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Saturday, 30 November 2013

Gratitude is the Attitude that ...

Gratitude is the attitude that breaks the chains of an ego-centric world view. Thankfulness sets us free from the cramp of self-absorption, where we think that life revolves around ‘me’. It liberates us to celebrate that actually life revolves around the Son. 

We have so many blessings every day that don’t depend on any self-effort. I’ve just enjoyed the gift of yet another spectacular sunset. It came free of charge, independent of my own efforts or merit. 

I’ve also stood at the door of the supermarket asking for shoppers to fill trolleys with food for those in crisis who have empty cupboards. I watched a lady wheel her trolley back to us and proceed to unload everything except a bunch of flowers into the trolley for the hungry. I had the privilege of seeing a man hand over a bag with eight Christmas puddings. I had the joy of watching a child put in a tin of tomatoes.

Gratitude is the attitude that enables us to be generous. To share lavishly. To shun greed in favour of sharing what we have with those who have less, or nothing at all.

So, we celebrated Thanksgiving in our family last Saturday, a few days ahead of the official American celebration, in order to include Mom and Mhairi before they headed back to California. 

Our tradition for the last several years has been to cut a bare twig and bring it inside, ‘plant’ it in a block of wood and then each of us write on a leaf what we are thankful for this year. 

I’ve not yet read any of them, but they are all there, and God knows the outpouring of our hearts.

It’s great to have a special day where the focus is on giving thanks. It’s even better to spend a few minutes every day, reflecting on the many unearned blessings and gifts which have littered our lives in the last few hours.

Happy Thanksgiving, however you celebrate(d) it.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Vines and Pruning

A young tree is simple. A slender trunk. Maybe one or two branches.

After years of growth, and ignorant neglect, the tree is much different. It will be composed of a tangle of convoluted branches winding in and out of each other. Some may even have died.

Lives are like that. When we’re young, they seem simple. Uncomplicated.

As the years go by, we become entangled with worries and anxieties, ambitions and goals, sorrows and failures. It’s hard to get perspective. Difficult to see even where the trunk is.

Jesus told Martha, when she complained that sister Mary was just sitting there listening to him rather than helping in the kitchen, that ‘only one thing is necessary, and Mary has chosen the best thing’.
In life we need to maintain focus on the one thing that is necessary, and not become entangled with all the rest. 

Jesus also said that he is the vine and we are the branches, and that the Father in heaven is the gardener who prunes off those branches which are useless.

How many useless branches are entangling me today, Lord? Come and prune those which are unnecessary and just clogging my understanding and obscuring my vision.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

The God of Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all peace and joy as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Yesterday I had an hour or two of fun with Mhairi setting up a Twitter account. She had encouraged me to go for it, despite my reluctance, and then illustrated how it might help me connect with other like-minded people to share ideas.

We laughed a lot doing it and looked forward to a gentle competition between us as to who would gain the most followers.

This morning I logged on and was shocked to see that my account has been suspended! Although I’ve only tweeted once and not committed any of the infractions on their rule sheet, something has caused Twitter to treat me as if I have ‘sinned’ against them.

I feel tarnished somehow, almost guilty. Silly of course, but I guess it’s the way the world often makes one feel. Rejected. Unworthy. Bad.

That’s something I just love about Jesus. His lavish love. His unqualified forgiveness. His washing away of my sins and giving me a clean bill of health. His never making me feel guilty, because he took my guilt on himself.

What a wonderful Lord we have. May the God of hope fill your day with encouragement, laughter and life.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Spectacular Sunsets and Northern Lights

Coming out of Aberdeen yesterday about 4 pm, the whole expanse of the sky was ablaze with rosey hues as the sun sank below the hilly horizon. The ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ emanating from Mom’s and my mouths were reminiscent of reactions to a fireworks display. It just seemed to get more glorious as we drove.

We were with the wider family for dinner after that and I remarked on the beautiful sunset. Someone in the family who lives in a beautiful house, remarked that because of the hills and trees that rise around them they can never actually see the sunset from their home.

How sad to be so close to something so beautiful, and not even realize it’s there!

It reminds me of the winter nights a few years ago when Don was regularly working late. Frequently he would dash in from the car about 11 pm and call me. “Come out and see the Northern Lights! They’re spectacular tonight!” 

We had friends from the States living here then who were desperate for a glimpse of the Northern Lights, and she finally asked me to phone her even if it was midnight so she could get outside and see this extraordinary phenomenon.

How often are we tantalizingly close to something or someone of great beauty, and we are totally oblivious to it? How often do we have our heads down as we concentrate on our work and miss a glimpse of glorious beauty? Probably more often than we want to admit.

‘The heavens declare the glory of God,’ the psalmist wrote. 

Can you see it? Maybe by shifting slightly to the right or the left, you will gain a whole new perspective on your surroundings.

Monday, 25 November 2013

The Colours of Autumn

Oranges, russets, yellows and browns. The countryside is still resplendent in autumn glory, though some trees have discarded the last of their leaves and stand denuded in the frosty cold. 

Walking through the woods today with Mhairi who lives in LA. She commented on how although Southern California is beautiful, it lacks the variation of weather and vibrancy of seasonal colours which she finds stunning. The carpet of orange bracken nearly obscured the path we were on as we tramped together round Scolty.

The colours of autumn: colours which are harbingers of hibernation. Hibernation – perhaps that’s a better word than ‘death’. Perhaps, as Christians, it would be a more accurate word to describe that state of life when we finally cease to draw breath. When we migrate to ‘the other side’: we ‘pass away’, ‘pass on’, or nowadays, simply ‘pass’. 

Pass is a weird word for it I think, as it implies an exam to me. Pass or fail. It seems when it comes to escaping this mortal coil, we all pass. 

Maybe migration would be a good word, now that I think about it. Mhairi and I were discussing how geese migrate in a v-formation, and the lead goose is alternated as they go. Is that so one goose doesn’t get all the glory? Or so he/she doesn’t get worn out? Or if one isn’t so great at navigation, the next leader might be able to correct the errors before the whole flock goes seriously astray? 

I don’t know. But I do know that there are some people in my life who have showed me how to migrate out of it. Who have demonstrated courage and dignity as they endured the final days and who slipped through the curtain without complaint. My sister Judy. My dad. 

Oranges, russets, yellows and browns. The colours of autumn. Harbingers of hibernation.

Seasons all have their beauties. Even old age.