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Friday, 31 May 2013

I can't hear you!

It was a glorious, stunning morning. A beautiful day, right up until second dog walk time about 3 pm, when the clouds gathered and a coolness gripped the air. 

A car passed me, slowly, with a bike rack on its back. The driver stopped in the lane down which Dusty and I usually walk. A white haired gentleman. We exchanged pleasantries about the weather beginning to break and he explained he’d dropped his wife off further along the road to cycle. He was supposed to pick her up at the end of the road, but given the impending rain, he thought he should wait half way along it. He wished me a pleasant walk, and we carried on our way.

I’d not gone far when I heard the sound of a woman’s voice, slightly raised, rather irritated. I think she was berating him for waiting in the wrong place, and then she called out loudly, “I can’t hear a word you are saying!” as she cycled past him.

She obviously hadn’t noticed me and thought she was alone with her husband in the middle of nowhere.

What a shame, that someone who was only thinking of his wife’s comfort should be soundly berated by her. How often that happens, that we snap an irritated retort off to the ones we love the most, without really understanding them. How often we bite the ones we love, and put on a show of sweetness to those we barely know.

How often we do that to our heavenly Father, too. He makes an adjustment to our circumstances, or allows our situation to change, and we shout at him, assuming he’s just got it wrong and concluding he doesn’t really have our best interest at heart. We may even pound on past him, metaphorically speaking, shouting that we can’t hear him, without ever pausing to listen.

When was the last time you took time out to listen to God? When was the last time you really listened to those you love? 

I took an hour this morning to listen to God. Now I’m trying to listen more carefully throughout the day to him, so I don’t race on by on my own trajectory and ignore a change he perhaps wants to make to it. 

My plan is to try to listen more carefully to those I love, too. So hold me to it.

Thursday, 30 May 2013


Everybody’s dragging. For those with school connections, it’s nearing the end and no doubt the echoes of ‘sprint!’ aren’t helping. Sometimes you’re just too tired to sprint. Even putting one foot in front of the other seems challenging.

And yet. We are about to open the doors of a local food bank to help provide meals for those in crisis, and we have been blessed with over forty volunteers to man it three times a week, and the food collection is phenomenal. So many people want to help. Despite their own fatigue. There’s just something awful about thinking there may be a family in a kitchen near you whose cupboards are bare.

Most of us like to do things to help others. It makes us feel affirmed and justifies our own existence in a way. 

But we are human beings, not human doings. We don’t need to justify ourselves, because Jesus has done that for us. Sometimes we just need to take time to sit and contemplate. To accept refreshment from our Lord, who gives the water of life that springs up inside of us then and provides restorative refreshment for others. 

If we don’t pause by the well occasionally, we miss that crucial breather. We may muster up the strength to keep going, but our spirits gradually dry out, dessicate, and we find we have nothing to refresh anyone else with, because we are dehydrated ourselves.

Seek the Lord. Call on him. There is peace like a river, and glorious life. And water in abundance so that you will never thirst again, as long as you continue to draw from Jesus.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013


The ferns are unfurling their primeval leaves in a very weird way at the moment. They remind me of very long snails with very tiny shells, growing tinier by the minute. Soon they will fully unfurl and become the familiar fans which grace so many flower arrangements. But at the moment, weird.

They must come from the time before man, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, if Jurassic Park is to be believed anyway. They still retain that simplicity reminiscent of something at its earliest stage of development.

Did God need a bit of practice before he went for the orchids and roses, then? Before he drew a deep breath and created Adam and Eve? Hah. As if.

God’s ways are not our ways. His thoughts are higher and beyond anything we can ask or imagine. His abilities are unlimited; his power is awesome. 

Everything about this world is part of his plan. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. 

So as the world unfurls around us, he knows that it is turning into something more beautiful than we can imagine. He knows the end from the beginning. He knows that one day this world and everything in it will be recreated and it will be perfect, just perfect.

Like he is.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Father God

What word would you associate with ‘teenager’? I imagine that many of us would immediately respond ‘rebellious’. I know I would.

We raised four wonderful kids who are our best friends, but it wasn’t always like that. There were a few years in there where they chafed against restrictions, where they were moody and longing for more freedoms than we were prepared to grant, and where tension at meal times was commonplace. 

At those times, I doubt that any would have agreed that we were drawing boundaries because we loved them so much. 

Now God is our heavenly Father. He loves the world so much – everyone in it – that he gave his most precious possession, his only son, to come and live among us and make a way for us to be restored to friendship and intimacy with him. We, his children, have been acting like rebellious teenagers ever since we bit into that bit of fruit in the garden, and there was no way we could ‘hang out’ with God. 

He wanted to hang out with us, because despite our rebelliousness, he still loves us. Well, that’s not so hard to understand, as I know that despite our kids’ rebelliousness, we still loved them. (we didn’t always like them, though!) So Jesus came into the world, paid the price for our sins on the cross – took the punishment which we deserve – and there is now no condemnation for any of us who invite Jesus to be our Lord. No condemnation. Jesus paid it all.

So when we are truly sorry for our sins, there is no condemnation, no punishment. We are restored to intimacy with God without doing time first. 

A survey in the US revealed that ¾ of the participants thought of God as judgmental, scary, and distant. But one quarter recognised that God is love. And Scripture says there is no room for fear in love. He loves us. He doesn’t want to punish. He wants us to love him, but to do so freely, of our own volition, not because we are forced or coerced into it. 

He wants us to choose to love him, and when we love someone, we want to please him/her. We want to serve. We want to tell others about how wonderful that person is.

Or in this case, God.

He is. He is love. He is amazing. He loves you with an everlasting love. Wow.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Layer upon Layer

While checking for signs of rotten wood on an old roof, Don discovered the roofers had, over the years, built up a thick bulk of layer upon layer of roofing felt. Maybe seven in all, when in fact, fire regulations limit the permissible number of layers to three. 

Workmen who had re-roofed the house a few times over the last half-century had lazily stapled new felt onto old. They couldn’t be bothered removing the old, and were pretty sure the couple who lived in the house would never know the difference anyway. They got away with it.

The old layers of felt had grown dry and brittle in the hot sun. They cracked and crumbled and disintegrated in his hands. They were a fire hazard.

Sometimes we assume that it won’t hurt, and might even be better, to accept something new, say a new belief system, without properly rejecting and removing the old. We think it’s working fine because when the rains come, the roof doesn’t leak. When we are in difficulties, we are able to apply some of the new beliefs and avoid being drenched by the deluge of problems. 

We don’t realize that unseen, underneath, the old system is beginning to crumble and crack, ready to flare whenever a spark flies near. The ensuing blaze may completely destroy us.

What are those hidden beliefs that are a crumbling danger in your life? What are they in mine? Some may be obvious, others may need the light of the Holy Spirit to highlight them. Maybe an irrational flirting with astrology or eastern mysticism, or a reliance on money or prestige. Maybe the delusion of total self-reliance and independence, a fierce rejection of the notion of needing anyone or anything. 

It only takes a spark. 

I need to set aside time, time to be with God, to allow his Spirit to search me and know my heart, to discover any hidden sin within that threatens to destroy me. God is such a loving Father, so eager to bring healing and wholeness to each one of us. 

A willingness and openness, a humble heart ready to shrug off the veneer of respectability in order to reveal and reject the layers of detritus beneath. Jesus took all that detritus to the cross. I’m going to let him cleanse me from mine.

I don’t want to get away with it any longer.