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Thursday, 31 July 2014

The Peace of Jerusalem

Tendinitis only becomes frozen shoulder when the shoulder freezes. And it freezes when the pain of movement causes the sufferer to avoid moving it.

Unlike the characters turned to stone by the wicked Queen in the Narnia tales, who were transformed in an instant, mid-movement, a frozen shoulder seems to be a gradual stiffening as a result of pain.

Most of us carry pain of some sort. Emotional scars, spiritual hurts, physical traumas. The temptation is to put a plaster over the hurt and pretend it’s healed. But of course if we don’t lance the wound and get rid of the poison, it will never be truly healed.

The Bible talks of those who cry, ‘Peace, Peace’ where there is no peace. It’s like pretending the problem is fixed and peace is true and lasting, though the causes of the pain are suppurating underneath the ‘fix’. 

There is no peace in Gaza and Jerusalem, and there won’t be until the Prince of Peace himself invades the hearts and minds of the wounded inhabitants from both sides of the conflict. Will this be the Second Coming, or will it involve a movement of the Holy Spirit invading the hearts and spirits of those involved? God knows.

The Bible tells us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Prayer can thaw the most hardened of hearts, as God turns the heart of stone to a heart of flesh. The stony hearts result from years of pain and trauma which have frozen them into a self-protective defensive attitude. 

Until Jesus comes and enables people to choose to be vulnerable again; until he replaces the hatred and fear with love and trust, however tentative, conflict and anguish will continue. Resolution may involve pain; it will involve forgiveness of a scale unimaginable for most of us, because most of us, thankfully, don’t know how it feels to have a child or a loved one wiped out by a weapon of warfare.

Today I am praying more fervently than ever for the peace of Jerusalem. May God work a miracle in the hearts and minds and spirits of all those involved in the madness and brutality going on there just now, and bring peace.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

God has the Power

God has the power.

The Bible reveals God as being love. Not as Someone who just loves a lot. The very essence of his being is love. He can’t do anything else but love. That is who he is. God is Love. Love is God.

He created everything. I am looking out at a flowering garden which has flourished in the warmth and good weather this summer. The roses are huge and fragrant. 

I, too, should be flowering. I have flourished in the warmth and goodness of God’s love. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that God has the power to cause all kinds of gifts to overflow to you. All kinds of gifts.

He is love. He is good. He has the power. Do I have the faith to believe that and the perseverance to pursue it? To pursue him, for the gifts he has given me to overflow within me?

Paul also wrote, to Timothy, that he should fan into flame the gift of God. One of the gifts I believe God has given me is an ability to write and a desire to write for him. But lately I’ve allowed busyness to intervene, to steal reflective moments when creativity is birthed and can grow. 

Lately? Maybe most of my life I’ve allowed myself to be driven by the obvious (an untidy house, mountain of ironing, proliferation of weeds, etc etc) and loosely considered that I will write more when I have more time.

This is the day that the Lord has made. Today. I may not have tomorrow. I may never have more time than I have today.

I am repenting of my own distractedness and praying for perseverance in fanning into flame one of the gifts God has given me. I want to flower. I want to flourish and produce writing that blesses others, that feeds the souls of people, that draws them to God and that helps them laugh and enjoy the gift of life.

What gifts has God given you, that you long to see flourish? Because he has the power. And the will. And the love. Trust in him. That’s what I’m trying to do.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow

The fabric on the two-seater in the conservatory is ripped, and badly needs to be replaced. Years of hot sunlight beating through the window not only faded the pattern, but also weakened the fibres. Shoulders and arms draped and reclining further deteriorated and wore out the material.

Years of living are taking a toll on all of us. Dear old Dusty barely staggered through a quarter of her favourite walk today – the ‘wet walk’ at Crathes Castle. Oh, the belly laughs she has given me through the years with her water-borne antics, as she used to launch herself off the shore and into the loch only once there were at least two substantial sticks to round up. Then she would swim in pursuit of both, and if they were too big for her mouth, she would ‘herd’ them back to the shore. 

I’m afraid those days are gone for Dusty, but I have high hopes that there might be a ‘wet walk’ in heaven which we can share in the future. 

Change. Life is all about change, and most of us don’t really like it. I know I don’t. I like my friends to continue living in my area and I want everyone I know and love to remain healthy and fit. But I know it isn’t to be. We all, like the fabric on the conservatory furniture, are wearing out, fading and in places, torn.

Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. What a startling statement in the Bible, a truth about our Saviour which is encouraging and gives me hope. I am clinging to Jesus, because he won’t change like shifting shadows. He won’t weaken, and he won’t wear out. 

I will crouch underneath God’s everlasting arms, and give thanks for their strength and eternal nature.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

What is Truth?

A summer day dawns. Perfect blue sky stretches above a verdant green countryside. Across the field towards the wood, a layer of mist hangs, neither touching the earth nor touching the sky. 

The mist obscures a section of forest; I can see above and below but there is a section which lies hidden behind the filmy white.

What is truth?

Pilate asked Jesus, and although Jesus is The Truth, Pilate just couldn’t see it. There was a mist clouding his vision.

Perspectives distort and cloud our perception of truth. We argue over politics, over religion, because we see as if through a glass darkly – things are distorted and obscured in our earthly understanding. 

But while we have mental agility and acuity it behoves us to exercise our minds and our spirits to understand as best we can, with the help of God. Because a day may come when the mist settles more permanently over our minds.

Elderly folk who are slipping into dementia often ‘confabulate’. That is a word new to me but one which I am using more and more in relation to a dear loved one. I am hearing her declare things to me day by day and because I know some of them are definitely not true, I then begin to question the rest. For her, she is speaking the truth. She is not trying to lie or pull the wool over my eyes. She is constructing a scenario on the hoof, as she speaks, which she herself may not remember in a few minutes. She is confabulating.

There are horrors going on in our world right now, more horrors than usual, and the truth is obscured. It is lost in the mist over Ukraine, with the shooting down of the passenger plane and the terrible death wreaked on innocent people. It is hidden in the historic and thick thick mists hanging over Gaza and Jerusalem, where it seems everyone confabulates to justify their own actions. 

Jesus knows the truth. Jesus is the Truth. One day this mist will lift and we shall all see his face, and we shall see clearly. We will know the truth, and the truth will truly set us free.

In the meantime, we walk by faith. We walk, trusting in Truth, trusting in Jesus, trusting that he can negotiate the way through the confabulations and out the other side. It is not a case of the blind leading the blind, but of Perfect Love leading the beloved.

That’s you. And me. Have a great day, resting in Jesus despite the mist hanging over so much of the world.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Sweet Manna

They are fragrant, exquisite colours – but when I cut all the sweet peas to bring in the other day, I came in with about a dozen.

A dozen. 

I have seen other peoples’ gardens. I have seen wire fences thick with sweet peas climbing to the skies, blooming their heads off. 

Someone said that sweet peas are voracious feeders. They need good manure and compost dug in before being planted. Although I throw a bucket of the dissolving plant food onto the ground there every couple of weeks, it obviously just isn’t enough. 

We’ve been so busy with lovely folk staying for B&B, people from France, Germany and the Netherlands. We enjoy their company, hearing their stories, getting to know their customs. But it all takes time. Folks on holiday are relaxed and linger, eager to chat and be advised on sights to see in the area. We enjoy that, but it plays havoc with my daily routine.

I find that quiet times in my Bible and just in listening to God are often lost in the bustle of the morning. I get to lunchtime and feel like these sweet peas. The blooms are few and far between.

I am a voracious feeder – or I like to be. When I feed on the Bible, when I linger in prayer, when I ponder things, I am content. I am at peace and able to give more, able to bloom better. 

There is some compost dug into my life, past times of prayer and study on which I can draw. But I need today’s word to me to make fresh fruit in my life.

Makes me think of the Israelites in the desert. God provided manna on the ground every morning to sustain them, and gave them strict instructions only to collect enough for that day. It wouldn’t store but would go mouldy and wormy by the second day, except on the day before the Sabbath when they could collect a double portion so as to have a rest on one day a week.

I need my daily manna. And I also need to remember that about taking a day a week off... but that’s another story.