In response to COVID-19
We hope this page will uplift our spirits during covid-19
– an antidote to all anxiety of these times
These photographs and the reflections
are from Claire Gardner’s Facebook page
shared here with her expressed permision:-
“Please feel free to share any that you feel will be encouaging”
A couple of weeks ago, we visited a small stately home.
It was delightful; small enough to just about imagine living there, interesting,
not at all ostentatious and beautifully looked after.
Quite a treat to actually “visit” somewhere after all these months!
One of the many delightful things
was the adorning of most of the windowsills with geraniums;
all of them red, albeit different varieties.
What pleased me was the different containers they were dressed in;
simple terracotta pots for passages and downstairs rooms,
progressively more elaborate brass planters in the upper rooms where the family would have entertained.
It was a lovely touch…..I wonder how many other people noticed it!
But the thing is, that the geraniums were still true to themselves
whichever container they were sitting in;
bright red, bold blooms, bringing colour and cheer to every room any day, any weather, just by being themselves.
And it made me think of us, God’s People; all colours and shapes and sizes, dressed in all sorts of pots in all walks of life and situations and circumstances, yet we are all essentially the same “variety”…. the Christ-carrying people.
Our challenge, indeed our Call, is to live our lives with the same simple integrity as the geranium,
regardless of our walk of life, regardless of our surroundings and the people we rub along with,
regardless of what we are asked to do, regardless of our feelings and preferences,
living out the reality of Christ within for all to see.
When you rub a geranium leaf, a pungent scent is released; some people like it, others don’t.
Like us, eh?
Some people find the scent we give off disturbing, puzzling, even offensive,
whilst others are intrigued and welcome it.
But carry that scent we must, for it is part of our integrity, to be released wherever we go.
We may not bear visibly red blooms,
but the Blood of Christ blossoms within us, colouring our attitudes, our speech, our behaviour in a way that stands out just as vividly as these flowers in the grey of our secular world.
We are to bring Love and Joy and Peace to our surroundings, Life and Wisdom and Good News too.
These things we are, by Grace.
These things are our identity, our integrity, regardless of our pot.
Let’s be more geranium!!
And God gets the Glory.
Walk on….because life never stands still;
time rolls forward, it never goes back.
The Lord Calls.
Walk on…..when the road is lazy and easy; enjoy the view, rejoice, receive and be refreshed.
Walk on….when the road gets steeper;
enjoy the exercise of faith, the new experiences, the higher vistas.
Walk on….when the road gets rocky;
reach out for the Hand that never leaves us, and lean on Him Who is Stronger.
Walk on…..when what is round the bend is uncertain; for He has gone before us and He Knows.
Walk on….when what is round the bend is known to us and the prospect is unlovely; for He is sufficient for all things.
Walk on…..when everything seems dull;
for He is the Light in the darkness.
Walk on….when the temptation is to sit down; for stagnation isn’t an option with God.
Walk on…..when distractions come on every side; for the Lord’s Voice is the one to hearken.
Walk on……when weakness overcomes;
because the Overcomer is Greater.
Walk on….when excitement invites us to run and stumble; for in walking with Him our steps are secure.
Walk on…..when the arrows fly;
for the Lord is our Shield and Defender.
Walk on…….when the mist comes down;
for His Voice still reaches us.
Walk on….one foot in front of the other; hour by hour, day by day.
Walk on…..with JESUS.
HE is constant.
He is in front of us, behind us, beside us, over us, within us.
He has dealt with our past,
He abides in our present,
He beckons us into His Future.
Therefore we can walk forward with confidence in Him; worshipping, praying, rejoicing.
For He Who Calls us is Faithful.
I passed an old-fashioned, delightfully unimproved hill farm;
it was very real and un-shiny, with lots of “making do” and dilapidated corners,
but the sheep looked fine enough, which is really all that matters.
It was this barn door closure that made me smile;
an old pitchfork head fixing a latch, both imaginative and useful and beautiful in its simplicity.
Long after its days of intended function, there it is, minus its handle, serving the farmer’s purpose…….
and it made me wonder how often we discount ourselves (and others) in the workings of God’s Kingdom.
We see the big shining servants of God, the missionaries, the leaders, the evangelists, the speakers,
the writers, the intercessors, the ones who work in tough places with broken people,
and we are tempted to think that we are not being as useful in our ordinary living witness.
We can easily harken the enemy’s whisper that we are useless as he points out all the things that we are not, or reminds us that we can’t do what we used to do, or suggests that we have failed anyway.
Yet, the Truth is that we are always arrows in the Lord’s Hand, because we are HIS;
Loved by Him, and placed by Him in our current circumstances, whether visible or hidden.
Every small thing we do for Jesus is seen in Heaven, every choice, every sacrifice, every laying aside of self, every song in our hearts, every word in season, every fragment of Grace-filled self-control, every steadfast endurance.
It is in the ordinary things that the Kingdom is manifest within us, and, as such, make us Eternally “useful!”
Every time we worship, the enemy is bruised, every time we praise, he is kicked into touch, every time we surrender to God, he has to flee.
Multiplied thousands of times across the world, our little expressions of Kingdom shut the door in the face of evil.
We may not be glossy, but we are shining God’s Light into the darkness….. and as we know,
Light always wins!
The Narrow Path…….
I climbed half way up a small familiar mountain to get a different perspective on the lake below. The upward path is wide and well-walked, but as I climbed, I spotted this sheep track going off to the side which called to me; it headed towards the view,
it headed towards the light,
I wasn’t really concerned with the prideful thing of “getting to the top” anyway.
So I took it, and was rewarded by both view and light,
and the glorious pink of the heather all around me.
It was just a narrow sheep track, but it suited me fine.
I smiled at myself for being a sheep;
one of the Lord’s sheep taking the narrow path, heading towards the Light, heading towards the view Eternity,
and wondered why I should ever desire anything else.
Indeed I don’t!
The Call is there; to leave the wide, well-trodden upward path of achievement, to lay aside the route of man and to take the humble path
that in human terms goes nowhere but in God’s Purposes leads right to Him,
to become a sheep that is Shepherded along the Way, trusting the Sound of His Voice.
It is the Path we set out upon
when we surrendered our lives to Jesus;
the Path that carries us forward, day by day.
It is not always this beautiful,
it is not always even this clear,
but “This is the Way, walk in it” resounds in our hearts and we know it to be the Path of Life.
How blessed we are!
May we never seek the easy, well trodden path of man when the Narrow Way seems hard and slow.
May we never yearn for man’s map of human certainties when God Calls us through the desert.
May we never lose sight of the Light that draws us,
the Eternal Perspective that is beyond our imagining yet dwells within our hearts.
May we rejoice on our sheep track:
It is The Way.
I seem to have a lot of things to think about at the moment;
upcoming travels, birthdays, events, projects and commitments stretching out over the next few weeks and months.
I’m certainly not going to be bored!
However, thoughts about these things are tumbling around, frequently distracting me from living in the NOW.
I was challenged by this yesterday as I was gardening; having to take time to unravel bindweed from precious plants, having to concentrate on what was right in front of me and doing it as if it were the only thing, not rushing on, because I couldn’t.
And I felt the Lord’s Smile;
“You see? You are content because you are focussed in the moment. Remember, I said,
“Do not worry about tomorrow!””
But Lord, I am the one with the planning mind, the attention to detail, the maker of lists,
the one who lays foundations for all to run smoothly…….
And I spend a lot of time not living in the present.
And You call me to live unto You NOW.
And I can’t do that if my mind is in several places at once.
“Seek first My Kingdom…….
and all these things will fall into place, in their time, in their turn, in My Provision.”
My Martha self has to defer to my Mary self more often;
to learn simplicity of mind amongst the busyness of daily life, to not let my logistical mind run amok,
but rather give it designated space to do its planning and then be freed to be in the moment,
(pleasant or unpleasant) to be present to You within it.
But it’s a challenge.
“Lean on Me ………. Yoke up with Me ………… Let’s do it together.”
Amen to that.
This ancient, fascinatingly corroded piece of winding gear is in the field down by the harbour.
I’m not really sure what it was used for, although I suspect it had something to do with hauling in either boats or cargo, its cogs adding strength to the muscles of men.
Man’s understanding of the basic laws of physics has served him well for thousands of years, and although perhaps we have taken it unnecessarily far in modern times, it continues to make life work smoothly.
Just as I looked at this machine and asked, “What’s that?”
unbelievers look at our faith in God and ask,
“What’s that for?” “Why?” “Who?”
Indeed, we may even sometimes ask ourselves!
Why do we choose to engage with God?
The answer is, of course, because God first engaged with us;
Calling us, Whispering to us, Speaking into our empty place, Offering Himself to us, Coming to Live within us.
It is He Who comes to be our Primary Cog, Whose Love and Power is the strength that moves all the other cogs in our lives.
We have many…….
But not all of them are yet fully engaged.
We easily run amok, free running with desires and projects that are not of God, listening to ourselves, rather than Him, our little cogs spinning, not necessarily into grave sin, but definitely firing off independence!
God is infinitely Gracious with us, yet truly, we are Called to align all our cogs with His Mighty one,
the greatest source of Love, Power and Wisdom, working its way through from our spirits into our souls, bodies and actions.
Does that make us machines?
For God’s Limitlessness means that the outworking of His Power is unique to each one of us,
the fulfilment of our creation and our rebirth in Him.
We are actually more of ourselves when we are in more of Him and when He is More in us.
What’s it for?
For our growing, worshipful Love affair with Him and to display the Glory of God to the world.
And it begins within;
engaging our internal cogs, oiling them and keeping them turning to the Pace of God.
It works well.
A lovely collection of raindrops, held together for a while upon a leaf;
some large, some small, some clustered together, some set apart, but all of them drops of the same water, all of them catching the same light, all of them eventually falling to water the ground……..
unity of source, unity of position, unity of nature, unity of purpose. Community. Coming together as one.
We all have God-given communities; families, churches, neighbourhoods, workplaces, networks, tribes, places where we belong, bound by source and position and nature and purpose.~Some of them work sweetly, some of them are hard work, some feel natural, some take us beyond our comfort zone, but all are places of growth, of service, of humility, of opportunity, of obedience, of love, of joy.
Places where our uniqueness forms part of something bigger, just because God has positioned us within them.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t need an abundance of Grace to keep us together, balanced on the same leaf.
For those of us that are naturally the big drops, the leaders, the visionaries, the colourful characters, community brings us down to size, making us slow down, making us see things from other people’s eyes.
For those of us that naturally form clusters, community is a source of strength, inspiration and affirmation but it can become a prop if our emotional priorities aren’t secure.
For those of us that identify with the little drops on the edge, community is an uncomfortable thing, drawing us beyond our natural inclinations,
yet becoming a joy.
Yes, community challenges us into needing Grace!
Which is why the Family of God is so precious. There we come, as one, Called, Held, by the One Who is One, into a unity that is beyond our nature.
Unity in the Spirit; where differences of personality make no difference, where personal agendas have no place,
where each of us comes before God, naked and unashamed, to worship Him, to learn of Him, to pray to Him,
where each of us offers ourselves and our gifts to bless Him, where each of us says, “You are GOD!”
With that kind of community, God can display His Majesty; multi-facetted, Glorious and Alive.
And we are content to be drops of His Water, on His Leaf.
It is a beautiful thing.
I’m quite chuffed with this tub of tulips;
they are, as hoped, bringing some cheer to a very dark corner by the flower pots and other gubbins outside the kitchen door.
A great improvement!
But I had to actually plant them; they didn’t just magically appear.
I looked over at them and I recalled the words of the old Collect;
“Lighten our darkness, Lord we pray……”
We ask the Lord to send His Light, to illuminate our path, to brighten our hearts, to scatter the darkness around us,
sometimes forgetting that we have a part to play as well.
God sent His Light, His Word, His Son into our dark world to overcome the darkness.
It was done. It is finished.
And the Light that was kindled then on earth has never died out, carried from generation to generation, right across the globe.
And that Light is ours to receive, to bear, to scatter around us.
Light, like a tulip bulb (Ooooo, sorry, a “light bulb”!!!!) to be planted in our souls.
Words of Truth that illuminate our minds, bodies, hearts and spirits, scattering the fears, the doubts, the niggles, the pain, the dark corners;
Words planted and watered.
They take time to sprout up and even longer until they bloom, because they are taking root, actively transforming us,
becoming more than just a dry word-bulb; they are fulfilling their brightening destiny.
God sent His Word so that it should not return to Him empty, so that His Living Light should shine in us, through us, from us.
Therefore, yes, the onus is on us to willingly become that lantern; to faithfully tend the Light within, to allow it to displace our own darkness by preferring it always, by reinforcing the truths we believe until they germinate even more Light.
And as we do so, we become the sort of lantern that lights the Way, that brightens up the dark corners, bearing the Light of the World.
Was yesterday a good day?
Was yesterday a duff day?
Well, what if it was?……. It’s done with now!
Today is a new day;
unfurling already, full of possibilities, full of Promise.
We may know its shape already, dictated by circumstances, work or plans.
We may be happy or unsure about what it will bring.
We may just have a blank sheet before us, waiting to be written on.
But, hang on, with God no day is a blank sheet; His Word is already written upon it:
“I AM with you always.”
“I will give you every place where you set your foot.”
“I know the plans I have for you.”
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
“He will not let your foot slip, He Who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”
“Before a word is on my tongue you Lord know it completely. You hem me in behind and before and You lay Your Hand upon me.”
“Inwardly we are being renewed, day by day.”
“This is the day that the Lord has made.
We will rejoice and be glad in it.”
Yes, we will! For whatever it brings, it is worth living in to the full because it is His Gift.
Living in because of Him, living in through Him, with Him, in Him.
Yes, yes, yes!
“This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great Love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.
They are NEW every morning!”
Yes, yes, yes!
We have this day to live……… It will not come again.
Let us welcome it with expectation and tread its path with joy.
And the end of the day, the mark of His Hand will be upon it, and we will still be with Him.
“I want to be a tree,” this sapling cried, as all saplings do; it is in their blueprint to grow to full height and spread, and to produce flowers and fruits.
But the farmer said, “No. I want you to be a hedge.”
And he came along with his trimmer and cut off all growth except that which goes sideward.
He has done the same to the others along the path.
Unfortunately, many of the other saplings he planted have not survived, so the result is not a hedge but a rather comical line of sawn-off mini trees!
However, it was the thwarted, strangled voice…..
“But I wanted to be……” that called out.
The voice of lost dreams, of regrets.
“I wanted to be a …….”
“I wanted to live in that place…..”
“I wanted to have children……”
“I wanted that better job….”
“I wanted health……..”
“I wanted happiness….”
And on, and on.
Have we ever stopped to consider whether Jesus the Man, the Man with a human soul, would have liked more years on the earth?
That He Loved His Ministry among the people, bringing Truth and Hope and Healing, seeing Light return to their inner eyes, Joy to their hearts?
That He would gladly have carried on for years?
Yet, after three short years, His Father said “Now is the time for the Fulfilment, the Sacrifice, the Atonement.
It must wait no longer..” land of the living.”
Cut off in His prime;
no middle age or twilight years for Jesus.
Yet He took the cut, because that was His Purpose, and He stretched out His Arms for us upon the Cross.
But in doing so, He released something greater amongst us; Kingdom.
A Life laid down, a Kingdom raised up.
A Kingdom that has spread over the whole earth.
A Kingdom so ultimate, that one day every knee will bow before the King.
It puts our feeble regrets in their place.
No longer, “But I wanted……”
But, “Father, what do You want for me NOW?”
We cannot tell the outcome of our submission yet, but the Promise is that it will be good.
That every day laid down to Him,
every day grasped with faith,
every day accepted for what it is,
will be a day that counts in the Kingdom.
No matter what shape.
Walking in Faith ……
I knew where I was going yesterday;
I didn’t need the footpath sign to tell me anything because I was on home territory.
So I could enjoy my stomp in the snow without fear of getting lost.
And, to be honest, if I had been somewhere unfamiliar, I would have had a map,
but all the same, a footpath sign is reassuring!
But it seems, doesn’t it, that so many of life’s signposts have been blanked out at the moment;
many people are floundering without familiar paths or without clear direction, except…………
“Don’t do this…or that!” Lots of information, but not so much direction.
How thankful we are to know, really know, that whatever life brings, we are continually walking towards God, guided by His Word.
We read it, quote fr om it, meditate upon it, rely upon it, allow it to shape our lives and stake our eternity upon it.
But do we get too hung up on the actual written words?
Which is my “favourite” Bible? Which translation or format? Which books of the Bible? Which special verses?
Which verse compared with another? Which interpretation?
What if, like this blanked out signpost, we had no written words?………………… Would we flounder?
Or, would we
like the Patriarchs of old, or the prisoners, or the very poor, or the very sick, learn to hear God’s Voice, spirit to Spirit,
and still go in the right direction? Daily, hourly……………….
“This is the Way, walk in it.”
We are rich in Word…………… We have read SO much……………… We know SO much.
But the living out of what we know takes faith beyond words;
the Call to go higher, deeper, further into the Father’s Heart, the stretching of the borders of our experience, the testing of our obedience,
the sifting of our motives….
Such things are beyond the written word;
they are the Way of Life, demonstrated for us by Jesus, the Living Word, the Way, the Truth and the Life.
It is relationship with Him that takes us forward, not our Bible knowledge.
So, we set our faces towards His;
the One Who stands in Glory calling us Home, yet walking with us, closer than a brother.
No, we will not get lost, for He has Promised never to leave us.
The Small Things…….
I have to say that yesterday’s walk was pretty dull; back on the roads and pavements again as the melted snow has left the fields awash, the light was flat and grey and I resigned myself to an “exercise is good for you” kind of walk!
And then, at eye level, on the top of a wall, I saw these exquisite water droplets held in the moss; droplets containing a mini-vision of the world, upside-down, catching the light, enhancing the green and red.
A mini procession of water carriers. And seeing them put a spring back in my step because I am always thrilled by the little things in Creation, particularly when they come as a surprise gift!
And in these long days of grey restriction, it is the small things that make a difference, that brighten our day.
A verse of Scripture, a word of encouragement, an act of kindness, a Spirit Whisper, a passing wave or the wink of an eye,
an envelope on the mat, a small victory, a borrowed vista in a photograph, a line from a song, a waft of scent…..
all these things to be thankful for, if we are aware and receptive, if we are expecting to
“See the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
Make no mistake, we are part of something big; the birthing of the Kingdom.
But all births take their time, with their rhythms of pain and rest, and exhaustion and hope.
Little things bring comfort and encouragement.
So, we give ourselves wholeheartedly to the big picture, refusing to lose focus, but rejoicing in the Small Touches of God’s Hand that keep us going.
We may be restricted, but God isn’t.
If He wants to show us a whole vista in a raindrop, isn’t that just “WOW!”?
If He sends just one Word and it illuminates a corner of our heart, isn’t that just amazing?
If He directs our steps so that we unexpectedly meet a friend, isn’t that just His Love all over?
If He brightens our grey day with a shaft of Light, isn’t that just His very Nature?
GOD IS GOOD, GOOD, GOOD!
And we rejoice in Him for ever,
tasting and seeing,
yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Made to Fit……..
This is a detail from a craftsman made iron swing gate.
It is simply constructed, with horizontal rails, braced with an X-shaped set of cross bars.
But these cross bars are not welded on; they are cut and shaped and slotted in, perfectly, each supporting each other and the rails of the gate.
The sort of craftsmanship that has largely been replaced by mass-produced galvanised gates that do the job brilliantly but all look the same. It was a pleasure to perceive the blacksmith’s skill in making a gate so beautiful and light and still very solid and sweet to use, many years after its creation.
And I thought of the Father’s Hand, creating each of us uniquely special. What a miracle that is!
But even more amazing is our re-creation in Christ; that time when we were refashioned within, according to the riches of His Grace, completely re-tuned in spirit, made to fit with the Ways of Heaven.
But because we are human, it takes time for us to settle into the fit of Heaven.
What is offered to us, nay, already given to us, is a fit so sweet and simple that it makes us gasp;
He in us and we in Him. Just that.
But to live in its fulness, we have to die to self, layer by layer, little death by little death, discarding the jagged bits and the lumps until there is more of Jesus than ourselves. We are called into the comfort of fitting with Him; after all, it was what we were made for!
A fit that is Cross-shaped, that holds us with Love, not bolts; room to breathe and fly, yet held, braced by Grace.
But at the same time, we find ourselves no longer fitting with the world, our spirits jangling with the expectations, the values, and the outright demonstrations of sin that surround us.
So we walk humbly with our God,saying our “Yes” to demonstrating the better Way, being the salt that stings and the light that enlightens,
offering the Peace of the better fit.
After all, it is what everyone was made for.
Don’t Look Back……..
I was walking along the muddy path, trying not to slip, when I glanced up and saw these seed heads;
teasels and mullein from last summer I remember stopping by them and watching the bees enjoying the purple and yellow flowers.
I remember how hot and sunny it was that day.
I remember the smell of the grasses and the sound of the insects.
A summer memory.
But now, in muddy midwinter, all that is left are these gaunt silhouettes, lifeless, merely the memorials to a season gone.
It is hopeless looking for flowers to reappear on these stems;
the life is down in the soil, resting, storing up the energy to thrust upwards when the days are warmer.
These stems have had their day, shed their seed, played their part and time will come when they blow over in the wind,
making space for the new growth to come.
Which it will…..for God Promised it with the rainbow,
“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, will never cease.”
The first of God’s Covenants.
And so, Creation bears witness to us, year after year, of faithfulness, of renewal, of the rightness of sowing and reaping,
of the cycle of living and dying…..and dying and living again.
Droughts come, floods come, disasters happen, but Creation re-establishes its rhythms, given time, and brings forth renewal.
“Don’t look back!” is its message, “Look to the soil!”
So let us hear its message for our times.
Let us not dwell on what has gone, but look to what is happening underground, out of sight.
Let us let the dead things be dead, no regrets, just happy memories.
And let us look to what is coming, look to the Promise.
For surely, the soil after the flood is more fertile, the flowering after drought is doubly beautiful,
the delights of summer appreciated more after winter’s dull days.
And so it will be – that whatever the Church will look like, whatever our lives will look like, whatever our hearts will have the capacity for after these strange days of restriction, it will be Good.
So don’t look back. Let the past be the past.
“Lead us forward Lord, into the new Season, however long it takes to mature.
We keep our eyes on You, our ears attentive to Your Voice.
We put our hands in Yours, trusting for the flowering of Your Kingdom.
Your Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. For nothing else is better! Let. It. Be.”
Not once, but at least twice, this puddle has frozen,
been broken and frozen solid again.
It’s a deep muddy puddle in a dip in a farm track,
regularly driven over by machinery,
so it doesn’t have the pristine look of undisturbed water;
instead it tells its story in broken patterns, scars,
and even the faint stain of spilled diesel,
all caught, frozen for a while.
Like we are, our lives held still for a while again, holding our collective breath,
feeling the scars of the past year, the pollution of sickness fouling the water, that was already muddy with rebellion.
Our nation, our world, is in a state……. it always has been, since the Fall,
but right now the evidence is stark and the battle is on full heat.
The world cries out for “normal”, but we cry out for something better.
When this puddle thaws into running water, it will still be a muddy puddle,
and then it will eventually dry up into just rutted mud, squelchy at first and then baked solid…..
for it never was a running stream, fresh and full of life.
The world cries out for “normal” but we cry out for something better.
Oh yes, we have tasted the Water of Life that flows unto Eternity.
If we have to be frozen, it is into clear white ice, full of bubbles,
and underneath, the fresh water runs still.
Our lives may be frozen, but we contain Life and Hope within us,
the knowledge that nothing can still the moving of our spirits towards our God.
And so, we call upon Him, cry out to Him,
to release His Mercy and Compassion on our world,
even as it is bearing out the fruits of its own rebellion.
We call out for softened hearts, for divine interruptions,
for testimonies and changed lives.
We call out for opportunities to hold the lantern shining the Light.
We call out for the courage to carry our flame in such a way
that it melts the ice for someone.
We call out for ways of handing out clear, clean Water.
We call out to God, Who will bring the thaw, a great thaw,
before the coming of Christ on Glory.
The world cries out for “normal”, but we call out for something, Somebody, better.
“Praise and Glory and Wisdom and Thanks and Honour and Power and Strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through Him all things were made;
without Him nothing was made that has been made.
In Him was Life, and that Life was the Light of all mankind.
The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
There is very little else to say that has not already been said.
But as I looked at our candles on the table last night, this one stood out because of its transparency;
holding the light and letting the light shine through it.
May it be a picture of our lives, so that we can say, with John,
“We are not the Light, but we bear witness to the Light.”
We carry it, we demonstrate it, we speak of it, but we are not the Light.
All we can do is to keep our vessel clear so that we may let the Light shine from within us.
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
We have seen His Glory;
the Glory of the One and Only Son,
Who came from the Father,
full of Grace and Truth.”
The world is full of doors;
grand ones, ordinary ones, big ones, small ones, old ones, new ones, glass doors, metal doors, wooden doors,
swinging ones, sliding ones, automatic ones, all different colours, with all types of handles.
Yet they all provide the same function; they let you in and out.
This one, judging by the beautiful farm it belongs to, is at least three hundred years old.
Its antiquity and simple faithfulness is beautiful.
Yes, it has lost part of the latch, its paint is decomposing, but it is still functioning as a barn door.
I would have loved to have lifted the latch to peep inside!
Yet, stepping back, the door itself was almost invisible, indistinguishable from the timbers of the barn.
Only the colours of the rusting latch mark it out.
How many doors do we miss because we just don’t see them?
Or when they are not the colour or design that we expect?
Not real doors, but God doors;
doors into His opportunities,
doors into people’s hearts,
doors into new understanding,
doors into intimacy with Him.
Do we prefer the old and ignore the new?
Or do we always look for the new and shiny, scorning the old?
Or do we only notice the obvious ones?
In these days, I believe that we are called to be very alert to every opening the Lord would have us enter; to ask for noticing eyes and ears that hear His Voice.
We are not left to bumble through life;
we are people of purpose, God’s Purpose.
He is always taking us forward into His Will, but the doors He presents to us are very varied and not always to our taste.
Are we open to being presented with a grand door when we would prefer the servant’s entrance?
Or does a humble door like this seem hardly worth the effort to open the latch?
Mary opened the biggest door in history when she said her “Yes”, but she would never have sought it.
Joseph had planned an ordinary wedding to a good village girl, yet was given the door marked “scandal”.
But both of them entered their God-given doors, and the Son of God was given a home.
Shall we not do the same?
Only God Knows where He wants to take us.
The oak and the beech are always the last to drop their leaves; some, particularly in hedges, hold onto them into the new year,
adding colour to winter’s greyness.
But plenty have fallen, and are falling now.
This one brushed my coat as I walked up the lane and landed at my feet, a small flame, dropped from above.
How perfect, how beautiful against the dark tarmac, still crisp and bright, as yet untrampled by foot or tyre.
It was my flame for the moment;
my reminder that the Holy Spirit is ever generous in topping up our flame within.
He comes with fresh Fire.
He comes when we call out for it.
He comes when we least expect it.
He comes when we are in desperate, sudden need of it.
He comes when we are hardly aware
that our embers are burning low.
He comes, not because we deserve it,
but because it is His Gift.
And we have the choice to welcome the Flame; this touch of Fire that energises our faith, this sweet brushing with warmth within……
and receive it with joy.
There has to be a receiving, or else, like this leaf, it falls to the ground, unwanted.
But the heart that leaps to receive with faith is blessed and warmed and topped up with purpose.
Our young people play a game when out walking in Autumn, which involves actually catching a falling leaf.
It’s harder than it sounds because it involves looking upward, rather than looking where you are going!
In this context, it brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “Catch the Fire.”
It involves having an upward gaze,
looking to Father, Son and Holy Spirit, wherever we are going, having hands and hearts that are cupped, ready to receive.
And, in receiving, we can give some away, freely, because there is always moooooooore!
Our God is such a generous Giver.
All praise to Him!
On my walk the other morning,
I was hardly ever out of earshot of either the M1 or the M25;
sometimes just a background hum but at others, like here on a footbridge, a vast roar.
Short of posting a video, which I didn’t take, the best I can do is offer this ordinary picture to your imagination.
It was loud…….
and a million miles away from my preferred silence.
Yet as I stood for a minute, watching the traffic, a bird sang in the hedge beside me, its song all the more sweet because it pierced the noise.
It blessed me, like the still small Voice, and I went on with a bounce in my step.
I recalled what a friend said to me years ago.
She told me that she hated the sound of the hoover, yet she often had good prayer times whilst using it because she withdrew from the noise, down into the secret place.
I admired her discipline, yet found it difficult to imagine as my musician’s ears pick up everything…..not helpful!
But here on the bridge, I caught a glimpse of that possibility and pondered how we can choose to hear God’s Voice above the noise of life.
There is so much noise around us, and some of it we welcome; the sound of children, the thrill of good music, the delight in a good speaking voice, the sounds of nature.
But then, the intrusive mechanical sounds are not so welcome, unless, of course, one is trying to escape the persistent noise within.
Some people are afraid of silence because it exposes the inner clamouring of voices that they would rather not admit.
So they fill every moment with the radio or TV or other people; wallpaper noise that smothers and dampens.
But we are offered something far, far better; the intimate place with God.
The One Who Knows us,
Who Knows our actions before we do them, our words before we speak them, our thoughts before we think them.
“Such knowledge,” says David, “is too wonderful.”
Yet it is true.
And if we let it, choose it, it can be our place of silence in the noise, our refuge, our strength, our place of sweetness.
Our place of relationship and Presence.
Yes, it may not always be comfortable,
but it is the place of piercing Truth.
And we emerge from the encounter with a song on our lips for the still small Voice is more powerful than the roar of the enemy.
The colours of the spindle tree fruit
are always a surprise!
Well, by themselves they would just be orange (common enough) but held in those bright pink cases….. quite a shock!
Definitely one of God’s bold designs.
They come as a surprise, for the flowers are pale and nondescript, as if they are shy of declaring too soon the plant’s Autumn bounty.
But now, all is revealed;
the pink pods have split and the ripening fruits are calling to the birds, “Come and feed!”
To us who pass by, they are merely eye-candy, startling, almost impossibly cheerful for November, but reminding us that there is always colour and fruitfulness however grey the days.
God’s Encouragement, then, for those who perhaps yearn to be more fruitful, for those whose humble flowers feel unnoticed;
for Hope in the dreary days when nothing of any eternal worth appears to be happening in our lives, for Promise that there will be fruit and it will be good, for knowledge of the Father’s approving Gaze that Sees….. and Calls forth the fruit in its season.
We are not the ones to say how and where and when, neither can we say what colour our fruit will be.
But we are called to bear our flowers faithfully, joyfully, walking humbly with our God, saying, “I am Yours, take me onwards.
Bring forth Your abundant fruit, using me, yes even me!”
And we find ourselves ripening into fruit.
Fruit that makes people stop and wonder.
Fruit unlike any other, for it is birthed of the Living God.
Fruit from the Tree of Life.
It is our wondrous privilege to bear it, so let us not be shy of displaying its colours….
the world needs to be shocked by Grace!
The fallen leaves under this particular
acer tree amaze me every year with the richness and variety of their colours.
Some trees give a pile of red leaves, or yellow, or even black, but this one does them all……(only blue is missing from the colour spectrum) yet earlier in the year every single leaf was plain green.
Now they are a feast for the eyes!
A picture of the creative diversity of God;
all these beautiful colours from one tree, just as He produces infinite variety among us,
We are ALL from the same Tree,
regardless of age, gender or race.
And we are ALL unique.
We marvel, as parents, that our three children are so different, rejoicing at their variety of their giftings, their looks, their characters,
their unique ways of expressing their human inheritance.
How much more so, must God look upon us, a whole world full of us, each created in His Image, each expressing a tiny part of His Character, each holding the potential to become His true Spiritual children.
He must marvel, even as He Gazes with Love, upon ALL mankind.
Yet, His Heart must grieve that so, so many refuse to acknowledge Him as their Creator and Saviour, that so many beautiful leaves fall to the ground not knowing that they are Loved by God.
It was the great risk He took when He created us with free will, the risk that He would be rejected by man, the risk that sin would easily reign, the risk that pride would shout louder than Love.
Yet, that great Love sent Jesus into our rebellious, stubborn world, to pay the Price, to bring many sons to Glory.
Glory that surpasses these leaves.
These leaves, wonderful though they are, will all end up a muddy brown, rotting into the earth.
As will our mortal bodies, however splendid in life.
YET, our eternal bodies await us, unknown, glorious, eternal, clothing our redeemed spirits in colours yet unknown.
This is our sure Hope, founded on the Word and the Spirit within us.
Therefore, though we rejoice in our unique earthly colours, we lay them down in His Service, to spread the beautiful carpet of the Lord, to feed the soil, to gather in the harvest.
We say, “Yes, Lord….even me.”
I was sitting in the car, waiting for my husband and son,
when another squall of rain passed over.
For a few minutes, the sky was dark grey and the windscreen awash with water, then just as suddenly the strong winds carried the rainclouds away, there was a tiny bit of blue sky and a glimmer of sunshine.
The wet windscreen meant that I couldn’t see it clearly, but it was there.
Hope for some better weather to come, hope for a dry walk; our Saturday-afternoon-hope.
But we live in a far greater Hope than that.
But at times, we see it indistinctly, through the tears, through the difficulties, through the dirty lens of life, and we have to call it to mind, over and over again.
We have Hope!
Not just in better days to come, not just in our Eternal destiny,
not just in our Salvation, but Hope in Jesus.
Hope in a Person; the One Who has demonstrated for us the character of God,
the One Who paid our price,
the One Whose death ripped the curtain to the Holy of Holies,
the One Who blazed our trail to Resurrection Life.
Hope in Him is our foundation and the lips of faith declare it so,
calling into being that which is in accordance with His Word.
In Him, there is always access to the Father,
there is always the companionship of the Holy Spirit,
there is always the remedy for our earthly state.
Hope in Him,
that keeps our candle burning,
that fires our engine,
that calls to us through the teardrops,
that keeps us moving onward towards the goal.
Yes, we have Hope!
We are blessed beyond our present experience because God so Loved the world.
We will not perish.
Eternal Life is ours….. and Hope sustains us along the Way.
So we raise our thankful hearts to meet the Promise with Praise
and we wipe away the raindrops that obscure our view.
We have Hope.
Steadfast and certain.
This forester’s hut lies empty. It has done for many years, and when I passed it recently I noticed that not only is it looking shabbier and more overgrown but the tiles are beginning to go……
It is only a matter of time.
It is puzzling, because it sits within a well maintained estate.
Oh well, I suppose it is all down to money, time and motivation.
But it is sad to see a building that once held life and function just tucked away like a forgotten ornament.
But who are we to point the finger?
We all know how easy it is to let things, or even people, go.
Relationships perish without regular contact, dust gathers on our good intentions, some chambers of our hearts hardly get visited ………..and our eyes can be shuttered to what is happening.
Conversely, obtusely, we can cling on to that which traps us, we can polish the stuff that gives us false security, we can cling to relationships that aren’t helpful.
This is why we are called into daily repentance; to keep short accounts with the Holy Spirit, to ask for His searchlight upon our souls.
To have His revelation on how we’re doing with “abandoning”:
Which areas of our lives need investment?
Where would some renovation come in useful?
Some remembering? Some time? Some T.L.C.?
And where do we need to call in the bulldozers?
Some things just need to go, however nostalgic, because they hold us in the past.
Jesus came that we should have Life to the full:
His kind of Life, full of Light and Freedom.
No looking back, living for Him, NOW.
Investing in His Ways, polishing His Commands and His Gifts, keeping the windows of our spirits open and a good fire burning on the hearth.
The colossal comfort is that we are NEVER abandoned and we are never beyond renovation.
God is never reluctant to work on us, revealing our cobwebs and broken slates, whilst all the while seeing us through the lens of Love, coloured by the Blood of His Son.
He Sees who we ARE in Him
and longs that we see it and live it too.
That kind of Loving, that looks at a building like this yet sees a gleaming castle, is God’s Way of Loving.
May we receive that Seeing a bit more today, for it will change how we see others and how we live in Life.
In the Cracks…..
The bright green of the moss sung out at me as I passed.
Growing in the cracks between the paving setts,
it seemed to me to be a picture of life bursting out,
refusing to be shut down by the hard stuff of death.
Tiny spores have landed there and mixed with small grains of sediment, and sprung into life, growing, spreading, filling,
and, if left unchecked, will rise up and spread further
and will cover the barrenness of the path.
We see it in every derelict building,
in every untended road, every abandoned site.
Even concrete cracks sooner or later
and metal and wood degrade and remember their origins.
Life seeks to return;
demonstrating the God-given power of Creation
to transform, to reclaim,
to PROclaim His Steadfastness, His enduring Gift of Life.
Man, in his bid for tidiness,
scrapes off the moss with unseeing eyes,
clears the ground, gets out the weed killer and seeks to reinforce his control…..
but the moss comes back and the weeds grow again, because Life wins.
But, more than that, ETERNAL LIFE WINS!
Nothing, absolutely nothing, can come between us and the Gift of Eternal Life.
The world will want to squash it down under death,
laying great paving slabs of woe upon all people.
God is Life and God is GOD, and He wrought Victory at the Cross…… so the enemy is mouthing empty words.
Therefore, we stand in the cracks,
mixing the spores of Truth with the sediment of faith and we grow, we fill, we spread the Word,
we glow with LIFE,
Light pushing up through the darkness, colour taking over from the grey.
Hope emerging. Life singing.
Together we will transform the path…..
and the world will see a bit more of God.
So, I took the photo of the little yellow leaf and began to walk on.
There was a small breeze
and something made me look back;
the leaf had been tipped up
and was now like golden stained glass,
no longer just being shone upon,
but being shone through.,
transformed with borrowed glory.
And so it is with us.
True worship transforms us.
It is not, should never be, the reason why we worship;
we worship God because He is God and worthy of our adoration.
However, our worship is an exchange,
because that is how God works.
We fall face down at His Feet,
and He sends His Breath to raise our faces to meet His,
His Radiance falling upon our countenance
and leaving there the whisper of His Light
that glows upon us and through us, as spirit meets Spirit.
We may be, like this leaf, totally unaware of the transformation
and maybe that’s how it should be!
True Divine Encounter always brings change.
(We become like that which we worship….it is a spiritual law,
which is why we have to be careful where we set our hearts!)
But with God, we are safe, we are Loved,
we are raised beyond ourselves, and shone through,
because we give ourselves, warts and all, into His Grace.
Look at this leaf…
It is not perfect;
its shape isn’t symmetrical and it is blemished…..
but that does not stop the breeze catching it
and the light redeeming it into beauty.
It is our attitude before God that determines our radiance,
not any virtue of our own, or lack of it;
we cannot attain it ourselves.
Ours is the worship and the praise,
the lack of resistance to His Breath,
the willingness to be a translucent vessel.
His is the raising up, even as He raised Jesus from the dead.
It is ALL Him, ALL Love, ALL Grace.
Who is like our God?
“We worship You, Almighty God,
There is none like You
This little field maple leaf has fallen from its tree to the lane, where it has landed, face down,
in the morning sunshine.
I noticed it first because the light picked out the pale gold
against the tarmac;
it was only when I looked again that I saw its position.
A picture of our hearts in worship, nay, more than our hearts, our whole being.
Do we take our Grace-filled access to Almighty God too lightly?
Do we charge into His Courts without recognising His Presence?
How do we respond to utter Holiness?
Wherever, whenever God’s Glorious heavy Presence is manifest
among His People,
falling down in worship is the only first response.
We see it in the Bible,
we read of it in the stories of all great visitations,
we experience it occasionally in our services
or even in our individual encounters;
when Presence blows away the conventions of society,
the restraints of personality, the stiffness of necks
and has us flat out before Him.
Maybe we prefer to keep a respectable facade,
to merely bow our heads or the knees of our hearts.
Maybe we have never met God in that way.
Maybe, just maybe, we prefer to have Him at a distance.
But do not our hearts yearn for that encounter deep down?
Do we not hunger for that deeper experience of Holiness?
Maybe, then, it is time to fall from the tree;
to let go,
defenceless at His Feet,
where the Light of His Holiness can shine upon us ;
the Light that illuminates who we are before Him Who IS Light,
the Light that Sees us and Purifies us,
the Light that is piercing, Holy Love,
clothed in awesome Majesty.
Where we fall, not in shame (for that has been paid for)
but in full and sudden knowledge
of the enormity of both His Holiness and our humanity,
and the preciousness of our Salvation.
Where we fall down in adoration,
where we surrender ALL.
Can we stand, still stiff necked in that Light?
We can try!!
But do we want to?
It is what our hearts long for……….
There are a lot of hawthorn trees up on the Downs,
all bearing their haws at this time of year,
but this particular tree stood out for the brightness
and abundance of its fruits.
The whole tree was singing with red;
I just had to go over to look at it,
to wonder at its fulness.
And the Lord said to me,
“Do you not see?
THIS is the abundance that is coming!
In the midst of all the appearance of lack and pain,
of restriction and loneliness,
there is a rising and a swelling of something Greater
which will come forth in a blaze of Praise.
Raise your eyes!
Do not look around you, but look to Me!
Do not become weary of believing;
the season may be long, but it WILL be fruitful,
the ways of man may be perplexing, but I AM GOD,
your heart may feel frail, but I AM GOD,
the horizons may seem narrow, but I AM GOD.
Will you let ME be GOD?
Will you let go of your rags of understanding and control?
Will you live by FAITH alone?
Faith that will not let go, because it knows that
I WILL NOT LET YOU GO……..
Faith that reaches out beyond the reason
that tugs at your mind.
Faith that sees what your human eyes do not yet see.
Faith that resists the downward spiral that is presented.
Faith that says that I AM GOD…..and that I AM GOOD.
Faith that sees the fruit before even the flower.
Will you live by faith?
Will you persevere in MY Strength, not your own?”
And I stood,
as I do now,
aware of the rags and tatters of my unbelief,
and I repent;
I repent on behalf of myself, my people and my land.
And I pick up my armour and put it back on,
the armour of Heavenly Clothing that is mine to wear,
and I look at these extraordinary berries
and say “YES….it IS coming!”
Let us, His People, see.
Let the whole earth see……….
and praise Him Who brings forth the Victory.
That fern covered hollow in the field, guarded by an ancient hawthorn tree,
is all that remains of a church.
A church that once served the people of these hills
and the many pilgrims on their way to Bardsey,
who had come up from the south along the old road
and were going down to the estuary
where the monks of Cymmer ferried them across the river.
Pilgrims no longer throng these hills,
there are no longer monks at Cymmer,
the church has long fallen,
its stones used for building barns,
but the land remembers the presence of God’s People.
That hollow stands out, unfit for mowing,
and revered as a place set apart in local remembrance.
The field boundary echoes the walls of the enclosure,
and the farm in the valley below is called Pant y Llan,
The Hollow of the Church.
There is remembrance,
even in this land that has largely forgotten
its rich Christian heritage, both Celtic and Revival.
What does it take to reawaken that remembrance?
Not just in Wales, but all over our land?
It is not the uncovering of stones or the rebuilding of walls,
the repairing of old buildings or the perpetuation of tradition
that will bring the Awakening,
but the heartfelt cries of God’s present People;
cries that do battle against the pagan spirits,
cries that see, in faith, the harvest of souls,
cries that open up the ancient wells,
that they may once again refresh the thirsty.
The thirsty, who know not their thirst for Living Water,
but seek to find other drink to satisfy their longing.
The thirsty who need to be offered something more
than a dim remembrance of times past;
something, Someone, Living, not a pile of stones.
The thirsty, who need not just a drink,
but first a touch, a word, a smile, a connection,
a thawing of ignorance or resistance
with the warmth of God’s Love carried, nay burning, within us.
Are we willing, both to intercede and to love?
For the Cross of Christ is worth more than remembrance; it is a matter of Life.
Walking beside this railway line
(not our local one),
I was amazed by this double bend;
what geographical difficulty, what land dispute
necessitated such a sudden change of course?
The line runs parallel to a main road,
but here it crosses a bridge and changes sides.
There must be a story in the archives somewhere!
But here it is;
a bend that is about as tight as you can get on a mainline railway,
a wrinkle in the smooth straight line from south to north,
but probably a nuisance for the drivers,
for the trains just have to slow down…….very considerably.
It must take skill to gauge the alteration of speed just right
so that the passengers are hardly aware;
no jerks or spilled coffee,
just the momentary smooth, snake-like twist,
and then on it goes.
It’s a challenge, a landmark in each journey.
And what of our life journey?
Yes, there are indeed such twists in its smooth course;
hours, days, weeks, or whole seasons
where our pace of life is slowed and altered,
interrupted, often against our preference.
Bereavement, sickness, redundancy, emergency, disaster, war,
and yes, even a virus,
cut across our assumed projectile of life,
often without warning,
and we are forced to apply the brakes
and negotiate the bend.
We may even feel that we have ground to a halt,
but whilst we are still breathing, life’s journey continues,
albeit more slowly.
How do we see it?
Catastrophe? Challenge? Landmark? Opportunity?
As always, we have a choice:
We can look inward……or we can look upward.
We can wail and complain…….
or we can speak God’s Word into the situation.
We can live in unbelief or faith,
fear or trust.
We are prone to wobbles, but God is not.
He is there, our Rock, our Defender, our Strength.
He is our Shelter against the storm,
into which we lean,
exhausted, weak, perplexed or afraid,
or merely bored, unsatisfied or lost.
But, we are still breathing;
breathing with the Breath of Life, Eternal Life,
bestowed upon us by the Cross and the Holy Spirit.
Nothing can take that away from us.
And, in time, the speed picks up again,
often faster than we would like!
Are we ever satisfied?
YES, we are!
For our sights are set on Heaven, our destination;
the bends of life are just our journey……
and our journey is in God’s Hands;
He is the very best Driver.
I don’t recall seeing this before;
two gates latching onto the same gatepost
so that you can open them both, like cupboard doors!
But, you do have to know which one you want to open,
which field your path goes into,
whether you need a track or a field path,
or even open mountainside.
You have to have consulted the map or looked for the signs.
It spoke to me of choices.
Not the “what shall I have for dinner” type of choice,
but the life-changing choices,
the big ones.
When you have to deliberately open a gate
and there are two to choose from,
and they both look strong and inviting……
and the cry goes out to the Lord, “Which one?????”
“Where are You leading me?”
It is rarely a comfortable place to be in;
it tests our trust, our preference to be in control,
our willingness to be led, our willingness to listen,
and it’s even harder if there is a time scale involved.
It’s often a place where we freeze in indecision
(which is different from waiting on the Lord!)
unable to see the way ahead.
God is so Gracious to us;
He is patient with our wobbles and calls us, again and again,
back into His Presence to hear Him,
to seek Him first above all things,
to be still and know….
(rather than freezing like a rabbit in the headlights)
to be still and know…..Peace.
Peace that says, “Your will be done…whatever.”
Peace that comes girded with Strength to reach out……..
and open a latch.
Peace that knows that it may even be the wrong latch
but God will make that clear pretty soon.
Peace that doesn’t fret about lost opportunities;
the “what if’s” and the sideways glances.
Peace that says “If it’s right in God’s Eyes, it’s Right.”
But when it comes down to it, in earthly terms,
WE have to make the move.
We cannot stand before the gates forever,
discussing, pondering, enquiring, dithering;
we have to reach out, make the step,
touch the latch, try the gate.
And, in the doing, the Lord makes the Way clear.
How Trustworthy He is!
He says, “I know the plans I have for you,
plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.
Then you will call on Me….and I will listen to you.
You will seek Me and find Me
when you seek Me with all your heart.”
“Seek first the Kingdom….
and all these things shall be added.”
Yes, Lord, we believe.
I had walked along my faint sheep track across the rough pasture
and my heart leapt to see this stile,
confirmation that I was indeed in the right place.
When I got nearer, it dawned on me
that the stile was lacking its second side…..
you can climb up, but not get down in the next field!
It’s alright….there’s a gate.
But wait! There’s a chain on the gate……
Had I come all this way only to find an impasse?
On getting closer, I discovered that the chain on the gate
was fixed by a hook, not a padlock,
and it was very easy to open.
But my attention had been drawn to that broken stile;
it had shown me the way, but had proved worthless….
Lord, what am I supposed to see here?
And He showed me that this stile is like “religion”;
it shows the Way, but it doesn’t get you IN.
It stands, a landmark of Truth, a Sign post,
but of itself, it is a false security.
When we rely on “doing” church,
on our traditions and habits (however good),
when we blindly follow a leader, rather than Jesus,
when we read many good books, and the Good Book,
but do not let them change us,
when we let the words of others fill the void inside
rather than going straight to the Source;
this is “religion”
this is when our stile is broken,
this is when we have to find the Gate.
The Gate, of course, is Jesus.
The Gate that is never locked to us.
The Gate that opens easily enough
if we take the time to come close and really see.
This is not just about initially finding Salvation,
(although there are many broken stiles on offer out there)
it is about entering into the Kingdom;
Kingdom living, Kingdom relationship, Kingdom prayer.
We, and only we, are responsible for our entering in.
We are the ones who make the daily decision to open the Gate.
No-one else can do it for us.
No-one else can enter the secret place on our behalf;
they can pray for us, speak God’s Word over us,
demonstrate His Love for us, teach us, encourage us,
but we cannot live in the security of other people.
We have to put our hand to the Gate, open it,
and walk through.
Again and again.
So what is the hook that releases the Gate?
The absence of unbelief;
that miserable excuser that says,
“Not me, not here, not now.”
Faith that says, “Yes!”
and walks in to the reality of Grace.
Faith that sees past ourselves into His Pathway
and is willing to step in.
No false securities,
but the Living God.
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Along the green lane that leads to the cottage
there is a huge boulder, just sitting there,
gathering moss and lichen.
It has a flat top and is very inviting to younger persons
to climb upon and strike some silly pose!
But this time I noticed that this seedling rowan tree had grown,
tucked into a crack filled with organic matter,
well watered from the dripping trees above.
But it’s going to be interesting to see how it fares over the years:
Will it grow strong?
Will it split the rock?
Will the lack of root space kill it?
Or will it just grow in miniature, like a bonsai?
Will someone come along and be tempted to pull it out?
(If they can)
One thing is certain, it will never reach the proportions of its parent,
a massive, ancient and stately ash that guards the cottage gate.
If it survives it will be small,
because, in trees, size is proportional to root span.
It is the same with us.
How deep and wide is the spread of our roots in God?
It matters, because our growth is determined by it.
If we sip and sample with the Word,
we will live, but not flourish,
shallow rooted and unstable in the wind.
If we limit our reading and listening to one school of belief
we can become narrow.
If we don’t take time to send our roots down into the good soil
of prayer and worship
we will begin to thirst and wither at the tips of our branches.
If our roots are feeding from soil poisoned by the past
our spiritual growth may be sickly and weak.
But if we are rooted well, fully watered and nourished,
there is no limit to our growth in Christ,
for we have been promised every spiritual blessing,
every gift, every fruit.
We are new creation trees,
reborn into a flourishing beyond the natural,
if only we consent to feed,
to stay deep and close to the One Who Redeemed us.
And Grace proclaims that for us, unlike this tiny tree,
we can reset our roots at any time through repentance:
We can recognise our thirst and our hunger,
our shallowness or our narrowness.
We can choose to find deep, rich Soil again.
We can place ourselves in the Rain.
We can hide ourselves in the Spiritual Rock that is Christ;
a Rock that contains caverns of abundant nourishment,
not mean and hungry cracks.
We can root ourselves by saying “Yes…..here is best!”
and, in doing so, find ourselves grown to a stature
way beyond our expectations
because it is ALL Him.
So roots matter.
If we look after them……..God grows the tree.
This array of leading ropes, so neatly tied to the gate, was an unexpected source of colour on my walk.
Each horse in the field obviously has its own, and one of them, apparently, is so obedient that it doesn’t need to wear its head collar all the time for its owner to grab, but comes when it is called and docilely presents its head to be dressed.
But what spoke to me most was the fact that each rope was different. Individual.
It spoke to me of God’s tender appreciation of our uniqueness, of our characters, of the way we respond to Him, and of the very individual way He leads each of us.
How wonderful that He doesn’t have a “one size fits all” or indeed “one colour suits all”
approach to His People!
Maybe He has to be firmer with some of us, requiring a stronger rope!
Maybe He has led us for so many years that our rope is frayed with age……
but by then, we should be guided by the gentlest of pulls.
Maybe we need a good plain and straightforward rope;
nothing fancy, just “This is the Way, walk in it.”
Maybe we need a bright colour, to attract our wandering attention and call it back.
Maybe we respond to a pretty woven pattern, that engages our imagination and understanding.
Maybe we merely have to see just two colours, Him and ourselves, twisted into a coil of strength.
Maybe He is able to lead us by His Voice alone.
But lead us, He will. He leads us continually into His Purposes.
We may feel that this season has had us all out to grass, but in our paddocks we have learned to feed well, to be content with small company and limited vistas. We have learned to engage with God without going anywhere…… yet He has been leading us, even there!
But the time is coming when we will be called to the gate and how very important it is that we let Him lead us, and not be tempted to go off willy-nilly after our own desire.
We know not the destination of our next ride, yet we are called to be ready, easily summoned and obedient to His Voice, happy to have our rope, yes our very own rope, Lovingly attached.
We are not left to wander and flounder:
We are Led. We are Guided. We are Known. We are Loved.
May we go willingly, bringing Joy to His Heart and Glory to His Name!
After not as many hours of sleep as I would like,
I am definitely not feeling like this sunflower……
its cheerful face, that I can see from my window,
standing strong and high in spite of the rough weather,
is a reminder to be steadfast,
even as God is steadfast,
and to stir my spirit to praise.
Not to make me feel good,
but because God is praiseworthy, all the time.
He is Holy and Glorious,
He is Majestic and Powerful,
He is Loving and Merciful,
Wise, True, Good, Omnipotent,
Wonderful, Perfect, Kind, Strong,
Light in the darkness,
Righteous in Judgement.
He is my Saviour, my Redeemer, my Deliverer, My Healer, Comforter, Shepherd, Refuge and Strength.
He is my King.
And He doesn’t cease to be these things just because I am bleary-eyed!
So, arise, my soul, and PRAISE!
And in the praising I will find Strength because I am looking to Him, not myself.
And in the praising I will release something that would have remained bound
had I not turned my face Heavenwards.
And in the praising I will find Joy because that is His Promise.
In looking to Him Who is Radiant with Glory, I will find myself reflecting His Light.
What a Glorious, Graceful exchange.
I’m going for it!
How about you?
So, the farmer had to mend a fence;
he used whatever he had to hand and forged this amazing knotted join.
I bet he never imagined that someday someone would find it beautiful!
But here we have such a lovely intertwining that speaks to me of our togetherness with Jesus.
We see the Blood-stained Crown of Thorns interwoven in a deep and irrevocable way
with the strong fibres of our lives;
both sides reaching into the inner place, meeting, touching, interlocking, giving and receiving,
held and holding.
He in us and we in Him.
The Thorns reach right into our hearts, bringing atonement and redemption at the moment of each surrender’s sweet pain.
The Thorns reach right into our hearts, sharing our sorrow and suffering,
bringing comfort and strength, and a joy that meets us in unexpected places.
The Thorns reach right into our hearts, speaking of a Kingship that is not remote but passionately involved.
And the fibres of our being reach in, welcoming, embracing, clinging on to the Lover of our souls.
We meet, we touch, each moment a spark of strengthening that forges the connection, realigns the fibres
and sends us forth with Mightiness that is not our own.
There is no letting go.
We may ignore for a while, wilful in our prideful weakness,
but the Spirit-knot is tied, irrevocably, and the Thorns within prick us back into Truth.
There is such a togetherness that we carry around within our hearts:
May we welcome it, treasure it, celebrate it, live from it.
May it call forth praise and worship from our lips,
may it birth the deep adoration of our hearts.
How blessed we are that the Creator of all things should choose to dwell within, in that deep, eternal entwining.
I always gravitate to pieces of old, rusty metal; their colours and textures are very photogenic!
But when I had finished enjoying its crusting details, I stepped back to look at the whole.
It had once been a very fine trailer, well made, sturdy, obviously built several decades ago
and has seen good service.
But now, it sits on the verge of a field, a crumbling repository for farmyard rubbish, certainly no longer fit for purpose for any grain would just pour out of its gaping holes and its rotted timber base.
So why keep it?
Is the farmer too lazy to take it to the scrapyard?
Does he still value it for its present shabby purpose?
Does he retain it for old times sake? …………… We don’t know.
But it lingers, providing passers by, like me, food for thought.
But now, it speaks to me as a warning from the Lord.
How many rusting trailers do we have lurking in our undergrowth?
And, more pertinently, how many are there in the church?
Church history is a fascinating thing; the progression of understanding and expression within God’s beloved People
has ebbed and flowed over the centuries, in many cultures and forms,
Life breaking forth from periods of stagnation, new ways of “doing” and “being” church emerging as people like
Cuthbert, Francis, Luther, Wycliffe, Wesley, the great revivalists, and our modern radicals have pushed the boundaries of tradition in search of Truth.
God’s Truth rather than the traditions of man.
People willing to question why we have been worshipping and functioning in certain ways and turning to the Word to seek Life.
Does that mean that all that is old is wrong? ………. No.
But if it upholds man’s tradition, the way of the pharisees, rather than the Living breathing Word of God, there are going to be some very rusty trailers!
And now is not the time to be looking to preserve them.
This virus season has called a stop to tradition;
new ways of worshipping, praying and fellowshipping have had to be birthed, the trailers forcibly abandoned.
Everyone yearns to return to “how it used to be”, whatever our expression of church.
But are we hearing the invitation to leave those rusting trailers behind?
To fast and pray and search the Scriptures for new vessels to carry in the grain?
I believe that many faithful hearts are doing just that,
but it takes courage to make a break with what has always been in order to usher in the Kingdom.
Not everyone is flexible, not everyone sees church as something more than a place of comfort,
but a powerhouse of praise and prayer.
It’s not about age, it’s about the heart.
Church is not about us, but God and He is ever doing a fresh thing.
So, are we willing to unhitch the trailers of the past (however recent) and reach out, in repentance and hope to grasp the new?
Come Almighty Father! Come Lord Jesus! Come Holy Spirit!
Lead us forward into new fields as whole, holy vessels of Grace.
Your Kingdom Come!
No going back…..
I woke this morning with memories of the beautiful sand patterns on this beach and the Lord saying to me,
“Look, I am drawing a line in the sand!”
But it wasn’t the sort of line that we draw with a stick, that roughs up the surface
and creates the line or words or picture that we want to see.
No. This was a line drawn by the Hand of God;
a Living line that actively erodes the sand of our lives with the flow of the Holy Spirit.
A sharply focused line created by the action of Water.
Not a straight line.
Not a one-and-only line (there will be more to come)
Not a boundary but an invitation; an invitation to move on.
In these extraordinary times, we have had to let go of many things that we considered essential,
or at least normal.
They slipped through our fingers like sand and we’ve got accustomed to new ways.
We can’t say when “normal” as we knew it in the natural will return to our lives.
But “normal” in spiritual terms is a dangerous place, for what feels normal is only one step away
from being set in stone. Fossilised.
However free our churches are, we still have our patterns; some may be quite fluid, even exquisite,
others, under the surface are grids that blinker possibility.
And then this season comes along and all is swept away.
We have all had to look outside our comfort zones and reconsider what “church” really means
and to examine our personal walk, also. Yet, are we still looking back?
Hankering after the familiar, the comfortable?
There is a growing realisation that we are not going to be allowed by God to turn back;
that the line in the sand has shifted something vital which cannot be ignored.
We are called to repent of the habitual.
We are called to seek the Lord for each new step as the sands shift around us.
We are called to trust in the Rock that diverts the flow.
We are called to give ourselves wholeheartedly.
We are called to LET GO.
“My Thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are My Ways are not your ways,” said the Lord, thousands of years ago.
And He hasn’t changed.
He is calling us to wake up to the reality of HIM.
Are we willing to lay down our “ideas” of Him and seek Him in the raw?
Are we willing to wave good bye to our memories for the greater Glory of God’s plan?
There is no going back.
What there is, is the Glorious Call into the Purposes of God for these times:
Like the sand patterns, they are ever shifting but ever beautiful.
The seasons move quietly on,
regardless of all that is going on in the world
On my walk this week I found blackberries, wild plums and these beautiful rose hips.
The season of fruitfulness is upon us;
the fields are ripening,
the leaves on the trees are drab and tired, the flowers in our gardens are moving on from the roses of high summer to the last-burst varieties that take us into autumn.
Time is moving on……..Surprisingly quickly.
Lockdown, whilst it slowed the frantic activity of man, has not changed the rhythm of creation, nor has it held back the calendar.
Our diaries may have been empty,
but “seed time and harvest,
cold and heat, summer and winter,
day and night will never cease,” just as God promised after the Flood.
They walk on, in faithful obedience to the ordinance of God their Creator.
Time, for them is a settled thing.For us, although it rules us, time is a matter of perception; we either have too much or too little, we are either early or late, we are either bored or frazzled,
we are held by a routine or flounder in freedom, we either work with time…..or against it.
But, we can’t change it or stop it;
its rhythm is bound into the universe, measured by the sun and tamed for us by the clock.
The days and years roll on;
circumstances change, we get older, families come and go, we go through triumphs and failures,
sickness and health, we learn and forget……. and we walk with our God.
Our God Who is beyond time,
Who just IS……from eternity to eternity.
He needs no clock, for He never sleeps. He calls forth that which is yet unseen
and yet remembers the day of Creation as if yesterday.
He eagerly awaits the Day when His Kingdom is revealed, yet He is present with every one of His People every single second…..Now!
Our God; Creator of time’s rhythms, yet timeless.
Oh, that we could be brave enough to take more time to enter into His Time!
That we could give ourselves to the miraculous elasticity of time spent, spirit to Spirit; where a few seconds can wash our souls, where a few minutes can change a life, where a day given, can shift stuff within and without, where a lifetime is revealed as but a blink of an eye, and just one second can open our eyes to Truth.
But we feel secure with our clocks and our quiet times, our routines and our expectations, and we can so easily put God into a slot……. and then feel peeved that He didn’t turn up!
Let us allow ourselves to be pulled back into His Time;
His intimate infilling of the sequential “nows” that fill our existence,
His relational Purpose for our lives.
For THERE is the fruitfulness,
birthed by Father, Son and Spirit,
day and night, night and day, unto Eternity.
We were amused by these fence posts and their display of “bodgery”……
Why all this rope? Which post is holding up which?
Or is it more to do with making some sort of rope fence,
providing a rather flimsy boundary?
Whatever the plan, the result is a mess!
Good foundations and some proper wiring would have made a
better job, but the whole property, seemingly now abandoned,
spoke of meagre resources and lack of finesse.
Something we can pride ourselves in doing, particularly if we are over a certain age!
Mend, not spend, it must have a few years in it yet,
a few nails here, some wire or some sticky tape, and it will do.
Or we may be the sort that throws stuff away without trying to mend it, desiring always the new, highly functional and glossy.
There should, probably, be a middle way!
But what does God do?
Does He look at our lives and think that they are not worthy of mending?
Does He ever throw anyone away, even up to the very last minute?
No! Our God is Faithful and Merciful beyond our comprehension, desiring that every soul should not just be mended, but made NEW.
We can’t do that in the natural; if something is old, it is old, we can replace it, restore it, make it as good as new, but we cannot make it NEW again.
God Delights in it.
He takes the bodgery of our lives, dismantles the knots, tenderly unravels the rope that clings or binds us to things or people, and makes us straight, sturdy and new.
He sorts out our foundations and stabilises our rockiness.
He pulls out the nails that have wounded and even renews our fibres, giving our dead stumps roots again so that we now live.
What a God….no making do, just making New!
We marvel at the Love that bore the Cross and the nails and the whipping rope, that birthed for us freshness and freedom.
We rejoice in the tingling of New Life within us.
We humbly accept the Gift of Grace, that works in us what we could never do for ourselves and we are full of thankfulness.
And we know that each new knot we get ourselves into will also be gently undone,
for His Mercies are NEW every morning, every minute, even.
We only have to turn to Him and ask, and He is there.
Lord, You are so GOOOOOOD!
We give You praise with thankful hearts, for Your Love endures for ever……….
In your dreams…….?
A canal boat that I passed had this window, which amused me greatly;
Does someone daydream of sailing the high seas in a galleon with billowing sails
but have to make do with a barge on a calm canal?
Or did the boat builder have a sense of humour?
Or is it supposed to speak of the intrepid nature of the boat’s heart?
Which all got me musing about what sort of boat we are:
What is God’s design for us? What sort of power propels us?
What kind of water are we created for?
Are we genuine, full of integrity, through and through?
I’m pretty sure that if we consider for a moment, we can identify with some kind of boat;
a simple rowing boat, a power boat, a ferry, a houseboat, a sailing dinghy, a fishing boat, a barge,
a liner, a fancy yacht, a warship or even a galleon.
Plenty of choice….and none of them is wrong!
For, like the boats, we are all made differently,
but we are all meant to be buoyant and to move on water.
Problems only come when we spring a leak or lose our source of power……
or maybe set out in the wrong kind of water for our design.
Or maybe we have got trapped as one kind of boat, when our Heavenly Boat builder wants to remake us!
We become accustomed to who we think we are
and it is really good to be happy in our skins, through and through;
to know that we are sailing the waters God made us for, shaped and gifted for the setting we’re in.
But does that mean we’re the same for life?
Do we refuse to set sail for His Wind when we are used to rowing in our own strength?
Are we scared to use the throttle of Power that is not our own?
Do we grumble if we are refitted to take passengers, or even stinky fish???
Are we unwilling to be stripped of our luxury fittings in order to be sent to war?
How will we know He is moving us on?
Well, if we are daydreaming of good holy functions beyond our current experience,
it may just be the Lord leading us into the boatyard!
The process of remaking sounds painful, yet, if the Call is genuine, we will submit with joy;
we will suffer the ignominy of floundering for a while as we get used to new waters,
yet we will grow to fit into our new shape gracefully and become the vessel He intends.
And what if we have the body of a barge boat but the heart of a galleon?
No matter at all!
For the heart is where the Wind blows, where the Power throttle is fitted,
where the guns lie cradled, where there is always room for one more person.
The heart is where our transformation begins……
Who knows what waters await us?
And He won’t let us sink because His Hand is on the tiller, taking us His Way……
We were enjoying walking through a lovely wood;
the trees were sheltering us from the light rain overhead
and the welcome scent of dampness surrounded us.
Because it was raining our eyes were looking down,
rather than up into the wet,
and my eye was caught by these extraordinary patterns on a decaying log.
It was my husband who said, “It’s like letters!”
And yes, before our eyes was the germ of a word,
incomprehensible, yet intriguing;
letters unrecognisable to us, yet we felt the pull to try to figure them out.
Of course, we couldn’t, so we laughed and walked on.
Sometimes we just have to admit that we don’t understand.
Our pride would like to think that we can work things out,
that we can chew away at the knotty issues of life until they reveal their meaning;
that we can, through sheer mental effort, tease out the meaning of that which is beyond us.
In Scripture there is much about understanding;
it is plain that we are not supposed to lean on our own sort!
Even the great King David could write,
“My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quietened myself…. like a weaned child.”
Simplicity, trust, contentment. Beautiful attitudes in God’s Sight.
But neither are we supposed to be ignorant.
Rather, we are called to be steeped in His Wisdom.
Does that come through mental gymnastics?
No. It comes through revelation.
Not just in the “light bulb moments” but the steady dawning that uncovers the gold.
A Truth that has always seemed a mystery to us
will reveal its treasures subliminally,
often because we have stopped wrestling with it.
We come to the point when we just “know”.
The key to a problem may elude us for weeks, even years,
until the answer surfaces because we asked for revelation.
And that is our “key”….. To ask.
To humble our minds, admit that we can’t work it out
and ask, for ourselves and for others.
Paul, his own brilliant mind bypassed by revelation on the Damascus Road,
is ever ready to pray for his friends, asking God
“to fill them with the knowledge of His Will through all the Wisdom and Understanding
that the Spirit gives.”
We are not left to work things out for ourselves.
Neither do we need to fill our minds with worldly junk, but rather, we are to open them up to Truth;
Truth that will be distilled to us, in the right quantities, at the right time.
We are not to fret.
Gradually the distorted letters will become clear and the Word will emerge,
and we will rejoice in fresh understanding that only the Spirit can give.
Aren’t we blessed!
We only have to trust.
In my friend’s garden, full of beautiful flowers,
my eye was suddenly caught by this old galvanised dustbin standing against the house.
Its stark simplicity, its texture, shapes and lines were all very satisfying,
and the rich orange colour within, a delightful surprise.
Then, I saw that it was being used as a water butt;
a down pipe from the gutter above resting on its rim and water held in the bottom.
Hence, of course, the wonderful orange;
years of holding water had changed the galvanised surface and transformed it.
It is essentially still as it was made,
yet its change of use has transformed it from the ordinary to something more;
it has stopped holding rubbish and now holds water.
It is no longer treated roughly as something lowly,
something, although beautifully made, taken for granted….
Now it is valued because it holds water that gives life to the plants in the garden.
It doesn’t go anywhere, it just waits for the rain and receives it.
Simple service that has rendered it special.
An encouragement for those of us that might consider ourselves ordinary, t
aken for granted, sturdy but plain, not of obvious beauty.
What does that matter, if we are holding treasure within?
So long as we have chucked out the rubbish and are receiving and holding the Water of Life,
we are so much more than ordinary!
We might not actually get to see the new colours within,
but our Heavenly Father does, and it thrills His Heart.
There’s nothing He likes more than transforming people
into His Likeness, filling us with His Water,
and watching as that Water, just by residing there, irrevocably changes our chemistry.
We cannot fill ourselves, but we can make sure that we are ever-open to His Filling.
We cannot change ourselves, but we must be willing for the Water to act secretly upon our insides.
We cannot determine how high our Water level is, for that is a secret too,
known only to the One Who Sees.
What we do know is that we have to be willing to be filled, and to be used;
to allow the Hand of the Gardener to reach in with His scoop and draw from His Water to bring Life to those around.
Whether that takes us into “doings” or “beings” is up to Him, and His Purposes often surprise us.
But one thing is for sure; once we hold the Water of Life, we are never “ordinary” again.
we are transformed into precious vessels, each unique, each glowing on the inside.
What Love! What Grace!
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