Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Advent. Fifth day.

Thoughts turning towards Christmas. Advent 'calendar' up at school - a puzzle of Nativity pieces to put together, one each day, with a 'good deed' to go along with it.

And a little go at a Christmas song...
In King David’s city a Baby was born
As prophets and sages had said (that) He would be
A King in a stable, in Bethlehem’s dawn
The Good News appearing for you and for me.

The shepherds were eager the glad tidings to share
As angels shone o’er them as bright as the day.
Wise men from the east made a journey with care
The signs in the stars shone to show them the way.

We too, now at Christmas, rejoice in His name
And share in the joy with all those who adore/in accord.
We remember the reason the little Babe came
He is our great Saviour, Christ Jesus our Lord.

And then we look up and we say “Thank you Jesus”
For all you have done and for what lies in store
Your presence is with us, you go on before us
We thank you and praise you for Christmas evermore.

We wait and we wonder with Mary and Joseph
A babe is a-coming, and what will he be?
Messiah, Redeemer, a King and a healer
The Saviour God sent to save both you and me.

A stable is home for the King of all Kings
Born into a family of lowly esteem
Rough men hear the report that the angels will bring
A message to bring them the news of their dreams.

So let us now wonder and go to that stable.
Join in with the shepherds, worship and adore.
Remember he’s with us to love and to guide us
Our saviour, King Jesus, now and evermore.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Advent. Third day.

Struggling this Advent at the prospect of a 'childless' Christmas. Ridiculous, when last year we were all together just before Cat's wedding: son, daughter, daughter-in-law, prospective son-in-law, 'second daughter' (daughter's best friend) and her partner... wonderful.

I find myself almost wishing that Christmas was over, at times. How ungrateful is that?

Hugely. Enormously. SELFISHLY. So I'm focusing, during Advent, on the incredible GIFT we have been given. On the SACRIFICE that God made in sending His son. And on the realization, anew, that this is something I should NEVER TAKE FOR GRANTED.

So today, I choose
Sacrifice over self
Kindness over selfishness
Smiling words instead of complaint
Laughter over sorrow.

Because of Jesus. Because of Jesus. Because of JESUS.  Lord, help me.

Psalm 30:
"I will praise you, Lord!
You saved me from the grave
and kept my enemies
from celebrating my death.
I prayed to you, Lord God,
and you healed me,
saving me from death
and the grave.

Your faithful people, Lord,
will praise you with songs
and honor your holy name.
Your anger lasts a little while,
but your kindness lasts
for a lifetime.
At night we may cry,
but when morning comes
we will celebrate.

You have turned my sorrow
into joyful dancing.
No longer am I sad.
I thank you from my heart,
and I will never stop
singing your praises,
my Lord and my God."

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Advent. First day.

Advent begins today. I can't begin with any words of my own, because Pete Greig's beautiful, lyrical words and The Piano Guys beautiful, lyrical rendering of 'O Come O Come Emmanuel' have filled my heart:

"God of all hope and light and colour, I ask you to come again into the darkness of our world. We need you more this year than ever.
Father God, since you love the world you have made, love us again with your presence. Give us again your son, that the darkness and crying and dying, would be displaced by his unexpected light and love and life.
Immanuel, come quickly to us again. Visit the lonely elderly and those in prison. Be born again in the divided town of Bethlehem. Become a refugee again in the sprawling camps of Lebanon and Greece. Return to rule in the dark streets of Aleppo. Come again to the frightened people of Ukraine, Yemen and North Korea. And please Lord Jesus, would you see my need too? Would you visit my home, my hopes my heart again this Advent?
Spirit of God, you who moved over the primordial chaos and somehow created beauty, create peace again from the chaos of our world. Intercede and groan for us at this time. Fill us with love and joy, peace and patience, kindness and self control. Make us agents of reconciliation. Anoint us again to take Good News to the poor, to proclaim this year - even this year - as the Jubilee of God's favour.
And so we carve you a dirty manger in the darkest corners of our lives today. We prepare a place for the community of heaven at our table - the true altar of our homes. Let the smell of baking bread fill this season. Let the dead red wine begin to breathe before the feast.
I choose quite defiantly to make space in the busyness and perfectionism of this season. It's time to change the dirty sheets in the spare room. In worship we will roll out some kind of red carpet for your reign in the streets where we dwell, we'll prepare a VIP reception in the places we work. We will join with the groaning of creation, praying the oldest, most desperate, most important words the church ever prayed:
Come quickly Lord Jesus.'

And so I pray for God to show me how, in my hectic world of school and gloomy tiredness in the dark of winter, when i find myself secretly longing to be in the clear light of New Zealand for a time, I can do something small which will fill my heart with God's purpose. 

A prayer for a sick girl.
Baking for a harried mother.
Kindness and flowers to an elderly friend. 

Pausing to take in the wonder of nature: sunrises, sunsets, birds in the garden and overhead.

Perhaps my prayer is already answered.

Old Age. Adventure. NoretirementinGod'skingdom.

I heard and read three things this week which got me pondering my contribution to life. The first was from an organisation called Our Daily Bread which gives reflections on a Bible reading plan. It talks about a an ancient lure used to catch trout:

"Fishermen still use this lure today. It is called the Red Hackle. First used over 2,200 years ago, it remains a snare for trout by which we “get the better of them.”
As the years add up, God's faithfulness keeps multiplying.

When I read that ancient work I thought:Not all old things are passé—especially people. If through contented and cheerful old age we show others the fullness and deepness of God, we’ll be useful to the end of our days. Old age does not have to focus on declining health, pining over what once was. It can also be full of tranquility and mirth and courage and kindness, the fruit of those who have grown old with God.

“Those who are planted in the house of the Lord . . . shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing” (Ps. 92:13–14 nkjv).

Lord, thank You for Your faithfulness throughout our lives. Help us finish our lives well in service to You and to remember that old age does not mean uselessness.

As the years add up, God’s faithfulness keeps multiplying."

The second was a reflection and celebration on Jackie Pullinger's life, as she has served God so faithfully and pioneeringly in Hong Kong for the last FIFTY years. It was by Pete Greig, founder of 24-7, He says: "Giving thanks today for this woman whose resilient witness over FIFTY years has impacted millions of lives, including my own. Whilst working with Jackie Pullinger I found my faith, discovered the power of prayer, saw that women can lead as well as men, smuggled bibles, ate dog-meat, chased men in pyjamas through Kowloon, and came to understand God's fundamental passion for justice.

Without Jackie Pullinger there might well still be a 24-7Prayer movement but I'm not sure I would ever have had the joy of being part of it. Thank you Jackie for changing this one life."

And the third was hearing about a very elderly member of my church. When my dear friend Renee went into a residential home, little Margaret Le Page faithfully posted Renee the weekly church newsletter, with a handwritten note of encouragement. Now she herself is in a nursing home, but she prays for the church members and phones them to ask how they are so that she knows more specifically how to pray for them. All she has is an armchair and a phone... and a heart willing to serve the Lord in any way she can.

As Cat and Andy prepare to go to Iraq, serving refugees, I reflect on what I have done for my life to serve God. And yes, I know it's not about DOING but BEING the best person God has designed me to be, but nevertheless.... doing is outworking of being. The most 'Jackie Pullinger' type of thing I have ever done is to teach in a bush school in Africa for a couple of years.  And spend the rest of my life trying to work out how to live better. I said 'yes' to Jesus forty odd years ago and have been trying to work out what that means and how to do it best every since.

So, nearing retirement from paid work in a couple of years, I, as I suspect others of my age do, start to reflect on how much time I have left on this earth and what I can do with it. If I were to die in a year's time, what would I do now?  

Not sure.  But it's good to reflect, be intentional... and not take myself too seriously. As in these videos:

Monday, 14 November 2016

Fear and faith

I've had the opportunity recently to encourage someone who is going through a difficult time. But, in fact, it is I who feel so encouraged by our conversations. It is as if God is graciously reminding me of His goodness and mercy. He reminds me of Scriptures and brings apposite reading to my attention: like this one by Valerie Burton. Here's an extract:

"… Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9b (NIV)

....My anxiety about rejection meant I hesitated to share ideas even when my idea was truly a great one. When it came to saving money, it meant I’d pay more for something even though I knew I could get a better price.

It seems I’m not alone. Research shows that we women tend to underestimate ourselves. As a result, we are more likely to shrink from possibilities, second-guess ourselves and settle for less than what’s possible.

We are also more likely to be perfectionists, so we’ll spend more time thinking about the perfect approach to a conversation or problem but become paralyzed to speak up — fearing that failure is too great a risk.

But here’s what we must remember: We have God with us. God’s Word says, “… Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9b).

It wasn’t until I connected my fear with my faith that I truly had a breakthrough. James 2:17b says, “… faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (NIV). In other words, your actions must line up with your faith. This means showing up as though you belong. Speaking up when He prompts your heart’s desire. And seizing opportunities when God places them before you.

Lord, give me courage to step up and speak up rather than allow fear to paralyze me. Grant me wisdom to know what to say when I get flustered. Help me see myself as You see me, rather than through the lens of any insecurities or doubts I may have. Free me from fear that masquerades as perfectionism and gives me an excuse to put off important conversations for another day. Help me become the wise, bold, courageous woman I know You’ve called me to be. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.” 

Sunday, 13 November 2016


Chatting recently with friends who, like I, are going through a course with the Guernsey School of Supernatural Life, about mentors and friendship.  Then came across Scott Saul's blog about his new book 'Befriend'.

And then I read down, read down to a post about success and what REALLY matters. An extract here:
"As I think about these blessings, I am also struck by Jesus’ admonishment to his disciples precisely when their perceived ‘success’ and ‘influence’ was at its peak:

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them…“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven (Luke 10:17-20).

Did you catch that?

When the disciples came to him with news of their strength and influence and success, his response was to say, “Do not rejoice.”

Why? Because, as my colleague and friend, Bob Bradshaw likes to remind us often, ninety-five percent of ‘successful’ people end up failing the test of prosperity because, in many instances, there is an inverse relationship between what the world calls ‘success’ and true success. For we are successful only when we have character that is greater than our gifts and abilities, and humility that is greater than our platforms and influence.

When God prospers us for a time, when he chooses to put the wind at our backs, of course we should enjoy the experience. But we mustn’t hang our hats on it…because earthly success is temporary. If and when it comes, it does so as a gift from God and it is also fleeting. Jesus is telling us not to allow appetizers to replace the feast, or a single apple to replace the orchard, or a road sign to replace the destination to which it points. On this, CS Lewis provides essential wisdom:

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires (that is, our ambitions) not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (The Weight of Glory)

Here, Lewis reminds us that no self-serving ambition has the ability to satisfy the vastness of the human soul made in the image of God. As Augustine aptly said, the Lord has made us for himself. Our hearts will be restless until they find their rest in him....

... the story of every person who has experienced the anticlimax of having getting to the end of the rainbow and finding that there is not a pot of gold there after all, confirms a universal truth for every human heart:

Only Jesus, whose government and whose peace shall never cease to increase (Isaiah 9:7), can sustain us. Only Jesus, whose resurrection assures us that he is, and forever will be, making all things new, can fulfill our deepest desires and give us a happily ever after. Only Jesus can make everything sad come untrue (credit Tolkein with that one). Only Jesus can ensure a future in which every chapter will be better than the one before (credit Lewis). Only Jesus can give to us the glory and the soaring strength of an eagle (Isaiah 40:31). Only Jesus, whose name is above every name, and at whose name every knee will bow, can give us a name that will endure forever (Philippians 2:9-10; Isaiah 56:5).

Making much of his name is, then, is a far superior ambition than being ‘successful’ or trying to make a name for ourselves. For apart from Jesus, all men and women, even the most ambitious and successful and strong, will wither away like a vapor. “People are like grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Psalm 40:7-8).

Lastly, if this isn’t enough to give us a healthier, humbler perspective on self-exalting, self-advancing ambitions, perhaps this observation from Anne Lamott will:

One hundred years from now?
All new people.

I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s an important perspective to keep—whether living in plenty or in want.

Let’s do all things through Christ, who alone strengthens us."