Blessings


Transcript of my sermon delivered on Sunday 29th January 2017

This sermon uses two passages from the Bible, and questions what are blessings, and how do we recognise blessings in our lives. The passages are Micah 6: 1 – 8  and Matthew 5: 1 – 12and I began my talk by showing this piece of video from “The Life of Brian” – the Sermon on the Mount

It might seem a bit surprising that a clip from an anarchic film such as The Life of Brian could be used in a sermon in church, but I like this clip because it shows us so much about human nature, and the very real way that we can not only fall out over insignificant things, but also how if we’re not careful the Word of God can be misheard and mis-translated. It also ties in with our gospel reading today, where Matthew writes about Jesus’ sermon on the mount. If you know the film, or if you are familiar with parts of it, you will also know that later on, there’s a scene where the elders are all sat round and the conversation goes something like “pah, what have the Romans ever done for us?”. (Aqueduct, sanitation, roads, irrigation, medicine, education, wine, public order, health, peace etc)

The scene that Micah writes about in our first reading is not dissimilar: he speaks of the Israelites who are complaining about “what has the Lord ever done for us”, and Micah points out that God led them out of slavery, he sent great leaders in the shape of Moses, Aaron and Miriam, and he saved them from Balak’s plans to have them cursed by the magician Balaam in Moab. Not only that but when they were stuck in the sinful city of Shittim, God led them to safety by crossing them over the river Jordan to the safety of Gilgal. You can almost hear the answer “yeah, well, apart from all that, what has God ever done for us?!”.

How many of us can say, hand on hearts, that we have never said something similar? How many of us have felt that we are hard done-to, or downtrodden, or that we deserve all the misery that is in our lives at the minute? I think it’s fair to say that at some time or another – some probably more than most – we have all failed to see what God has done for us, and we have simply not acknowledged his presence in our lives. Through Micah we are reminded that the Lord has done, and continues to do great things for us.

It’s the same message that we hear from Matthew too. The Beatitudes – a collection of blessings that Jesus is reported as saying in his oft referred to “sermon on the mount”. Scholars now argue that what Matthew wrote here is more of a series of headlines or soundbites rather than a word for word account of a single address given by Jesus on a hillside. I don’t know either way – I’m not a Biblical scholar and I have still got a lot to learn about the teachings of Jesus – but if these are really just headlines, then I feel it’s up to us to put the meat on the story, so to speak.

So what is a blessing then? What does it mean to be blessed? 

It’s perhaps easier to think about what a blessing isn’t. It isn’t the same as being happy, for example. If that were the case, then most of the beatitudes are nonsense. Can you imagine saying “happy are those who mourn?”. Nope, that doesn’t work for me.

Tom Wright says we can understand “blessed” to mean “good news”. That works a little bit better for me – “good news for the poor in spirit…” does feel a little closer, but it’s still not quite right.

We drop the words “blessing” and “bless” into our everyday language and conversations with each other. If I were to sneeze now, how many of you would respond by saying “bless you”? How many times have you heard or said “aw, bless him”, or “that’s a blessing in disguise”? In the words of the Johnson Oatman hymn “Count Your Blessings”, we are encouraged to think about our blessings in terms of what the Lord has done for us and to acknowledge his touch on our lives. For me, this is getting a bit closer to the real meaning of blessing, that when we are blessed, we have received the touch of God.

For those who mourn – the touch of God will comfort them; for the meek, the touch of God means that they will inherit the earth.

You see where I’m going with this?

It doesn’t quite go all the way, and it starts to go awry for me when we hear about those who are merciful, or those who are peacemakers and the righteous because the point is that we can only ever be these things by God’s touch in the first place. Peace-making, showing mercy, righteousness – without the touch of God we cannot be any of those things. We need God’s touch, his presence, throughout all aspect of our lives so we can be those things in his name. It doesn’t come naturally to us to be merciful or righteous – those are gifts from God and we must acknowledge that. We must be honest with ourselves when we claim to be righteous, or humble or any of the things we are called to be, because no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves otherwise, we are only ever at the beginning of a long pathway, and even then, it is only with God’s grace and touch that we can even begin to see the first bend in that pathway that leads to him.

I feel that even though it has a flaw, my interpretation of what it means to be blessed is close enough for us to understand what a blessing is, and in such a way that enables us to be able to share with others the gospel message.

Because after all, what are we doing as Christians if we don’t share the good news with other people? How do we let the meek, the persecuted, the bereaved, those who are poor in spirit know that there is good news for them? How else do we let them know that Jesus Christ lived and died and lives again so that we can be part of God’s kingdom, that we can enjoy fruitful and meaningful lives here and now even though life feels hard and bleak sometimes. That with the touch of God and the blessings of God, even the most dismal and heart-breaking of situations are transformed, if only we take the time and trouble to acknowledge them.

Too often we find comfort in being down, and miserable. Sounds daft, but we do. We would rather put up with a poor situation, or a hurtful relationship, or stick with the old, destructive patterns of thinking because we take comfort from their familiarity. We know where we’re up to with that friend who always puts us down, and we know that if we always have the same reaction to situations in the news – immigration, poverty, injustice for persecuted groups – we don’t have to think too hard or put too much effort in to speaking out against them and those who inflict them.

I’m not just talking about straightforward pessimism and optimism here; people are far more complicated to be labelled either a pessimist or an optimist.

[Hold up glass half filled with water]

Is the glass half full, or half empty?

Your answer shows if you have a pessimistic view of life, or an optimistic one depending on whether you see the glass as being filled or emptied; but as a Christian, you should have a third answer up your sleeve; that with God’s touch on your life, with his grace, his love and with his blessings, this glass is infinitely refillable.

Are you in mourning? Do you grieve for someone, or something you have lost? You are blessed by God! [Fill up the glass to the brim/overflowing]

Do you show mercy to others? Do you let compassion and love for others flow out of you? [Emptying glass part way]

You are blessed by God – Jesus told us so! – and you will receive more mercy than you will ever need [fill glass to overflowing].

Do you feel pure in heart? [hold up full glass]. With God’s touch you will see him in everything you do! And if you see him in everything you do, then others will see it in everything you do too.

And for this grace, these blessings, this full glass, these touches of God which transform our lives, what does God ask of us in return? How on earth can we ever say thank you enough to him for his blessings? How can we ever repay him?

As Micah says, it won’t take the sacrifice of your first-born, nor ten thousand rivers of oil, nor the masses of calves and rams as burnt offerings, nothing like that. All God asks of us in return is that we act justly, that we love mercy, and that we walk humbly with him.

So as we go from here today, let’s think about what it means to be blessed by God, to have his touch on our lives in the darkest and bleakest places as well as in the joyful and bright ones. Think about how your lives are blessed by him every step of the way, and how those headlines on that mountainside are as alive and meaningful to us today as they were to those who heard them two thousand years ago. But more to the point, think about what God asks in return from us; not a lot really – simply that we act justly, that we love mercy, and that we walk humbly with him.

Amen

Love and Loss


angelOver two days this week I have been involved in four funerals. When I say “involved” I mean that I have provided the music for one, delivered the eulogy and address at one, supported a friend who was delivering his first eulogy at another, and at one to mourn the passing and celebrate the life of a friend. It might seem that to go to four funerals in two days is a bit much, but to be honest, I found those two days a journey of personal and spiritual growth, and I have learned more about myself and the relationships I have with people around me after reflecting on the lives of the four people I said farewell to.

For the first funeral (Wednesday), my role was to play the music during the funeral of Daniel*. He was an elderly gentleman whose family had chosen to have a church service and burial, and his funeral was attended by lots of family, friends, neighbours and colleagues. He was a big Blue (a big Manchester City fan in case you didn’t know) and he was brought into church to the beautiful singing of Mel Torme and “Blue Moon”. In the congregation was Fred Eyre who used to play for City and who now provides match commentary on Radio Manchester. The tributes were read by Daniel’s friend, and by an 11 year old little girl, who lived next door to him. It was very moving to hear an 11 year old child speak about the gentle giant that Daniel was, and she brought me to tears with her emotional speech.

On Thursday morning I attended three services at the crematorium, one in each of the three chapels there. I had the privilege of giving my very first funeral address. It was for William*, who had died in October and whose family were unable to organise the funeral for him. I did manage to speak to a couple of people who knew William and I learned a little of his life and the manner of his death, and I drew on that information and the gospel message to be able to write an address for him. I didn’t expect many family members to be present, but as it turned out there were about 50 people there to hear the funeral service and to mourn William’s passing.

Straight after William’s funeral was the service for George*. My role was two-fold, first to be a support for my friend Nick, who was also delivering his first funeral address, and also to be a mourner for George who had only two distant family members there for him.

After George’s service was the funeral of one of my own friends, Bryce. He was a cornet player and involved in many brass bands over the years so the chapel was full to the brim, with standing room only at the back and down the sides. I estimated over 200 people were there for him today, and the tributes were rich and emotional, moving and joyful. The band played “Nimrod” as a piece of reflection music, which again was very moving, and there were lots of tears shed at the very end when Bryce’s own cornet playing was relayed to the gathering in a recording he made about 18 months ago of “Ave Maria”.

So, four very different funerals. Four very different people, and four different views of death and saying goodbye to them. When I look at them as a group of four, I see the differences that life throws up to us. One man drew a couple of hundred mourners, another drew just two; one man’s family had split down the middle and didn’t really know about each other – not because of any argument but by a simple drifting apart and not speaking to each other; one man had no family to even fall out with and was truly alone in the world.

The differences go on and on, but it’s the similarities that strike me.

All four men at some point in their lives had met with hardship and struggle. With health, with learning difficulties, with failed marriages, with family splits. They had all loved and lost in one form or another, and yet they still managed to survive into later years, to about 70-80 years old each.

Another similarity is that they were all loved. Love is love, and to me it doesn’t matter whether there are just a couple of family members and “staff” from the local church to mourn you, or whether there are 200 people and a big brass band gathered to send you off, the fact is that these men were all loved and were mourned.

But it’s not just love that we understand in human terms that these men experienced, they are loved by God our father who loves us all, no matter how lost or broken we may feel, or how messy and chaotic our lives may be, or how we view ourselves as failures and so on. The love that sustained these four men sustains us all too, and we all have the promise of resurrection in glory at the end of days.

Death is a great leveller, and I realised on Thursday that no matter what our life’s achievements are or what may try to accumulate in material wealth, we all end our days on earth here the same way.

 

*Names have been changed to preserve the privacy of the individuals concerned.

Prayers for a New Year


I led the prayers in our Sunday worship this morning, and for a change I used a couple of props. I chose to pray around four items that are traditionally used on New Year’s Eve in Scottish households – coal, “black bun” (or fruit cake), salt and whisky.

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Here’s what we prayed:

Coal – small, dirty, seemingly useless. Coal has taken millions of years to form.

Heavenly Father we pray that this piece of coal represents to us your staying power and long term commitment to us; that even in situations where it seems things are longtime dead, with your redeeming love and grace, there is the power to transform.

Remind us that even though things may appear hopeless, lost or worthless, with the application of time and even a little pressure, good things will come.

This piece of coal reminds us we are never alone, no matter how far buried we feel, and you are with us for all the age.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

“Black bun”/Fruit Cake – filled with lots of different ingredients; some sweet, some not to sweet; some dry and in need of other ingredients to help them do their job; some nuts and some things we don’t expect to find.

Father, as we think about this piece of cake, help us be reminded of your church. Made up of different, exotic or downright odd ingredients, when we as individuals come together in your name something deep, rich and nourishing happens.

We pray for all your church around the world, and we ask that you strengthen it, guide it and we ask for your continued blessing.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Salt – can be used in lots of ways; as currency, to cleanse, to add flavour, to preserve, to tenderise.

May this salt remind us of your love, your grace in our lives. How, without you at the centre of our lives Father, we lack so much.

We pray that through this coming year, we continue to put you central to everything we think or do.

We pray too for those whose lives lack flavour or interest through sickness, despair, poverty, homelessness, grief. We ask that you put us in those places where we can help.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Whisky – made from the same ingredients as bread – grain, yeast, water.

Heavenly Father remind us that Jesus is the bread of life. He is the source of all our hope and we pray that we continually feed on him in our hearts.

This whisky is a reminder too of the Holy Spirit – the one who breathes fire into our hearts, who unites people, who stirs up passions and without whom we are weak, and useless at being your hands and voices in our world.

Father we pray that this tiny bottle reminds us that your power in this world cannot ever be contained.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your son, our saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

 

Daybook Entry – New Year’s Eve 2016


021114_2314_DaybookEntr1.jpgFor Today… the last day of 2016

Outside my window… I can hear some isolated bursts of fireworks going off locally. The weather is mild to cold but not frosty yet.

I am thinking… about some changes I need to make in myself, my outlook, my worldview and my expectations.

I am thankful… for so, so much! Where to start? Well, first and foremost I am thankful for the ever present grace and love of God in my life. My faith in him (and his in me) has got me through so much this year and I am thankful to have reached this point still in one piece.

I am praying for… Charlotte and Kieran who are dealing with the most heartbreaking loss anyone can imagine; my brother who is going to be having an operation in a couple of weeks and is facing a long recovery time afterwards; Roy, Margaret, Iain and Megan who will be taking a big step next week; Emma who is starting a new job on Tuesday; Ethan who has got a high-pressure time ahead this term.

I am wearing… a happy smile this evening as I look back at what has happened this year.

I am creating… a new way of thinking. I have come to realise that my thought patterns and behaviour patterns need an overhaul if I am to ever make progress with my life. For example, I am desperate to write a full length novel but fear of failure is holding me back. I know I have the skills (talent is as yet still untested), but I keep talking myself out of doing anything about it because I think my story is not good enough, or that people won’t want to read it and so on. I am trying to create a new way of thinking about myself where I concentrate on the positives of what I’m doing rather than worrying about the (unknown) negatives.

I am going… to put my new thinking into action over the coming weeks and let’s see where we are by half term.

I am wondering… whether I ought to do something about my physical health as well as my mental health this year…

I am reading… “Speaking in Bones” by Kathy Reichs. I was fortunate enough to receive an Amazon gift card for Christmas which I have already bitten into and bought this latest one in the Temperance Brennan series. I have had my eye on it for a little while and I was really chuffed to be able to buy it on Boxing Day. I’m nearly at the end of it and to be honest, I can’t wait for bedtime tonight so I can go and finish it!

I am hoping… that our financial difficulties will be eased this year, if not resolved somehow. I have faith that we will be ok.

I am learning… to ease up on myself, to lower my expectations, and to celebrate the small things.

In my garden… we have a gazebo erected over our deck area at the back of the house. We put it up there for Christmas Day so we had somewhere dry to put the settee out while we had the long tables set up for dinner. We haven’t got round to putting it down yet but I rather like it and might persuade Kevin to keep it for a while.

In my kitchen… we have some snacks and treats waiting to eat while we watch the final Harry Potter film later on tonight.

A favourite quote for today…

new_year_meme

A peek into one of my days… I’m going to cheat here and show you a few photos from December as there’s too many to choose from!

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A bonus little video for you: filmed outside our house on Christmas morning as we played for our neighbours before church. Hope you enjoy it!

One of my favourite things… is planning and researching things for writing about. One of my least favourite things is spotting when “research” becomes “procrastinating” and getting a move on and to get writing.

Post Script: This year has been a year of spectacular highs and devastating lows, and this is my chance to acknowledge those difficulties and joys and to say a public thank you to everyone who has got me through it all.

Those of you who have followed my blog over the months and years will know that from time to time my mental health takes a hit, and that my family’s financial situation is not particularly secure or hopeful. This year has been the worst we have endured and we have come close a few times to crossing the line. However, we have been blessed on so many occasions by the kindness and support of family and friends who have seen us through. With gifts of food and other necessities, and on more than one occasion the gift of money, our family and friends have literally saved the day. Ethan would not have been able to go on the trip of a lifetime with the music centre had it not been for an anonymous gift of a substantial amount of money which was put through our front door the day before the deadline for payment. More recently, we were facing a very lean Christmas with no spare cash to be able to buy any presents for anyone but again, from anonymous gifts, we not only were able to get some gifts for our children but we have enough now for both Kevin and I to be able to replace our glasses in a couple of weeks. We are both desperate for an eye test and new glasses but until this money came in, we were getting very anxious about how we were going to pay for them. As I said, we have been extremely blessed and we are so grateful for everyone who has helped us in 2016. The grace of God has been in abundance in our family this year!

Some high spots have punctuated the seemingly endless struggle to “get by”, such as our family camping holiday in Wales this summer (again, paid for as a gift to us – and boy are we glad for that gift!). We were joined by my brother and his family for a few days, which was a great experience, and I got to enjoy some spiritual time in a very special part of the world. I finally finished my studies and I got my degree this summer which is an achievement I never in a million years thought I would ever do. Kevin and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary this year too, which, as with my degree, is an achievement and milestone I never thought I would ever see. But we did and I am proud to have made it with my best friend and partner in life.

A Time To Be Still


Everybody needs time to be still. Stillness implies stopping something – moving, talking, eating, worrying, crying, laughing, agitating – whatever it is, we all need to stop and be still.

But how difficult is it to stop yourself and just be in the moment, in the presence of something bigger than yourself and not to fret about what you are not doing?

I suppose the answer lies in the difference between being and doing, and sometimes, when we are so wrapped up in doing we forget what it’s like to simply be.

When are the best times to be still? Anyone can be still when they are relaxed or comforted, restful and happy, but what about the times when you are stressed and angry, or agitated and sad?

Are you like me, who when I get stressed and bogged down with things to do, I turn into a ball of spiky energy and get so wrapped up in myself that I can’t function? If you are, then you’ll recognise the added angst I feel when someone tells me to ‘calm down’. The worst two words in the English language!

But what happens if you can calm down, and you can stop yourself getting tighter and tighter wound up into a ball? I had a wonderful opportunity this evening to be still, and to be calm, and to not be distracted by the jobs and tasks mounting on my my ‘to do’ list and it was wonderful. For the space of an hour and a half I was in fellowship with some of my church family, which in itself is a calming atmosphere, but in that time we spent just 3 minutes or so listening to some music with the lights low which was like a shot in the arm for me. I didn’t really focus on the music and I didn’t even focus on the things I’d left at home but I did manage to just enjoy the moment and to feel a connection to the world that gets lost in the stress and anxiety of living.

I feel better for it too. The things that were making me so angry have simmered down and don’t seem so prominent now, and I have been able to get a grip on my sliding anxiety. I still have a lot to do but it somehow doesn’t feel so frightening now.

What ways do you find to be still? Do you find it difficult to justify the time to yourself if you do take some time out? How do you recognise the need to be still?

Or is it something you hadn’t thought about before?

If that’s you, then take some time to be still and let yourself simply be, not do. Let me know how you get on.

be still

Daybook Entry – 24th February 2016


Daybook EntryFor Today… 24th February 2016.

Outside my window… it is a chilly -1 and each star is like a little chip of ice in the sky.

I am thinking… about who fascinating it is to cross paths with new people.

I am thankful… for my musical gift.

I am praying for… my old friend Jason who is in a high dependency unit tonight after a significant and serious surgery today.

I am creating… a plan for a screenplay. Can’t publish it yet but watch out, it’ll be coming soon!

I am going… to be leading our Lenten Bible study tomorrow night with my friend Helen.

I am wondering… whether this scratchy throat will develop overnight or will disappear.

I am reading… a really crappy novel that is nice night-time reading but not worth commenting on really in amongst the reams and reams of notes and critical essays I am reading for my studies…

I am hoping… I can make a good headway on my children’s literature assignment tomorrow. The official deadline is tomorrow lunchtime but I have an extension until Tuesday because I have been a bit poorly.

I am learning… to say “no” and to take some rest when my body tells me I have to.

In my garden… I have recently put out a new bird feeder filled with nuts and seeds but there hasn’t been many visitors yet. I might have to add a bit of something extra to tempt the birds in.

In my kitchen… Emma and Gemma made a delish meal tonight of pasta and a “sauce” which was stuffed FULL of vegetables. Very, very nice.

A favourite quote for today… this is from our Lent challenge at church, and it is a video I created for the verse “The Lord is my salvation”.

A peek into one of my days…

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This is my friend Dot and it was taken on Saturday at our Deanery Away Day which was held at FC United. It was a great day and we had a good old natter about stuff.

One of my favourite things… is watching people blossom when they are given encouragement and praise.

Post Script: I posted yesterday about the question of whether Britain should remain in or leave the EU, and it has sparked a bit of a debate it seems. Have a look and see, and please leave me your thoughts if you have an opinion or an observation about it. I’m keen to find out if other people are as confused about it all just the same as I am.

 

 

 

Wednesday Hodgepodge


Thanks to Joyce for hosting the Wednesday Hodgepodge again this week. Here are my answers but if you want to join in, please click the hodgepodge logo below and follow the instructions on the host site. Here we go!

 

1. February 17th is National Random Acts of Kindness Day. It lands on the calendar one day after National Do Something for a Grouch Day (February 16) which somehow feels related. Perhaps the 16th inspired the 17th? 

Tell about a time you performed a random act of kindness or were the recipient of one. Will you make an effort to perform a random act of kindness on the 17th? Share details if you’re so inclined, and if you have something specific in mind.  

We have had a prolonged spell of difficulty with our finances since I lost my job through illness and I have been continually surprised by the random acts of kindness people have shown me and my family through this time. There have been countless things happen to us and for us, but the two that stick out in my mind was one day I went get the post from behind the front door and a card had been put through containing a gift voucher for Tesco for a significant amount of money. The message read “from your friend at church”, and I was totally overwhelmed and still to this day don’t know who was so generous to us. The second was last Christmas when we received a food hamper from Marks and Spencer delivered to our house, again anonymously, but ever so thoughtful and kind at a time when we were feeling the pinch particularly keenly. Both those gestures have stuck out in my mind because of the timing when they were given. The Tesco one meant we were able to buy a good two weeks worth of shopping and we didn’t have to penny pinch to do so, and the M&S one was at Christmas time, which speaks for itself.

Personally, I do try to be kind to people at all times but I know I’m human and must often miss chances that perhaps I ought to be awake to. Nevertheless, I don’t like trumpeting the fact when I do ‘do’ kindness. It’s between me, the person involved and God.

2. What’s the most uplifting or encouraging thing you see happening in the world right now? You may have to dig deep for this one.

I have just read a news article about a man who instead of buying a yacht donated the money he would have spent to a kindergarten class for them to go college later on. How wonderful is that! It’s nice to see in this day and age someone who is thinking of the longer game when it comes to spending money.

3. Black olives, black currants, black grapes, black beans, blackberries, Oreos…your favourite food the colour of night? Your least favourite on the list? 

Blackcurrant cordial was one of the staples of my childhood but I’m not so keen now I’m an adult. I don’t mind black olives (I’m a recent convert), black grapes are delicious, not so keen on black beans (two powdery inside). Blackberries are nice with icecream and syrup and thank you very much, but you can keep your Oreos. Not nice for me I’m afraid.

4. A while back I read (here) a list of twelve things  you should do before you turn 50. They were – travel when you have the chance, take care of your skin, learn a foreign language, make exercise a habit, leave a toxic situation, stop caring what others think about you, stop worrying, volunteer, spend time with your grandparents, pledge to work less, learn to cook an amazing dish, and seize an opportunity as it arises

What do you think of the list? What would you add or remove and why? If you’re over 50, have you done all 12? If you’re not yet 50, have you done any at all? What’s on the list that you haven’t done, but would like to do?

I have another 5 years to go before I hit that marker, and there are a couple of things I have already done and things I still have to conquer. The conquering things are “seize an opportunity as it arises” (I analyse far too much and quite often end up missing out), “make exercise a habit”, “travel when you have the chance” (yeah, chance would be a fine thing!) and “leave a toxic situation” (easier said than done). Ones on the already conquered list are “learn a foreign language” (French), “take care of your skin” (having eczema most of my adult life kinda means I do that already), “volunteer” and “pledge to work less” (again, chance to work at all would be a fine thing). The ones on the nearly-conquered-but-need-more-work list are “spend more time with grandparents”, “stop worrying” and “stop caring what others think”. There’s a way to go on all of those still.

5. Besides the classic Christmas flicks, what’s your favourite film where winter plays a part in the setting? 

I love “Bridget Jones”, both films, especially the bit where she and Mark Darcy are on a skiing holiday and she thinks she might be pregnant.

6. When did you last feel helpless, and what did you do about it?

I currently feel helpless in a situation with a very close friend who is experiencing some really difficult life choices and facing big changes ahead. All the love and advice in the world from me isn’t going to help that situation, and I don’t have the right words (or a magic wand) to solve it for him.

7. Share a favourite proverb.
“Necessity is the mother of invention”

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I am taking part in a 5 minute Lent challenge from my church this Lent and there have already been some great Bible verses to meditate on and pray over so far. Here is today’s verse:

joshua 1 9 I have found it to be a comforting verse throughout my illness. It does help to know that no matter what, God will be with us wherever we are and whatever we are experiencing.

If you would like to see the 5 minute Lent challenge, you can follow us on Facebook here, or you can click onto our website to see the whole challenge in one go here.

 

 

Let The Light In


ernest hemingway

Contrary to popular (ie, non-Christian) belief, we are still celebrating Christmas. Most people think that Christmas is something that is done and finished with by 25th December, but that’s not true. For western Christians, Christmas carries on until Epiphany, which is when we remember the arrival of the magi at the nativity.

Christmas is a time of light. Here in the northern hemisphere are in the depths of midwinter, and Christmas falls just after the solstice, where we see the longest hours of darkness. It’s no coincidence that we celebrate the birth of the Christ who is the Light of the world at this time – the days are getting longer and lighter, we look towards to coming new birth of spring, and Christ was born to bring light to the darkness. Have you ever wondered about the phrase “having an epiphany”? It’s usually where we experience sudden clarity or insight into something we have perhaps been struggling with. Another way to look at it is that light is thrown onto a difficult issue or situation. The magi, or wise men, found the same when they arrived in Bethlehem after Jesus’ birth.

Just after Christmas comes January where the pressure is on to make resolutions, usually ones about self-improvement in terms of health, fitness, attitude or behaviour. But what about us people who are content with our failures and our shortcomings? How about us who know full well we are broken, with bits missing and bits of us glued together with gaps showing?

I draw comfort from knowing that God makes use of people like me who are cracked and broken. If we were whole and have no gaps, how can we let our light shine out and God’s love pour in? Just as the same way that a watering can is no use if it doesn’t have holes in, my life isn’t very useful if it is the paragon of wholeness. I quite like having the gaps where God can shine through.

Cracked pot? Certainly. Crackpot? I’ll leave that to you to decide.

 

Did you know: The name January comes from the Roman god Janus, who is usually portrayed as having two faces – one facing forwards and one facing backwards representing the change from the old year to the new. 

What To Pray For??


How do you know what to pray for?

When things are going well for us, it’s easy isn’t it? We pray for our friends who are a bit sad, or for our family who might be going through a bit of a “bad patch”.

When things are terrible and you feel weighed down by the world, that’s easy too isn’t it? We ask God to guide us through our troubles, we ask for strength to endure them and we ask for him to release us from our pain.

But what about when there is no easy thing to ask for? Two things are very much on my mind today and I’m struggling to know how to ask God for help. What do I ask him to do? Where do I ask him to be? How do I ask him to fix something that can’t be fixed?

Let me explain.

I heard tonight about a friend who has received the results from the doctor who has confirmed that her cancer has returned. She almost died about two years ago, first of all from the cancer and second of all from the treatment and surgery she received to take it away. Our church rallied round her and our prayers were for her to recover and to be returned to us. God answered our prayers and made her well again, but the devastating news that the cancer was back has been delivered today and it is difficult to know what to ask God to do. She feels that she is not strong enough to withstand the treatment again, so our prayers obviously are to ask God to help her with that. But what if by giving her strength to endure the treatment we are asking God to cause her to suffer longer? I know that God will do what he knows is best rather than what we think is best, but nevertheless, it is difficult for us to condemn her to pain and sickness and fear and worry by asking him to take her through it.

Something else that I’m struggling with is my daughter who is still waiting for the results of her medical to join the armed forces. She doesn’t have a plan B – all she wants to do is to serve her country in the way she wants to. She has passed her Law degree (graduating in a fortnight) but doesn’t want a career in Law at all. She has no other passion other than the one for the armed forces, but what do I ask God to do? Do I ask him to give her her heart’s desire and enlist, knowing full well that she will face dangers in her life that I can’t comprehend but that still will give me nightmares? Or do I ask him to keep her on land, with me, in civvy street. Safe and sound, but with no passion for life, no job, no career, no purpose?

I think both these situations, as disparate as they are, can both be handled the same way. My prayer for both of them is for God to keep them in his hands; for me to allow him to do what he knows is best; for me to accept that whatever happens to both of them, neither of them will ever be abandoned by the God who knows them and loves them and who wants the best for them.

It can be summed up in the words from Romans 8: 38-39:

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So to answer my question above, my prayer tonight for both Gwen and Emma to know that they are held tightly in God’s hands, that they feel his love and his guidance in their coming days and weeks ahead, that they know that whatever trials and tribulations they are facing God is with them and holding them close. Amen.