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Monday, 31 March 2014

Deja vu

We walked long corridors, crossed bridges joining buildings of the same hospital complex in west Hollywood, Cedars Sinai. Though today it was my cousin and my mom and I, I felt the presence of my dear old dad, as the last time I was here in this hospital, dad was just recovering from pneumonia and yet determined to accompany his wife for her surgery. No wheelchair for him, either. The dogged determination of an old Marine as he shuffled as fast as he could to keep up.

Sad memories. And here we are again, for the same surgery, on another side. The doctor's words were harsh. Have the surgery or have a stroke, maybe massive, maybe small. Well, at least we didn't have to think about what to do.

Back home tonight in my childhood home, bedroom, filled with memories. Happy and sad. Thinking about the others in my family who I have accompanied down long corridors of hospitals until they finally went on out. First dear Judy. Then dear Dad. Hopefully not Mom, not yet.

I know I have said it before. So looking forward to heaven, where there are no tears, no goodbyes, no pain or suffering. Only joy. Only Jesus.

This place is a launch pad to infinity, to a life of beauty and joy, but sometimes that launch pad can seem quite hard, quite lonely.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Clear skies overhead

The California sun is warm in the clear blue skies overhead.

Just back from a walk round El Dorado park, my daily haunt while here, a world away from the walk in the woods I usually follow with my trusty friend Dusty. I noticed a hummingbird hovering, gathering nectar from a hibiscus. Saw fruit on a palm which I guess must make it a date palm...thought those only grew in the desert. Then at the park round the pond, swarming with ducks, geese, one lone swan and some other feathered water birds.

An old lady chided a young man with his girlfriend, each clutching bags of bread to feed the birds who crowded round noisily. Am I not supposed to feed them? He asked her. She delivered a lecture on how it could harm the creatures.

I felt for the young folk. Would a few crusts of bread really harm the birds? Was it not a good thing to see them concerned for wildlife?

Grey hair may be the crown of life, but today, I was glad that mine was dyed.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Son of God

Went to the matinee this afternoon as a bit of light relief, although watching the new movie of Jesus' life may not quite constitute light relief.

In fact, the sparsely attended showing was silent as we exited, apart from a few random stifled sniffs. It is a good production, edited differently than other similar shows by telling the tale through the eyes of the beloved disciple John.

No surprises, but a few glimpses of the possible pressures on the chief priests and the villain Judas which humanised them and gave a bit of room for compassion and even raised the question of just what I might do in a similar situation. We are always so quick to judge and to assume we would do better under similar pressures.

Well, I don't have much to say, still a bit overwhelmed by the sacrifice Jesus made for me.

It is sometimes good to have some light relief that is actually thought provoking and challenging.

I'll sleep on it.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014


So, nearly a week in, the jet lag should have relented by now and left me feeling energetic and perky. Hmm.

I can't believe how fast the week has passed, juggling between fun outings with Mhairi and Mom, and fraught innings going through piles of mail lobbying for this and that but basically preying on the fears of people in order to draw financial support their way. I feel very protective and have printed out 80 letters, signed them and stuffed the envelopes ready for stamps and sending away to every cause from fear of loss of liberty to blindness. I only hope the recipients take this address off their lists.

The common denominator of them all is fear. Fear is the enemy of all that is good. It is the enemy of peace, of love, of joy, of commitment.

Do not be afraid, Jesus said. The Bible records those words of God 366 times, once for every day in a leap year. God knows us. He knows our weakness is to be apprehensive, to peer ahead fearfully and wonder what is coming next.

In my current situation, I could give way to fear, but I am so aware that Jesus has it all in hand. Trust in me, he urges. I have done it in the past, and I know him to be a trustworthy friend.

So tonight, I have stopped juggling. The enemy of faith is not doubt but fear, and I am resolved to lie down and sleep in peace.

How about you?

Saturday, 22 March 2014

New life

I have just been marvelling at the shadowy images of my first grandchild. Twelve or thirteen weeks and growing daily.
Who is this new life? God knows, because in his word he says that before he created any of us in the womb, he knew us. That is just amazing! To us it all seems to be just at the beginning, with a start moment at conception twelve or thirteen weeks ago. But to God, he has known this little one since ... Since when? Since before time began.
Every life is so special. God knows every beat of this wee one's heart. He knows the plans he has for this child. He is as excited as we are, or more so.
Here at my mom's house I am enjoying the trim beauty of a newly planted red bud tree. The blossom is out now, a deep fuscia colour, but it is there in very small amounts because the tree is young, and the branches have been pruned short. But in a few months or years, this red bud tree will be stunning as it grows in girth and grace.
And so will this new life growing within my daughter in law, protected in love and nurtured by her own body.
Protected in love and nurtured by her own body. Isn't that exactly what Jesus has done for us, and is doing daily? Protecting us in his love, and nurturing us by his Spirit so that we can grow to be all that we can be.
Trying to anticipate my elderly mother's needs and make provision for her while here, so that she can feel safe and secure when I am away again, is frightening, daunting. I lie awake thinking of things I need to get into place. And then a dear friend sends me a timely reminder from psalm 4, that we can lie down and sleep in safety and peace because God has it all in hand.
At whichever end of life, or in the middle, God holds us in his hand, loving and nurturing us through the incredible sacrifice of his own body.
It is a mystery so profound. I am grateful beyond words, and now will lie down again and sleep, secure in his love and the promise that he knows the plans he has for us all, and they are plans for good.
And I can fully anticipate the pure joy of this new life, trusting in Jesus.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Daffodils and Rhododendrons

Just back from a walk through the Royal Wood of Drum Castle, a couple miles away from here. 
Today I had Don and Dusty with me.

And what a delightful day it is! The sun is out; the sky is glorious. Winding through the initial copse of trees, bouquets of daffodils are opening their yellow trumpets towards the sun. A carpet of lilies of the valley are sprouting, preparing to bloom. 

Walking underneath and around the ancient woods is always amazing. Some of the trees are hundreds of years old, gnarled and twisted, bulbous at the bottom of the trunk from overgrazing. We didn’t see any of the red squirrels which inhabit the woods, but still found them enchanting.

Signs of the wet weather of past weeks still linger, though. Ponds where there used to be grass. Moss clinging to most trees, sometimes grey-green, sometimes spring green. Squelch where there used to be terra firma. 

Suddenly Don noticed a giant rhododendron off the path, standing at a majestic ten or twelve foot height. The flowers were pale, with hot pink flashes inside and stamens which look like tongues sticking out of open mouths. And the whole lot was alive with bees, busy gathering nectar, preparing to make the honey we so love.

We’d never have seen them if we hadn’t wandered off the beaten track.

In all walks of life, the tendency is to tramp the path worn down by hordes of others. Sometimes it pays to go off-piste. 

As Christians, we often follow the way laid out by others, fearing that if we venture too far left or right we might be guilty of some terrible sin. The good news is that God made us all different, with different flowers to drink from, and the path we should be on is the one he has guided us to. 

Never, in anything, just follow the crowd. Life is too precious for that.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Important or a Time-Waster?

Just finished an article about recognising which urgent interruptions are more important than what you are in the middle of doing. It’s a tough one.

And that made me think about how I’m nearing the starting blocks for another transatlantic flight, going home to visit my mom and daughter. Limping home, still rather crippled by a bad back. 

So I’m in the countdown and very much having to determine what is urgent and what is important and chucking whatever doesn’t really need doing. Finished the article – that was both urgent and important. Now to the packing, which easily falls into both categories as well.

But then – there is fresh granola to be made and shopping to be bought for Don while I’m away. He is quite capable of doing these things himself, but this is where I put pressure on myself to try to minimise his added chores while I am away. 

Jesus once admonished a woman called Martha for complaining that her sister Mary was just sitting around listening to what Jesus had to say, leaving Martha to do all the work. He gently suggested that although there was a lot to do, Mary had chosen to do what was most important. Get herself right with God.

I need to remind myself of that lesson so often, when the to-do list is long and apparently urgent but the time with God is what is important. 

Not so easy to do.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Dirty Windows

Great having such a sunny day, but it sure does show how dirty the windows are! It’s embarrassing, but my back is still not right so they will just have to remain dirty.

Light reveals dirt. That’s the way it is, isn’t it? That’s why when Jesus is around, it isn’t comfortable to be wallowing in sin. Of course, he’s always around. So how is it that so many people manage to wallow in real serious sin without any second thoughts. A look at the paper reveals just how many people choose the dark rather than the light. 

It is a choice, and we all have it. The Bible says that God would rather we turn from our sins and live with him forever, than choose to live apart from him. But he has given us free choice, and he allows us the dignity to make our choice freely.

If you’ve not made a choice for Jesus yet, give it some real thought. You may find that as his light shines on your life, it reveals some dirt that you’d like to have washed away. And that is what he does. He washes our sins away so that we are as white as the snow, and can approach the light without fear.

It is great having such a sunny day, and such a loving God of light.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Palm Crosses

A Christian online resource has just emailed to offer to sell me palm crosses, and it startled me because once again, I find myself moving through Lent without giving it much thought. I wanted to make it more of a pilgrimage this year, but one thing or another intervened and I never got myself organised with focused Lenten meditations or readings, and already we’re looking ahead to Palm Sunday.

I do like the aspect in some church traditions of having liturgical seasons, so that every Sunday one is reminded by the colours of the hangings even, what season it is. Maybe I’m just flighty but I kind of need frequent reminders.

As a teenager, every Lent was marked by one or two sessions of folding palm fronds into crosses to give out on Palm Sunday. I folded so many over those years that I can still perform the intricate folding today. In Scotland palm fronds are hard to come by, so I used to use heavy paper to do it with children in Sunday school. But now you can buy them online and save yourself the bother of folding them.

My memories of the folding of the crosses was not that it was a tedious task but that it was fun to chat and laugh with others as we mindlessly got on with it. Like worries, which once shared are halved, so work like this seems less onerous if done in company.

I say mindlessly got on with it, but actually there were moments when the very act of folding the straight frond into a cross reminded me of just what Jesus did for me. It’s weird that Christians have a symbol which was an instrument of torture, but that symbol means so much. 

Jesus took up the cross, though he was pure and holy, because I am not. He bled and suffered unspeakable horrors and died so that I might live. 

I want to remember that as I walk through the next few weeks of Lent. I want to sense a proper appreciation and respect for his sacrifice. I want to stand with him, symbolically, as we remember his humiliation, his scourging, his crucifixion, so that the full implications of Resurrection Day hit me. 

I can’t say thank you enough to him.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Heady Hyacinths

Three white hyacinths burst forth into bloom last night, spreading a sweet aroma through the room. 

They sit in front of me as I write, and I inhale deeply, savouring their heady scent.

A single pink hyacinth is about to open too, perched on the mantel piece and ready to burst forth.

Smells are so evocative. The smell of hot cross buns as I enter the supermarket takes me straight to Good Friday afternoon, after the 3- hour service at church, when Mom would bake the hot cross buns and Judy and I would frost them, to be eaten with dinner that night and over the ensuing weekend until all were consumed. Sweet memory.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, ‘we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ...’ That is incredible. That we carry the aroma of Christ, the fragrance of the King of Kings. I know someone who is very partial to Chanel; in fact, I am myself; but this is miles better. Imagine being dabbed by the fragrance of Jesus, a perfume mixed of purity and self-sacrifice, love and goodness, mercy and forgiveness, justice and kindness and joy. 

Yes. Those are the ingredients I value in my perfume. I am so grateful that when God the Father catches a whiff of me, it is the whiff of Jesus, and not the noxious whiff I might otherwise emit, a perfume mixed of bitterness and regret, unforgiveness and selfishness, envy and strife and critical thoughts, injustice, meanness and anger.

Thanks be to Jesus for his wonderful aroma of life.