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Friday, 18 August 2017



It always sounded like a bad joke. When I was in high school, we had to do a series of physical fitness tests President Kennedy introduced to make sure young folk were keeping fit and not getting obese. Sounds kind of current, eh?

The tests ranged from doing as many sit-ups as you could in a set time (I think it was a minute or so), press-ups, 50-yard-dash, throwing the softball as far as you could, and the one I hated the most, the long-distance run. I think it was 660-yards, which doesn’t sound so far but I don’t like running, unless it’s on a tennis court after a tennis ball. It was so competitive. With my PE class standing on the sidelines and the teacher with the stop watch, it was further than I wanted to run, and certainly I didn’t want to be timed! 

Reaching the home stretch, the cries would go up from friends and classmates, ‘Sprint!’ I always felt my lungs would collapse, or my legs would turn to jelly and give way, and I never seemed to be able to dig deep enough for that final burst of speed. Reaching the finish line would be enough for me: I didn’t care about the time.

The Bible advises that if we are to run our life’s race with endurance, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus. He was able to go to the cross because his focus was on God and the joy of reunion with his Father. Sometimes a season of life is like a long-distance run. If there is a finish line in sight, those last yards can seem to stretch forever and demand our last ounces of strength. Never mind a burst of speed; we just need to cross the line. It can help to have friends encouraging from the sidelines, but sometimes it’s enough to know they are praying you over the finish line. 

Praying for those today who are nearing the finish line.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

No More Violence!

Presidents shouting across the world at each other, threatening and bragging that each has the firepower to bring the other country to its knees. Each feeling superior.

Through the streets of Charlottesville they marched, dressed in basic costumes which send chills down the spine, brandishing flags and bristling with arms as massive as AK-47s. Feeling superior. 

‘As long as there is gender inequality, we will have domestic abuse.’ Words I heard today at an informative session run by Grampian Women’s Aid, in which we learned the appalling fact that 1 in 4 women in the UK suffers domestic abuse, and 2 women die from such assault every week.

Jesus said to love our neighbours as ourselves. We are all children of God. In Christ there is no Jew nor gentile, no male nor female, but all are the same in God’s eyes. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. 

Praying tonight for his kingdom to come, his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Sweet peas

Don planted the sweet peas this year. Having run out of time to start them as seeds, we purchased seedlings from a garden centre and he put them in. Most of them went in the usual spot, where the trellis is strong for them to cling to. The extra went beside the rhubarb, where there is another support network, less robust but there nonetheless.

The ones in the usual spot are thin and straggly, with few blooms. They have reached the top of the trellis and are beginning to topple. The blooms are often single rather than double. Despite fertilising, the soil there is depleted. I’m negligent at summer feeding and really only do it before planting, and the result is there for all to see. Scraggly stems, few blooms. Nevertheless, their fragrance is intoxicating.

The leftover seedlings planted by the rhubarb are robust. They have been lounging over the top of the support for weeks now, so that all of the strong-stemmed blooms start out headed earthwards before they curve back towards the sky. All the blooms are doubles, and like their weaker cousins, their fragrance is intoxicating. The soil there is not worn out. The position in the garden is more open to the sun. There are no potatoes competing for nutrients nor mint marauding their roots.

I’ve been busy. Yesterday afternoon I had things to do. There are always things to do in this house, in this garden, and it was a nice day. I sat down in the conservatory, and three hours later I sat there still, catching up on reading, having time to pray and enjoy the presence of the Lord. A bit of respite.
I went into the conservatory draped over the supporting arm of the Saviour, feeling straggly and knowing if blooms there were, they were singles. Maybe there was a hint of the perfume of the Lord, but it was time. Time to be fed. Time to rest. Time to sit in the Son. Time to listen to his voice.

It will take more than a couple of hours on a random day for me to begin to bloom like my prolific sweet peas. But hopefully wisdom will win here, and I won’t neglect the feeding and resting and basking in the light.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Nothing noble about wrinkles

The follow-up to a busy time in the B&B is Mt Everest in the laundry basket, awaiting ironing. This is the real down side of running a B&B: the ironing of sheets and duvets. I redeem the time somewhat by listening to the Bible in one year or worship music or a sermon podcast, but still. At the end of the day, I’m standing for over an hour pushing a hot iron up and down wrinkled cotton.

The wrinkled cotton is the hardest to get the crease marks out of. Some of the blended fabrics are a breeze by comparison.

We are each unique: the fabric of our personalities is particular to each one of us, made up of our genes, our experiences, our upbringing and probably a thousand other things. The wrinkles in our personalities are harder set in some of us than in others. 

It’s the pressure and the heat that removes the wrinkles. Much as we don’t like discipline or hard times, those are the things that iron out the creases of our characters.

My mom used to keep a water bottle in the fridge, with the lid punctured with nail holes. When she brought the clothes in from the hot California sun, the wrinkles would be emblazoned into the fabric. They were removed easier with the application of a light sprinkling of water from that bottle. 

Heat and pressure are not always enough to remove the wrinkles of our personalities: sometimes we need the gentle rain of the Spirit to loosen us up and smooth them out.

I’ve been doing some writing around Proverbs, and was impressed last week with the dictionary definition of noble. ‘Magnanimous, a courageous spirit, generosity of mind’. This is my goal now: to become noble. I love this definition, this word. I think my mom has shown nobility in many ways. 

I fear that the Lord is going to need to apply heat, pressure and a generous sprinkling of the Spirit to loosen up the wrinkles that impede nobility in me. Ready and willing, Lord. And slightly nervous.

Blackcurrant Jam or Syrup?

We picked the blackcurrants on Rena’s bushes one evening last week. She is no longer able to get out there and pick them and was worrying about them all going to waste. Our own bush was pretty barren this year, so we arranged to pick hers and make the jam.

Deep breath. I confess I’d been relieved to have a barren bush. Picking, cleaning, making the jam is a lengthy process. But now I had Rena’s currants. Thinking to streamline the work, I used a jam thermometer, rather than testing like I usually do. It’s backfired; the jam reached the required temp away before it was at setting point, and I knew it but I put it in jars anyway. I had to move on to the next thing on my list.

Now, two days later, I’m re-boiling it. There’s only so much blackcurrant sauce one can use.

There’s a proverb (19:21) that states that we make our own plans but it’s God’s purpose that prevails. 

I always have a ‘to-do’ list and I’d ticked the jam off it. Now it’s back on, and I’m stirring a pot of blackcurrant syrup, staring catatonically at the figure of eight. Now it’s boiling. Now I’m testing it. I want to get it right this time.

It’s slowed me down. After a wonderfully busy couple of weeks, I’m tired. Perhaps the Lord will say something amazing to me through the stirring of the jam. Or perhaps he will just bring me into a quiet place where I can rest.