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Friday, 30 March 2012

Sense of Place

Last night I spent three hours downloading the pictures from my recent trips onto my laptop, and then sorting them into folders, hopefully to jog my memory in the future as to which field or church each depicts.

Some pictures won’t need me to have left a clue. Like the pictures walking down the Mount of Olives to Gethsemane.

I walked again last night from the top of the Mount of Olives, past the crouching bunkers in the oldest Jewish cemetery in the world, which are decorated not with flowers from loved ones, but with rocks to show they had visited. Each tomb has its own square ‘window’; in Jewish thought, we were told, a person is not completely dead for three days, by which time the body has been buried, so there is an escape hatch left for the soul to rise heavenwards.

There was a wee window on the tomb in which Jesus’ body was probably laid to rest. But of course his entire body rose from death, and so the round stone needed to be rolled away. He’d never have fit out the escape hatch. (...although his Resurrection body could walk through walls, so I suppose in fact, the stone was rolled away so that John, Peter and Mary could see for themselves that he was no longer there).

Jesus died to make a way for us to escape the consequences of sin and death. It wasn’t enough for us to have a wee hatch through which the most noble parts of our character might escape to heaven, sloughing off the sinful natures we all have. No. God rolled the stone away, so that Jesus might walk free, and we might walk free with him.

Jesus didn’t make an escape hatch for when we die, though. It’s an open door to walk through while we are still alive here on earth, so that we might live full lives here and now, every day. Jesus told his disciples that the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, was near. It’s as near as your heart. 

I am getting ready to walk through the week preceding Easter prayerfully, thoughtfully, alert to God’s whisper, alive to his touch. I am getting ready to weep at the betrayal by his friend, to cry at his abandonment by friends who were as close as family, to feel bereft to realize how often I betray and abandon him. 

And to rejoice on Easter morning, as the stone is rolled away and Jesus, and I in him, can walk out alive, and free.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

A fragrant surprise

The white delivery van reversed up the drive and stopped at the door. Doug and Joey frequently make purchases on-line so I concluded it was something they had ordered being delivered here. So with no sense of anticipation I went out to sign for the parcel.

As he waited for my signature, the delivery man asked if it were my birthday.

Not for a couple more weeks.

Oh well, he said companionably, maybe it’s an early birthday gift, or a late Mother’s day present. Somebody’s sent you flowers – oh, maybe I shouldn’t have told you, he concluded.

A fragrant surprise.  A gift from loved ones, out of the blue, unexpected and unnecessary but wonderfully generous and expressing a love for me which I don’t deserve, but for which I am very grateful.

‘How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!’ That verse from the first letter of the disciple John was in my reading this morning. Love is such an intangible thing, and yet when you are the object of it, you know it. I have felt the warm glow of the Father’s love over these last weeks as I spent such precious time with my elderly mother.

When, on our penultimate day in the Holy Land, the Lord threw a rainbow over the Sea of Galilee, I accepted it as a fragrant surprise, a loving gift to any of his children who would receive it. And the next morning, awakening after a rainy night to a glorious sunrise over the Sea, he  took my breath away.

How great is the love. May you receive such a great love from those you treasure today, and even more importantly, may you know the love of the Father for you, his beloved child.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The Hope of Spring

The weather is so perfect that both Don and I have been outside weeding the vegetable patch. The annual promise of delicious produce from our garden enticed us out and encouraged us to dig and dig. 

We do this every year. And most years, we are disappointed with the harvest. We enjoy some things fairly routinely – good lettuce and spinach, rasps and black currants, but usually we fail miserably with carrots, brassicas, and even potatoes. 

Sometimes we blame the weather. Too wet. Too cold. Too windy. Sometimes we don’t have time to weed and feed. Sometimes we blame the soil. Too thin. Too rocky. 

Could it be the gardeners?

I am so grateful that God is my spiritual gardener, and that he can give me just the right kind of spiritual food, the right amount of water, and the right amount of sunshine, if only I will linger long enough in his garden every day and soak it in. 

It’s the only way I can bear fruit. My prayer is that I will slow down on the activities, and increase my time resting in his presence and soaking in his Son.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Sunshine and Daffodils

Wow. What a homecoming. I flew off to Israel and California, where I experienced hail and rain (intermingled with some sunshine and warmth), and returned to the northeast of Scotland baking in the mid-70s. We’re havin’ a heatwave, and fortunately I got back in time to enjoy some of it.

It’s been a manic but wonderful two weeks, with intermittent internet access and intermittent energy to write a blog, but now I’m back in the ‘hillock I will try to resume a routine.

My main thought after such a trip is how good God is. He took me places I never dreamt I would be. He smoothed the way so that my dear Mom, 87 years old and with a stress fractured foot, was able to participate fully in the Holy Land tour. Her resilience and true grit were an inspiration, and the gift of the tour was to sit beside her in the Garden of Gethsemane and hear her dear voice singing loud and clear a hymn she sang as a child and which she says she sang to me as a baby (it worked too well – I must have fallen asleep immediately because I didn’t know it!) Amazing. Sitting underneath olive trees that were 3,000 years old, facing the wall of Jerusalem with the gate which Jesus would have passed through many times, through which Judas would have led the Temple soldiers, a shorter distance than I ever imagined across the Kidron Valley.

I hope to develop more reflections on the trip as the jet lag recedes and the brain kicks back into creative mode. 

Today I just give a heartfelt thanks to my Lord and Saviour, for my mother, my family, the trip and the homecoming, sunshine, daffodils dancing in the breeze, and two big bunches of roses from my dear soul mate Don. 

What more could a woman want?

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Walking on Water

Below me palm trees wave in the wind. The green grey sea laps gently against the rocks of a man made harbour in which nestles one of the fleet of Jesus boats which carry thousands of pilgrims out onto the Sea of Galilee every day.
I watched the sun rise here this morning. I have walked the hills of the north shore of the Lake today, hills where Jesus walked and taught, where crowds streamed out to him for teaching and healing. I have been in sight of Lebanon and Syria while visiting Caesarea or Bania, where the Roman gods were worshipped and where Jesus asked his disciples, Who do you say I am?
The closest I felt to him was bobbing on the water, looking at the same hills which were so familiar to him, where he often went to in the nights alone to pray, from which he watched his friends in trouble on the same water, in a storm, and he walked out to them.
Peter got out of the boat. He lost his focus and started to sink, but he at least got out of the boat.
For the rest of my life, I pray that I will always have the focus to get out of the boat. And walk on water.
Will you?

Thursday, 8 March 2012

the big apple

An unseasonably warm day here in the Big Apple, where the pavements are packed with people dashing to important rendezvous points, the sirens wail and the horns honk and the waiters are rude as they serve up supersized meals.
Nevertheless, we have had a great day, with a six hour bus tour which was hosted by a knowledgable native NewYorker. We've seen it all, or most of it, including a wonderful cruise round the Statue of Liberty I. Balmy spring weather which nobody can quite believe. We ended at Ground Zero, a sobering and thought provoking spot. Amazing to see St Paul's church, built around 1776 and where George Washington worshipped, standing across the street from the World Trade Center and yet only had one window broken. Seems some are attributing some sort of supernatural protection to its survival.
Well, who knows. I am sure God has been with us so far as our meeting at JFK was great and all has been well so far.
Tomorrow in Jerusalem, or at least on our way,
Can't wait.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Travelling Light

So many cables! Chargers. Converters. 

I wouldn’t call myself a high-tech traveller. But by the time you get all your bits and pieces, you find your bag is like spaghetti junction.

I’ve just about reached the point of saturation thinking, where I’ve rehearsed every contingency in my travels so often I just want to go and see what unrehearsed events impinge on the operation and require split second decisions. 

I just want to go.

I knew I was at that point when I found myself cleaning the second shower. What? The day before I fly and I’m cleaning the house?

Well, you know.

Back to the cables. All there to connect to the power. To keep me in touch with loved ones. To hear music. To take photos and record this experience of a lifetime.

How grateful I am that I don’t need some divine power cable to connect to God. I don’t need a converter to change the plug when I travel. I don’t have to worry about the battery running out right at the critical moment.

Of course ideally I will keep in touch with God constantly, my inner battery constantly fully charged. But even when I mess up, when I forget to recharge my relationship, I know that when I cry out for help, he won’t have taken a huff and gone dead on me. He’ll be there, responsive, forgiving, listening.

I’m travelling light. In more ways than one.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Excitement Rising - how about the temperature?

Into final countdown until the Big Adventure to the Big Apple and Beyond – all the way to the Holy Land! 

My To-Do lists are beginning to have more ticks and scored off bits than glaring gaps – apart from the ‘Prepare to Pack’ and ‘Pack’! 

My mind has been a maelstrom of disparate thoughts but all are beginning to coalesce into – have I made all the contingency plans possible for meeting Mom at JFK? The thought of it turns my blood to water but at least that doesn’t clot...

Next week at this time I shall be in Jerusalem. That is just such an amazing thought I can hardly take it in. I am preparing myself to feel all sorts of emotions as I walk in the land where Jesus walked. I remember how I felt walking in Ephesus and other places Paul visited or lived in.

Meanwhile, my biggest task on today’s list was the annual trip to the dentist and the underlying frisson of anxiety that he may just discover some deadly decay burrowing into a tooth. But no, today everything was perfect.

Now I’ve had a message on the answer machine. Snow in Jerusalem. NO! It’s not possible. I’m hoping to warm up there, but maybe that isn’t to be. How can I immerse myself in the Jordan and the Dead Sea, if it is snowing?

Well. We’ll see. Weather is beyond my control, as is most of the rest of the journey once we start. 

 So I am beginning to set my face towards Jerusalem. As Jesus did over two millennia ago. 

But unlike me, he was in perfect control of every detail. Though it might not have seemed so to others at the time.