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Saturday, 22 September 2018

What's Happening?

What’s happening?

I infrequently open my Twitter page but today when I did, what struck me was the question, ‘What’s happening?’ It made me smile, remembering the story I heard recently of our wee granddaughter going through a water park in California and as water sprayed from surprising directions, she reportedly kept shouting, ‘What’s happening?’

The disciples must have wondered that in those final days of Jesus’ life on earth.  Things were coming at them from surprising, and predictable, directions, and the growing sense of unease must have been alarming. I’m sure many of them asked one another, and probably Jesus, ‘What’s happening?’

As I wrote that, I remembered the song from Jesus Christ Superstar, ‘What’s the buzz, tell me what’s happening’. I’m not the first to recognise that the disciples would have been perplexed and unsure.
How often in life, though, we don’t recognise what was happening until it’s over. As we look back, we discern patterns and clues which we missed as we walked through our days.

In the confusion of our daily lives, it is so encouraging to know that Jesus is with us, that he goes before us and behind us, that he weeps and laughs with us, that he wraps his arms round us and always cares for us. It’s incredible, when you think of all the people that ever lived, and that are alive now, he knew/knows each one, and he knows what's happening.

We can trust our uncertain today and future to the God who has our back.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

All I can Be

Watching the green and changing leaves shimmer in the morning breeze outside the prayer window, I catch glimpses of a soft grey sky beyond. Growing up in southern California, there was always a slight ‘feel’ to autumn – liquid amber trees became resplendent in shades of gold and the air became nippy – but my first real encounter with autumn leaves was a year studying at Stirling University. I couldn’t get enough of the vibrancy of the season and spent many hours wandering through woods round the Wallace Monument, breathing in the beauty. I still love this season which is opening up to us now, despite the fact that it heralds the frosts and freezes of winter.

I read a quote from Elisabeth Elliot this morning: ‘A clam glorifies God better than we do, because a clam is being all he can be, whereas we are not.’ Jesus chose to be Immanuel, God with us, because he was being all he could be – which is Love. He could have looked away and let us sink into the mire. He could have opted out rather than hanging in and hanging on the cross. But in so doing, he would have denied the essence of who he is – Love. He glorifies God by being all that he can be. The trees in their autumnal regalia glorify God by being all that they can be. May I, with his help, move in that direction myself today, being all that I can be, all that he made me to be.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Your own song to sing

I took cello lessons for 10 years, most of those years with Glaswegian Mr MacKenzie, who had jumped off a cruise ship in Long Beach and put his roots down there. I think he was a great teacher, though his soft Glasgow accent rendered much of his instruction incomprehensible! I always played with sheet music, though, and as I grow older I have an inner urge to play with my soul instead, but I don’t quite know how.

So today I have tried accompanying various songs on YouTube, feeling my way through what might work, trying to ‘sing’ to God from my heart rather than from the written page. Sometimes it was cringingly wrong, but other times I felt I was on the edge of letting go and making my own sound. Not sure if my confidence is going to take me off the written page on Sunday, but I hope to try.

It’s easier to blend in and play what is written on the page. But God invites us to sing to him a new song. He wants us to sing from our hearts. Not just on Sunday in a music group, but every day, in every way. We don’t have to follow the crowd. We each have our own song to sing.

Monday, 17 September 2018


When we moved in here over thirty years ago, there was a damson tree in the garden which dripped with a profusion of fruit in the autumn. We paid the Cub Scout son of a friend, working on a ‘bob a job’ badge, to climb the tree and bring in the crop. I then discovered how labour-intensive it is to deal with damsons and in future years, as the tree’s fecundity lessened, I was relieved.

Well, the birds graciously planted a new damson for me and this year, we returned to find a carpet of the richly-coloured plums spread on the ground. I’ve now gathered them in, and am about to figure out how to deal with them. Damson gin isn’t the answer as we don’t particularly drink it and am not sure if anybody else does.

I always seem to be going on about harvesting fruit, but that is because this is such an unusual year. We’ve not really had many, if any, damsons since that early year, nor have we had the cherries or plums like we do this year. Conditions have been perfect for the crops here at the ‘hillock, though others we know have not enjoyed such bounty.

The Bible talks of Christians as people who bear the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, and so on. We are to nourish others with the goodness that comes from Jesus through us. But as they say, life happens, and sometimes the storms disturb the blossom before it can set the fruit. Or drought shrivels what is there. Not every year is a good year. When we are going through drought or storm, we may not have it in us to bear much fruit. We’re not always aware of the droughts or storms others are going through, so can find it hard when we are let down, left un-nourished by others.

My dear friend often says, ‘Put your expectations in nobody but God. Everyone else will let you down sometimes.’ It’s unintentional, often, but it may be that someone else just has no fruit to share.
If you’re in a place of plenty, may you find many ways to can, bottle, bake and infuse your fruit so others can enjoy it. And if you’re in a drought, may you draw nourishment from Jesus himself, so that his fragrance and love can once again bless others.

As Psalm 1 says, blessed are those who delight in the Lord and meditate on his word, because ‘they are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season.’

So as I tackle my crop in the kitchen, I will put on praise music and delight in the Lord, meditating on him and his wonderful love for us. And hope the fruit is not just in the jars and puddings and pies, but also in me.

Saturday, 15 September 2018


‘In .3 miles bear left,’ I said, having turned off the annoying lady on the SatNav. At least I don’t whine on about recalculating every time we have to make adjustments. But just how far is .3 miles? Tricky to know when it’s time to turn or need to remain on the road we were on. Despite my crazy directions which led to many U-Turns, Don didn’t lose his temper. He calmly adjusted our direction and we tried again. For some reason, Bristol was the worst, despite having a major landmark by which we could navigate.

It wasn’t always my poor navigation which led to our turning round. Road Closed Ahead. Twice we had to recalculate and were grateful for the book of maps. Accident on the Edinburgh By-Pass which we heard on the travel report and then found ourselves threading our way through Leith. Snow Gates Closed on the Cairn o’Mount (really! No snow yet, thankfully!) which necessitated a return to the motorway.

We drove about 2,000 miles, from one coast to another round the UK. We reconnected with friends and family. We reminisced, ate together, made new memories. We discovered treasures of geology, history, architecture, and literature which we didn’t know were there. Ironbridge. Lulworth Cove. Wells Cathedral. Ipswich. Whitby and Robin Hood Bay. Lindisfarne.

We came home expecting to find our huge crop of plums would have ripened and rotted while we were away. The morning we left, we discovered one branch had buckled and torn under the weight of the fruit, and we thought we would lose it all. But no. It’s all perfect. Even the plums on the broken branch, which remained connected enough to the trunk to continue to draw nourishment and provide fruit.

Travelling is full-on. It’s hard to find quiet space to connect with God. But even when the connection is weak from my side, He never lets go, and hopefully he can still provide fruit for others.

Friday, 31 August 2018


Preserves. I’m not sure if that is a word used in the UK for jams, but ‘back home’ we sometimes call jams, preserves. It’s a nice name, redolent of having something of value that you want to save for later pleasure.

I couldn’t resist the voluptuous brambles growing at the end of the road yesterday, and within 15 minutes had 3 pounds of plump berries. I came home and immediately set to making them into jam. Preserving their taste. In order to do this, according to the recipe I found on Google, I had to cook the berries in a little water and lemon juice for an hour to break them down and make them into a soft mush. Then I added the sugar and boiled hard until the jam was ready for bottling.

There is something immensely satisfying in seeing a cupboard full of preserves. Independent of electrical power (like all those berries in the freezer). They are there for years, until they are needed.
I love the joy of sharing the bounty with others, too. Most people are delighted to receive a jar of homemade jam, free of additives.

Jesus looks at us and, (I know this is a flight of fancy), he sees plump berries. (I make no comment on the plump aspect…) All we need is him, the sugar, and the steady heat of the Holy Spirit to preserve us. Then he can give us to the world, to sweeten the sourness, to encourage and cheer, to draw others into the fold.

May you be a sweet dollop of preserves to others today!

Wednesday, 29 August 2018


Just back from picking brambles. The sun is out; the sky is blue; my heart was singing to the Lord (and so was my mouth sometimes!)

As I filled my fourth punnet, I thought of the lavishness of this year’s bramble and cherry harvests. Delicious fruits, growing without any husbandry. They grow on the verges of the fields, fields which the farmer lavishes with care and chemicals, fields which yielded poor crops this year because of unusual weather conditions.

Everyone watches the fields for the harvests and bemoans the poor result. Relatively nobody is looking along the verges, which the Lord is blessing with abundance.

I thought of my own prayer life. I lavish most prayers on certain people and situations. I watch carefully for signs of growth. Meanwhile, what is the Lord doing along the neglected verges of my life? I am missing great things when I fail to see what the Lord is doing, and join in with him to bring in the harvest.

So my prayers  coming back changed as I asked him to show me the verges in my life, so that I can join in to bring in an abundant harvest, a harvest all down to the Lord of the harvest. I asked him to give us more workers in our community, to scour the verges for signs of growth and then to nurture and bring it into the Kingdom.

And if you’re out my way, bring some empty punnets. The verges are ripe unto a delicious harvest.