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Saturday, 31 August 2013

Hope springs eternal

Having a dog to walk is such a blessing. She gets me out and moving even when I feel pressured by many things to do.

Dusty’s facial expression is often a snapshot of what hope looks like. When she sees me preparing to go out in the car, she sticks close and fixes me with a gaze with a transparent message of hope. When I sit to relax in an evening, she will often stand in front of me, again fixing me with a message of hope until she hears those magic, to her, words – ‘Pig’s ear?’

So this morning is glorious again and I took her round the ‘wet walk’ at Crathes, lingering longer at each of the watering holes to fling sticks which she retrieved as in days of old – leaping in with abandon. Oh, that I might still be so agile when I reach 7 x 12 years old.

The trees, grand and sedate, stretch up into a blue sky and I reflected as I walked about hope. Images of the news from Syria clog my mind, and I can’t make sense of that in relation to hope. But our Christian joy is that we have hope in Christ, and so my thoughts continued on the theme of hope.

I became aware of the web of tree roots which vein every path. Vulnerable to every passing hiking boot and urinating dog, the dirt round each erodes and exposes increasing amounts of root.

Sometimes we put our hope in things that are vulnerable to erosion. We put all our hope on a horse, perhaps (!), or in a person, or a job, or an examination. Dangerous to make ourselves so vulnerable.

The Bible teaches that hope in God does not disappoint. Again and again the psalmist charges the reader to ‘put your hope in God / in the Lord / in his unfailing love / in his word’. Isaiah writes that ‘those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.’ (40:31)

In the New Testament there are many references to hope as an anchor, in Christ, the hope of glory. 

So back to the tree roots, and my thoughts return to Psalm 1, which says that the man who is blessed by God is ‘like a tree, planted by streams of water.’ Its roots are deep, stretching down to the water source, away from the vulnerability of life’s storms and assaults. 

Even when I think of the horrors and atrocities around the world, crimes that make no sense and cause every caring person’s spirit to cry out and groan in protest, I know that the most effective and sensible thing for me to do, is to put my hope in the Lord. Be it soon or be it later, He will avenge.

And in the meantime, my responsibility is to go on hoping in him, and doing all that I can do as his hands and feet and bank account to help others, as long as I draw breath.

So thanks, Dusty, for your hopeful look this morning. It’s taken me on a journey.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Riding the Waves

As I walked Dusty back home this morning, I watched the swallows practicing their acrobatics. Every year as autumn approaches, they begin to train for their long migration. We watch as they duck and dive, lining up on the electric and telephone wires, then switching places; one darting off, sometimes initiating a flurry of feathered friends following, sometimes all the rest remaining on the wire until the one repositions himself.

Tonight, on yet another short walk, it is nearly dusk and one of the big birds of prey, a hawk or buzzard, glided out of the canopy of trees and with apparently little effort, flapped its wings a couple of times and climbed high into the sky, where it caught the thermals or breezes of some kind and slid back down towards earth.

Both birds with feathers and wings. Both fly high, one with joyful zest and speed and much flapping and manoeuvring, part of a choreographic display preparing for opening night; the other alone, solitary, moving with dignity and very little flapping, not ready to migrate but preparing to endure the winter to come.

God made them both. Just as he made all kinds of people. None is better than another. Just different. 

Some of us are socialites who enjoy the give and take of a group, the to and fro of the dance of life. Some of us are loners, preferring to soar or dive, solo, always solo. Some of us are black. Some of us are white. Some of us eat potatoes. Some of us eat rice.

The joy of diversity should be celebrated. How mundane it would be were we all the same. What a shame it is, then, when prejudice and judgment divide us into opposing camps.

Do everything you can, the Bible advises, to maintain the unity of the Spirit. Everything you can.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Granite Walls

We put our roots down in this home 33 years ago and haven’t thought of moving since. It is very easy, in such circumstances, to feel rooted and grounded in a place, rather than in a Person. It is very easy to base your sense of security on the granite walls of this home, rather than in the love of Jesus.

I’ve just been thinking about some people close to me who are in a period of transition, having heard the call of God yet being in a holding pattern, waiting to see what exactly he has for them. It’s a case of waiting in hope, and my Bible reading this morning was from a letter someone (possibly Paul) wrote to the Hebrew followers of Jesus. He encouraged them: ‘Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.’ 

There is something exhilarating about living on the edge. It is something life-enhancing, I think. But that’s easy for me to say as I sit back surrounded by stability. I’ve settled back into a comfort zone which actually has nothing to do with where I live, but everything to do with how I live. 

The next line in that passage in Hebrews says ‘Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds.’ It’s easy to become lazy and comfortable; it’s easy to find excuses for not going the extra mile to help someone, to visit someone, to show God’s love to someone who is hurting. 

We know a couple who, at retirement age, sold up everything – not just their home but everything in it – soft furnishings, dishes, the lot. They each kept one thing which was special to them: she kept a rocking chair; he kept a desk. For a year or two they lived a nomadic lifestyle, helping with elderly parents and aunties, helping with grandchildren. They took temporary jobs wherever they were: she as a nurse, he as an IT professional. Eventually they bought a small home in Arizona, where they live during the hottest time of the year, and when the weather improves, they rent it out to those seeking to escape colder northern climates, and live a few months of nomadic existence again.

It is a powerful reminder of the journey of life. We aren’t going to be in this home on the hillock forever. We may one day move out to somewhere easier to manage, closer to a bus route. We will one day certainly pass from this life to the next. It’s a journey, and we’re not meant to plump up the pillows and relax.

So today I’m thinking of those things for which I’ve been hoping, some over long years. And I’m holding unswervingly to the hope I profess, for Jesus, who promised, is faithful. 

And in the meantime, while I’m holding on to my hopes, I’m going to show my love to some others in practical ways.

Time to get moving.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Sensory Perception

A small posy of sweet peas perfumes the air beside me. There is something near divine about the fragrance of sweet peas, and roses. And lilies: I have been blessed over the weekend by people I love bringing me bouquets of lilies. God is good, and the fragrance of those lilies reminds me of the love of family and friends.

Walking Dusty this morning, I saw a common old garden pigeon lift off the field and fly to the top of a tree. I thought how magnificent an achievement that is! To be able to lift your body by the power of your wings and fly so high – it makes it seem much more splendid than a common old garden pigeon. 

God’s creation is amazing!

We continued along the road, where the field is raised above the road and obscured by the vegetation. I turned back to wait for Dusty and became aware of a noise. The noise of cows grazing peacefully through the field above, out of sight yet revealed because I could hear them. Praise God for my hearing!

Further along, my nostrils were assailed by the smell of death. I doubt if I smelled that when I grew up in a big city, thankfully, but here in the country it’s a smell I recognize. Perhaps it was a deer in the undergrowth, or a rabbit or something else. It’s not a nice smell. Everything in creation is not thriving; the fall has spoiled what God had planned.

These perceptions reminded me of how dormant our spiritual senses have become. I know of some people whose lives are so entwined with the Lord's that they can feel a coldness in a room where evil may be lurking; some who can see light surrounding someone who is being blessed by God in a particular way; some who can hear clearly when God guides. 

These people are not special. God is special, and his desire is that we all live open and receptive lives, alert and responsive to the very real spiritual world which surrounds us.

My prayer today, for you and for me, is that our spiritual senses will be stimulated and satisfied so that we can better serve our loving Creator God.

Monday, 26 August 2013

River Baptism

Dusty went to a river baptism with us yesterday. 

Of everyone there, including the young woman getting baptised, I think Dusty was most ready to leap into that River Dee. But she had to wait.

She had to wait on the lead so that she would not steal the show, nor disrupt the proceedings by shaking a wet coat all over a dry person. 

She doesn’t know how to wait patiently, but eventually she did lie at my feet, for a time. 

As we all celebrated the new life symbolised by this young woman’s ‘dunking’ in the water, Dusty paddled along the rocky shore, ecstatically happy, cooling off. It was another brilliant summer’s afternoon in Royal Deeside. 

She paid for her exuberance later, limping slightly, sleeping lots. And in the night, she managed to open the sliding kitchen door, opening many possibilities for other sleeping berths. The one she chose was to pad up one stair, through the study, and down the other, to flop contentedly on the floor beside my side of the bed.

She loves the company. She loves to pile in with others, to feel their warmth, secure in their love.

Don’t we all? God has made us as social beings, who do best when we have some social interaction with people we love. We do even better when we add to that, some social interaction with Him.

Now that’s family.