Monday, 29 November 2010


Advent services. Look at this - so beautiful.

I Cannot Tell

I cannot tell why He Whom angels worship,
Should set His love upon the sons of men,
Or why, as Shepherd, He should seek the wanderers,
To bring them back, they know not how or when.
But this I know, that He was born of Mary
When Bethlehem’s manger was His only home,
And that He lived at Nazareth and labored,
And so the Savior, Savior of the world is come.

I cannot tell how silently He suffered,
As with His peace He graced this place of tears,
Or how His heart upon the cross was broken,
The crown of pain to three and thirty years.
But this I know, He heals the brokenhearted,
And stays our sin, and calms our lurking fear,
And lifts the burden from the heavy laden,
For yet the Savior, Savior of the world is here.

I cannot tell how He will win the nations,
How He will claim His earthly heritage,
How satisfy the needs and aspirations
Of East and West, of sinner and of sage.
But this I know, all flesh shall see His glory,
And He shall reap the harvest He has sown,
And some glad day His sun shall shine in splendor
When He the Savior, Savior of the world is known.

I cannot tell how all the lands shall worship,
When, at His bidding, every storm is stilled,
Or who can say how great the jubilation
When all the hearts of men with love are filled.
But this I know, the skies will thrill with rapture,
And myriad, myriad human voices sing,
And earth to Heaven, and Heaven to earth, will answer:
At last the Savior, Savior of the world is King!

Words: William Young Fullerton, 1857-1932
Music: Londonderry Air (aka "O Danny Boy")

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Create in me a clean heart

Some notes from breakfast this morning: 8 of us gathered round my table in the conservatory:

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." Psalm 51:10 (ESV)

A blog entry by Karen Ehman over at Proverbs 31 entitled Getting Cleaned Up  (5 Nov 2010), talks about our urge to ‘clean up’ before we have visitors: the expectant mother who cleaned her house just BEFORE her mother arrived to help her clean it ready for the baby’s imminent arrival; those of us who cut our toenails BEFORE we go for a pedicure; clean our teeth better than they have been for months BEFORE we visit the dentist.  She says it’s not just a matter of ‘house-cleaning and hygiene’ – we do it on a grander scale. 

An innate urge asserts we must somehow "clean up our act" before we can come to Jesus. We feel it when we meet Him for the first time. Our bulky baggage of sin burdens us down. So we try to "clean up our act" so we can then come to Him.’

But as David said: "Create in me a clean heart O God."

Yes, we do the pleading.  He does the cleaning.
Even those of us who have walked with Him for years sometimes surmise, when wading in the swamp of our sin, that we too must surface-clean the tarnish so very hard before He will ever want to use us again.
So yes, we can remember anew that Jesus doesn’t want to wait for us to clean ourselves up before we come to him, because we can’t.  We have to approach him ‘warts and all’ as Oliver Cromwell said when he was to have his portrait painted: we can’t just polish up our attitudes, refurbish our good deeds, and brush our misdemeanours out of sight. We have to come to him honestly, just as we are:

Just as I am without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - though toss'd about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Brian Doerksen has a beautiful rendition of this lovely old hymn.

Just as confession – which I like to think of as honesty before God – is private, I think there’s a public face to this mindset as well. There is great healing and refreshment in not ‘putting on a clean face’ to others, whether these are friends, neighbours or colleagues. The world sets great store by appearance; we can offer a reality that does not paper over cracks, so that we don’t pretend to be something we are not. Often, people who perceive us as ‘religious’ because we ‘go to church’ also put us in the ‘good’ box. We’re not ‘good’ – we’re human.  I think it’s really important to be clear, transparent about our faults and failings. Or is this too dangerous, if we are to survive in the world of work and difficult neighbours?!

Some questions:
How best to keep ‘honest’ with God?
What are the ‘dangers’ of being ‘honest’? With God, with others – especially at work.
Do we admit to faults and failings, mistakes, things we forget to do…?

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Let hope keep you joyful

Romans 12:12: Let hope keep you joyful; in trouble stand firm; persist in prayer.
Psalm 25

Unto Thee O LORD, Unto Thee O Lord

Do I lift up my soul
Unto Thee O LORD, Unto Thee O Lord
O my God, I trust in thee
Let me not be ashamed let not my enemies triumph over me.

Remember not, remember not,

The sins of my youth, the sins of my youth,

Remember not, remember not,

The sins of my youth, the sins of my youth,

O my God...

Teach me Thy ways, Teach me Thy ways,

Thy ways O lord, Thy ways O lord

O my God...

Do I lift up my soul

1 In you, LORD my God,

I put my trust.

2 I trust in you;

do not let me be put to shame,

nor let my enemies triumph over me.

3 No one who hopes in you

will ever be put to shame,

but shame will come on those

who are treacherous without cause.

4 Show me your ways, LORD,

teach me your paths.

5 Guide me in your truth and teach me,

for you are God my Savior,

and my hope is in you all day long.

6 Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love,

for they are from of old.

7 Do not remember the sins of my youth

and my rebellious ways;

according to your love remember me,

for you, LORD, are good.

My head is high, God, held high; I'm looking to you, God;

No hangdog skulking for me.

3 I've thrown in my lot with you;

You won't embarrass me, will you?

Or let my enemies get the best of me?

Don't embarrass any of us

Who went out on a limb for you.

It's the traitors who should be humiliated.

4 Show me how you work, God;

School me in your ways.

5 Take me by the hand;

Lead me down the path of truth.

You are my Savior, aren't you?

6 Mark the milestones of your mercy and love, God;

Rebuild the ancient landmarks!

7 Forget that I sowed wild oats;

Mark me with your sign of love.

Plan only the best for me, God!

8 God is fair and just;

He corrects the misdirected,

Sends them in the right direction.

9 He gives the rejects his hand,

And leads them step-by-step.

10 From now on every road you travel

Will take you to God.

Listening to God

Renee Swope has just posted about this was my comment. Brief.

She says ' God’s purpose for our lives through dependent hearts that seek to listen to His...'

I know God's purpose. It is to trust him, regardless of the circumstances. It is only when I truly trust that I can begin to hear what he is saying to me.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

The Mom I Want to Be

Suzie Eller very kindly sent me a copy of The Mom I Want to Be. I won it in one of her giveaways and she generously posted it all the way to Guernsey!  I wanted it to share with a friend who finds parenting her  children quite overwhelming at times. And another. And another. Don't we all feel like that at one time or another? So I read it before giving it to her, just to make sure it wouldn't overwhelm my friends with even more inadequacy! Do you know what I mean? Some books just send you on a guilt trip!

Anyway, Suzie's book is anything but that - it is hugely encouraging. My children have graduated - they are awesome, dedicated Christians, both volunteering in full-time Christian ministry, barely making it financially but earnestly pursuing God. I am immensely proud of them and thankful to God - I KNOW they haven't turned out so good because of my parenting skills.  I think I should say they've turned out the way they have IN SPITE OF my parenting - God is awesome indeed!  So reading this book did bring some regret - there is no such thing as perfect parenting and there are many things I would have done differently. However, Suzie's honesty encouraged me at the same time.

I'm still struggling to be 'The Mom I Want to Be' - being a 'mom' to adults - and can't wait to get the book back from my friend once she has read it as I have found the questions and suggestions for personal growth at the end of each chapter really useful. Thank you, Suzie!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

How can this bring me closer to God?

Read a thought-provoking book recently. By a Christian, it was about responsible stewardship of the earth's resources - caring for the environment and so on.  Reminders about thinking of the impact of our actions, being careful, eschewing greed in all its forms - radical living.

I like being radical - in theory. In practice, it can be hard. Hard to make radical choices and harder still, quite often, to live with them. As far as recycling, conserving water, avoiding profligacy goes - not too difficult. Living in Africa does, unless one is extremely hard-hearted and selfish, sensitize one to the injustice and unkindness of living extravagant lifestyles in the face of extreme poverty.

Yet one of the most useful questions I came away with was: How can this (proposed or current) action bring me closer to God? I've begun to try to apply this to everything I do, think or say. Being intentional about my actions.

Drinking a cup of coffee - being thankful
Hanging out the washing - caring for the family
Going to work - praying for opportunities to share Jesus
Relaxing in front of the fire at home - sharing 'heart time'

My challenge is to see how much I can 'bring God' into my daily life. Which reminds me: it's just 'Practising His Presence', as Brother Lawrence has modelled for us.

Blogging here most definitely brings me closer to God: thanks for the time and the reminders, Lord!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010


I've had a bad cough for a couple of weeks, so once I woke at 5.30 today, I knew there was no chance of going back to sleep again. So, what a blessing this morning has been!  Just checking my emails before going to work, I found a wonderful devotion by Lynn Cowell over at Proverbs 31 ministries.
Teaching the truth of Jesus' call to 'Follow me' -which we can only do one step at a time rather than planning out a whole itinerary of Planes, Trains and Automobiles - is a timely reminder. I am the original Mrs Worry (though better than I used to be). I could say much more, but it's probably better just to read Lynn's words!  I'll ask my prayer partner to keep me reminding me 'just one more step' when I'm sharing the current load of anxieties!

Looking at Lynn's website had the added benefit of a previous post 'How far is too far?' where she said: "There is a problem with that question. It's the wrong one. The real question should be, "How close can I get to Jesus so that all that is around me, all the temptations, fade?"
That is a message which isn't just to do with teen sex but resonates in all areas of life: just this week I have been challenged that everything I do should be a 'good' answer to the question: how can this bring me closer to God?

Lovely start to my day. I just hope all these links stay working - an easy reference library rather than trying to rely on my memory!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Of mentors...and discipleship

I was trawling through my documents, trying to work out which I really really really need to save, coming to the conclusion that most of it needs a permanent visit to the recycling bin, when I came across this. I think I must have written it in response to a blog...

Friends have been vital to my spiritual growth. Even before I became a Christian, I found myself seeking to draw nearer to God through relationships, questioning and discussing to find out more about living a life pleasing to Him. Since then, even though I have a relationship with Jesus, people have played a huge part in shaping my life – ‘God with skin on’.

My mentors have been girls younger than I, girls my age and ‘girls’ 30 or more years older. They have been friends I meet up with occasionally for a coffee; friends who live many miles away, so we rarely meet except over the phone or through emails; friends in my small group who I meet with weekly; my prayer partner. Some are still key in my life at present; others have been key in the past, yet I know that I can still call on them for help when I need it. All have been spiritual mentors. Just yesterday I needed wisdom over an issue I was struggling with. It wasn’t to a pastor or other spiritual ‘leader’ I went, but to a dear friend who has more wisdom in her than I can ever hope to gain. She encourages me in the very best sense: affirms me, names good gifts in me, builds up my confidence while asking probing questions. Where others would ‘tell’ me what to do, she asks gently “Have you thought of…? What about…?” I leave refreshed, invigorated, equipped to walk the Way – and never without us praying for each other. This friend’s encouragement is absolutely key and I bless God for her every day.

Friends. Where would I be without them?

Expect the unexpected...

Sometimes being open to what you weren't expecting is the best way to find what you were looking for all along.

From MarybethWhalen's blog over at Proverbs 31 Ministries...

Magnetic grace and iron bars

I have just read a lovely blog entry over at Discipleship Network: simple, yet so clever. The writer, Kathy Beagles, gives the analogy that we are like random pieces of iron which can only be magnetized when in close contact with a powerful magnetic force. Similarly, we can only draw others when we are 'magnetized' with Jesus' power and grace.

That's it, in a nutshell. Kathy explains it much more clearly than I have, though, so I'm glad I have the link up there!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Church and discipleship again!

This is what Jim Putnam (page 23, Real Life Discipleship, published by NavPress) says: A worship service (show) can supplement the discipleship process, but it cannot create disciples alone. Discipleship demands intentionality and relationship — by which each person is invested in specifically. This cannot happen in the worship service.

For worship service, read: attending church.


Tuesday, 2 November 2010