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Monday, 25 February 2013
Surrounded by farm fields as we are, the pong of fresh manure and slurry assaults our nostrils when we go outside today. The farmer has been busy (and so have the cows!).
The sun is out and it’s a glorious day, but the washing stays hanging in the house for obvious reasons.
I’ve just come in from walking round one of those fields with my neighbours and, at first, their dogs.
That field has just had a load of dung dumped in a mountain so can be avoided by walkers. But Jake, a wonderful German Shepherd, fancied a snack and much to his owner’s disgust, began munching away.
Well. He was marched home in disgrace, though for a few minutes he bounded playfully after us, unwilling to obey. Oh dear. Another disappointment.
Life is full of disappointments, large and small. Sometimes they hit on days which we assumed would only hold good things for us. On my sixteenth birthday I went to take my driving test. I failed without ever getting out of the parking lot, unable to parallel park without pushing down the pole. On the way home the disappointment turned tragic when my mother told me that she’d had our dog put to sleep that day, too. Sweet sixteen turned sour pretty fast.
But God is with us in the disappointments. Jesus promises never to leave us nor forsake us. He assures us that he has good plans for us, plans which will give us a great future.
Many things in life can disappoint us. God never does. He may do things differently than we anticipate or desire, but his love and wisdom will produce something even more wonderful than we can imagine.
That’s what our faith says, and that is what our hope relies on. So if you are feeling disappointed today, take heart and turn your focus on Jesus, who is always with you.
Thursday, 21 February 2013
After his disciples had been out on their own doing some ministry, Jesus listened to the debrief and, seeing the crowd pressing in all around and the exhaustion the disciples were feeling, issued this invitation,
“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (recorded in the book of Mark)
They jumped into a boat and headed across to the other side of the lake – by which time the crowd had anticipated their destination and arrived before them. Jesus graciously taught and then fed them.
It’s the kindness and concern evidenced by Jesus for his dear friends which I find so touching. He’d sent them on an errand; they’d done it and come back tired, though elated at the result. He knew they needed some down time – and they did get some, albeit only while on the lake crossing.
He looks at you and me today and notices how we are. He cares about how we are.
He issues the same invitation to us today. Come with me. Alone. Let’s have a little R&R.
Do you ever do that? Slip away into a quiet room with your Bible? Head out on a walk into a lonely bit of countryside, where you can listen to him without distraction?
Having a nap can be refreshing. But spending time with Jesus is not just refreshing. It’s restorative, rejuvenating, reviving joy from being in his presence.
I’m off for a walk now.
Wednesday, 20 February 2013
These are words that should convey absolute truths. You’re either wealthy or you’re not. You’re poor or you’re not.
And yet these are words which are relative.
We shared a meal last night with a wonderful woman who spends her life in a remote part of China, where she helps in whatever way she can to improve the lives of people living on the edge. I mean really on the edge. She lives in a place where people trafficking is rife, where careless words cost freedom, where freedom of movement is limited or denied, where children all receive education in boarding schools controlled and run by the state.
She has returned to the UK for a visit, and expressed surprise at what she has found. While still abroad, she read of the tough times imposed on many here by the austerity budget and poor economy, and yet she fails to see poverty as she knows it.
I write that while working on the setting up of a local food bank to help those who are going to bed hungry in this area. We have identified a need; she fails to see real deprivation.
Jesus sat outside the Temple with his friends. A poor widow approached the giving bowl and dropped in a couple of tiny coins. Mites. So small they failed to make a noise – the ostentatious givers made sure their gifts clanked and rattled when they put them in, so that others would notice and remark on their generosity.
The widow gave to God everything she had because she loved and trusted him.
Jesus looked at her and he loved her. He knew that she was giving away everything she had to live on, trusting God to provide for her. In a society with no social safety net, she threw herself on God’s goodness to look after her.
Does all this talk of austerity and tightening the belt inspire people to give more to help the growing number of poor (however that is defined), or to give less because they fear the future?
Society will only be as caring as we make it ourselves. It’s not up to the government. It’s up to you and me, digging deep.
Jesus saw the widow, and he loved her.
Tuesday, 19 February 2013
I’ve been thinking about my impact on the planet. Not just my carbon footprint (which is larger than I want it to be mainly through having family scattered around the world), but also my consumption of resources. Meat. Energy.
‘Live well; live wisely; live humbly’ counsels James the brother of Jesus in his letter in the New Testament.
Too often we – I – think living well entails dark chocolate and nice red wine, tasty food, a warm bed, good friends and family with whom to socialise. There’s nothing wrong with any of these things – especially the friends and family – but if they become the focus of my aspirations then my life becomes unbalanced and I am not living either wisely nor humbly.
To live a truly humble life I need to be more self-sacrificial, more generous, with money and time. I need to lower my own expectations for ‘good living’ – no, not lower them but re-define them.
Paul wrote that he had learned to be content in all circumstances, whether well fed or hungry, cold or warm, alone or with others.
Lord, may I be content with less, day by day.
Live well; live wisely; live humbly. I can do this through Jesus who will show me the way.
Monday, 18 February 2013
It’s a gorgeous day here today. Sun blazing out of a clear blue sky, very little wind, though the temperature is pretty close to freezing. A fine winter’s day.
One joy of living in the country is the smell of fresh air captured on sheets and clothing which has dried in the open, so I quickly stripped a bed and did a couple of loads of washing to hang out. One load was already out there when the farmer arrived in his tractor, towing the orange slurry spreader.
In minutes the fresh smells of early spring were obliterated by the rank stink of cow slurry being flung across the field surrounding our house.
Don dashed out to pull in the wash, which now hangs inside – who wants to smell like a barn?
Paul writes to the Corinthian church that Christians are the pleasing aroma of Christ to God and to believers, but to those who don’t believe, we are the stench of death. Maybe that’s why some atheists are so aggressively vitriolic against Christians. To them, we stink.
Physically, I’d rather smell like Chanel No 5 or even a pleasant shower gel than cow dung! But if I’m marinating in God’s presence and his Word daily, maybe my spiritual smell is determined more by the perception of the sniffer than the aroma of my spirit.