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Wednesday, 29 August 2012

23 Times!

I don’t know what happened today. 

I wrote a short email to someone from the Ipad, and sent it. I had a message that for some reason it had failed to send, so I sent it again. The screen seemed to freeze so I began pushing the cancel button, which didn’t do anything. I got more frantic, alternating between send and cancel, but nothing could take it off my screen, and there seemed no way back to the inbox. 

Finally I remembered the universal tool for fixing major computer glitches. Turn it off.

When I restarted, all was well. I deleted the message just to be sure. Then I heard back from the recipient of this rather unimportant message. She had received it 23 times.

I wonder what she was thinking as it continued to come in.

I wonder what God thinks when my prayers go over the same ground, again, and again, and again. I’m sure once my message was read once or twice, it was deleted. She surely didn’t read it 23 times.

Does God listen to my repeated prayers every time? What a bore he must find me – or just plain pathetic.

I must begin to have faith that he’s heard me the first time, and doesn’t need continually reminding.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Summertime Blues

Given the summer we’ve had – or rather, haven’t had – I’d feel pretty justified claiming I had a case of the summertime blues based on the rain and cool weather. But it isn’t the weather that threatens to give me a dose of the summertime blues.

Rather, it is the fact that we are at the end of August, schools are back here in Scotland, this next weekend is Labor Day in the USA which is always the signal that summer is slipping away, and Robbie is packing his bags.

He leaves on Thursday to return to Bethel Church and continue his course at the school of supernatural ministry. He’s excited and I’m excited for him – though his absence will leave a quiet space which nobody else can fill. 

We’ve enjoyed the laughter and the fun; painted some of the house together; talked into the night about ideas and God. 

Only God never changes. Only Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The rest of us are in a state of constant flux. That’s good, because I’ve never been someone who enjoys routine for too long a spell. But it’s bad, because once a moment is passed, it’s gone forever.

We enjoyed sharing laughter looking at old photos last weekend. We all looked so young. I don’t like the implication there. 

Well, the good news is that while autumn may follow summer, winter follow autumn, and spring come next, summer will return. It will be different, but it can be fruitful and fun again.

Suddenly my mind’s jukebox is playing the song from Carousel (which Liverpool stole for their own song unfortunately) – walk on, walk on with hope in your heart.

That’s the great thing about being a Christian. There is always hope. There is the expectation that tomorrow will be different – and that’s not a bad thing.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Water Power

On a hot summer’s day, it is pure bliss to leap into the cool waters of a swimming pool or lake. Or to stand in a shower and let the refreshing drops drench from above. As it gently soaks us, the water strokes our skin gently, belying its power.

But walk along the beach and pick up a smooth stone, as we did at Stonehaven last week, and wonder,how many eons did it take for the pounding waves to reduce what was once rough and sharp to something so smooth? 

The power of water to smooth away our sharpness. I’m looking at a painting made by Fiona, which she painted as a sort of prayer picture. There is a small body of water at the top, flowing out from between two golden gates and down, down, gathering strength and power as it goes, widening into a life-giving torrent as it reaches the silhouettes of people standing with upraised arms.

Thirsty people, just waiting to receive the life giving waters from the gates of heaven itself. The refreshing waters of life promised by Jesus. Showers of mercy and grace. Coming to inundate those who wait on the Lord.

Thirsty people. Weary people. Know anybody like that?

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Spit in the Eye

I’ve been researching and writing an article on maternal deaths worldwide. I’ve just finished the article after numerous drafts, a mountain of statistics, phone calls and emails and google searches. 

It’s kind of overwhelmed me. I’d no idea just how bad it is for thousands – no, millions of women in the developing world who face childbirth unaided. 

And I guess I feel like Jesus has just spat in my eyes. I don’t mean that in any offensive way. I’m looking at Mark 8:22. A blind man was begging in Bethsaida, and his friends brought him to Jesus to be healed. Surprisingly – even shockingly – Jesus spat on his eyes. He regained partial vision, but not yet clear. It took a second time of Jesus touching his eyes for him to be able to see with clarity.

I can see clearly now. And that makes me think of the story in Matthew 25 about the sheep and the goats. The sheep were the ones who – even unwittingly – were a blessing to others through their compassion and helpfulness. The goats were the ones who – again, even unwittingly – didn’t help.

I actually love the fact that the ‘sheep’ and the ‘goats’ in Jesus’ parable weren’t aware of the high priority God gives to compassion, justice and mercy, even going so far as to identify himself with those suffering in a myriad of ways. They didn’t act – or not act – out of a sense of duty. The sheep reached out because they were impelled to by love and compassion.

I have been moved. I want to help. I don’t want to be numbered with the goats – not because I’m fearful of consequences, but because I’m heartbroken to think of women just like me (well, a little younger...) going through such needless pain, trauma and tragedy. 

The article will be printed in Woman Alive in December’s issue.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Let it be? or Make it happen?

I’ve been reading a Booker prize winner by Julian Barnes. The Sense of an Ending. A Swiss friend gave it to me, saying how much she enjoyed it. I’m now nearing the end, the second time around. It’s been even better the second time around; wondering if I should flick back to the beginning when I finish and read it one more time.

It’s hard to say why it’s so good. The story is intriguing but not gripping. The characters are well-drawn, understated. I guess it’s got my attention because in some ways, looking at the main character is like looking in a mirror, I fear. 

I fear it because the main character is a bland, inoffensive sort of guy who has really let life happen all around him. He’s careful not to cause a fuss, not to offend (well, mostly). He’s pleased that though his wife broke up the marriage, they’ve stayed on good terms. He’s relieved he has an ok relationship with their daughter. 

As the story unfolds and a truly weird situation is revealed, he realizes that he’s never really grabbed hold of life. Never steered his way through it. Never stuck tenaciously to anything. Never fought for anything. He’s just drifted along, inoffensive, average, and let life happen. Now he’s retired and he just wants to hold on to his mental faculties until it’s time to go. And he wants to go before he has spent all his money on care, so that he can leave something to his daughter. So she will have a pleasant memory of him.

No, actually, it isn’t like looking in a mirror at all. I have tried to walk in the way Jesus directs, and that has led me down paths I’ve not found comfortable, doing things I never thought I would do. He’s opened doors into ministries and blessed me with a desire to serve him. He’s given me his Holy Spirit who has really put the fizz in my life.

“This is the way, walk in it.” The Bible tells us that God directs our paths and guides us into life-enhancing situations. He invites us to step out of the boat of safety and familiarity and walk on the water with him.
When I do, life is exhilarating. Fun. Amazing. Slightly scary.

But I don’t always listen, and then, probably, is when I am like the character from the book. Just letting life happen.

Not today. My ears are open. I’m poised on the edge of the boat, ready to go over the side. How about you?

Monday, 20 August 2012


Dusty lagged behind this morning; so many good smells to investigate! I half-turned back to check her progress and found myself facing one of the many solid trees lining the path to the ‘fort’.  I pass it every day, at least once, and have noticed before the long finger of growth stretching towards the ground. 

Absent-mindedly I’ve assumed it was a weird root, like on trees in the rain forest whose roots reach from above ground, but today I recognized that it is, in fact, just a normal – but errant – branch finding its own way round a bigger branch. A branch that should be pruned.

The tree would benefit from some pruning. It would look more stately, its trunk reaching to the sky and sturdy branches only growing from it. 

I thought of John 15. Jesus is the metaphorical vine and the Father is the expert gardener, knowing exactly where to prune. Unfruitful branches are naturally lopped off but it’s interesting that those bearing fruit are also pruned so that they bear more fruit.

If we are going to resemble Jesus, we need pruning. All of us. Otherwise we become unbalanced. We may lose effectiveness because we are distracted by so many ‘good’ things to do. Sometimes the Father prunes away good things in our lives, because he has better things for us to do. It doesn’t feel good. In fact, it hurts.

But in the end, as we abide in Jesus, we will bear more fruit for the kingdom. 

So if you’re in a season of pruning, hang on. You’re going to be beautiful.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

A Sting in the Tale


Saturday the sun shone bright for the second day running. The raspberry crop, which has been rather miserable (like the rest of us) because of the buckets of rain and dearth of sunshine, might have sweetened up and ripened, I thought. Maybe I can get enough in to make at least one batch of jam.

I’d been writing all day, cooped inside on such a glorious afternoon, so as I printed out my draft I grabbed a couple of fruit boxes and headed for the veggie patch. Yes! Deep red berries sweetening on the canes. Lots of them.

I started at the far end, and noticed several big black flies competing with me. The thought passed fleetingly through my mind, that perhaps it was good I planned to cook these, in case the flies had laid any eggs ...

Then, to my surprise, I noticed some tiny wasps. Not just flying around but actually eating my rasps! There weren’t too many so I just kept picking but as I progressed down the row, numbers grew until I had another fleeting thought. I hope I don’t get stung.

Funny how often that happens. You have the thought and then, wham! You get stung. I dashed in for the vinegar and the Lanacaine, donned rubber gloves and went to fight with the little blighters, as my dad would have called them.

But I’m afraid there wasn’t much I could do. I took the berries the wasps had not yet reached but the ones they had reached were being devoured before my very eyes. 

I fear I’ve lost the rest. A plague of wasps.  A real sting in the tale.

So beware. When the Son is shining strongest, and the sweetness is rising in you – don’t forget the armour of God or you could be devoured, or at least stung.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Concrete Shoes

My thoughts stray back to the spiritual shoe shop. The other day I mentioned that in prayerfully donning the spiritual armour, I had the thought that the shoes of the readiness to share the good news that the kingdom of God is near (Ephesians 6) should be dancing shoes. The good news is so good that we should be dancing with joy, whether or not we are talking about the Kingdom.

Then the other night I had one of those nights. I awoke about 2 am and for some reason my brain kicked in and I began listing all the responsibilities I have within the church context, many of which are about to resume as schools go back. My eyes were wide open and I flipped and flopped in the bed as anxiety rose within me. 

And I thought, my dancing shoes are morphing into concrete shoes as I sink beneath the waves of items on my to-do list. The joy is draining away. 

That’s not right. I’m reminded of Mary and Martha. Mary, Jesus told Martha, made the best choice when she abandoned the household chores in order to sit at his feet and soak in what he was saying and who he was. 

When people criticise Christians for being without humour, perhaps we have changed our dancing shoes for concrete ones. Exchanged our joy for worldly anxiety.

Jesus invites us to come to him and do it his way. That takes self-discipline. It’s much more natural for me to rush around, driven by the tasks on my list, than to slip into the lay-by and rest in God.

But right now I’m headed for the lay-by. How about you?

Monday, 13 August 2012


Once upon a time, long, long ago, my older sister Judy and I hitch-hiked round Europe for three months. We were truly innocents abroad, and the good Lord had his watchful eye upon us because remarkably, apart from a couple of uncomfortable moments, we had no problems. 

We had a rough plan of where we were going and had made bookings in the youth hostels or YWCAs in the big cities, and our travelling ‘Bible’ was Frommer’s Europe on $5 a day. Incredibly, we often could survive on less than $5 a day. 

Our parents had instilled in us a fascination for Europe. Their favourite pages in the LA Sunday Times were in the travel section, and my mother often cut out and filed articles about places or hotels, for future use. They were the generation who survived the Great Depression in the US in the ‘30s, and the second world war, and finances had never stretched to enabling them to travel to Europe themselves.

So Judy and I felt like their eyes and ears, and often we would say things like, ‘Mom and Dad would love this’. When we returned to California, tired and ready to be taken care of for awhile, we developed our slides, put our souvenirs in scrapbooks and tried to share with Mom and Dad the joys of our trip. 

I still remember the feeling of quiet disappointment when I would see them glazing over as we reminisced, often in fits of laughter, about various episodes of the trip. I had thought they would be hanging on our every word, but having watched other people’s slide shows and heard their stories many times since, I now understand. Hearing about someone else’s experiences, however interested you are and however exciting they may be, is just not as enthralling as it is for those who were there.

One of the bereavements I’ve felt since Judy’s death is the loss of my travelling buddy, and the sadness of not being able to connect with her anymore in knowing looks and laughter as we might recall certain incidents of the trip.

God instructs us to remember the big events of our spiritual journeys. I’ve always thought of that as being important for us in our life of faith, so that when we are in tough times, perhaps, we buoy ourselves up with recollections of God’s constancy and faithfulness. 

But in a relationship, both parties take delight in recalling high points in their lives. Judy and I loved sharing our memories. Don and I frequently laugh over events during our lifetime together. The grown-up ‘kids’ enjoy trips down memory lane as we pull up shared experiences. 

And so with God. I no longer think he calls us to remember certain things just for our own good. I think he invites us to linger with him and laugh as we recall momentous events in our own spiritual journeys. My moment of being born-again in the Spirit wasn’t only a momentous event for me. God was there. He was laughing too. He loves to recall that moment as well. The angels in heaven were singing and maybe even dancing. 

He is my travelling buddy on my journey of faith, just as he is yours. He loves it when we remember with joy those close encounters we’ve had over the years. He’s there when we remember the dark times, the tricky bits when we’ve not felt his closeness, and he is always calling us, drawing us back. 

How great is that? Don’t you just love Him?

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Endued with power


That is kind of a new word to me. Endued. The dictionary says it means to invest or endow with some gift, faculty or quality. 

I just read it in Psalm 89, where the writer describes God’s arm as ‘endued with power’. I’ve got an image in my mind from the Olympics of men’s powerful arms. 

Did the biceps of Jesus bulge with powerful muscles? I doubt it – I think Scripture is talking about a different sort of power, a different sort of arm even. 

But it’s good to have an image in my brain. It’s even comforting to have an image. Power can seem random, but the next verse of this Psalm gives God attributes of righteousness and justice, love and faithfulness. He is light and he desires a personal relationship with his children. A personal God, who is the glory and strength of those who love him and celebrate who he is.

I love knowing that God is endued with power, and that he is the source of love. 

Don’t you?

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The camera never lies

I’m sure the camera does lie ...

The expression used to be, ‘the camera never lies’. I know that isn’t true anymore, what with Photoshop and airbrushing and so on. 

I just got my picture taken in one of those photo booths where you get four printed out for official use in passports or documents. I wish the camera had lied, just a little bit! I look as old as the hills. Sorely in need of airbrushing.

Part of the trouble with those official pictures is the requirement that you keep a straight face. I look like I’ve been in a police cell. I don’t understand the reasoning. My default reaction to meeting someone, for instance at a security barrier in an airport, or getting on a bus, is to smile. If the official is comparing the living and breathing me to this grumpy old lady in the picture, I hope that they have trouble seeing it’s the same woman. 

I am so grateful that God looks at what’s on the inside rather than at my outward appearances. As youth fades and the years take their toll, I am praying that the inner me is looking increasingly beautiful! I know that doesn’t happen automatically; grumpy old men and women are a dime a dozen. 

I’m determining that that is not going to be me. I am going to make every effort to stay as close to God as I can, so that the core of my being reflects something precious made by God, even as gravity pulls me down. I want a radiant inner life to reflect God to the world, however I appear physically.

By the grace of God, I will manage it, but not by my own efforts. That’s for sure.

Friday, 3 August 2012


I walked down the familiar lane, eyes fixed on my mobile phone as I texted one of my sons. Sent the text, looked up and saw I had walked into a wonderland of delicate beauty – unawares.

The morning had started with a low cloud cover, leaving droplets of moisture to pick out the billions of spider webs on every bush, tree and even the grass on the ground. Of course they were beautiful – lacy and fragile yet strong. It wasn’t their beauty that spoke to me this morning, though, so much as their hiddenness – now revealed.

It reminded me of something Jesus taught. That everything we say and do will one day be revealed. Although we may think we can get away with something, one day it, like these spider webs, will be revealed. 

That was my negative thought – or challenging one, anyway. On a more positive note, I was thinking about something I went to this week called CLAN. Christians Linked Across the Nation. It happens every year at this time, when a ‘big top’ style marquee/tent is erected in a (muddy) field in St Andrews, encircled by a clutch of smaller marquees. Thousands of Christians gather to celebrate Jesus the Saviour, to be challenged about their Christian walk by excellent speakers, and to be educated about the various initiatives happening round the world to help other people, Christians and non-Christians. And to have fun. To eat and laugh together. To share ideas, be inspired by God, and encourage each other.

It is a time for networking. Those invisible threads – at once so fragile and yet so strong – which link believers across the nation become exposed. People discover they are not praying on their own about a situation, but that God has actually raised up a family of people who are inspired to pray on for the health and sake of the nation, the world, and individuals. Old friendships are renewed, new friendships are made, the links are strengthened and as the week draws to a close, prepare to be hidden once again. 

It’s a beautiful, wondrous network of love for one another, rooted in an abiding love for Jesus. A network – a family – which will stand the test of time and remain family for all eternity. A family which draws strength from looking up first, and then looking out. 

I’ve glimpsed the future, and it’s all good. Hallelujah.