although she also has a strange affinity for garden gnomes, so her judgement isn’t to be trusted). All of these flowers are nice in their own way, but for me, the Poppy is the flower that lifts my spirits.It's not simply that they are bright and cheery, but that they pop up everywhere. I have recently seen them blooming in roadside verges, blossoming on a building site and brightening up a car park. We are all aware of the use of the Flanders Poppy to commemorate those who lost their lives in various armed conflicts throughout the world. It was chosen because of its proliferation in the trenches and battlefields during the first World War. You just can't keep it down. I remember travelling by train from Paris to Marseilles and as we passed through the French countryside I was delighted to see the little red faces of poppies peeking at me from every wheat field. They bring a welcome splash of colour wherever they make their appearance and they never fail to make me feel happy.There are certain people who are like poppies. We all know somebody who brightens our mood simply by being there. Like poppies, these people often appear when we least expect them and usually just when we need them. Their bright and cheery nature lifts our spirits and we are always glad to see them. They simply make our day better.So, what do we do when they aren’t there? Well, there is somebody else we can turn to. Jesus is always there for us to talk to. At any time, in any place He is there. He delights in spending time with us. We can talk to Him about anything because He knows our hearts and our desires. He knows what troubles us and He knows what pleases us. Before we even tell Him, He knows our needs. We often refer to this as prayer, but I think of it as talking to a friend. A friend who knows me well and always knows the right thing to say.Why then, are poppy people so special? Well, it’s because in their own little way they are like Jesus. They display some of His qualities. They mirror His ways. They demonstrate the fruits of His spirit that you will have seen mentioned on these pages before; “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).So, I know that I always have Jesus to talk to and I know that, if I spend enough time with Him, He will help me to become a poppy person too.

We Don't Need Another Hero- 18/6/20

What an awesome country we live in at the moment, full of superheroes making a real difference. Isn’t it inspiring reading about Captain Tom and his garden laps? Or those care workers who moved into the care home to protect the residents…I mean that is so sacrificial. Then of course there is a certain Man Utd striker sorting out food vouchers and forcing a government U turn. That is very powerful. My friend Heidi is incredible too (google Heidi Cowter and disability rights), campaigning tirelessly for the rights of the unborn child and a spokesperson for the ‘Don’t screen us out’ campaign.

I could go on but, actually, it can also be a bit disheartening. Many of us are struggling to hold our own little lot together at times. Having to meet all the demands of lock down is exhausting. I was going to clean the whole house, learn welsh and make lots of candles for my friends. My house is still pretty unclean, my Welsh extends to 2 words plus the first line of the national Anthem, and I have made 2 and ¾ candles. Heidi’s mum Liz admits to hiding in the garden just to get a breather because it is so exhausting living with Heidi (who happens to have downs Syndrome). And then there is the grief that knocks us flat when we hear of the death of a loved friend. Never mind being a super hero, I need a super hero. It is at this point that I should be telling you all that God is that hero etc but…it does not always work like that.

Matthew chapter 5 verses 14-16 says this: “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you?"

A Celtic traditional saying puts it like this: “We have to be a candle burning between hope and despair”.

We don’t have to light up the whole world, but we do have to be a light in our little bit of it. We have to be a light to those that we live with, come into contact with. The source of that light in us is Jesus. All we do is reflect his light in our lives and show His hope to the bit of our world that needs it today.

Your Favourite Colour- 17/6/20

What’s your favourite colour? Do you have one, or do you reply when asked, “I don’t have a favourite colour, it would help to know what we are talking about, for instance a car, a suit, the back bedroom, etc.” People can fall out in grand style over colours, particularly if you’re talking about home decoration, which is odd because after five years they re-decorate and change everything and fall out again. It’s very personal; I would hate to have a lime green car or a pink suit but you may love them. I wouldn’t even want a pink car or a lime green suit; am I just being difficult? I remember a Peanuts cartoon where Lucy was pointing out the variety of greens in the landscape and saying how beautiful they were; Charlie Brown was not impressed and walked away saying, “What happens if you don’t like green?”  That’s a fair question. Personally I’m happy with green grass, I’m not sure I would want it to be blue and for the sky to be green. However the northern lights sky is often green and people love it. Colour in food is very important, how would you feel if the restaurant served up rump steak that was green, accompanied by blue garden peas and grey carrots? People apply meanings to colours, but they change over time. Pink was a masculine colour used for baby boys until early in the 20th century when the gender roles of pink and blue were reversed. Different countries and cultures understand colours differently. In many parts of the world, a black sheep is viewed negatively, but in Italy a black sheep is seen as a symbol of confidence and independence, and has been used in VW advertising, but only in Italy.

 The Bible is full of colour references that would take years to study. God says to His people, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” This represents the transformation from a life dominated by sin, to a life free of sins power. The first colour mentioned in the Bible is at the end of the Creation story when God refers to “every green plant” and the last colour we read of is in the description of God’s last creation, the New Jerusalem coming down from Heaven where we read "The great street of the city was of gold." But the greatest reference to colours is after the flood when God said, “I have set my rainbow in the clouds.” This was a sign of God’s promise not to flood the earth again, and it contains all colours because God loves all colours. Not everybody does. Let’s learn the lesson.

Business As Usual- 16/6/20

I watched TV in amazement yesterday as I saw scenes of people who had been queuing since the crack of dawn, cars blocking the roads and some unbelievable behaviour of people throwing all social distancing guidelines out of the window as they clambered over one another, desperate to get to the front – what were they doing?  They were shopping.  As the non-essential shops began to open, many people seemed desperate to get back to their favourite pass-time.  Desperate to purchase that apparently essential non-essential item. 

Don’t get me wrong, I like to shop; I like to browse round the things I can’t afford and I love it when I find a bargain but it’s not the thing that I’ve missed most over the last few weeks. 

Over the last 12 weeks we have had an enforced ‘stop’ placed on us and we had no choice but to slow down.  At first it felt like we had so much time on our hands, what were we going to do with it?  But gradually we did adapt and we found a new routine - perhaps you’ve learned a new skill; perhaps you’ve picked up an old hobby; perhaps you’ve had time to read, learn to cook, catch up with old friends using new technology?  Whatever you’ve been doing over the last 12 weeks, for many of us it has included things that we wouldn’t have had time to do under normal circumstances.  Without being forced to stop and think, we would have just kept our heads down and kept going on the treadmill of life.  What we have been given, however, is an opportunity to change.  Not everything can or should change, but we do have the chance to think about which things can and should change. 

Have we really learned anything if all we do is rush back to everything we did before?

In 1 Corinthians chapter 10 it says “You say, “I am allowed to do anything” – but not everything is good for you.  You say, “I am allowed to do anything” – but not everything is beneficial.  Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.”

Perhaps as life returns to some semblance of normality the skill will be to choose which bits to return to and which bits to change for good.  It’s easy to break habits when we are forced to stop but will we choose to break some of our less beneficial habits when we no longer have to? 

This is our opportunity to change for the good of others and for the benefit of ourselves.

I will eventually return to non-essential shopping but first I want to spend time with my friends and family; spend time with my fellow singers at choir; spend time with my friends at church.  I want to keep ‘games night’ with my family and time to sit in the garden and read.  This has been a tough year so far, let’s not waste the few good things we have achieved in our hurry to return to everything that feels familiar.

Your Heavenly Face- 15/6/20

During a family conversation about meeting people in Heaven, a young girl’s mother asked how we will recognise each other when the Bible tells us that we will have new bodies. Dad shrugged his shoulders and confessed he didn’t have a clue. It’s amazing how bright a six year old child can be when adults are stumped. She said that it was easy to understand, “We only take our faces to Heaven but we get new bodies.” That sounds fine but which of my faces will I take? What about my young cuddly face (yes I used to have one)? That was before I ran headlong, face first, into a brick wall at the age of nine. Very messy. Or maybe the trendy face I had in my twenties and thirties; shoulder length hair and a massive beard. Possibly the respectable mature face with short hair and a wife-trimmed beard; or today’s version of no hair and short beard. Whichever face you would like to take with you, it can look different depending on your character. Are you grumpy, irritated by everyone and everything? Maybe you’re just bored with people and prefer your own space. You could of course be a gentle and patient individual. So often your face displays your nature. George Orwell, author of Animal Farm said, “By the age of fifty every man has the face he deserves.” Time to look in the mirror men! Ladies you’re not excused!

 The characteristics that God expects from His followers include, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. If you practice these attributes your face will broadcast your nature. That’s the face to take with you; then we will be happy to see each other.

 The Bible speaks of God’s face bringing comfort when life is stressful, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.”

Lets imitate God so when people meet you, they get more than a smile.

Read the Instructions- 14/6/20

Imagine the scene, just married and trying to impress my husband with my cooking skills; finding what he likes and doesn’t like. He likes rice pudding so that’s what I’m making tonight. I know how to do that, I’ve seen my mum make it many times. Off I went to the shops, bought a bag of rice and went home. Stage one; wash the rice and put it in the oven. Then I went about my housework, and returned to check my masterpiece. And there it was coming to meet me, filling the oven and coming out of the door and across the floor. Stage two; clean up. What a mess, what had I done wrong? I didn’t read the instructions. I wasn’t cooking for a family of six;there were only two of us. I didn’t need to use the whole bag, just enough for two newly-weds. 

 How many times do we try to take shortcuts by not reading the instructions? Most of us read them after we have tried it our own way and seen the mess we made. The Bible gives us instructions to gain eternal life, but most people take no notice of it. They insist on doing things their own way despite the fact that the Bible in John 3.16 says, ‘This is how God loved the world; He gave His only Son so that everyone who trusts in Him might not be lost but have eternal life.’ It’s so simple but people choose to make it complicated and difficult. The rice pudding incident was decades ago; I’ve read many instructions since then, but the best one of all is John 3.16.

Didn't see it coming- 13/6/20

We used to have a black Labrador. Actually that’s not quite true, he was a failed Labrador; his mother had a fling with a sheep dog. We were not bothered that he didn’t have a perfect pedigree, we loved him dearly and he loved us in return. He was called Dougal. The vet smiled and said, “We’ve had a lot of them recently.” You need to be a certain age to know where his name came from. Like most Labs (alright half-Labs), he enjoyed sniffing almost everything and he enjoyed eating almost everything. But we kept him trim and we were all proud of our doggy family member. We never had a holiday without Dougal. It was my job to walk him each night, I had work that kept me very busy for long hours, so often our walks were late at night when it was very peaceful. And very dark. This was before sodium lighting and eternal daylight. This was my time to relax and think profound thoughts. One night I solved the world’s energy problems by inventing a perpetual motion machine using magnetism which could produce electricity at no cost. Sadly I never got round to making it, because I would need to use my breakfast bowl, it was just the right shape, but it was decorated with a picture of the Magic Roundabout characters, and I couldn’t bring myself to destroy it. Sorry world! One dark night close to home, I realised that Dougal was a long way behind me, so as I turned into my little road I called him and carried on walking. I heard him coming, the noise of his paws on the ground and his panting were getting louder so I turned around to look for him. I woke up flat on my back in the middle of the road with Dougal licking my face, delighted that he had bumped into me and I was now down at his level. The fact that I called him “You stupid dog” didn’t seem to bother him at all.

 Sometimes life is like that, something flattens us and we didn’t see it coming. As we consider the shock, we ask all the usual questions, ‘Why me, why this, why now?’ Often we don’t get answers that satisfy us, but for the Christian the Bible brings comfort and reminds us that God understands when we don’t, and He cares for His people. King David tells us, ‘Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.’ Towards the end of the Bible we are reminded that however we feel today, Christians can always look forward because God has it sorted, ‘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!”

 Roll on the new order.

The Sunny Side of the Street- 12/6/20

I have an abiding childhood memory. It's of walking down the street with my Dad. Whenever we would do so, he would look up at the sky and regularly say, “Let's cross over”. When I would ask him why, he would say, “I want to walk on the sunny side of the street”. So off we would go to leave the shadows behind. The journey towards the sun was usually fraught with difficulty, if not downright danger. Pedestrian crossings were few and far between when I was a lad, so we would embark on a perilous quest to dodge the oncoming traffic on Smith down Road, risking life and limb to find a more pleasant ambiance in which to walk. This way of crossing a road would have made Tufty the squirrel choke on his hazelnuts; but even as a child I wondered at the wisdom of using an animal you would often see squashed to a pulp in the middle of the road as a role model for road safety and, whilst I would not recommend teaching it to your own children, it did stand me in good stead in later life when holidaying in Rome and Paris. Having attained our goal of a warmer, brighter stroll, we would often have to repeat the mad dash through speeding traffic to cross back in order to reach the bus stop that was our original destination. Looking back, two things strike me; firstly, I'm amazed we survived, and secondly; he was right. It is better to walk in the sunshine.Sometimes we can feel that we are in a dark place; events in our lives can give rise to the feeling that we are walking in the shadows, but we should always remember that the presence of shadows proves the existence of light. It can be difficult to see a path back to that light, to navigate our way through the darkness, but the light is always there. We are told in John's Gospel that, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”. That light is Jesus. Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”.To find that light we need to follow Him. We need to look up and make the conscious decision to cross from the shadow to the light. Our path may be fraught with difficulty, we may have some obstacles to overcome to get there; the “oncoming traffic” of life's trials and tribulations, but the walk will be better for our efforts... it's the sunny side of the street

Family time is happy time - 11/6/20

Confession time; as a family, with a minister for a Dad, we fall rather short of other people’s expectations. We are, at times, even less harmonious than the Simpsons; and that is saying something! When we are all together along with,what I like to call , the attachments (partners of my grown up kids), we are noisy. There is heated debate around politics, religion, education and even relatively safe topics like health and the weather. One of my children has taken to bringing ear plugs to family do’s. Yesterday, I had a bad day. I received yet another piece of sad news and fell apart a little. Who would have thought thatthese three words would come to my rescue: ‘zoom family quiz ‘? 3 months ago we had never had a family quiz and I had not heard of zoom. Yet, thanks to the wonders of technology, and a daughter who sacrificed a fair bit of time to sort it out, we were together; still noisy, still opinionated and still very much a family. In order for it to work, we had to mute ourselves frequently and concede to each other. Our church is frequently called a family. We may be distanced from each other but when we get together, it still feels like family. There are the noisy ones, the opinionated ones, the awkward ones, the quiet ones etc etc. BUT, we are still family. In order for church to work, we have to make multiple little sacrifices in order to keep unity. We have to daily forgive one another, show grace to one another and lay aside our own desires. We have to learn to mute our own voice and sacrificially listen to our brothers and sisters. In the New Testament, in the book of Philippians, we are told that our example should be Christ Jesus Himself. If we follow him, then it means that living as a church family should be like this:“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favour: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”(Philippians 2 1-4).We don’t have to be perfect, but we do have to try. As for my family? We are still very much a work in progress.

 

Life is a rollercoaster - 10/6/20

Ever since I was young I have been unable to ride on a rollercoaster without turning green. I can’t help it, it’s just me. The waltzers are the same – round and round and round and then round some more; everyone else laughing and squealing with delight while I was trying to work out which way to turn my head so that what was about to happen wasn’t going to end up right back in my face! Thesolution isn’t difficult – don’t go on fairground rides. Easy. Except that a few years ago while on holiday in Disneyland, a few ‘grown ups’ decided to go on one of the bigger rides – “come on!”, “It’ll be great!”, “you’ll be fine!” There was a small part of me that did wonder if maybe it was something that I’d grown out of – that decided it, I’d give it a go. Well……I shouldn’t have bothered. My husband had never seen that shade of green before and he’s quite certain he doesn’t want to see it again! For some people the exhilaration and excitement of the ride brings joy and laughter. The lurch of your stomach as you are suddenly plunged down off a cliff edge for some reason unknown to me seems to bring pleasure rather than queasiness. The abrupt twists and turns and unexpected drops are exciting rather than terrifying or sickness inducing. But that’s just the point – we all might beexperiencing the same circumstances, but we are all still experiencing them uniquely. There’s no right or wrong. For some people, home schooling may be a joy. For some people, the shops being closed might have been a relief. Some people are even finding pleasure in the queues – someone told merecently how her husband is enjoying have to queue everywhere because he can have a chat to people and they have nowhere to go! But for others the juggling of home life, work, school assignments, essential shopping, the loneliness, uncertainty and stress may be almost too much to bear. There’s no right or wrong.But we do need to know that whether we are experiencing joy or sadness, we’re not experiencing it alone. God has placed us into each other’s care and told us to look out for one another. In 1 Thessalonians it says “… always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Overthe last few weeks and months there have been so many acts of simple kindness that may have felt insignificant to the giver but which have meant the world to the receiver. Being joyful isn’t always about happiness but joy can be found in a word of encouragement; joy can be found in a simple text that asks how your day has been; joy can be found in the knowledge that a friend is holding you in their prayers; joy can be found in the gnome on your doorstep. I feel privileged to be part of this joyful community – not always happy, but always joyful. But I’m still not convinced that joy can be found on a rollercoaster!

Peace. perfect Peace - 9/6/20

It’s the 9th June today. That means we’re having McDonalds for tea! It goes without say. Every year, for the last 12 years, on this day, we’ve had McDonalds for tea. 13 years ago today, my daughter, Peace, was born. Stillborn. I knew from early on in my pregnancy that ‘something was wrong’. A mummy’s instinct. My little chick was headed to a much better place. On her ‘first birthday’ I asked my other little girls what would you like to do for Peace’s birthday? Without a second thought they said, ‘we want to buy her flowers mummy, and go to McDonald’s’. 12 years later and we still have the same routine. And that won’t change. It’s our celebration of our beautiful little girl. Over the last 13 years I have gone from being completely heartbroken, to knowing peace. A peace that I could only get from a loving God who knew what it was like to feel pain. I can honestly say, I have peace about my Peace. And so, we celebrate her. We thank God for the place she has in our lives. I know that one day I’ll get to hug my girl. And today I say, ‘Thankyou Peace, for causing me to learn so much more about empathy, gratitude, love and making every moment count’.

Happy birthday beauty, mummy loves you ️

 

‘Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He is the Father who is compassionate and the God who gives comfort’.

2 Corinthians 1:3

There are other things in life - 8/6/20

I wasn’t sure where I had put it a year ago when my body decided to mess with my life and my plans. So last week I went looking for my Fitbit. If you don’t know what a Fitbit is, you’re clearly not keeping up with the healthy young people like me. You wear it on your wrist like a watch, but unlike a watch which simply tells you what time it is, this monster tells you what to do with your time. It tells you how far you should walk in aday, and when. Ten minutes before each hour expires, my little monster buzzes and tells me to walk 500 paces. It doesn’t mind where I go or what I see (it doesn’t even care about the weather, I told you it’s a monster), it just wants you off your backside and moving. It constantly reminds me of my pulse rate (mine’s 57, but only for now). It suggests that I go running, which is stupid with a knee like mine, and it complains when I don’t. It insists that I drink more water but doesn’t allow me any time to go to the loo. Now it’s started telling me when I should go to bed, and kicks off an alarm when it thinks I should be out walking first thing in the morning. It has just buzzed (this is really true), so I had to stop writing this Sunrise to walk my 500 paces, and as my reward it’s telling me how many calories I’ve burnt. But I’m grinning because I didn’t tell it that while I was walking I was munching my way through a bag of chocolate raisins! I’m still in charge. I think. I’ve been watching two men who went to the gym seven days a week, lifting heavy weights and sweating a lot. They were there when I arrived and they were still there when I left. They don’t do it anymore, they don’t do anything anymore. Not even breathing. Yesterday’s Sunrise reminded us that ‘There is a time for everything.’ One of the greatest of God’s gifts to us is time. Maybe we shouldn’t waste it, but how we use it is up to us. But it’s not all drudgery and discipline (are you listening Fitbit?), the Bible passage that tells us ‘There is a time for everything’ includes. ‘a time to plant, to heal, build, laugh, dance, embrace, mend,love, and a time for peace.’ There are other times too. God wants us to use His gift, not to waste it. If that means walking to visit somebody then let’s do that. If it means stopping to talk to the God who loves us, then let’s do that. Remember it’s God’s gift but you get to choose what to do with it. Don’t throw your Fitbit out, but remember there are other things in life.

I'm a human being - 7/6/20

Have you ever had one of those days where you have 100 things to do and there just doesn’t seem enough hours in the day? The washing pile is growing by the minute? The ironing pile is bigger than you ever remember? There is no food in the cupboards? You have emails to write? Phone calls to make? Bills to pay? Stairs to hoover and rooms to tidy and possibly a full-time job and a family to care for? Oh, and then there’s the garden?!! Life can become overwhelming sometimes can’t it? There always seems to be a deadline to meet and a to do list as long as your arm. No time for breakfast, lunch on the run, and too tired for dinner! We’ve all been there haven’t we? And to be fair if those kinds of days are rare that’s great! But if days like that become the norm, something’s got to give! We simply can’t continue to keep up the pace. And nor should we. There’s an old saying that says, ‘Always remember we are human beings not human doings’! And how true that is! It is so easy to get in to a rut And then find it really difficult to get out of. It can happen at any age and can cause anxiety, stress, depression… If this rings true for you, then let it be a wake-up call. Pause for breakfast. Sit down for lunch, even a quick one. And make sure that you recognise the people in your life who simply want you to ‘be’. So maybe make that phone call to the friends you haven’t spoken to for months. Play a game with your children or grandchildren. Take time to listen, to share, to care. To be. Yes the washing needs to be done, and emails do need to be sent, but the Bible says, ‘there is a time for everything....’ I need to remind myself of this often! To stop. Breathe. Eat. And whoop my chicks at a board game!

There comes a time when silence is betrayal - 6/6/20

I wasn’t around in the 1950’s but it is my belief that since the Civil Rights Movement the western world has come a long way. I try never to take for granted that I live in a time and place where there is peace. However, every now and again something so disturbing and tragic happens that I start to question how far do we still have to go? I think George Floyd is a name that has been on the majority of our minds and hearts in the past week, a story which we’ve heard much in the news of. Unfortunately, this is just one example of the injustices that are apparent in society today. I sincerely hope that in my lifetime the world becomes a place where people are judged by their character and actions and not their race, gender, disabilities or any other inconsequential qualities. In response to this week’s sad news I reread the book of Esther in the Bible. For those of you who are unfamiliar, I’d recommend the read (it’s only 10 chapters long). For me, I read it as a story of gender inequality, discrimination against a race of people, a strong independent woman who manages to save many lives though her faith in God. Long story short, Esther is faced with a decision in which she has a choice. Her first option is to stay silent and allow Haman’s plot to go ahead and the Jews, her people, would be mercilessly slaughtered. The second option was to speak out and confess to the king, her husband, that she is a Jew in order to get Haman’s plot revoked; but at the same time risking her own life. As a woman Esther could have been killed for even approaching the king without him calling her, never mind what could potentially happen if he found out she was a Jew! One thing that stood out to me in this book was what Mordecai (Esther’s father figure) said to Esther whilst she was making her decision. He said “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as time?”. It made me think, does God put us in certain situations because we can make a difference? Although calling out discrimination and injustice might be a scary concept, we have a duty to do it, otherwise it will just continue. Martin Luther King Jr once said, “there comes a time when silence is betrayal”. Esther made her decision, she faced her fears and told the king of Haman’s schemes, the king tookher side and she remained queen. Next time you’re faced with a situation when you have the choice to speak out or remain silent think of this story as you make your choice. I’m not asking you to put your lives at risk like Esther, but if the situation does arise when someone makes a discriminatory comment will you speak out? Will you make a stand for those who have been treated unjustly because of the insignificance of something like the colour of their skin, their sexuality, gender etc?​

Stop and think - 5/6/20

For months now we have had to think. Before we do anything, before we touch anything, before we go anywhere, before we meet anyone. Think. Is this okay? Does this meet the guidelines? Could this thing or person be contaminated? Will I come into contact with things that will do me harm? Will I be safe? This is not normal behaviour, but these are not normal times. Normally we just get on with it… whatever it might be. We don’t need to think about what we are doing because we are used to doing it and we usually know what to expect. We have habits and routines and life just goes on without us having to consider every move we make before we make it. Nevertheless, we have made the changes. We have adapted. Why? Because it makes sense. Somebody that we believe knows what they are talking about has gone to the trouble of providing us with a set of guidelines that are designed to keep us safe, so we have heeded the advice. We have been given a roadmap to steer us through uncertain times. Sometimes it has felt uncomfortable, unnatural, not what we would normally do, but we have done it because we know that it will make our lives better – even if we have to wait until after the pandemic passes to see the fruits of our efforts. Whilst it has been a different way of living our lives, it is a habit we should all cultivate. Long after Covid 19 has gone away we should still be thinking about how we act in our daily lives. Why? Because it makes sense. The God of the universe has given us a set of guidelines that are designed to keep us safe. He has created us. He has created everything. He wants to see His creation flourish. To that end He provides us with a roadmap for our lives. A pattern to follow to help us to live the best life we can live. Some of the guidelines may feel a little uncomfortable at first, a little unnatural, not the way we would normally do things, but they will make our lives better. Following the path described in God’s word will help us to, “store up treasures in heaven”, but that doesn’t mean that we have to wait to see the fruits of our efforts. Jesus tells us, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” That means now. So the guidelines are worth knowing. The roadmap is worth studying. It’s something that we can look at every day. It’s easy to find. Just pick up a Bible.

Rushing back to normal? - 4/6/20

As I write this, the news, for once, is not full of Covid bad news. There are wonderful stories of celebrations as people leave hospital, as birthdays are celebrated and wedding anniversaries toasted with plans for parties, holidays and reunions to start happening. Lockdown is easing and it appears that life is not so much slowly crawling back to normal but rushing back to some sort of new , normal reality. However, up the road, the McDonalds drive through has re-opened and traffic is queuing and causing chaos around the retail park. Our local beach, which for weeks has been pristine, is full of litter . People have left bags of rubbish, disposable barbeques and even a large sun shade umbrella. In America, the recent events have shown racism and division mixed with violence and it is sickening to read , watch or listen to. So much of our existence seems to be disposable, even lives. The joy of possibly being able to spend more time with loved ones,go on holiday, return to work or just get out more is being threatened by new fears and anxieties as crowds increase and rules seem unclear. STOP! “Be still and know that I am God” Abandon the cleaning or whatever other frenetic activity you might be planning. There is a God and he is permanent, not disposable. He is still here. PONDER! “Be still and know that I am God” We do not have to return to our old ways of doing things. We should not return to some of our old ways of doing things. There is a God and we are not Him. His ways require us to change ours because He knows best. TRUST! “Be still and know that I am God” There is a God and, if we allow Him to, He holds us in His hands, no matter what. Whatever the new ‘normal’ holds for each one of us, we need to keep making time to be still and know that He is God.

We are all equal - 3/6/20

Over the past days, weeks and months, our news channels have been full of reports coming out of America. This mighty nation has become a mighty, troubled nation as day after day we hear of racial abuse, rising levels of hatred, and loss of life. And let’s not think that this is restricted only to America, it’s throughout the whole world. you do not have to look very far at all to witness, or possibly experience, racism and prejudice for ourselves. The attitude of, “I’ll hate anybody not like me!” is becoming all too common. Quite frankly, it’s outrageous, it’s disgusting, it’s wrong! This is not a political statement. This is a message from our Creator God, who made all people in His image, our Saviour God who gave his life for every person in this world. We all have our faults, failings, and wrong doings, and we all have our gifts and skills and abilities. Not one person is a mistake and all people of every nation, colour, language, status…have equal and immense value to God.  Please join with me by celebrating life and all its diversities. Let’s stand against racism and prejudice and let’s help to bring healing to a very hurting world. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “ No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love”. 

 

Did you know? - 2/6/20

Did you know that scientists estimate that there are somewhere between 200-400 billion stars in the Milky Way? Or that one million Earths could fit inside the sun and that our sun is still only considered an average size for a star! What about this one – the footprints on the moon will be there for 100 million years? Or, that it would take a spaceship travelling at the speed of light 200,000 years to travel across the Milky Way! On Saturday evening millions of people around the world witnessed on TV the incredible scenes of the SpaceX spacecraft being launched carrying two astronauts travelling to the international space
station on the first ever commercial flight to space. In something that looked like it was out of a Bond movie, the spacecraft blasted off from the Kennedy Space Centre, flew around the earth and docked on the International Space Station a few hours later. We watched in awe and wonder at this incredible step forward for space exploration and as you read this that space station orbits just 220 miles above the earth’s surface – about the distance between Liverpool and London. We are amazed at mankind’s achievements, at the knowledge we have acquired and the things we have done and created but all of this pails into insignificance when we spare a thought for all that God has done. Who set the planets into orbit? Who sees to the far reaches of the universe? Psalm 19 says “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” All 400 billion stars in our galaxy alone were carefully placed there by God. The best guess that scientists can come up with is that there are at least another 100 billion galaxies in the universe – all placed there by God. My brain cannot comprehend that many 0’s but every single star and planet was set precisely in its place by our God. But, if the enormity of that isn’t enough to make you gasp in wonder, Matthew chapter 10 tell us “And even the very hairs on your head are all numbered.” The very same God who knows every star by name also knows me so well that he can tell me how many hairs are on my head! Granted, counting the hairs on our heads might be easier for some of us that others, but I bet even the most folically challenged don’t know precisely how many hairs remain on their head! So the next time you wonder about your place in the universe or about your value in it, remember that the very God who has taken so much care in placing every star in its perfect place, watches over
you so closely that he knows every hair on your head, every thought, every worry. With a God who takes that much care, I think I can trust him with my tomorrow.

Invisible Poppies - 1/6/20

There’s a small area of woodland near where we live. It contains about one hundred mature trees, Oak, Beech, Poplar, Sycamore, etc. There’s also a small lake with fish in it and ducks on it. Not many people are aware of its existence because it’s behind some large private buildings that have been there for two hundred years. Only local people use it and to them it’s very special, so no litter is ever left and no barbecues are ever lit. People walk their dogs there but always on a lead, so ducks and birds are never chased and you won’t get flattened by a crazy black Labrador or tripped up by a snappy fox terrier. It’s been very quiet for two months during Lockdown but people are tentatively visiting again. There’s a rambling narrow path that just wanders around the woods, and there is one bench. Nobody knows who put it there, it’s been there for ever, at the far end of the path, half way round. It’s just twenty feet from the far edge of the trees and it looks back to where you started your walk. Dog walkers sit on it for ten minutes then move on; it’s never crowded. When you sit on it, you’re looking at all the trees you have just walked past, it’s very peaceful and lovely. And nobody ever turns around and looks behind where there are only five trees left and a little dip in the land that’s home to a variety of tall grasses. Every Spring a small family of poppies emerge from the soil, cautiously, as if it’s dangerous. It never is, so they gently and silently grow tall, bloom, and then die. And nobody ever ever ever sees them. But they are still beautiful and they still make God smile. We read in our papers that certain famous people have given money to help the work of charities. It’s really good for the charities, and the publicity is good for the donors. Jesus talked about doing good things for people without making a fuss. “When you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private,and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” In our community there are many ways that we can help each other. Our gift to someone may not be money or food, it may be time and a conversation that would encourage them. It could be something to read or a piece of music to lift their spirits. Whatever it is, Jesus say’s keep it to yourself, don’t boast. Our secret gifts to others are like the invisible poppies that nobody sees except God, they are beautiful and they make Him smile.

Something Better - 31/5/20

I read about a mum who walked into the lounge to find her seven year old son and five year old daughter watching a news report about a nasty and frightening event. She grabbed the remote and changed channels and told her children in a gruff voice, 'You shouldn't watch nasty stuff like that, find something better.' Later that day after the evening meal, the children were pottering upstairs while mum and dad settled down to catch up with the day’s news. Along came the report
about the nasty event. While they were watching, the door burst open and in charged the stroppy five years old. She grabbed the remote, stood in front of the screen and said in her best mum's voice, 'You shouldn't watch nasty stuff like that, find something better' She pressed a button on the remote and walked out leaving her shocked parents gazing at Gardeners World. Adults (we tell ourselves) are better able to process the news than our children or grandchildren. We got to the stage in our house, if we had grandchildren staying, that we would censor even the lunch time news because there was so much depressing, and sometimes violent content. The behaviour of the little five year old mimicking her mum makes us smile, but hopefully makes us stop and think too. We like to think that adults can cope with whatever the news channels throw at us, but what is broadcast for our consumption across all news channels is almost universally bad news. Depressing news. Scary news. If that is our daily diet of viewing, it will eventually lead us to believe that reality itself has nothing to offer but depression. Remember yesterday’s Sunrise? We are surrounded by daily miracles, but we so often take them for granted. Come on folks, we can do better that this, where’s that remote, let’s flip channels and hear God’s news for a change.
‘God showed His love for us by sending His only Son into the world, so
that we might have life through Him. This is what love is: it is not that
we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the

means by which our sins are forgiven.’

”Have you heard the news?” “Yes I have, and it’s all good.” Where’s that remote. Thank you little girl.

 

And i think to myself, what a wonderful world - 30/5/20

When you woke up this morning, did you think, ‘Woohoooo it’s Saturday’, or were you more of a, ‘Oh it’s Saturday’, or were you a, ‘Not another day! I can’t take many more like this!’ To be honest, I’m a very positive-minded person but I’ve had a real mishmash of thoughts and feelings not just over these passed few months but over the years. During the good times it’s been all singing and dancing, but during some rough times, I’ve genuinely felt like God had given up on me and gone to ‘perform miracles’ elsewhere! I suspect I’m not the only one who has sometimes felt like this? BUT, right outside my bedroom window, in fact any closer and they’d be on my bed, there’s a nest if starlings. With babies!! Every single morning I’m woken by the raucous noise of these little chicks yelling at the top of their voices, desperate for breakfast! It could, for some, be an annoying noise, but for me, well I love it! It’s cheeky, it’s demanding, it’s relentless. But more importantly it’s a sign of life. It’s a miracle! I’ve taken to looking at the dandelions on my grass. I know they’re weeds, I know that they are going to be cut down very soon, but they are stunning flowers! A miracle! I saw a woodpecker the other day, bashing his beak on a tree trunk, just beautiful! A miracle! My dog is a bit naughty, a bit cheeky, and has the most incredible loyalty towards me and can read me like a book! A miracle! My children! Who all have their worries and struggles but bring so much joy and laughter into my life! Miracles! My family and friends! Living, breathing miracles! The bible says, ‘God counts the stars and calls them all by name’. Miracle! I don’t have answers to life’s big questions. But I can open my eyes and ears to what’s around me, and see that the God of miracles hasn’t gone anywhere! He’s right here. Emmanuel, God with us

Worth - 29/5/20

Michael Jordan can probably lay claim to being the greatest basketball player of all time. He was also the first sporting superstar to realise his own marketing potential. He understood that his name carried weight in certain circles. When he put his name to a particular brand of sports shoe, the “Nike Air Jordan” became the best selling sports shoe of all time. The move into merchandising made Michael Jordan more money away from the basketball court than he ever made on it. Today his net worth is estimated at $2.1 billion. A pair of these famous shoes, worn by him during his first year in the professional game, recently sold for $560,000 in an online auction arranged by Sotheby's. $560,000 for what are essentially second-hand shoes. It seems madness to most people, but we all value things differently. I possess an envelope, on the back of which are the signatures of the entire 1933 Everton FA Cup winning team. It's special to me, but not necessarily to anybody else. I also have a fairly extensive collection of comic books and some original, commissioned, comic book artwork. It's of value to me, but it's market value is debatable.If I were to ask you what your prized possession was, what would you say? I imagine most of you don't have a cellar full of priceless vintage wine, or an extensive collection of fine art, so you would no doubt settle for what some people might consider mundane... photograph albums perhaps, or a keepsake with particular sentimental value. Things that other people wouldn't give tuppence for, but which to you are priceless. Others wouldn't understand, but why should we expect them to. We probably don't understand their choices either. At the end of the day, a thing is worth what somebody is prepared to pay for it. Which makes God's love for us all the more remarkable; because of what it cost. “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” It's probably the most quoted verse in scripture and because of that it doesn't always have the impact it should. God, as the Father, paid the price of giving up His only Son. God, as Jesus, paid the price of giving up His life. For what? What did He buy? He bought you. He bought me. He bought all of us. More accurately, He bought eternal life for us, whilst He paid the greatest price imaginable. Take a moment to think about that. If something is worth what somebody is prepared to pay for it, then what does that tell you about God? Perhaps more startlingly, what does it tell you about yourself?

The god of the lost things - 28/5/20

“Has anyone seen my glasses?”, is a frequent cry in our home. I put them down and then have no idea where they are. Losing things is one factor that is guaranteed to stress me out and unfortunately would appear to run in my
family. There was one Christmas afternoon that my dad will never forget as, in the cold and the snow( it was Yorkshire), he spent a good 30 minutes foraging in our bins for an envelope with £50 quid in that had been our Christmas present. I must have accidentally chucked it out with all the wrapping paper. When my Nan died, I inherited her eternity ring. It was simple but very pretty. On the day that I was given it I wore it to go shopping and test to see if it needed adjusting; it did and fell off and is now probably adorning someone else’s finger. It is not always me who loses the goods. I was admitted to hospital just before our first born arrived, I was quite poorly. My husband had
one job and that was to take home my wedding ring that had been removed from my finger. This ring was a family heirloom, passed down from generation to generation. Precious and beautiful. He lost it. Losing things stresses me out but finding them is just wonderful. I read this piece this morning by (I think) Frederick Beuchner: “But this much I tell you ,what’s lost is nothing to what’s found, and all the death that ever was , set next to life, would scarcely fill a
cup.” In Luke’s gospel there is this amazing parable told by Jesus:   “Or imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she
finds it you can be sure she’ll call her friends and neighbours: ‘Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!’ Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.” God searches for us when we are lost, astray from the right path or in a dark place. He searches until he finds us. We are that precious and beautiful in His eyes and He wants us to have life with him and life to the full, not an empty existence searching for things that do not satisfy. As you finish reading this, perhaps listen to or sing the song ‘Amazing grace’ ...I was lost but now am found,twas blind but now I see”. Right, where did I put my glasses?

Who are you? - 27/5/20

I don't know who reads Sunrise. I have no idea who you are. You could be older or younger than me. You could be male or female (I'm not telling you what I am, you'll have to guess). You could be one of my friends but you don't know that I wrote this. Possibly I've never met you and I don't even know you exist. Most professional columnists and novelists have a good idea who their followers are, what section of society they belong to, what interests them, and what they are passionate about. This means that they can write to satisfy their audience. I find myself wondering about you. Could it be that you live in Liverpool, and yet have no interest in football, but you quite enjoy watching shuffleboard? Maybe you left school at fifteen and went straight into the family business, or possibly you spent three years in University and have a first class degree in the history of EastEnders. You’re a mystery to me so I don't know what to write to please you. You could be sailing through life, untouched by illness, sadness, loneliness, or poverty. Or these could be your constant companions. So in my ignorance of you, what can I say to you that would be meaningful? Perhaps I should shut up and go away? But before I do, let me introduce you to a friend who does know you (better than you know yourself). He knows your strengths and weaknesses, your hopes and fears, He’s aware of your educational journey and your relationship experiences, and He wants to tell you something.
‘The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the Earth. He will not grow tired or weary; His understanding is beyond searching out. He gives power to the faint and increases the strength of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall. But those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and

not faint.’

Was my friend helpful? Are you ready to start the week?

Who do you think you are? 26/5/20

On Sunday I had a wonderful conversation with some family members and one of my nieces who is attempting to put together our family tree. Apart from her amusement at discovering people’s middle names and the confusion of working out who was married to who and how the various relationships could be shown on a family tree, it was a lovely opportunity to take a trip down memory lane. As we began to speak of relatives who are no longer with us we also shared stories of times we spent with them, of places we have been, homes we lived in and the inevitable horror as my niece discovered that toilets weren’t always to be found indoors! As we chatted though, it occurred to me how much our ancestry matters to us. To be able to remember the people that have gone before us, the people who have influenced us and to one degree or another (for better or for worse) have made us who we are. We may have personality traits that we have inherited – “Oh you are as stubborn as your mother!” or “you have a gentle nature, just like your grandfather”. Or we may have simply made a decision to imitate someone we have loved and respected; perhaps they taught us how to be a better person. Either way, I know I have much to be grateful for as I recognise the positive influence that others have had on me, notleast of all because I was raised by a family who instilled in me not just to imitate the good character of good people, but to try a little harder each day to imitate the love of God. In Ephesians we read this: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”I can never hope to display the perfect love of God – at least not in this life – but I can keep trying. Each day I can get up and commit to try again and when I fall short, which I inevitably do, I can pick myself up and try again. We have a perfect role model, someone who is truly worth imitating and the more time I spend with God the more I learn how I can be more like him. Our ancestry matters because the people who have gone before us have helped to shape us into who we are – but that is only a part of the story; our ancestry matters because we are children of God and there is no one better to shape us into the people we are yet to be.

Who do you trust? - 25/5/20

Most people are looking forward to seeing all the shops open and the children back in school. We are already imagining that first day back with family and friends whose company we have missed for so long. We anticipate hugging and sitting down for our first social meal for months. Won't life be great! But we all know that it's going to be tough. Taxes are bound to increase, some companies will not re-open, and many people will lose their jobs, maybe you will. Does this give us permission to behave in ways that normally we wouldn't even think about? I remember one recession when business was very tough, companies were closing down every day, and getting payment from clients was almost impossible. A man I knew was busy working, his mind distracted by thoughts of his company closing, when his phone rang. It was his accountant who told him he owed the Inland Revenue £650. He didn't have £650. His accountant then told him he could make his debt disappear, it would be irregular but it would work. What a temptation; it wasn't right but it was a way out of trouble. He took a deep breath and told his accountant he would pay the tax bill. As he was saying that, he was telling himself, "You're an idiot." But then his accountant said, "Every one of my clients would tell me to hide the debt, but I knew you wouldn't." This man’s lifestyle and standards were visible and predictable. Our actions tell the truth about ourselves more effectively than words. The point is that principles should not fluctuate with circumstances. What is right is right. It's simple, but tough. In our present situation, many people are tempted to break the rules as a way out of trouble. The Christian always has that option but knows that is not the way to go. Inour Melling Community, we have a wide variety of circumstances and people, and we are all struggling to look after ourselves, family, and friends. God is aware of our feelings, fears, and temptations, and the Bible tells us that trusting in God is the way forward. ‘Youwill keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You. Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the Eternal Rock.’ And we are reminded that, ‘The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him.’

Corona-coaster - 24/5/20

Garfield, the cartoon cat created by Jim Davis, is a temperamental, lasagna loving creature. His long-suffering owner, John,  is hopelessly devoted to his overweight, lazy pet. The cartoon strips are funny and you can’t help but fall in love with this unpredictable character. There was one scene where John was playing with Garfield. Garfield was loving every minute of it and behaving like a tiny kitten. Suddenly out of the blue, he swiped at John and walked off saying, “I’m through with playing“. like I said, temperamental. The other day I was reading about what people are now calling the “Corona Coaster “. This rollercoaster of emotions that seems to be overwhelming people at this particular time. One day we laugh, the next we cry. Or it could quite possibly be, one minute we laugh, the next we cry. And yes, so many of us do have much to be thankful for, and thankful we must be, but that doesn’t mean life can’t be tough, it doesn’t mean we can’t cry.  And as I sit here, writing this Sunrise, I am very aware that I don’t know who will be reading it. Some of you may be having a really pleasant lockdown experience. Life seems to be going well for you regardless of the current circumstances, and a really happy “all singing and dancing” Sunrise, may be exactly what you want? On the other hand maybe you’re reading this and you feel like your world is falling apart? You’re really struggling? You need to hear something of encouragement and support? The truth is, not one of these Sunrise thoughts that we have been writing, will cater for every person, in every situation, every day. But the God that we love and serve and talk about knows each one of us inside out, and back to front. He knows our every thought. Our every emotion. Throughout the Bible we read, ‘The Lord is good’, ‘The Lord is near to the broken-hearted’, ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want’, ‘My peace I leave with you’....Can I suggest that however you are feeling today, on this Corona coaster, you will find enjoyment, or encouragement, or support and comfort, not necessarily from these words I’m writing, but from the God who knows you and knows everything about you. Happy Sunday everybody!

Secretary of the year - 23/5/20

Way back, in my past life in Texas, I found myself between jobs. My friend was going home to visit her family in Fiji, and I was asked would I step in to her role for a couple of months. She was PA to the charity’s Chaplain. J, was a lovely guy, partly responsible for some major international decisions and having the broad responsibility for the welfare of all involved with the charity, near and far. I, on the other hand, was a health teacher. A creative-minded, people person. Not known for my administration skills! But it was only for a couple of months! What could go wrong? Everything started off well! I kept my head down. Smiled at people. Photocopied. Answered the phone. Chatted to people. And chatted to people. And chatted....I’ve got to confess, the job wasn’t really me. I was getting bored by the end of about the 2nd day. I found the spinney chair a bit of light relief! Then one day, the phone rang, it was the CEO, he was in West Africa. He wanted to talk to J, ! Of course, ‘I’ll just put you through!’ Click! Oops! Where’s he gone? The phone rang again! ‘I’ll just put you though!’ Click! Oops! I went through to J, ‘there’s something wrong with these phones, Jack keeps cutting off....’ He rang again, ‘Jo, don’t try to put me through, just tell J that I’m calling him on the direct emergency line, but it’s not an emergency!’ The days went by. I was bored! One morning I decided, ‘Right I’m going to be proactive,’ so I went to work and before J got in to the office I had tidied, boiled the kettle, faxed, emailed, and shredded his, ‘To Shred’ pile. I was on a roll! When J arrived I was really pleased with my attempts at admin! ‘J came through to me. Er, Jo, do you know where my To Do pile has gone?’ ‘No. I’ve not seen it. I only saw the pile to shred’. As the words left my mouth, the realisation hit me! ‘Oh J, I’ve shredded your To Do pile!! I’m so sorry!!’ I was devastated! A mess! ‘Was it all very important stuff?’ I knew it was. J hadn’t said anything. He just stood there. Probably out of shock! And then he smiled at me, ‘Nothing important Jo, come on, I’ll take you out for lunch’. Later that month he told me that they were taking me for a meal to celebrate Secretary’s Day. I thought it was a bit odd but went along with it. After the meal, a guy stood up and said that it was time to announce the new, ‘Secretary of the Year’. There was great anticipation from the other guests present and a noticeable ‘holding of breath’. I continued to eat my fruit salad. Before I knew what was going on, I heard my name announced down the microphone. The room erupted into cheers and claps as I was pushed to the front, completely bemused and with a piece of pineapple stuck in my throat, to receive a bouquet of flowers and a gift token, for a job well done! J was leading the clapping. He beamed at me. But I shredded his To Do pile!!! It was ALMOST the most undeserved title I’ve ever been given! Second only, to ‘Loved by the King of Kings’. We read in the Bible, Paul saying, ‘For I am convinced, that neither death nor life, nor angels, principalities nor powers, nor things that are now, nor things that are to come, (nor bad admin skills) can separate us from the love of God.’ I’m rubbish at admin but I was ‘Secretary of the Year 1997’. I am imperfect. Good at some things and not at others. Maybe you question your role in work, in your family, life...maybe you feel like you aren’t much at all, just plodding through life, no one special! You couldn’t be more wrong! We share the title, ‘Loved by the King of Kings’. I was very happy to hand my PA role back to my friend, and needless to say, it was the only year I won that title. But ‘Loved by the King of Kings’ is a title I’ve held since before I was born, and no matter who we are, what we think, say or do, we’ll never lose it! Anyone need me to shred anything?

Some good news - 22/5/20

American actor and film maker, John Krasinski has, since the start of the Coronavirus lockdown, written, produced and presented a weekly show on YouTube. It's called, “Some Good News” and it is exactly that. Krasinski seeks out good news stories from across the world and broadcasts them; interspersed with good deeds of his own making. The show is funny, sincere, heart-warming and unabashedly sentimental in parts. I'm not ashamed to say that I have shed a tear several times at the demonstrations of simple goodness seen on the show. Obviously, he has the advantage of being able to call upon his showbiz friends to pitch in and help and yes, he is married to Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt), so obviously he can do stuff that us mere mortals can't, but the fact that he puts his time and available resources to work to bring us a show that is so uplifting is to his credit. He could have taken the easy route and joined those that court fame and easy applause by criticising everything around them. I'm sure you're familiar with them; the back seat drivers and Monday morning quarterbacks who always know the right way to go, or a better way to do things. The people who use Twitter and other social media outlets to express negative and critical opinions, knowing they are safe in the knowledge that nobody can prove them wrong because nobody is ever going to put their theories to the test. Krasinski decided to take the road less travelled. He chose to expend his time and energy on the positive. To actively seek out the good. To go out of his way to find those who had made a positive difference to the world around them and tell their story. He chose to spread the good news and, in the process, to make us all feel better. As Christians, we have the best news of all. We don't need to scour the Internet to find it; we have it in front of us... a whole book of it! The Bible is packed with the good news of God's love for us – all of us. The word Gospel actually means good news. We find story after story of the love that God poured out on His people. That love, that goodness, is still being poured out today. God’s nature never changes. He always makes a positive difference. We need to be like John Krasinski and to expend our time and energy on the positive. To tell the story. To share the good news of God’s love with the world around us. The book of Romans says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” You may be unable to get a pedicure during lockdown, but you can still have beautiful feet. I’ll leave you with the words with which John Krasinski ends every show, “Remember, no matter how bad it gets, there’s always good in the world”.

Time for a short test - 21/5/20

Ok, time for a confession. I like exams! Well, not quite but I would have failed miserably at school if we had coursework as I have no stamina and cannot be bothered with writing and rewriting stuff to improve it and make it better. Give me the short, sharp shock of an exam any day…if I have to be tested at all. Let’s face it, given a choice between 8 weeks of making tea, doing online catch ups and eating ice cream OR 8 weeks of sweat and revision, I know which I would choose. The last 8 weeks have felt like a weird examination course with no end. Unlike school, we have had no syllabus, no structure and no graduation.My upper 6th students should have sat their first exam today. Whilst a few are a touch relieved, most feel cheated. They do not have the chance to prove themselves, to show how much they have learnt, to be rewarded. So, I have written them a letter and decided to share it with you, to give you a glimpse of my world. So, here is my letter that I sent to my students at school “Evening munchkins, today would have been component 1 and I am very much aware that some of you might feel a bit cheated. This is just to say that I have been thinking of you today and that you are all simply amazing. In the last 8 weeks our lives have become like a sociology lesson. The digital divide has really widened, health inequalities have been exposed and I have attended my first online funeral...so weird. BUT, in the last few weeks our culture has changed for the better. As you listen to the Downing street briefings, bring your sociological minds to the facts , the stats and the research. We may not all be in the same boat but we are all in the same storm and I am praying that you will continue to be protected as we gradually loosen lockdown.” I then shared with them one of my favourite Bible verses from Thessalonians, where it says this:"..but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good"We may not be able to see the end of this ‘test’ but each day we can thank our God for the good things that He provides ,and we can hold onto it for dear life in the storm.

 

I don't know - 20/5/20

I recently bought my husband a gift, it was a smart watch – the kind that tells you your heart rate; how many steps you’ve done so far today; how far you’ve walked and the route you took; it can turn the lights on and play music and it even records the quality of your sleep and tells you if you were snoring. A couple of days ago he got up and announced that his watch told him that he had had a very good sleep and hadn’t snored at all. At that point I had to protest – the watch was clearly asleep while I was awake listening to him snoring at 3 o’clock in the morning! His watch is an incredible piece of technology which can process huge amounts of data – but it doesn’t know everything. His watch can’t unlock the mystery of why our daughter finds it so hard to pick up the clothes off her bedroom floor. His watch can’t tell him why I can’t bear the taste of coconut while he likes it or why I instinctively jump up on a chair if I see a spider. His watch can’t tell him what tomorrow will bring or when we will be able to sit in a room with family and friends again. Sometimes the answer is simply “I don’t know”. When will we be able to shake someone’s hand again without worrying that we might make them ill? I don’t know. When will our wonderful choir be able to sing together again without the disastrous but hilarious time lag that video conferencing gives us? I don’t know. How long will we remember that we actually enjoyed that new hobby or skill we learnt during lockdown? I don’t know. We are facing a time of great uncertainty and “I don’t know” is all too often the answer to our questions. In Ecclesiastes it tells us: “I discovered that there is ceaseless activity, day and night. I realised that no one can discover everything God is doing under the sun. Not even the wisest people discover everything, no matter what they claim”. Politicians, scientists, reporters, friends and neighbours all have their own views on what should happen next and what our ‘new normal’ will look like but the truth is they don’t know. It doesn’t stop us asking those questions and neither should it, but instead of making us restless or anxious it’s good to know that sometimes it’s ok to settle with “I don’t know”, not because I don’t care anymore but because I do know who has the answers and I trust that the answers are in safe hands. The answers to all my ‘don’t knows’ are in the hands of a God who never sleeps and who works tirelessly and faithfully

“for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8: 28).
I hope that I always ask questions and look for the answers but it is reassuring to know that when all I can come up with is “I don’t know”, I at least know who does know. So, how does a smart watch work? I don’t know.

Eyes in the back of my head - 19/5/20

When I was young my mum used to claim that she had eyes in the back of her head. It was said as a threat more than anything else because it was her way of telling us that she didn’t miss a trick and always knew what we were up to – or so she thought! On the one hand, having eyes in the back of our heads might be quite useful – always knowing what was going on behind us as well as in front;being able to see where we have been as well as where we are going. But on the other hand, wouldn’t that cause us huge amounts of confusion? Which way would forward be? In March it felt like our world had been turned upside down as the nation was put into lockdown. In a very short space of time our movements, our socialising, our shopping and our work lives were all changed beyond recognition and we wondered how we would cope – but we have coped. It hasn’t been easy and there have been many significant challenges but we were forced to find new ways forward. And now, the hope that we would all simply be told one day that we can open our doors and run to embrace strangers as they pass by has long since faded as we realise that opening our doors is a very tentative action with social distancing remaining with us for some time still to come. It is easy to look back and yearn for the ‘good old days’ and wish for everything to simply return to how they were. In the book of Genesis we read about a man called Lot and his wife and family who had to flee from a truly wicked city before God destroyed it. They did flee, but Lot’s wife looked back with disastrous consequences. Why? She yearned for the life that she had known, for everything that she was leaving behind, for everything that was familiar to her and she lacked the faith to follow God into the unknown. It can be really difficult to adapt to changes and keeping things the same can offer us some sense of security. But sometimes going back isn’t an option, only forward. It is important to learn lessons from the past, but we can’t go backwards - trying can cause us to trip and fall, we have eyes facing forwards for a reason – that’s the direction of travel. As we begin to think about life after lockdown, let’s dare to imagine not just the return to life as we knew it, but a better, brighter more fulfilled life. A life where we walk because we can, where wereserve precious time for family and friends because they are important; where we treasure our natural environment and where we love one another rather than feeling frustration and impatience with people because we just don’t have time.God doesn’t want us to look backwards and yearn for what used to be, he wants us to place our hand in his and by faith take a step forward towards all of the wonderful things yet to be.

Peace. Perfect peace - 18/5/20

Some years ago I was in a four seater aircraft flying over Snowdon. We were at 5000 feet and the mountain range below was covered in snow and ice. It was January. These little planes are very noisy and you have to shout to be heard.After a while the noise becomes painful and you wish it was quieter. Suddenly it was quieter, much quieter. With a frozen carburettor, engines don't become quiet, they become silent. The peace was wonderful. The significance of the peace was terrifying. Within five seconds I desperately wanted the noise back. As we glided lower and lower, I decided that if we survived this trip, I would never complain about the engine racket, in fact I would learn to love it. It's amazing how quickly you can learn something if it's important. Clearly you have already realised that I survived. The noise was wonderful. What do we mean by peace? Politicalpeace when politicians are working together? Peace in the office between colleagues? Peace in a marriage? Peace of mind because Corona didn't get us?Peace means different things to different people. 2000 years ago, Jesus told His disciples that He was leaving them.They wondered which one of them would be the leader. How will we cope with the Romans, Greeks, and Jews? Where will we go, what will we do? And their peace evaporated instantly. Jesus said to them, 'I give you peace, the kind of peace only I can give. It isn't like the peace this world can give. So don't be worried or afraid'. Later St Paul wrote about, 'God's peace, which is far beyond human understanding'. The followers of Jesus were given a gift from God which the world can't match. So whether your world is noisy or quiet, the peace of God can calm your soul and remove your fears.

 

Well, you can't just sit there - 17/5/20

I heard a true story of a 73-year-old retired truck driver by the name of Larry Walters who was sitting in his garden chair in his backyard one day wishing he could fly. For as long as he could remember he had wanted to fly but he had never had the time, money or opportunity to be a pilot. So, he spent a lot of summer afternoons sitting in his backyard in his chair… wishing. One day Larry hooked 45 helium-filled weather balloons to his chair, put a CB radio in his lap, tied a paper bag full of Jam butties to his leg, and slung a Air Rifle over his shoulder to pop the balloons when he wanted to come down. He lifted off expecting to climb a couple of hundred feet over his neighbourhood. But instead he shot up 11,000 feet right through the approach corridor to the Los Angeles International Airport. Asked by the press why he did it, Larry answered: Well, you can't just sit there! It's a great story which got me thinking about our time in lockdown. It seems like we’re all spending loads of time just “sitting here” doesn’t it? The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Philippians from “lockdown” – well, he was actually in prison! However, he was convinced that God was still at work – “I want you to know… that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel…” (Phil 1:12). I wonder how God is “advancing the gospel” through our lockdown? He went on to say that he wasn’t content to “just sit there” wallowing in prison… “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Phil 3:12). Maybe this time is a time to reflect on what God has been doing in you – what he has “taken hold of you” for and begin to explore how you can “press on towards it!”

Well, you can’t just sit there can you?!

 

No looking back - 16/5/20

The world has changed. We have come a long way without actually going anywhere. We have stayed at home. We have modified our behaviour. We have learned to do things differently. The crisis in which we find ourselves has brought out the best in the vast majority of us. For those who have not suffered loss or personal tragedy, the world is in many ways a better place. We have demonstrated love for each other by simple acts of caring; by keeping in touch, by asking, “How are you?” and actually being interested in the answer, by shopping for those unable to do it for themselves, by putting bars of chocolate through our neighbour’s letterboxes and in many other strange and inventive ways. We have encouraged each other with positive words and actions and despite our circumstances have brought joy to one another. It has been a time of peace; less traffic, less people, less stress, less noise, more birdsong, more calm. Our patience has been tested and not found wanting. We have worked from home, or simply stayed at home and got under the feet of our household members, who have patiently accepted the change in domestic routine. We have frantically “Zoomed” and “Skyped” and been kind and helpful to our friends and family who are unused to the technology needed to maintain contact in this topsy-turvy world. We have seen goodness demonstrated in hundreds of different ways in thousands of YouTube clips posted from all across the world. We have faithfully honoured our NHS workers by clapping for them every Thursday night. Our children have been gently persuaded of the wisdom of social distancing and we have exercised self-control in our response to our government’s call to observe the restrictive measures placed upon us. Those who have exhibited these admirable qualities may be unaware that they are mirroring the very nature of God; putting into practice His Spirit. In the Bible, the book of Galatians tells us of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”. When we return to some sense of normality; when we don’t have to think about how we need to act in a given situation; when we can be ourselves again; I hope that we recognise that the world we have created through necessity, the world that has seen us demonstrate what we can actually be, the world that God would have us inhabit, is a world that we all want to be a part of. I hope that we choose not to go back.

 

Looking Good - 15/5/20

On a hot day in Paris in 1838, Louis Daguerre who was one of the early pioneers of photography, set up his large and very heavy camera high up in a building overlooking Rue du Temple. It was a very busy area filled with horse drawn carriages and pedestrians rushing up and down. Because it took about ten minutes to record an image, anything moving would not be visible, so the photograph would show an empty street. Normally. But today was going to bedifferent because on the pavement below, a man stopped to have his shoes cleaned. Because both he and the shoeshine boy were still enough for long enough, they were recorded in the photograph. Then they walked off, going about their normal daily business, totally unaware that they had just become the first people in the history of the world to have their photographs taken. They were anonymous then and they are now. How is it possible to be so significant, unknown, and not even know what you had done? Well you could be in the same boat! These are frightening days and many people are scared, some are lonely, some sick, some sad. And there you are in the middle. You may have made phone calls, delivered flowers, explained Zoom so someone so they can meet with their friends. Maybe you have knocked on a door, stepped back, had a chat, and transformed someone's day. Some may have been strangers, you just saw a need and met it. Any of these could have been highly significant for the individual, but you were unaware of it. You didn't do what you did to achieve fame and fortune, you did it because it was right. That's all. The Bible says, 'Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.' Maybe in the eyes of the person you blessed, you were the angel. You'll look good with wings.

Love letters straight from the heart - 14/5/20

The arrival of the post is now a major event in our house. What exciting letters, cards and, even better, packages will be delivered today? It is almost worth posting yourself a care package just for the excitement! I still love old fashioned letters and cards and keep lots of them in a big box. In that box, stuffed full of precious memories are: thank you letters from students, mothering Sunday cards made by my children years ago, congratulations letters from my Nan on some past achievement long forgotten plus the odd letter from the Queens lady in waiting (that is for another reflection). Some of my most precious letters are sloppy love letters from my husband, back in the day when he was still romantic. They are so cheesy that to be honest, they make me cringe reading them. All of these letters, cards and notes are precious because they remind me of the sender. They bring back happy thoughts of past times. In the book of Jeremiah God says this to the people of Israel:  

‘Long ago the Lord said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”’
Being a practical type of person, I would really quite like God to write me a love letter now. One of reassurance, peace and hope. Don’t get me wrong, I love this verse from Jeremiah, it is so beautifully encouraging and reminds me that I am loved. However, when I am feeling a bit low or in need of a hug, it is not that practical. I need something tangible. My daily walk is very much a vital and tangible part of life for me right now. It is physical, beautiful, peaceful. The wind, the sun, the birdsong, the sound of water and even the rain is like a daily love letter from God waiting on my doorstep for me to open it. I may not be able to store it with my other letters and cards but it is a gift from the God who loves me with an everlasting love.

Alexa! Please stop! - 13/5/20

I live in a very noisy household! Me and my four chicks all love music and if they’re not playing one of the numerous instruments in the house then they are keeping Alexa very busy! Even Louis, my black Labrador, will join in with great enthusiasm the moment he hears a harmonica! Noise, noise, noise!!! I have to admit, I love it! Most of the time! We go from Billy Joel, to Les Miserables, to Frank Sinatra, a bit of Paloma Faith, oh and then there’s The Mamas and the Papas, maybe the odd Don Williams song, what about The Everly Brothers....don’t you just love their harmonies?! And let’s not forget the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir! Their version of How Great Thou Art is coming to an event near you....just as soon as we can start choir practice again...not on Zoom! We love music! Of pretty much every kind. Alexa keeps VERY busy! But some days, just occasionally, I’d love there to be no noise! Occasionally Alexa gets a few hours off. And there’s silence in the house....but still there can be noise! Not from Alexa, or my chicks, or Louis, or my very busy phone, but in my head! Do you know what I mean? A million thoughts going round your head that makes it almost impossible to hear anything clearly! A traffic jam of thoughts, worries, stresses, more thoughts, ‘what ifs’, busyness, loneliness.....You don’t have to live with four chicks and a big dog for there to be noise in your head. Sometimes silence can be the most deafening of all. Your external circumstances may look wonderful and calm and beautiful.....but maybe you’re screaming inside for some peace? God said these words in the Bible, ‘Be still, and know that I am God’. He wasn’t saying, ‘stop all the music, everybody shut up, nobody speak’.  Nor was He saying, ‘I’m going to explain everything to you and tell you just what I’m going to do next’. No. He was saying in the midst of the deafening silence, the excruciating loneliness, the constant music, the relentless ‘To Do’ list....I am God. Trust me. Allow me to walk with you. Know my peace. My home will never be quiet. And I love that. But to know peace in the midst of a bit of Status Quo....it’s a gift from God! 

 

It's only a day - 12/5/20

It’s funny how a twenty four hour period can be significant. We mark the day we were born or married, when we started work or retired. There are birthdays and anniversaries, and those days that we can’t put a date to, like the day we learned to ride a bike or the day we passed our driving test. Do you remember that magical life transforming day when you first saw your future wife/husband? Might need to be careful with that one! Can you put a date to it? I can’t. Sunday is a special day celebrated by two billion people worldwide because it reminds us of the day God rested after Creation, and the day Jesus was resurrected. Then there are those ‘special’ days, organised by unknown individuals or groups for mysterious or obvious reasons. This year we have already had Jelly Bean Day, Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Day, and National Skipping Day. Coming up In May, we can look forward toMother Goose Day, (when’s Mother’s Day?) and Nerd and Geek Pride Day. Later in the year Yorkshire Day makes an appearance. We’ll all celebrate that won’t we! But in these scary days people are beginning to realise that every day is special. We wake up grateful for another day to live our lives, and hopefully make the twenty four hoursworthwhile by our attitudes and activities. Did we make a contribution to someone’s life yesterday? Will we today? The Bible tells us that Jesus taught His followers to pray, and part of that prayer includes the words, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ It’s areminder to take life a day at a time, and also that our daily needs are provided by God. In the most famous of all the Psalms, the 23 rd Psalm, David starts by stating, ‘The Lord is my shepherd,’ indicating his relationship with God, and he ends his Psalm with these words, ‘Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all thedays of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.’ This indicates that all of our days, yesterday, today, forever, are in God’s hands. This fills me with gratitude and optimism. What does it do for you?

 

Dream on - 11/5/20

So here we are, still in lockdown. How many days have we had like this? Don’t know. How many more days to come locked up? Don’t know. What do we think about? Most people think about the freedom we used to have. We could walk to the park without getting arrested. Good grief, we could actually sit on the same bench as a stranger! In those mad days we could jump on a train full of people and walk around Liverpool One. And it wasn’t even an essential journey! Did I dream that? Do you think about the places you have been to, and re-live your holidays and those exotic locations, like Scarborough and Yarmouth? Some of you may even have flown somewhere. Remember jet travel? Many people have run out of memories or are bored by them so they’ve given up looking back and have decided to risk looking forward. Dream on! I want to go to New York. Some of my family, or maybe all of them, would like to join me. We could do lots of things together, but for one or two days I just need, really need, to look at some buildings but I don’t want to bore my companions so I will do that by myself. Brilliant. Dream on! One of the really amazing aspects of Christianity is that whatever our current circumstances, no matter how bad or scared we feel, we can always look forward. Always. Listen to what St Paul writes, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.’  The Bible tells us that God will make a new Heaven and a new Earth, and Jesus told those who follow Him,  “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” Forget going to the park or Liverpool One or even New York, God has better plans for those who have faith in His Son. If I just have a shed in Heaven, I will be ecstatic.

And I’m not dreaming.

 

Lightbulb moment - 10/5/20

Forgiveness is a funny thing; it warms the heart and cools the sting. Thomas A. Edison was working on a crazy contraption called a "light bulb" and it took a whole team of people 24 hours to put just one together. The story goes that when Edison was finished with one light bulb, he gave it to a young helper, who nervously carried it up the stairs. Step by step he cautiously watched his hands, obviously frightened of dropping such a priceless piece of work. You've probably guessed what happened by now; the poor young fellow dropped the bulb at the top of the stairs. It took the entire team twenty-fourmore hours to make another bulb. Finally, tired and ready for a break, Edison was ready to have his bulb carried up the stairs. He gave it to the same young boy who dropped the first one. Now that's proper forgiveness! When Paul wrote to the quarrelsome people in the Colossian church, he said “Bear with one another and forgive one another… forgive as the Lord forgave you.” When the Lord forgave us at the cross, he wiped the slate clean and gave us a brand-new start – a brand new life! Let’s be thankful today that God has forgiven us – but let’s take on board what Paul said – “forgive, as the Lord forgave you.” Now that’s proper forgiveness!

 

How cold my toes, tiddly pom - 9/5/20

Don’t you just love Winnie the Pooh?! I grew up listening to the stories. Always feeling sorry for Eeyore, always identifying with Tigger. They went on many adventures together with the rest of their friends, often involving honey bees, Heffalumps, Woozles and the wisdom of Pooh Bear! Yes, this, ‘Silly old bear’, seemed to speak such wonderful common sense! How about, ‘Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your hearts’? Every grandparent will be nodding now! Or what about, ‘We didn’t realise we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun’? And then there’s, ‘Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them’? Wow! Straightforward, simple, easy language! Winnie the Pooh had such a simple and humble take on life and he’s been teaching us ever since! If only we didn’t complicate things quite so much. Maybe you’re a bit like me and you want to figure everything out, find answers to life’s big questions, fathom God out??? Do you want to understand exactly what He’s up to? Me too!! But, in the Bible God is talking to Isaiah and He explains to him, 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways....As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”.

I can look at the world and stress and fret and see all the injustices and question and question and question where God is in it all. And when I don’t get the answers I can become angry or bitter or blame God. Or, I can accept that I don’t understand everything (most things!) that are going on in the world, and I never will. But, like Pooh Bear, I can do my part to make this world a better place, trust the One who does know what’s going on, take a deep breath and thank Him that He holds the future.

Tiddly Pom!

Another brick in the wall - 8/5/20

I have now been employed by the same government department for forty three years. In that time I have done many different jobs; it's the way of the Civil Service. Today you are the expert in a particular field, tomorrow you'll be expected to turn your hand to something else. I have been a specialist in my present field for the past seventeen years. Without being immodest, I'm good at what I do. It was not my plan to retrain in order to do a completely different job. It was my plan to potter along for the next year until I retire, but then Coronavirus happened. Suddenly there is a need for people from across government to pitch in and help. A need to do something different. A need to deal with the millions of people who find themselves without their normal source of income. A need to do what is necessary to deal with the problem of the day. A need to do what is in front of us... and in so doing, rebuild our society. In the book of Nehemiah we read about the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. All but a remnant of the Jewish nation had been exiled to Babylon and in their absence, “the wall [of Jerusalem] had been broken down and its gates had been burned with fire”. Nehemiah saw what was necessary to deal with the problem. He enlisted everybody available to help with the rebuilding. Priests and high priests, goldsmiths and perfume makers, merchants and district rulers – together with their sons and daughters - all took on what was needed. Wall building and gate repairs were not their forte, but they took on the challenge. We are told that they rebuilt the part of the wall that was in front of their house. They literally did what was in front of them... and in so doing, they rebuilt the walls. We too have the opportunity to step out and deal with the problem of the day. We can take on the challenge. We can be an NHS volunteer responder, we can do shopping for people, we can send somebody a bunch of flowers to let them know they're not forgotten, we can give somebody a call and relieve their loneliness, we can present a quiz for our friends on a WhatsApp group, we can run bingo sessions on Zoom, we can pray for people... we can simply do what's in front of us... and in so doing, we can build God's kingdom.

 

Ticket to ride - 7/5/20

I have a love hate relationship with coach journeys. Those journeys squashed up with a stranger who will not stop talking all the way from Glasgow to Campbeltown…4 hours of unwelcome company! The time that, en route to our hotel in Germany, I had to administer first aid in the aisle, whilst we were travelling at 70 + mph on the autobahn and remain calm as blood leaked from a poor 15 year olds arm.No idea how it happened either but we discovered no bandages in our first aid kit. I had to improvise with women’s feminine products! That was definitely up there on worst trips. Then again, coach journeys are also wonderful. As a teacher, the months of planning a 4-day foreign residential trip were so stressful. However, at midnight, as the coach pulled away from the local swimming baths in Coventry, I would ease back and breathe. The kids were all on the bus, passports had been checked, nap time beckoned. When I travel up to Scotland the 4 hour bus journey from Glasgow to Campbeltown is simply stunning. I can read, gaze at the scenery and again, kick back and chill. As a Christian, we sometimes refer to our life as a journey of faith. However, we cannot be passengers, gazing out at the scenery. If that is all we remain, we become a tour bus Christian. We become insulated from the real-world activity and excitement of Gods work. OK, it might be a darn sight easier at times as there is not much to do if you are a passenger; but we are called to be light and salt in Gods world and we cannot do it from the comfort of the passenger seat. Matthew chapter 5, puts it like this:

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you?”
We may have lots of reasons or excuses as to why we want to stay on the bus but age, ability, gender, job, lifestyle, etc are no barrier to getting involved. An American pastor called Lee Strobel said this: “I don’t want to just observe cathedrals through my bus window; I want to roll up my sleeves and build one. Lord use me to build a living cathedral dedicated to your glory”.

Right, stop the bus, I want to get off and join in Gods adventure.

 

Knowing the Father - 6/5/20

Today is my Dad’s birthday, he is 81 years old. Like many people who have celebrated birthdays during lockdown, he will have to mark the occasion in a slightly different way. There will be no going out for a celebratory lunch, or family and friends popping in offering their best wishes. As social distancing dictates, there will be no hugs and kisses (apart from those given by my mum). Still, he is in good company, as even the Queen cancelled her customary birthday gun salute last week as she celebrated her 94th birthday. But whilst the parties may have been postponed, people across the UK are getting creative and forging new and unforgettable birthday memories. I’m not sure my Dad will throw a virtual party, or make a party playlist, but I think he might open a tin of his favourite rice pudding and help himself to an extra packet of sweets from the sweet tin (which my Mum keeps hiding, and my Dad keeps finding).  Anyone who knows my Dad will know that he has a passion for the sweet stuff – and we’re not talking about my mum, Mary! Probably the most catastrophic event to happen during lockdown is the fact that he will miss out on the birthday box at church! I have also inherited my Dad’s sweet tooth, along with his short stature, brown eyes, and of course, his good looks… I know what food he likes, what TV programmes he enjoys, and what books he reads. I know the things that make him smile and the things that bring him the most joy. You see, I know my Dad pretty well.

Timothy Keller, a well-known Christian author, writes “knowing the Father is essentially what Christianity is all about, it’s about relationship”. You can’t have a personal relationship without knowing anything about the person. Jesus says in John 15, verse 6 –

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus coming to this world in human flesh, living a sinless life, dying on a cross, resurrected to life, making a way for us to come to the Father, is all about God wanting us to know Him in a personal way. Our example of how to know the Father comes through Jesus. He didn’t just know about us, he moved towards us. He knows our innermost thoughts, our struggles, our desires, and he loves us even with all our flaws.  Knowing the Father is more important than anything else.

 

Promises, promises - 5/5/20

25 years ago I stood at the front of our church dressed in white in the middle of a heatwave and promised to love, honour and something else that for the life of me I can’t remember. I know it definitely wasn’t obey - I remember that much. I think my words were “I’m not promising to obey because he might be wrong”. In fairness there have been occasions when he was wrong and I know for a fact that he would say the same of me. Love – tick. Honour – tick. But how do I know if I kept my other promise when I can’t remember what it was? I’ve made lots of other promises along the way: I promise I won’t be late; I promise to remember to put the bins out; I promise it’ll be my turn get up early with the kids tomorrow – and if I’m honest, I’ve broken lots of my promises along the way. “Sorry, I got held up”; “Sorry, I forgot”; “Sorry, I was too busy”.We live in uncertain times when everything we thought we could depend on has changed and we’ve had to adapt very quickly. Many people are struggling with anxiety, stress and loneliness while others are desperate for the time to come when they can hug grandchildren and loved ones again. As we move forward, there are more changes to come as we work out as a nation how to come out of lockdown safely. Nothing feels very easy at the moment, a visit to the supermarket needs to beplanned to make sure that nothing is forgotten while the route around the shop is mapped out for us and we are served from behind a perspex screen. Even going for a walk is fraught with new etiquettes when you meet others on the way. But as we work out what the future looks like and what this new ‘normal’ will be, we need to remember one of God’s promises to us:"So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic for the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”We can face each day with a bold confidence knowing that God goes with us and before us. He will never leave us to get on with it, he’s beside us in everything we face, every uncertainty and every rocky road. But what if he forgets? He won’t. The Psalmist tells us: He will keep his agreement forever; he will keep his promises always. That is something that you can rely on – he won’t ever forget and he’ll ALWAYS deliver on his promises. So, sorry Jon, I simply can’t remember what I promised but I guess after 25 years then I’ve either done it or you haven’t missed it!

 

No hiding place - 4/5/20

On Saturday evening we sat down to watch two celebrity quizzes. There were twelve celebrities in total, and we knew none of them. Not one! It made us wonder where we had been for the last forty+ years, or where they had been. Many people follow celebrities and mimic their lives. They base their choice of clothing on the fashionsense of the celebrity, or they copy their activities, attitudes, or beliefs. David Icke has900,000 followers on his blog, despite Facebook and You Tube banning him. It could take Sunrise the rest of the year to build up that kind of following! To put it into perspective, Beyonce has a following of 141 million!!! So many people want to be like their heroes, but the truth is you can’t be anybody but yourself. The first case in legal history where a suspect was convicted of a crime based on the uniqueness of fingerprints was in USA in 1903. Even identical twins have unique fingerprints. When I was (wrongly) arrested for theft, I spent fourteen hours in a police cell and my face was photographed from three different angles, they took a sample of DNA, and nineteen impressions of my fingerprints although I only have ten fingers. If I had broken out of my cell, it wouldn’t matter where in the world I ran to, and how I changed my appearance, my DNA and fingerprints would identify me out of sevenbillion people. There is only one me. There is only one you. This reminds me that God said, “I am God, and there is no other, I am God, and there is none like me” The Bible tells us that God knows us individually, and He knows where to find us amongst seven billion. King David asked the question, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” He concluded that he could never hide from God. This was not meant to be frightening or intimidating; David was delighted that God always knew where he was. We need to remember that we are unique because that’s how God made us, and we can take comfort in the knowledge that He can find us amongst seven billion other unique individuals. However you feel this morning, you are not invisible to God. If you can trust Him like David did, He will walk with you.

 

Oggy, oggy, oggy! - 3/5/20

I have a confession to make! Brace yourselves! I think some people may be offended by this, but here goes.... Up until the middle of this week, I’d never heard of Max Boyce! I’m sorry. Sorry to all you committed Max Boyce fans out there. Sorry to all my Welsh friends...I’ll do my best to make it up to you! Call me dozy, call me mindless and ridiculous. But I’d never heard of him! To be fair, maybe I look older than I am, I was -2 when he started out. But yes, I have been known to be a bit spacey on occasions, like the time I returned from Guatemala and didn’t have a clue who the Spice Girls were during their most popular time, or then there was the time I shredded my bosses ‘To Do’ pile....that’s a story for another day!  But this week, a lovely friend of mine, sent me a poem, written by Max Boyce. It’s a beautiful poem called, ‘When Just the Tide Went Out’. And Max, or Mr Boyce, reads it with such meaning and heart. I replied to my friend, ‘That’s just beautiful’ and then came those shocking words....‘who’s Max Boyce?’ Me and my big mouth! My friend, lovely Will, went in to a mini meltdown. I tried telling him, ‘Will, I’m a lot younger than you....’ But it fell on deaf ears! I then got educated on the wonderful Max Boyce! Oggy Oggy Oggy!!..... Oi, Oi, Oi!!! I’m still confused! After that wonderful and hilarious revelation, it got me thinking....isn’t it good that I’m not God! I mess up, cause trouble, say the wrong things, do the wrong things, don’t have all the answers and in the whole scheme of things, I only know very few people....and I don’t know everything about anybody! Not even myself! On the other hand, God never messes up, He never says or does the wrong thing, He has an answer for everything and He knows everything about everybody! What an awesome God we have. He didn’t create us and then forget about us. On the contrary, He created us, He knows us and He desperately wants us to know Him. He knows Max Boyce. He knows what makes him tick. He was there when Max thought up ‘Oggy Oggy Oggy’ and then thought up ‘Oi, Oi, Oi’. How wonderful that our creator God is interested, in fact, completely besotted, in you and me!! There’s so many bible verses I could put to this, saying God is our friend, God is all knowing, all loving, God is our creator and rescuer....I could go on all day! And so, today, let’s thank God that He is God and nobody else is! Let’s thank Him that He knows us intimately, and He loves us unconditionally. And Max, er Mr Boyce, I’m sorry I didn’t know you, if you like, we can be friends, and I promise, that from now on, when you say Oggy, I’ll say Oi. 

 

Let there be hope - 2/5/20

Working as a doctor is always a privilege. Every day, I get to see the very best of humanity. I see immense courage, unshakeable love and impossible resilience in my patients and in my colleagues. I remind myself daily that the position of trust I find myself in requires my all, and that I should take joy in being able to serve in this way. But, if I’m honest, the last month has been really, really tough. Our patients with coronavirus can become very sick very quickly. It’s impossible to predict who will recover and who won’t. Families can no longer come to visit their loved ones and our patients can no longer see our faces because our countenances are obscured by masks and visors. Many of our patients do not survive their admission, and as I hold their hand and they take their final breath, my heart breaks, again, because another has been lost and another family has been torn apart. Our efforts feel futile and it seems that death has won. The darkness is all consuming: is there any hope? Despite everything – all of the pain, all of the anguish and all of the despair - I do still have a sure and certain hope. This hope I have isn’t a nebulous, can’t-put-your-finger-on-it, far off idea. It isn’t just a dream of better days ahead or a longing for sunshine after the rain. The hope I have is bold and fierce and it guards my heart. The hope I have is a person, and his name is Jesus Christ. The suffering we experience and observe is so real and so devastating, but because of Jesus, hope is alive. Even when it feels that the night will never end and that morning will never come, He is Emmanuel, God with us: in the suffering, in the sorrow, in the trials and the darkest valleys – He never gives up and never fails, He is always good and always true.Perhaps you’re reading this feeling angry: if God is real and is as good as I’m saying He is, why is this global pandemic occurring anyway? Surely if He is all-powerful and all-loving, He would never allow something like this to happen? I certainly do not profess to having a straight-forward answer. But what I can offer you is the truth that my weary soul is clinging to: God’s love for us was proven by Jesus’ death on the cross, and His power was proven by his glorious resurrection three days later. Jesus declared on the cross that it is finished: the power of death and sin was left in the tomb and the victory had been won: His death had secured for us eternal life and His suffering had bought our salvation.Looking around us, it might not feel like this is the case. Battles are indeed still being fought, but the war has, without a shadow of a doubt, been won. One day, Jesus will return to make everything perfect, as He created it to be. On that day, everything will be made new. There will be no more death, no more sickness, no more sorrow and no more pain, and Jesus himself will wipe away every tear from our eyes. But until that day, I live in hope. The hope of Christ sustains me, because Jesus is a King Triumphant, alive and reigning sovereign over it all. The hope of Christ anchors my soul, and I hold firm to it, because He who promised is faithful.

 

More than just a number - 1/5/20

When I was born, I was given a number. It was my National Health number. I still have the card with it printed on. Later, when I attained working age, I was given a National Insurance Number. It still appears on my payslip, together with the staff number I was given forty three years ago. I can recite all of them on command. My Dad can still remember his National Service number from 1953. Some numbers just stick with us. Many of you will have similar numbers attached to significant events and milestones in your life. Numbers are all around us... I'm one of more than sixty seven million UK citizens, I'm fifty nine years old, I'm five feet eleven inches tall, I weigh eleven stone, seven pounds and the youngsters among you can spend the next ten minutes converting the figures to metric. Numbers quantify us, numbers identify us, numbers measure us. Many of us are currently fascinated with numbers. We study them on a daily basis; numbers of people infected, numbers of people in hospital, numbers of people tested, numbers of people dying. We see the numbers, we see the graphs, we see the statistics. We don't want to be included in those statistics. We don't want to be one of those numbers. It's easy to forget that each of those numbers is a person. You may remember the sixties TV show, The Prisoner. It has a classic set of opening credits, containing the oft quoted and parodied line, “I'm not a number, I'm a free man!” Some of us may have felt like yelling that at one time or another. Well, it's true. You are not a number. Not in God's eyes. In God's eyes, you are so much more. The Psalmist puts it this way, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well”. He is telling us that God not only knows us, but He made us and did a good job of it too! God values us and understands us. We are His precious and wonderful creation. He knows all about us. He even knows the number of hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30). He values us so much that He sent Jesus to die for us. All of us; “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes on Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”.

 

What was the question? 30/4/20

When we first fostered, I remember a long drive to a holiday. We were in the middle of an adoption process and, understandably, my son to be , had a lot of questions. So he sat in the front seat and for over 4 hours he did not shut up. Question after question after question. To this day, I have no idea what those questions were but they were not deep and meaningful. Most were just questions to fill up the space. They were his way of feeling secure. I arrived at our holiday caravan totally exhausted and praying that he would shut up! Even today, when one of my, now grown up, children wanders into the living room, I confess to sometimes pretending to be deeply buried in an important bookbecause sometimes, her questions are just too demanding for me to answer. Many of my friends with small children are struggling with their questions. One little girl is asking a lot about death, suffering and corona. It is really tough being on the receiving end of such questioning. The questions that we were asking of ourselves a couple of months ago may have changed somewhat and in many cases, they have become harder to answer. We no longer ask what someone is doing at the weekend but we do ask how people are doing ? We may even mean it more. We may also be questioning our God a lot more too. Thank goodness our Father in Heaven does not act like me. He does not hide or pretend to be busy when I have questions, no matter how challenging they are. I may not always get answers that I want or I may get answers that perhaps I was not expecting. However, whatever the answer, I am told to trust God, as hard as that may be at times. Proverbs chapter 3 verse 5 - 6 says this: “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything onyour own. Listen for God ’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’sthe one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all.”And if the question is “Are we there yet?”, the answer is…….

 

Priceless Gnomes! 29/4/20

Have you ever received a gift that’s a little bit odd? Maybe it’s not really your style, or it’s a bit pointless or maybe it’s just really ugly? And there you are taking the wrapping off it with a bewildered look on your face and ‘what am I supposed to do with that?’ thought in your head?? We’ve all been there haven’t we?!  Some years ago when my four girls were much younger, for Mother’s Day one year, I was presented with four wrapped up gifts. The wrapping was clumsy and full of sellotape, evidence of the hard work they’d put in. Their excitement was off the scale. So to speed things up a bit, they offered to help me unwrap them. Of course, I accepted their help. And within seconds, there stood before me were my 4 beaming girls, each holding one ugly gnome! These ugly little, badly painted, wonky gnomes had entered our lives, to much excitement and hilarity! They were gifts from my girls, and therefore, they were priceless! We found a good place for them in the garden and every single time I looked at them, I’d be reminded of the precious gift they were. Since that time, my love for gnomes has continued and now we do have quite a collection! Each one, a little bit ugly and a little bit tacky, and absolutely priceless!! Gifts, given in love (and fun!) from people who mean a whole lot to me! And whether it’s a special birthday, a quiz at Easter or a competition at Christmas, at Melling Baptist, you can always receive a gnome! But there’s a reason for this. Gnomes may seem useless but they can bring about a smile, and possibly a memory of, ‘that funny occasion when I won a gnome!’  At the moment, there’s a real temptation to get fed up with being at home and not ‘doing‘ our usual stuff isn’t there? Let’s face it, we all want to feel useful don’t we? But actually, we’re being incredibly useful if we’re bringing a smile to someone’s face. Reminding them of a happy time? Or showing you care about them, just by being there. We may not be able to ‘do’ much at all, but we can still ‘be’ a whole lot. The bible puts it quite simply, ‘Don’t just pretend that you love others: really love them.....Love each other with brotherly affection and take delight in honouring each other.' Romans 12:9-10

So, can I suggest that the next time you’re feeling a bit rubbish or useless or fed up....tell yourself that you’re a priceless gnome and make it your day’s goal to simply be there for someone else.

 

Straightening your crown

Last night I packed my daughter off for her first shift on A&E at Whiston Hospital. She is a final year nursing student who, in response to the pandemic, has agreed to start work 6 months earlier than she was expecting - and I couldn’t be prouder of her! She was understandably a little anxious and nervous, let’s be honest to find your first day of work is in A&E on a night shift in the middle of a pandemic is enough to make most people wobble a little bit. But she always has had a gutsy streak, so off she went. Now, we love a good quote in our house – from the funny to the wise and deeply meaningful ones – so as she left to go to work I sent the following words to her: “Whenever you feel overwhelmed, remember whose daughter you are and straighten your crown”. Clearly this can be read in two ways and you may be reading this and wondering who I think I am to suppose that my children get to wear crowns. The fact is, I do believe that my children get to wear crowns but it’s not because of who I am. In 1 John Ch 3 it says “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!” Wow! We are the children of God; God who is not just a king but the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the creator of Heaven and earth. The Psalmist says it like this: “When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers – the moon and the stars you set in place – what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honour.” How cool is that, to be the children of the King of Kings?! BUT, before we get too carried away, let’s just examine our crowns for a moment. These are not the crowns of pomp and privilege, or of superiority and dominance – these are the crowns that were worn by Jesus of humility, servanthood, grace, forgiveness, patience and most of all, love. We are called to take our place beside Jesus and follow the example he set. His crown was not made of earthly treasures and jewels, His crown was made of thorns, yes, it was a crown of sacrifice but it was also a crown of victory, of life and of love. This crown does not come with a promise of wealth and social advantage but it does come with a promise that our Father God will never leave us or abandon us. So I sent my daughter off to work with her head held high, wearing her crown straight and on those tough days, which we all have when life feels hard and the way ahead seems too difficult, let’s remember whose children we are, straighten our crowns, and take our strength from our Father God who cares for us.

 

 

The year of the pig 27/4/20

I studied photography for four years in Manchester, but photographers today wouldn’t recognise half of my syllabus. We did the usual stuff, like lighting, exposure, perspective and composition that students would do today, but half of our studies was a mix of chemistry, physics, and optics. Now they study pixels and Photoshop. The world has changed. One of our main study books took us three years to work through, very technical. It was written by a brilliant man who fortunately had a sense of humour. Each chapter was introduced by a quote from Alice in Wonderland, one of which was this, “Bye the bye” said the cat, “what happened to the baby?” “It turned into a pig” Alice answered quietly.’ You could never predict anything in Alice’s Wonderland, but we are beginning to realise that our own world is also strange and unpredictable. As we began our first day of this year, 2020 was like our new baby. We had plans, expectations, and hopes. By the time it was three months old, our baby had turned into a pig. I have a soft spot for pigs, but they don’t compare to babies, and our plans and hopes went out of the window. The Bible constantly tells us not to assume we can predict the future, not even tomorrow. Not even today! Two months ago I went to bed at midnight, I was optimistic about the year and I was smiling because I had just told myself, “You are fitter now than you have been for two years.” Five hours later I woke up with double pneumonia! The baby turned into a pig while I was asleep. Solomon has advice for us, he says ‘Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.’ We read in the book of Job about people who forget God, ’What they trust in is fragile, what they rely on is a spiders web. They lean on the web but it gives way.’ None of us can reliably predict how this year, our baby, will develop, but it would be sensible to remember who we can trust. Here’s Solomon again, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do, and He will show you the right way.’ I love pigs but babies are better, lets pray that at the end of this year, our baby is bouncing not snorting.

 

Counting Rainbows - 26/4/20

I like routine! I don’t know about you but I need routine to get me through the day. I think it’s partly because I work in a school where the school day revolves around strict schedules e.g. Register, English, break, Maths, lunch, etc. I’m finding that at this present time where routines are difficult to maintain, we are all having to create our own ‘rhythms’. Although this can be difficult, if we do manage it, our days can become more sustainable, bearable, and even enjoyable. One such routine that I look forward to each day is my daily walk at 6pm every evening – Kirit and I enjoy a pacey march around our local neighbourhood. It’s during our walk that we have taken to counting the rainbows that adorn people’s windows. I’m amazed at how creative people have become – we’ve seen rainbows that have been painted, chalked, collaged, mosaicked, and even knitted! These beautiful creations certainly brighten up our walk and bring a smile to our faces. We’ve also been getting creative at school, painting rainbows on pebbles to create a ‘rainbow pebble path’. This, we hope, will serve to remind us of the time when those keyworkers on the frontline worked so selflessly to care for our nation. The rainbows that we have observed in people’s windows convey a message of solidarity and simply say, “we’re all in this together”. They aim to make people smile while they pass by and also offer a message of hope. As Christians we believe that the rainbow is a sign of God’s eternal promise to us. In Genesis 9, God says “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every land.” Thanks to Jesus and His work on the cross, we can receive God’s gift of salvation and trust God’s amazing promise that He will never be angry with us again, no matter how many times we fail. God’s promise stands unshakeable. So the next time you see a rainbow, whether in the sky or on a child’s painting stuck to a window – remember to be grateful to our wonderful NHS, but also to remember our God, who faithfully keeps His promises.

Oh, by the way, I counted 57 rainbows yesterday on my walk – any advances on that?

 

Clapping - 25/4/20

Isn’t it great to be a part of the clapping for the NHS and all the other services that we depend upon. Why do we clap? We clap as an expression of our thanks for all they are doing for us. It’s our way of saying ‘Thank you’ as a united country. Clapping can be an expression of praise, and we clap as we celebrate Baby’s first steps, school achievements, graduations, etc. Jesus speaks in the Bible about giving thanks. As He entered a village, ten men with leprosy stood a distance away calling out, “Jesus, Master have pity on us.” Jesus looked at them, then told them to go and show themselves to the priest. As they went they were healed of their leprosy. One of them, when he saw he had been healed, went back to Jesus praising God, and thanked Him for what He had done. Jesus said, “Didn’t I heal ten men, where are the other nine?” Only one returned to give God thanks. I think that man was healed on the inside as well as the outside. Do we stop to give God thanks for another day and all our provision? We have the air that we breathe, flowers, trees, birds, and our food, family and friends. These are all precious gifts. Let’s give God thanks for them, and let’s thank Him for our blessings in the past, and let’s trust Him for what’s to come.

Perspective - 24/4/20

Two years ago, I somehow detached the retina in my left eye. It's still a mystery how it happened. The doctor told me that, in order to save the sight in the eye, I required an operation. The damage was such that the operation would repair the retina, but the sight would never be what it once was. Still, imperfect sight is better than no sight. It's a matter of perspective. The operation was a success, but the recovery process required my adherence to a strict regime called, “posturing”. In short, I was not allowed to go out. I was required to lie on my right side with my cheek against the pillow. Sounds quite comfortable; until you realise that this was necessary for twenty-four hours a day; no change of position, no rolling onto my back, no sitting up - only allowed to move for ten minutes in every hour – for two weeks. A failure to observe this requirement would mean that all the efforts of the surgeon would be jeopardised and the retina might not heal properly and could detach again. Still, two weeks of mind numbing inactivity is better than no sight. It's a matter of perspective. So, you will understand when I say that, by comparison, being simply required to stay at home during lockdown doesn't seem so bad to me. Perspective. Observing the strict regime of remaining at home means that we don't jeopardise the efforts of those in the NHS who put themselves in harm’s way for our benefit. We don’t endanger ourselves and others. Having to stay at home is better than the potential alternative. Perspective.

 

Looking through out the window - 23/4/20

Aren’t all the windows at the moment rather lovely with their messages of hope and their rainbows. My window from my study is an object of great delight. It looks out onto the vista that is the Lidl carpark. Out of this window I have seen queues for loo roll, family dramas, noisy scouse car battles for parking and even a tree falling down onto the car below! Unfortunately I am fast becoming a very nosy neighbour. As I walk the dog, I am loving looking in through people’s windows peering inside, in case, maybe, I know the person, or can smile at them or wave or just admire their sofa configuration! In fact, onone walk we did just that and waved and now, each walk past that particular window means that we stop, chat from the pavement and Lola the dog has a new friend who gives her treats. A wonderful writer called Henri Nouwen wrote this: “One person’s faithfulness is another person’s hope. We have to live out our faith and be Christ’s windows out into the world.” In times like this it is so important to remember this awesome responsibility. God is amazing in that he even trusts hopeless cases like me to be faithful and to be Christ’s window out onto the world. How we do this will depend upon the situation that we are placed in. It might be that we sacrifice some money to faithfully give to our church, our local foodbank or other charities needing support. It might be that we sacrifice our time to faithfully call and encourage someone who is isolated or struggling or do the shopping for someone. It might be that we are faithful in prayer when that wonderful message from Jo pops up with prayer requests on it. It might be that we do all of this and more.Right, must be off as I have some more window gazing to do.

 

Tree Hugging - 22/4/20

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

 

Monkey Business - 21/4/20

Life is full of new experiences and on Friday I had my first ever lockdown birthday - it was actually really nice! The weather was beautiful and I was spoilt with a lovely breakfast and dinner. I received lots of messages and even some gifts that were left on the doorstep – it wasn’t quite the same, not being able to be with family and friends, but as lockdown birthdays go, it was good.One of the gifts I received was a set of Three Wise Monkeys. Their names, apparently, are Mizaru, Kikazaru and Iwazaru (try saying that in a hurry!) but there seems to be some debate about their origins and intended meaning. In our culture we know them to represent ‘see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil’. There are many interpretations we can take from their possible meanings but one is how it emphasises the importance of immersing ourselves in good and healthy environments where the things that we see, hear and speak are a blessing to us and to those around us. There is a story about Socrates where early one morning one of his students came to his house quite anxious to tell him about a rumour that he had heard. To the young man’s dismay, Socrates told him he must think about 3 things before sharing his news: Is it the truth? Is it good?Is it useful or necessary? Our world is filled with so many voices all wanting to share their opinion on just about everything and all believing that they are right – it is easy to become confused  between real news and fakenews. Perhaps the next time we see or hear something which we think we must share with others, we could think about those 3 things and if we can’t answer ‘yes’, then maybe the best thing to do is to put our hand across our mouths and say nothing.In Philippians chapter 4 it says this: Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things …and the God of peace will be with you.Before we simply become one of the many voices adding to the noise of the world, let’s pause for a moment while we consider if what we have to say is rooted in things that are true, pure and lovely – if they are, then let’s speak out and open our ears to hear the truth and our eyes to see what is beautiful. And now I need to rename my monkeys to something I can say!

 

Contentment - 20/4/20

People don’t appear to be very happy right now do they? You’re probably thinking ‘It’s notsurprising is it, look at the mess we’re in,’ and I would agree with that sentiment. Ourgovernment can confine tens of millions of us to our homes, but what they can’t do is force us to be contented. I found great contentment this week when I pointed out that the tyres on my daughters’ car needed pumping up. I offered to do it but because I couldn’t drive her car for fear of passing the virus, I followed her in my car to the garage and inflated her tyres. She drove off smiling and I stood there by my car. This was the first time I had driven it for weeks and I had a naughty thought. I was on a mission to improve the health of her tyres, so this was an essential journey. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and I had escaped from my cage. But I was required to go home, so I did. Via Ormskirk! That wasn’t exactly the direct route home, but with all my windows open and an empty road ahead, that twenty minutes brought sheer joy and great contentment. And it was so simple. How do people find contentment, do they stumble across it? Some think so, they believe in ‘Serendipity’ the happy accident. So they live waiting for it to happen. Some say, you go searching for it, maybe by finding an Eastern guru, or the perfect job, or taking part in extreme sports, or winning Britain’s Got Talent. Some think you can manufacture contentment if you drink or smoke the right stuff. The apostle Paul lived at a time when, like almost all Christians, he was in danger from the people, the rulers, and the culture around him. But they did not believe that to be content they mustmove away, find somewhere safe, get friends in high places, get a better job, build up a bank balance and put money aside for their old age. Paul expressed it like this, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” They understood that their contentment was to be found in the realisation that God was withthem, and was not going to leave them. That was to be their source of contentment, not their circumstances. Unlike in Pauls’ day, nobody out there is trying to kill us, but many dedicated people are trying to keep us safe. Let’s practice contentment and remember where it comes from.

 

Dressed for the occasion? 19/4/20

OK pay attention, this is important. Before you read through today’s Sunrise, I need to ask you something. What are you wearing, are you dressed appropriately for the occasion? You could hear exactly this same message if you were at Mellings’ Church on Sunday afternoon, or at The Table meeting in Maghull on Sunday evening. How would you be dressed then? Is that how you are dressed now? Really? Are you sure? If we asked for photos (which we are not!), would you be happy for people to see you as you

are now? During this weird time when so many people are caged at home, (and we’ve just been told it will continue for at least another three weeks and possibly more), how important is it that we bother about how we look? Nobody is going to see you. But if you got a phone call from the Queen’s secretary to say you have been selected for her to visit you, and she’s outside your house

now, would you panic? Well we can all relax because God is not bothered. Jesus asked the question, “Why do you worry about clothes?” The religious leaders were very proud of their robes and appearance, but Jesus explained the reality in God’s eyes,
“You are like white-washed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead.” The prophet Samuel was sent by God to a family with eight sons, to anoint the next King of Israel. When Samuel saw the eldest son he thought he would be King, but God said “No”. Samuel looked at seven of the brothers and each time God rejected him. He told Samuel, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at

the heart.” So let’s calm down, if you’re reading Sunrise in your pyjamas, or beautifully dressed in case the Queen turns up, God won’t even notice, He’s looking at something else this morning. How’s your heart? Did you bother to prepare that?

 

Jumping Hurdles - 18/4/20

Good Morning! I don’t really know how long we’ve been in lockdown for now, and I’m also not 100% certain of what day of the week it is? Quite frankly, like the rest of the world, I don’t like being told I can’t go outside, and I’m fed up already. As a student nurse, I’m a ‘doer’, I like to keep myself busy with different jobs to help people out. For example, before this lockdown I told Nan and Pop that I
would help them do some gardening, less than a week after I told them this we had to go into lockdown. As a ‘doer’ who likes to have a routine and plans, this really put me on edge. If I’m honest for the first couple of weeks I was not motivated to do anything, I physically could no longer do many of the plans I had for the months ahead. I felt useless and deflated. Maya Angelou once said “Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope” This quote is so true of this time. Like everyone else I have had to adapt to this new way of life. We have all had to find new ways of socialising and spreading love. For example, we have had video call meet ups, done WhatsApp quizzes, dropped shopping off at people’s doors  (sometimes with that little extra bar of chocolate!) and so much more! Times like this shows the best in people, and I for
one am proud to be part of such a united community. In 1 Corinthians 13:13 the Bible says “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” We are all capable of love despite any virus or social distancing. So as we remain safe in our own homes I challenge you to seek out ways to spread love, whether that is by phoning a friend, dropping off shopping (if it’s safe to do so), or going outside each Thursday to clap for the key workers. Everything makes a difference so keep going!

 

Wedding Bells - 17/4/20

My son recently celebrated his 10th wedding anniversary. Those ten years have flown by and I still have happy memories of the day. Looking back over the photographs, I got to thinking about how different things would have been had the wedding been planned for 2020, rather than 2010. Quite simply, it wouldn't have happened. No wedding, no reception, no happy day spent with friends and family... and certainly no honeymoon in Venice. Bizarrely, more than anything else, this upset me... perhaps it's because I'm a romantic at heart. It made me sad to think of all the couples whose plans have been put on hold because of the strange times in which we live. All the time spent making important decisions about the venue, the guest list, the cake, the dress, the flowers, the photographer and on and on... all now in suspended animation. When will things return to normal? When will they be able to fulfil their dream? When will they hear the wedding bells? Nobody knows. They will wait with baited breath for the government to lift the various restrictions regarding public gatherings and when it happens they will be ready. The Christian church is often described as the bride of Christ. We are told that one day Jesus will return to claim His bride. When will this happen? Nobody knows. We too wait for that day. We too must be ready. In the book of Matthew, chapter 25, Jesus tells the story of the ten virgins who were waiting for the bridegroom to arrive; “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!”, but not everybody was ready. Not everybody was prepared. “The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.” Those who were not ready were left outside. So while we wait for our government to announce the relaxation of restrictions; while we look forward to doing all the things we had planned to do, but couldn't; while we make plans for our future; while we wait for things to change, will we actually be ready for the thing that really matters? Will we understand that real change is brought about by God, because God changes everything. Will we hear the wedding bells, or will we be left outside?

 

I believe in Miracles - 16/04/20

One of my daughters works in the care sector. It is a tough job , with long shifts and one Icould not do! As she left to go on a shift, I would often say, “Take care and don’t kill anyone!” It was gallows humour that she shared with other staff and this dark sense of humour was often a coping mechanism in a stressful job. The reality was that she wouldsometimes have to deal with individuals who had died and she did so with as much care as if they were alive. She would talk to them and treat them with dignity. The news today was full of the crisis in care homes as death rates increased and the stress on staff rose too,( hang on in there, I promise this will lighten up). We all know someone or know of someone who is dealing with this horrible virus and we find ourselves praying formiracles but humanly wondering if miracles still happen. However, have we considered that life itself is a miracle? Think back over the last month. Have you wept at all?Have you got wound up by a member of your household making a mess and eating all of the ice-cream? Have you smiled at a funny clip of cats or dogs on social media? Have you had chance to share some good chats with loved ones? Have you completed the most ridiculously annoying jigsaw? Has your heart beat faster at the sight of something beautiful? Have you slept and woken up? Are you reading this? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are alive and that is a beautiful miracle.You are a beautiful miracle.The Easter message of life after death must not be lost on us. Jesus said that He came to give us life and life to the full (John 10:10). We are an Easter people who not only have life here and now but the promise of eternal life…and that is the greatest miracle ever.

 

What's in a name? - 15/04/20

 

Have you ever wondered what the meaning of your name is? I am fascinated by names. Choosing names for my girls was like a military operation. I spent months working my way through baby name books until I found a name that I liked, and also had a great meaning. I once had a friend called Innocent. He was a prison chaplain. On his first day he walked in there and said, ‘I am Innocent’, to which the reply came, ‘We all are mate!’ My name, Joanne, means ‘grace of God’. I’m assuming Jo, means ‘grrrr’!? In the Bible, names were massively important. Names had meaning and often gave an insight in to the person’s character. There was one man, in the book of Acts, whose name was Joseph....but his friends called him Barnabas! Seems a bit weird! Let’s not call him by his name, let’s call him something else! Barnabas means ‘son of encouragement’, the name was given to him as a compliment! Joseph was such an encouragement to people that they started to call him by what they saw. Ooooo, that got me thinking!! What if, we were all given names that reflected our characters? What would we be called? Happy? Dopey? Friendly? Greedy? Gossip? Loving? Jealous? Sarcastic? Provoking? Generous? Gracious? Miserable? Two-faced?.....I could go on, but you get the picture?! When people watch us, listen to us, observe our lives, both in the good and the bad times, what do they see? The bible puts it like this, in Matthew 17, ‘by your fruit you shall be known’. And so, I look at the life of Jesus, the all perfect, good life of Jesus. I want to be like Him. I want to get to know Him more and more each day and for His good ways to influence me. I hope and pray that when people observe me, they see far more ‘grace of God’ than they do, ‘grrrr’.

And if so, all thanks God and His amazing grace.

 

Happy Birthday, Hope! - 14/4/20

Yesterday evening, under cover of darkness (and whilst following social distancing guidelines at all times) we snuck round to my niece’s, Hope’s, house and stuck ‘Happy Birthday’ banners to the outside of the windows. Hopefully, they stayed in place over night so that when she opened the blinds this morning she will have seen her birthday greetings. Our wonderful, beautiful, funny – and sometimes a little weird – Hope. We may not be able to celebrate your birthday all together at the moment, but we can still celebrate. On Sunday we ‘met’ together via social media to celebrate Jesus rising from the dead. This wasn’t just a miracle of someone who was dead being brought back to life – that would have been good, but this was so much more! This was the miracle of death being defeated; of the price of our sins being paid on our behalf; of the gift of life eternal. It was the birth of a new hope. 1 Peter Ch 1 says this:Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.While we hope that coronavirus will be defeated very soon; while we hope that we will be released from our lockdown very soon; while we hope that no more people will suffer or die of this horrible disease – the hope that we have through Jesus offers us something much more. It allows us to have a confident expectation for the future – something which might otherwise be in short supply. There are no promises of  an easy time or protection from harm, but a very real promise and assurance of our inheritance of eternal life. So, as a family we will celebrate Hope’s birthday today even though we are apart, but we can also celebrate the birth of that new hope which is available for us all if we choose.Happy birthday Hope! Happy new hope everyone!

 

Back To Normal - 13/04/20

Imagine; Boris is back and the virus does a runner. Eventually. The announcement is made on national television (they even interrupt Corrie!), “No more lockdown, we’ve opened your cage.” OK that’s good, so we can go back to normal life. We can ignore our neighbours again; we can breathe in each other’s faces on the train. We can start complaining about the NHS and the incompetent nurses and the snooty doctors, not forgetting the noisy bin men and the lorry drivers clogging up our roads. We can yell at that ignorant driver who’s just cut in front of us in the two mile long traffic jam. Back to normal, brilliant! Or could it be that some people have learned lessons? Maybe we can work from home two days a week. Being friendly with the folks next door might actually make life better. Could Christians (and their neighbours) realise that they are not defined by where they go on Sunday mornings, but by who they are and who’s they are? Here’s a thought, could our young people suddenly become aware of how brilliant it is to have places where they can be educated? How shocked would teachers be to see a class of smiling faces? What are the chances of people remembering how God provided for them in the past, and learning to trust Him for the future?Could we have a new normal?The original Easter was terrifying but also brilliant. When it was all over and Monday arrived, it was in the past wasn’t it? They could all go back to work, and life would return to normal. No chance! That first Easter changed the world for ever. Those people who knew Jesus, had no doubt that He was God’s Son. Nothing could change their minds, not even torture or execution. Even Peter and Paul were murdered because they would not exchange the truth for a lie. That small band of followers, men and women, who had walked with Jesus, and heard His teaching and watched His miracles, who had seen Him die and live again, has now expanded into two thousand million people worldwide! One third of the world’s population wanted to celebrate the resurrection together in groups today. None of them did. But you can’t change the fact that the baby who was born in Bethlehem and executed in Jerusalem is alive and well. The last book in the Bible records a vision of John’s in which he hears Jesus say, “I am the Living One. I was dead but now look, I am alive for ever and ever.” Those who followed Him then and those who follow Him now, have a new normal. When this is all over, which normal will you choose?

 

How the Virus Stole Easter

By Kristi Bothur, With a nod to Dr. Seuss - 12/4/20

 

Twas late in ‘19 when the virus began

Bringing chaos and fear to all people, each land.

People were sick, hospitals full,

Doctors overwhelmed, no one in school.

As winter gave way to the promise of spring,

The virus raged on, touching peasant and king.

People hid in their homes from the enemy unseen.

They YouTubed and Zoomed, social-distanced, and cleaned.

April approached and churches were closed.

“There won’t be an Easter,” the world supposed.

“There won’t be church services, and egg hunts are out.

No reason for new dresses when we can’t go about.”

Holy Week started, as bleak as the rest.

The world was focused on masks and on tests.

“Easter can’t happen this year,” it proclaimed.

“Online and at home, it just won’t be the same.”

Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the days came and went.

The virus pressed on; it just would not relent.

The world woke Sunday and nothing had changed.

The virus still menaced, the people, estranged.

“Pooh pooh to the saints,” the world was grumbling.

“They’re finding out now that no Easter is coming.

“They’re just waking up! We know just what they’ll do!

Their mouths will hang open a minute or two,

And then all the saints will all cry boo-hoo.

“That noise,” said the world, “will be something to hear.”

So it paused and the world put a hand to its ear.

And it did hear a sound coming through all the skies.

It started down low, then it started to rise.

But the sound wasn’t depressed.

Why, this sound was triumphant!

It couldn’t be so!

But it grew with abundance!

The world stared around, popping its eyes.

Then it shook! What it saw was a shocking surprise!

Every saint in every nation, the tall and the small,

Was celebrating Jesus in spite of it all!

It hadn’t stopped Easter from coming! It came!

Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the world with its life quite stuck in quarantine

Stood puzzling and puzzling.

“Just how can it be?”

“It came without bonnets, it came without bunnies,

It came without egg hunts, cantatas, or money.”

Then the world thought of something it hadn’t before.

“Maybe Easter,” it thought, “doesn’t come from a store.

Maybe Easter, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

And what happened then?

Well....the story’s not done.

What will YOU do?

Will you share with that one

Or two or more people needing hope in this night?

Will you share the source of your life in this fight?

The churches are empty - but so is the tomb,

And Jesus is victor over death, doom, and gloom.

So this year at Easter, let this be our prayer,

As the virus still rages all around, everywhere.

May the world see hope when it looks at God’s people.

May the world see the church is not a building or steeple.

May the world find Faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection,

May the world find Joy in a time of dejection.

May 2020 be known as the year of survival,

But not only that -

Let it start a revival.

 

The Difference a Day Makes - 11/04/20

She was only a teenager getting her daily chores done, it was just a normal day. Up till then. When the angel spoke to her she was terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid Mary, God is  very pleased with you.” He told her she would give birth to a son and he “will be called the Son of God.” The teenager who today would be studying French or History, gulped, took a deep breath and said, “I am the Lord’s servant.” She experienced a miracle birth, and after a diversion because the King wanted to kill Him, she took Him home to Nazareth. She watched Him grow up, just like every other boy in town, but like none of them. At the age of thirty He became a wandering preacher with followers and with enemies. At a local wedding they ran out of wine, so Mary told them that Jesus would sort it. Which He did miraculously. He had never performed a miracle publicly before. What Mary had seen Him do at home in those thirty years we will never know, but Mary knew her son. For three years He moved up and down the country, preaching and teaching in ways that the religious leaders could never match. His ability to heal and even raise the dead demonstrated convincingly what His mother already knew, He really was The Son of God. Mary was so proud of her son, and her part in raising and protecting Him. He decided to go to Jerusalem. His disciples said there would be trouble. Jesus knew there would be trouble; it was called ‘crucifixion’. The Bible records, ‘Near the cross of Jesus stood His mother.’ She watched until she heard Him say, “It is finished.” She stumbled away, horrified, confused, not able to believe what she had seen. Jesus was the Son of God. But He was dead. She didn’t sleep. Who would? When daylight returned, nothing had changed. He was still dead and she was still horrified and confused. Nobody had words of comfort for Mary or themselves. The events of yesterday were shocking and beyond belief. This day with its memories and questions would just be the first day in a lifetime of anguish and agony. Mary and the disciples had never heard the expression, ‘What a difference a day makes.’

 

The Lord (of the Rings) - 10/4/20

There is a passage in Tolkien's classic novel, The Lord of the Rings that has always resonated with me and it seems especially pertinent at this unusual time in all our lives. For those of you unfamiliar with the book, or the films; the story follows the quest of an unlikely hero as he seeks to save the world from a great evil. His journey is arduous and filled with sacrifice, peril and loss, but through it all he has a group of loyal friends who are prepared to follow him to the bitter end, no matter the cost. It is a story of love and of hope. After a particularly difficult encounter, when all seems lost, our hero confides in a companion, “I wish that this had not happened in my time”. His wise friend replies, “So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us”.
On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus had similar thoughts. He asks God if it is possible that, “this cup be taken from me”. He knew what lay ahead, but He concludes his plea with the acceptance, “yet not my will, but yours”. He knows what He has to do with the time given to Him. He knows He must pass through the agony of crucifixion to reach the other side.
The disciples too; Jesus' group of friends, must have wondered why this had come upon them. The hope they had seen in Jesus was gone. Their leader and king, the one they had chosen to follow, had met his bitter end. The triumph of Palm Sunday had turned to tragedy. What would they do now? Of course, they had failed to understand that it was only Friday and Sunday was coming! When it came, they knew what it was they needed to do with their time. They spent every waking minute telling anybody who would listen, and many who wouldn't, about this life transforming event. Urging others to follow the risen, conquering king and live a life full of purpose and hope. Well, we are all living in times we wish we hadn't seen. It is not within our gift to change that, so we need to decide what to do. Obviously we need to do the right thing; stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives. We should exercise where and when possible, clap for carers on a Thursday evening, light candles, help others and generally be good citizens... but is that it? When all this is over, and it will be over, will we look back and say, “Well, thank goodness that's done, now we can get back on with our lives”? Or will we have spent the time listening to, and perhaps finally hearing, the message that has been passed down through faithful generations? Will we do more than simply pick up where we left off? Will we accept the gift of sacrifice made for us all those years ago and move forward with a renewed purpose and a life filled with hope?
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes on Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”. John 3:16.

Dinner Time! - 9/4/20

For all you northerners out there, dinner is what you lot call tea and in our house it used to be a really important bit of the day. Once dinner was served, we had a wonderful tradition which I really miss ,now that that the children have grown up. We would sit down and all go around the table telling everyone what had been the best bit of our day. It was simple but meant that we all got to share a bit of good news. We went from eldest to youngest and with 6 of us, it could take a while, especially as the youngest one took forever! Nobody could leave the table until we had all shared and, on occasions, arguments would ensue as the youngest one took so long! We were definitely not the ‘Waltons’! In these weird times, meals have become really important to us again. They break up the day, give us something to prepare for, and can be quite exciting when trying to find inventive ways to use up half a white cabbage and a tin of beans (waste not, want not etc!). On Maundy Thursday, we traditionally celebrate a very special meal. Jesus was preparing for his death and wanted to share the Passover with his closest friends. As he broke the bread and gave thanks for the wine, he gave instructions that whenever we did this, we did it in remembrance of Him. Today we may well be sharing communion/eucharist/The lords supper alone at home, or with many others online. But wherever and whenever we do, it is more special than any other meal that we will share as family. It is a family meal that draws us together as we remember; we give thanks for what Jesus did for us on the cross.

 

Back in the Saddle - 8/4/20

Some years ago, not long after I had arrived in Guatemala to work, I was asked by a local doctor to go and visit a remote village a few hours away on a mountainside. We were travelling in a small jeep until the journey became too difficult. The doctor parked his jeep and announced that we were to walk the rest of the journey. We had only been walking a few minutes, when a couple of men appeared out of nowhere. They lived in a tiny community on the side of the mountain. They asked us where we were going and immediately offered us horses to ride for the rest of the journey. ‘Oh goody!’ I thought to myself sarcastically.  ‘A horse!’ A horse WITHOUT a saddle! I was not excited! That day I was wearing a T-shirt and a long very flowy skirt. Two men offered to help me up. They bent down and both clasped their hands for me to place my foot on. I’m guessing that my large, flowy skirt made me look a bit heavier than I was..... With a big heave from my 2 amigos, all 7 stone of me flew into the air, over the top of the horse, and landed back down on the ground, with my large flowy skirt now over my head. The place erupted with laughter as more and more villagers appeared from nowhere to see the unplanned comedy. So we tried again. I had nothing to lose. I had lost my dignity the moment I landed on the ground. Take 2! And this time I landed safely on the horse. People cheered. My legs dangled pathetically either side. This was not going to be comfortable! The man who owned the horse spoke in Spanish to my translator who told me, “you just have to nudge the horse with your heals and say ‘yah!’ “ I braced myself! So did everyone else! ‘Yah!’ I shouted and swung my legs into the horse‘s sides. We took off, a bit faster than everybody expected, straight through the open door of a small, simple, one-roomed home. The horse stopped in front of a completely stunned family of four who were sitting at the table eating. I got the feeling they’d not had a horse in the house before. At that point in time I don’t know who was more shocked, the family we had just invaded, me, the horse, or the crowd of onlookers outside. For a moment, there was silence. This was broken by me speaking the only Spanish I knew at that time, ‘¡hola!’ (That’s hello!) There wasn’t a dry eye in the place as my horse was backed out of the house and we were sent on our way, riding up the mountainside. At the end of that day, when we eventually returned the horses to the ‘still laughing’ villagers, I ache from head to toe. There wasn’t a bit of me that didn’t hurt. But inside I felt great. We had laughed and laughed while I tried to learn a new skill and ‘somewhat’ succeed! People were gracious, patient, good natured and full of encouragement. I was grateful! Very grateful! Over the past few days and weeks we have all had to adapt to a different way of living and socialising. It’s not been easy. And many of us have had an enormously steep learning curve concerning new ways to communicate with each other. The ‘how to’s’ and the ‘do’s and the don’t’s’, have been really difficult to work our way through. And when it becomes too difficult, the stress levels rise and there’s the temptation to feel stupid or useless or left out. Those people in Guatemala taught me a great lesson that day. They taught me a lot about patience, good humour and encouragement....all I had to do was get back on the horse. 1 Corinthians 13, tells us all about what love is. I encourage you to read it. But one verse says, “Love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy or boast, it is not arrogant”. Can I make a suggestion today, that we all learn from those Guatemalan villagers and help each other face our ‘horse-sized’ stumbling blocks with grace, patience, good humour and much encouragement. When we fall, let’s help each other back up. Happy Wednesday everybody.

 

Knock, knock, knocking on heavens door - 7/4/20

A couple of weeks ago, just as our national lockdown was beginning, there was a knock on my front door and when I answered it there was a beautiful bunch of bright yellow daffodils sitting on the doorstep and I just caught a glimpse of the person who had delivered them (and who presumably  did the knocking) just driving away. Perhaps not considered essential, I certainly couldn’t eat them, but nevertheless a beautiful gift that lifted my day. A few days later, I was able to return the favour and knocked on that person’s door. When they opened it they found a pack of toilet rolls – if nothing else, I am practical! But in order for my gift to be received, I had to knock on the door and the door had to be opened. A
bunch of daffodils left on the doorstep would wither and die while a pack of toilet rolls at the moment would probably get stolen! I needed to willingly bring and offer my gift and it needed to be received; a transaction had to take place. We’ve spoken a lot over the last couple of weeks about the strange and challenging times that we are living in. About the stress and anxiety that many people are feeling and you can’t turn on the TV without hearing about the rates of illness and death that we are enduring at the moment. Of course, with death comes bereavement, sadness and pain. Where can we go with our worries? Who can we share our sadness with? So many people are struggling in so many different ways and we may not know where to turn, but there is someone who is waiting to listen and share the burdens of life. Luke Ch 11 verse 9-10 says:

“Keep on seeking and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will
be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”


We call it prayer but all it is is a conversation with God, but the most wonderful thing about it is that God considers it a gift when you choose to talk to Him. If you have anxieties but you don’t tell Him, that’s like standing at the door without knocking – what’s the point? He promises that if you knock on that door, He will open it – if you look for God, you WILL find Him. Throughout this week as we approach Easter we remember the gift that God sent for us; the gift of His son Jesus dying on the cross but conquering death and rising again. Dying so that we don’t have to. Paying the price of our sins so that we don’t have to. As gifts go, that’s got to be up there! But if you want to receive the gift, you’re going to have to knock on the door.

 

The Clock's Ticking - 6/4/20

A few weeks ago when we were threatened with the possibility of being locked up in our own homes, I had a thought. The thought was, ‘What a waste of time.’ Imagine looking back after two or three months and thinking,’ I’ve done  nothing, achieved nothing, learned nothing.’ Some people of course have sprung into action. B&Q have had their busiest weeks for years as people stocked up on paint and paper. By summer, gardens will be in better condition than we can ever
remember. Millions have discovered their neighbours and are chatting over the fence and shopping. Many people have joined all kinds of community groups. Let’s hope it’s not just for a few months. This was a difficult time for me because although I love gardens and sitting in them, I hate gardening. Kathy and I talked about decorating but we had such different ideas that we decided not to kill each other but leave the decorating for another day. I was so concerned that the younger members of my family would not learn a new skill or develop the ones they had, that I suggested they needed to be proactive and do something.
So where did that leave me? I’m pretty perfect I think, so finding a new activity took time. Then it occurred to me that my cooking skills could possibly be improved. I can boil eggs and make toast, I’m not stupid, but maybe I could learn something useful if the best cook in the world (Kathy) taught me what she had learned in decades. So I announced it to my family, and some were amazed but most were horrified. Is it possible that this dreadful and terrifying worldwide plague could lead us to consider improving our lives? Christians do not get special treatment, they go through difficult and painful times like anybody else.  In Psalm 119, the writer says,

‘It was good for me to be afflicted, so that I might learn Your decrees.’

Millions around the world are being reminded of God’s goodness to them before this virus arrived, but they never thought to say “Thank You.” Also we are now
aware of how much we depend upon God’s provision and protection. So let’s not waste our time at home, let’s learn new skills, make new friends, opt out of the rat race, and let’s all acknowledge our need of the God who loves us.
Now what do I do with these sausages?

 

Emmanuel... Not just for Christmas 5/4/20

The crowds cheered. The atmosphere was electric. It was the arrival of the king. The shouting and chanting and praising got louder and louder. ‘ Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!‘ The crowd were throwing their cloaks on the ground, and they waved their palm leaves with much excitement and enthusiasm. The King has arrived. On a donkey. Wait!! A donkey? Are you serious? Kings don’t ride on donkeys! Donkeys are kind of cute, a bit funny looking, enormous big ears....but definitely not regal! But here He was. Jesus. King Jesus. Riding on a donkey. This was a far cry from the pomp and circumstance of other kings processions. But Jesus wasn’t ‘just another king’. He was God’s son. The Miracle Worker. The Servant King. The King of all Kings. Jesus brought a message of love, forgiveness, grace and hope.  As the people cried ‘Hosanna!’ Jesus knew that their cries, just a few days later, would be ‘Crucify him!’ Jesus wept. He wept for every person who had missed ‘Emmanuel, God with Us’. He loved them and He wept.

And today, Jesus loves us and weeps for us. On this Palm Sunday, let’s not miss ‘Emmanuel, God with Us’. Let’s celebrate Him, thank Him and invite Him in to our messy lives.

‘I have come that you may have life, life in all its fullness’. John 10:10.

 

What Is Wrong With Me?! - 4/4/20

When I was growing up, we adopted a cat! Sooty was beautiful. He looked like Sylvester. He was independent and very proud. Occasionally he would let you pick him up and give him a hug. Very occasionally. And occasionally he would get quite excited playing a game with you, until suddenly out of the blue, he would try to swipe you. No warning. His way of saying, ‘I’m through with playing’.  Recently, I was chatting to somebody on the phone, and within the space have a few minutes we had gone from laughing, to crying, to laughing again, to venting and frustration… And then they unnecessarily apologised for their mass of different emotions. This is an incredibly difficult time for everybody. But for some people, maybe those who live alone, who are already unwell and feeling more vulnerable, maybe those who are suffering financial crisis...it’s even more difficult.  In 1 Peter 5:7 we read these words,

‘Cast all your anxiety on Him (God), for He cares for you’.

Anxiety is very real and exhausting, and all of us, at the moment, will experience some days, or maybe many days of laughter one minute, distress the next, loneliness the next, laughter again. One big jumbled mess of emotions. And that’s ok. But don’t battle those days on your own. Talk to someone who you can be real with and talk to God who knows everything about you already. Let’s all be there for one another, in those ‘Sooty moments’, and let’s all remember and be thankful for our loving God who has never left us, and never will.

 

Play Ball! - 3/04/20

I love baseball. For me, it's the greatest game in the world. The reasons for my passion are many and varied and if you've got a few hours to spare, I'll happily wax lyrical to you about it. Oh, wait a minute, we've all got time on our hands right now... I'll expect your call. Opening day; the first day of a new season, holds a special place in the hearts of baseball fans. It heralds the arrival of spring and suggests the promise of new beginnings. Our favourite teams return to begin a long journey filled with twists and turns and the hope that they will put together a magical season that will be remembered forever. The umpire sweeps the dirt from home plate and shouts, “Play ball!” and off we go. It doesn't matter how badly your team did last year. Their poor performances, missed chances and mistakes are all forgotten. This is a fresh start. A world of new possibilities awaits. It is a time of hope. A chance to begin again. A chance to get it right this time. This year's opening day was on 26th March – except it wasn't. Like every other sport, baseball has postponed its season, leaving millions of devotees disappointed. Who knows when we will get to enjoy the thrill of the chase, the smell of the popcorn, the buzz of the crowd. It may be a long wait. The good news is that we have a God who offers us opening day every day. No matter what mistakes we have made, however poorly we have behaved, whatever we did that we wish we hadn't or whatever we failed to do that we wished we had, He offers us a new beginning. We don't need to wonder when this opening day will come. It's here now. There is no wait. What's more, we don't need to wait for the season to finish to know who wins. We do.

“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”.

Jeremiah 29:11

 

Jelly babies and Saucers - 2/4/20

In my previous life I used to teach Business studies to a mixed bunch of Year 9 reprobates. One of my favourite lessons was to teach them about hierarchical structures in organisations. It was easy to apply to a school situation and generated good discussions about who was at the top of the school leadership and why. We would then progress to look at efficiency savings and a concept called delayering. This was cracking good fun as we set up a sort of diagram using loads of jelly babies, all in a triangle shape, with 1 at the top, then 2 on the next layer and so on. As we removed layers, they got to eat the jelly babies, pretending they were real people with screams, gurgles and yelps! A good leadership model for church is totally not like that. The kingdom of God should be more like a gi-enormous saucer into which is thrown all the people of God. Those who lead, with heavier weights of responsibilities, should sink to the bottom to hold up and support the rest. We are all in this storm together (and it is definitely not a storm in a tea cup!) At times, some of us will be more able to sink to the bottom of the saucer and hold up the rest. At other times, we need to allow ourselves to be carried because there is no hierarchy in God’s Kingdom.
Right, over and out & time for a brew!

 

My Bruce! - 1/4/20

I have no sense of direction! I take after my mum. I walk out of Primark in Liverpool 1 and ALWAYS go the wrong way! When I passed my driving test when I was 18, I remember it took months for me to find Ormskirk! And then, I went to work abroad. There was a genuine concern that I wouldn’t find my destinations. I’d step off a plane not speaking a word of the local language and somehow I’d find my way! Sometimes people would be able to give me instructions through dramatic hand signals, and on other occasions I think they took pity on me and took me to my destination themselves. All these years later and now we have sat navs. The ingenious talking maps that speak with such confidence and knowledge. Mine is a big Australian man called Bruce. He’s wonderful! I love Bruce. He never gets frustrated with me, never throws a strop, and when I make a mistake he very gently speaks up and gets me back on the right track. Bruce has rescued me time and time again. But here’s the thing, my poor sense of direction isn’t limited to me physically getting from A to B. My whole life, from the day I was born, has been one massive big journey. There have been many twists and turns, valleys and mountaintops. Too many to count. And if Bruce was all I had to help me, well, I wouldn’t be here now. I’ve made many wrong choices, taken myself down many wrong paths and entered valleys far too deep to climb out of alone. 

The Bible is jam packed with people just like me! Or should I say, I’m just like them?! Wandering through life, sometimes bulldozing through life, and all too often forgetting to consult The Guide. Proverbs 3:5-6 says these beautiful words,

 

 ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths’.

In these very uncertain and troubled days I’m so thankful that while I don’t hold the future, I know and trust the one who does. 

Just in case you’re wondering, I’m not sharing Bruce with you! He’s mine and no one else’s! But Jesus? Well, I want to share Him with everyone! Life is one tough journey, let’s trust The Guide.

 

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