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Thursday, 31 October 2013

Apples Galore

The season of dealing with fruit and veg from the garden is drawing to a close. We are digging carrots as we need them, hoping there won’t be any early frosts, pulling in the last of the runner beans and ... of course ... dealing with apples galore.

Not that I’m complaining. But yesterday I made yet another apple crumble for the freezer, and four jars of apple butter – which actually took more time than I’d remembered. I’m about to hit the kitchen again for another session, this time of an apple tray bake for a talk on Caring for Creation tonight – kind of a suitable accompaniment. 

Our lives, too, go in seasons. Seasons of good and plenty; seasons of hardship and little. It’s hard to imagine oneself in one season when the other is overwhelming us. 

The Bible talks about the seasons of life, in Ecclesiastes where Solomon declares that there is a season for every activity under the sun. “... a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”

Whew. Pretty exhaustive list, and not all of it something I want to embrace, that’s for sure. But maybe it’s a description of the way life is, rather than a recipe for what it should be. Because God is a good God who loves to shower his children with good gifts, and it breaks his heart when our hearts are broken.

May this be a day of healing, dancing and loving, for you, for me, and for all those who suffer in some of the unspeakable calamities of our time.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013


I love it that I’ve come back from California with a bit of colour in my face. It may not be brown by many standards, but by the standards of Scotland I’m looking nearly toasted. 

Sometimes I feel so blessed to have family seven thousand miles away who love me, need me, and want me to go over as often as I can. I love being with them all; I love being back in the home of my childhood; I love the sunshine and warmth; I love the reconnections, and the donuts from Simone’s.

For years I couldn’t go back and forth as often as I do now. Flying with a family requires serious money. Once four years elapsed between visits, and I really did feel like a stranger when I got home.

I don’t feel like a stranger now; I feel like I belong in both places. I appreciate the blessings of each place, and am aware of the detractions. Maybe I understand a wide variety of viewpoints this way, and am slower to judge and condemn. I hope so.

Sometimes, I have to admit, I feel so torn by the separation that I feel kind of worn out by it. I see families who all inhabit the same city, the same town even, and think what a blessing that is. The opportunity to pop in and out, to meet for a meal or a hike or a bbq, rather than it being the all or nothing of long distance relationships. 

But then, I see people whose families all live within close proximity, and I see that sometimes tempers fray, words fly, and patience wears thin, and I see there are good things and bad things about just about any situation in which we find ourselves.

One of the blessings for me of living in a rural setting is that I spend a lot of time on my own in a truly beautiful environment. As I walk the dog, work in the garden, or notice the sky, my thoughts coalesce into prayer without any effort. I notice that when I am transplanted back to the metropolis of LA, I have to work harder to feel the presence of God. 

I know he’s there though. If I were to spend more time there, I would need to discover the thin places where that divine spark can penetrate the busyness of each day, because one thing which is crystal clear to me, is that a day without nurturing that relationship with God is a black and white day.

I want to live in technicolour.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Come to Me

Jet lag leaves a body weary, sleeping at the wrong time of day, awake when everyone else is sleeping. 

One of our B&B guests told me today that every Monday he experiences ‘van lag’, because he has to rise so early to drive over a hundred miles north to start his working week. Of course he is not crossing time zones but missing hours of refreshing sleep.

It doesn’t take much for a body to grow weary, especially as the years add up. But there is another kind of weariness from which it is harder to bounce back. Soul weariness. Weariness of life itself. It isn’t just us in our modern, high-tech and high-pressured world who feel such weariness; a man called Elijah in the Bible was so tired of being the pariah of Israel, hunted by the Queen herself with an intention of murdering him, that he ran away and languished under a bush in a desert, longing for death. He was weary, world weary.

God knows that some of us are more tried than others. He knows that many have good reason to be world weary. And he offers respite.

Come to me, Jesus invites. All who are weary, and I will give you rest. 

Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, Moses said about the tribe of Benjamin. The one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders. A good vantage point. A safe place. 

It’s hard to see yourself as beloved of anyone, sometimes, let alone of the Lord. Who indeed is good enough to be loved by the Lord of all?

Well, nobody is, but Jesus died for everyone, before they were ‘good enough’. None of us is good enough. But still we are the beloved of the Lord. 

So how do we enter his rest? How do we experience that safe place on the shoulders of the Almighty?

By seeking him in places where he can be found. The Bible. A good church. Christian friends. In the wilderness, along the ocean, on the mountaintop. It may seem, for ages, like there’s nobody there but our imagination. How wrong we are if we stop seeking. We all have further to go, and deeper to go in his rest.

Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Wherever you are; whatever your circumstances. He hears every voice that calls out to him, the cry of every person who looks for him. 

Come to me, he says, and I will give you rest.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Jet Lag

In Scotland, the clocks ‘fell back’ last Saturday night. That was a blessing to me, because I arrived back here from California on Friday night, and the eight hour time difference has now shrunk to – seven.

Well, whatever. I wish it were as easy for me to readjust my inner clock as it was to change the clocks in the house. Last night I was dozing through the news at 9 so headed for bed only to zing back awake and remain that way until after 2 am. 

Today I’ve made an effort to help my body make the adjustment. I got up at 8. (Tomorrow I will get up at 7 and see how that goes!) I walked the dog, a brisk mile and a half. I dug up some potatoes. And I did a jillion other things from – yes, ironing sheets again – to making beds, making granola, doing some errands. Hopefully, tonight when I lay my head on that pillow and close my eyes, the inner lights will go out for a few hours and I shall sleep.

The Bible offers some advice on what to think about when you lie awake in your bed at night. Meditate on God. Think about how wonderful he is.

I tried that last night, but somehow I kept slipping into planning mode for my middle son’s wedding in two weeks’ time. That led me into anxious thoughts about a host of things, which only served to keep me more awake.

I hate to confess this, but the thing which finally put me to sleep was when I turned my prayers away from those I know and love to situations in the world which are terrible, but where I have no personal ties. Isn’t that awful? That when my prayers turned to things which really are of critical importance to others, my own anxiety calmed and I slept.

Jet lag. Compassion lag?

There is, of course, another perspective to take on this. God tells us again and again in the Bible not to be afraid, that faith and fear don’t go together, that perfect love doesn’t have room for fear. He also urges us to be dependent on him, and to trust in his goodness, mercy and love.

So it could be said that the labyrinth of worry in which I was lost for four hours was selfish and revealed an independent streak which still believes that by worrying I can make something better ... whereas as I lifted up to God situations which I recognise are well beyond my ability to help, God took them, and gave me his peace. And divine rest.

Jesus came to turn the world on its head. Our natural inclination is to worry, and to feel a tinge of guilt if we aren’t worrying because it hints that in fact, we don’t care. 

When actually, if we can manage not to worry about something we really do care about, if we can manage to lift it up to God and leave him to handle it, he is there to embrace us in his perfect peace as we trust in him.


Saturday, 12 October 2013

Reflected Glory

Jesus is the Son of God. He is the source of light. To my mind, he is like the sun.
When I go to him in prayer or the Bible, it is like sun bathing. As I relax in his presence, in the light of his glory and righteousness, I absorb something of him. Not only does his presence change me, but hopefully he is able to continue radiating peace and light and hope through me to others, much as the moon absorbs the light of the sun and then shines as a sort of secondary source of light during the hours of darkness.
Jesus invites everyone to come to him and absorb the light of his love and life, but some people continue to make do in the darkness, navigating by the light of the moon. The trouble is, the moon isn't always out. Sometimes it is hidden. Sometimes it isn't fully there, just as sometimes believers obscure the truths of Jesus by substandard behaviour or words.
My prayer is that everyone reading this will long for the full strength light of Jesus, lingering long enough in his presence through the Bible or concentrated prayer to absorb the light for themselves, and not depend on the erratic shining of one of his lesser moons.
May God bless you all today.Jesus

Monday, 7 October 2013



Where is it, exactly?

When I’m in Scotland and talking about Long Beach, I still call it home, though I’ve not lived there for over 38 years. 

When I am in Long Beach and talking about Scotland, I often call it home – though when I do, I will be referring to people rather than a place. Mostly.

In Long Beach, I have memories from the beginning of my life, and those memories are pungent and powerful. When I return there, I sleep in the bedroom in which I grew up. I drive the freeways on which I learned to drive (on the RIGHT side of the road...). I enjoy the warmth which still I long for when back in Scotland. I go to the beach and gaze at the cold Pacific Ocean and watch the sunset, still familiar after all these years. All around are memories of my sister, my dad, our antics as we grew up. I visit cousins who still live in the area. I drink milkshakes and eat donuts (not too many of either lest I return super-sized...)

But, I miss those I left behind in Scotland. I miss the open spaces, the fresh air, the fresh garden vegetables. I miss my church family. I miss my friends. I am happy when it’s time to return ‘home’ to Scotland. And yet, I'm not.

At both airports, Aberdeen and LAX, I am in tears at leaving behind loved ones. Faces crumple as final hugs are given. Tears flow freely. 

And so today I am packing. Excited to be going home, to be going to see my beloved daughter and my beloved mother. Sad to be leaving my beloved Don, and my beloved sons and their wives/fiancé.

Yesterday in church we sang of our home in heaven. Home is where the heart is, the saying goes. I’ve given my heart to Jesus, and my home, my real home, is in heaven, and there are times I yearn for that home, because there are no airports in heaven. There are no tears, no sorrows, no partings. 

Once, over thirty years ago, as I sat clinging to my two older children, who were wee tots then, on an airplane in LAX, waiting to return to Scotland, I held back tears lest I set the kids off. We’d just said goodbye to my dear sister and parents. I was a new Christian, only just getting to know my Bible.

Very clearly God gave me the impression that I should look up Deuteronomy 31: verse 8. I didn’t know what it said. I didn’t really know where to find it. But I had a small Bible with me and I looked it up.

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Ours is a God of comfort and love, who reaches out and holds us in our deepest valleys. 

I am encouraged to know that he is with me today, tomorrow, and forever.