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Monday, 30 September 2013

Autumn sneaks up

The colours of autumn seem to have appeared overnight. Favourite trees have begun their annual transformation; a bit like an ageing head of hair which goes grey bit by bit, the acer and the elm have exchanged their vibrant greens for a glorious array of reds, russets, oranges and yellows. These swathes of colour will creep throughout the tree over the next few weeks until they all grow weary of clinging on and drop off or are swept away in wild winds.

I say the colours appeared overnight but of course, there have been signs of impending seasonal change for some time now. 

And Dusty. She is in her autumn, as am I, and yet it seems sudden, this decline in her health. Perhaps it’s because I don’t want summer to pass – not in the season, not in my life, not in hers. I want to cling on to that energy of summer, that heat and profusion of life. But I can’t.

We are gathering in the final fruits of our labours. Apples yet to be picked but some are in; potatoes likewise, and carrots. When they are all finally gathered in, we will batten down the hatches for the onslaught of winter, if it comes in that guise this year.

I am reminded of the farmer in the story Jesus tells, who builds another barn to hold all the produce of his fields, only to be told that he isn’t going to live through the night. He should have shared more. Given more away, not stored it up selfishly.

It’s the idea that you never know when your time will be up. You see the signs but they aren’t definitive. You know the years have piled on but you don’t really reckon you feel any older than you did ten years ago. And yet, and yet. 

Be ready, Jesus advised. Be alert. Be aware of the signs of the times, so when the ‘bridegroom’ (Jesus) comes for you, you’re ready.
That’s an exciting thought. But there’s no moving on, without there being a leaving behind, and that’s where the sadness lies.
I don’t want to be left behind, and I don’t want to leave anyone behind.
Well, all I can do is trust. And step out into the day that lies ahead.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Visible or Invisible??

The fog brought the sky in low this morning, obscuring familiar landmarks and restricting visibility to a few yards in any direction.

Dusty and I were out on the usual stretch, but she wasn’t too keen to walk. Her back leg is hurting, I can tell, and she just wanted to go home. I stood and waited while she sniffed. I looked up at the pine trees rising into the grey mist. And smiled.

While the low cloud obscured some of the usual landmarks, it revealed some hidden gems. Well, I use the word ‘gems’ very loosely, because anything associated with a spider is hard to identify as a gem. 

However, there between pine needles in the canopy above me were thousands of intricate webs, their sticky threads picked out by the moisture in the air. It was beautiful.

It reminded me that what is invisible under normal circumstances becomes visible in special cases.

There’s a story in the Bible about a prophet named Elisha. One time he and those he was with were surrounded by enemy troops. Elisha’s servant was terrified, so Elisha prayed that God would open his eyes to see what Elisha could see – that in fact, God had a protective phalanx of angels encircling Elisha and his friends.

Nobody else could see the angels. But nevertheless, they were there.

Usually I can’t see the spider webs overhead. Nevertheless, they are there.

We think we are on top of our circumstances, that we live in the real world where all that is real is visible to the naked eye.


I pray that today your eyes and mine would be opened to see the world as God sees it.

Monday, 23 September 2013

The Best-Laid Plans

The Scots bard, Robbie Burns, coined that phrase a few hundred years ago in one of his well-loved poems: ‘the best-laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley’. (Translated: the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.) 

And so it seems. After a hard two weeks away at an exhibition, Don and Jamie drove through the night to get home from the south coast of England, only to break down within fifty miles of Jamie’s home. Hammering along, intent on returning home and getting back into that routine, they were suddenly scuppered, stopped in their tracks and forced to sit for two hours on the roadside awaiting a recovery truck, and then wait several more hours for a replacement van to be found, brought to the scene, and the goods transferred. 

An unwelcome change of plan.

Whereas I – I also had a change of plan, but it was a blessing when a dear prayer partner friend who lives abroad for most of the year came by and we were able to share time together in God’s presence in that intimate way you only do with close friends.

A very welcome change of plan.

The Bible also says things about our plans.  ‘In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps’ it says in Proverbs.

It’s good to have plans. But in this life, it’s also good to be flexible. Who knows what the Lord may have planned for me today? Because Scripture also assures us that God works for good in every situation for those who love him, whatever the day holds, as long as I remain in step with God, it will be good.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Season of Mellow Fruitfulness

The signs are everywhere. Season of mellow fruitfulness. The trees are beginning to turn lovely shades of autumnal orange, yellow, burnt reds, and even bright reds on the acer and the Virginia Creepers. The rose hips are brilliant red beads amongst the withering foliage. The rowan berries are still a tangerine shade but darkening by the hour. 

The final harvests are ready to bring in before winter’s wild weather hits. Potatoes, carrots, runner beans. And apples! Oh, the apples are looking good at the moment. I may not be so enthusiastic in a week or so when I’m peeling them for endless crumbles and boiling them up for apple butter.

Living rurally I am so aware of the changing seasons, as anyone who reads this blog regularly knows. I probably harp on about it too much, but it is such a reminder of the passing seasons of life. And this weekend I am being particularly reminded of those passing seasons.

Yesterday morning I received an email containing a photograph of a beautiful new baby girl born to friends in Seattle. A perfect wee treasure, snuggled down in her mother’s arms. All that promise of joy and laughter and love.

By lunchtime I was sitting shoulder to shoulder in church awaiting the start of the funeral of a very special and dearly loved lady who has gone to be with her Lord. The tributes were fulsome and the tears were real. She slipped away in such a gentle, quiet way, unexpectedly. Lovely for her, but to those who are left, something distinctly unreal about it all. Is she really gone? Surely she is just in the next room, or down in London for the weekend again? 

I am confident I will see her again, only not before I slip away, too.

And today. I’m about to spruce myself up to go to the wedding of another very special lady, a young lady whose musical talents are many and whose personality and smile are quirky, fun, and lovely. The start of another season in her life. Such a privilege to be there to share her joy today.

New beginnings all around. A new life in Seattle, bringing fun and laughter, challenges and tears: a wee miracle. A new life in heaven, about which we can only speculate apart from having the assurance that our dear friend is definitely there, safe in the arms of her Saviour. And a new life here in Aberdeen as two become one in this mystical union we call marriage, with all the joys and laughter, challenges and tears that accompany the season of new life together.

Our world is always changing, but our constant is God, who is faithful and whose love never fails. I will now go put on my glad rags, and prepare to celebrate with a heart that is tender – both hurting and happy. The hurts make the happiness that much more precious, highlighting these moments as treasures to be stored up and pondered at quieter times. 

Today is a day for storing up.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

No reason to be Bored ... or is there?

Dusty is bored with our walks.

We live in the middle of a rural paradise. Our nicknames for some of our walks are ‘The Enchanted Forest’, ‘The Haunted House’, ‘The Forest of Endor’, and ‘The Fort’. 

Dusty’s no longer impressed. She’s smelled all the rabbit holes a zillion times. She’s sniffed after the deer and picked up their ticks. And she’s bored.

Now, invite her into the car, and it’s a different story. She’s eager, excited, ready to repeat some of the other great walks around here which we’ve not done as a daily routine.

It reminds me of our worship in churches. We may have the best organist or praise band. We may have the most challenging sermons and enlightening prayers. But if it’s too repetitive, people – we – can become bored. We can become so bored we turn around half way there and go back home. 

Well, I’ve not done that, and actually, I’m not bored with our church services. But I think it’s a danger we need to be aware of, that we don’t become stuck in a rut and start going through the motions of worship. Sometimes that challenge comes in shaking up the order of the service, or in changing the method of delivery, or in learning new songs and listening to the young people.

I’ve just read a book in the Bible, Amos chapter 5, in which even God shows he gets fed up with people going through the motions without really engaging in worship. He blurts out, ‘I hate all your show and pretense – the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.’ ... ‘Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living.’

Now that puts a whole new slant on ‘doing church’. It’s not so much where we go, or what we do, as who we are. And how we demonstrate ‘whose’ we are.

So I’m going to go out today with that in mind. Where I can make a difference today in terms of justice and righteousness, please help me God to do it.