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Monday, 30 April 2012


I woke up this morning with the excitement of knowing I could get through the day without getting into a car. I anticipated getting on with one or two long-term projects which I want to get done so that I can spend some time writing again. I’ve got an idea, and I want to develop it.

But before I knew what was happening, my day was hijacked. I thought that my to-do list was short but once that e-mail box was opened, it seemed to stretch out and take up the entire morning. 

Now lunch is over, nearly time to walk the dog again, and I’ve done nothing that I’d planned to do.

Self-discipline is required. A setting of priorities and a determination to see those priorities through.

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.’

Even at my age, God has plans for me. Plans for the future.  Do they include writing? Or is he happy that I spend so much time on other Christian tasks?

I need to be listening more attentively to his voice, so that I can shed any distractions that have fallen upon me, but which are not mine to carry, and I can take up those things which are for me. I need to know God’s plans.

Anyone else have the same challenge?

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Relationship Not Religion

I read somewhere the other day that Jesus came not to start a religion, but a relationship.

Thank God for that.

I hate religion, with all its boundaries and man-made rules and regs. All the arguments that rage over building alterations, forms of worship music, and obscure doctrine smack of religion. 

I’ve just spent an hour sitting with Jesus, mulling over Psalm 16. Chewing it. Pondering it. Meditating on it.
And I’ve been renewed and refreshed. Encouraged to embrace Him and let him embrace me. Challenged to let go of anything that entangles me and keeps me from spending time with him.

I am determined to make yet another effort to spend more quality time with God. 

Not because I have to. But because I want to, because I love him, and I know its value.

It’s the value of a close relationship, rather than obedience to a set of rules.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Seeing myself as others see me

What a humbling and rather gruelling thing it is to watch yourself speak. I’ve winced and contorted whenever I’ve heard my voice on an answer machine in the past – surely I can’t sound that bad, can , I? But now I can watch myself in full Technicolor giving the time for reflection to the Scottish Parliament last Wednesday. 

You can watch it too.

I never knew I looked so serious. I thought I smiled at a couple of light-hearted comments. But no. No wonder nobody laughed. 

I never knew I spoke so slowly. I thought I was punchier. Showed a bit of life. But no, a very serious delivery.
I’m sure much of that is down to nerves. I didn’t feel overly nervous, but when I watch it now, I recognize the signs. 

It’s one thing to be able to stand up and share a few words in public. It’s another to be able to do it in a relaxed, chatty, accessible way. Of course, I couldn’t be too relaxed and certainly couldn’t be chatty as I had to stick to the script, which had been approved. And I only had four minutes, max.

I remember my classmate Mike Lipson, student body president at Millikan High School in Long Beach the year we graduated. He had to have his speech for the Baccalaureate service approved prior to giving it, but then he launched into an attack on school dress codes instead. For his crime, he was banned from walking through our graduation ceremony a week later – and graduation ceremonies in the States are a big deal. It was the scandal of the year for the class of ’69.

I wonder if anyone was reading along with my words on Wednesday, and if the microphone would have gone dead or I’d have been stripped of my right to vote had I digressed significantly from what was approved.

I don’t know, but I do know that although I can spout off with some rebellious opinions between the four walls of my home, I never really seriously considered embracing the moment of exposure to rant on about some cause or other. I never felt remotely tempted to write an alternative reflection to deliver instead. I’m just not really a rebel.

Or at least, that’s not the way I see myself. I wonder how God sees me.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012


We arrived at the Scottish Parliament building just ahead of the protest march. There were police everywhere.
Donald Trump was in the building, giving his opinion on wind farms as they impact on the view from his proposed hotel. He bandied figures around, suggesting his investment far outweighed that of a wind farm. He stated that the hotel would not go ahead if the wind farm did. Money is power, and he was wielding it. 

We watched him on the monitor in the lobby as we waited for our escort, Diane. She arrived, effervescent and contagiously cheerful, exuding friendliness and extolling the joys of working in this atmosphere. 

The members’ restaurant has a stunning view of Arthur’s Seat, down which we could see the occasional athlete running, cycling or even, perhaps, grass skiing. The food was delicious, and our MSP was inspiring. Dennis Robertson, blind since he was 11, became an MSP last year, shortly after the death of his daughter from anorexia.

Personal tragedy has perhaps contributed to shaping him into a man of principle and compassion. Formerly a social worker, his interest in the welfare of others keeps him working long hours. He’s not investing millions in a hotel with the aim to increase his fortune. He’s investing himself in his country with the aim to help people.

Sarah came to take me to the Debating Chamber, where I would deliver the Time for Reflection. My heart pounded and the adrenalin pumped. Don and our friends headed for the gallery. 

I had four minutes.

Four minutes to encourage Dennis Robertson and his colleagues, many of whom also work to serve the people who have elected them. Four minutes to challenge them to take risks in working to make the world a better place. Four minutes to bless them with the peace of Jesus Christ.

I was blessed by the experience, and I pray that others were too.

And at the end of the day, who was trumped?

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Sudden Squalls

The Sea of Galilee is prone to sudden squalls, roiling up out of nowhere. When I was there last month, the water was steely grey and choppy, but fortunately for us, while we were out on it there was no dramatic deterioration of the weather. I’m not great on boats in bad weather. Sailing off the west coast of Scotland has proven that.

After our early morning sea voyage that day, quietly contemplating or singing worship songs, we disembarked and did some other sightseeing in the area. When we returned to our hotel room that night, the rainbow over the Sea was just amazing. Such a gift.

I’m leading the reflections in the Scottish parliament tomorrow afternoon, and will be speaking about one instance when Jesus’ friends were out on the Sea of Galilee without him. When a fierce storm blew up, they thought they were done for, but then they saw Jesus approaching, walking on the water. They were all terrified he was a ghost, which he reassured them he was not.

When Peter asked him to prove it by calling him to his side on the water, Jesus did, and Peter leapt out of the boat and over the side. While his eyes remained fixed on Jesus he did not sink, but when he was distracted by the winds, down he went. Jesus took his hand and helped him back into the boat.

It’s such a picture of hope. When we are overtaken by sudden squalls in our own lives, Jesus is there, in remarkable ways. Maybe in the words of a song or the sound of a bird. In the laughter of a child or a rainbow. 

Tomorrow I’ll be talking about getting out of the boat. But today, I like the assurance that even in the sudden squalls, Jesus is with us, reaching out to help us back into a safe place.

Jesus is always with us.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Who am I to be doing this?

Monday morning and I’ve made a LIST. 

It’s as long as my arm and if I’m honest, I know I don’t have much hope in getting them all checked off today. Or ticked off, as they say in Britain – but to me that still has connotations of being annoyed with someone. I check things off my list, rather than tick them off. But I digress.

It’s hard to discern on a list of 25 actions, which is the most important. Where do I start? Some are obvious – put the wash on because the sun is out, though now that the load has finished, it’s raining again. Darn!

Others happen at certain times. Cook dinner. Make various phone calls which need to be made later in the day, when certain people are up on the other side of the world. 

When I finish some things, I can check them off with assurance that they are finished for today. Walking the dog. Ironing. But other things linger on. 

Today the big lingerer is practicing what I am going to say when I lead the Time for Reflections in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday. It’s not that I am free to make any changes to my script, because it had to be approved two weeks ago. But now that I’m trying to memorize it, how can I be sure that I have it nailed? I’m nowhere near there yet, but will I know when I am?

More disturbingly, doubts tickle the edges of my mind. ‘This is pretty mundane.’ ‘Nothing profound nor even interesting in what you’re saying.’ ‘They will have heard it all before.’

So I’m getting a case of the Jeremiah jitters. The Moses doubts. Who am I to be doing this?

And the answer is obvious. I’m nobody. But I’m counting totally on my Saviour to take the paltry words I have to say and imbue them with life and power, so that those who hear the words, hear his voice speaking through them. And when they hear his voice, I pray that they will be inspired to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly before God.