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Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Wave after Wave

I just read a tweet declaring that 2014 is so unremittingly bad a year that nothing can cheer us up. 

Does time trend, like twitter does, sometimes trending bad and sometimes trending good? Maybe so. I imagine folk living through the 1914-1918 war would have thought those years were so unremittingly bad nothing could cheer them up. Same with the second world war. Depending on where you live in the world, there will be conflicts which have hit like a tsunami and overwhelmed all else – as is happening across the Middle East and in parts of Africa and Ukraine and Asia now. 

Is it unremitting though? Is there no hope? Is there nothing to celebrate?

Through it all, God’s love continues to pour over us, wave after wave of his love. If your heart is breaking, his huge heart has shattered a jillion times. He doesn’t just break his heart over the things we see. He sees the brokenness inside each of our lives and that, too, breaks his heart.

I am privileged to live in a place and at a time of peace and tranquillity. But outside of our living room and kitchen windows, I can glimpse the Hill of Fare, where a huge battle took place between Mary Queen of Scots and the Gordons from Huntly. Protestant against Catholic. This bucolic scenery would have rung out with the clang of steel on steel, the cries of the wounded and the shouts of the victorious. It must have seemed unremittingly bad to those at the time.

And through it all, God’s love will still have washed over this scene, wave after wave of his love. 

And things changed. Now it is peaceful here. Forever? I hope so, but God knows.

How often I remember the experience of snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef the day before a hurricane hit eastern Australia. The water was beautifully warm but choppy, beginning to be stirred by the winds that were coming. It splashed in my mask when I lifted my face from the scene of peaceful tranquillity below the surface. There was an air of storminess and incipient turmoil. But as soon as I planted my mask on the surface of the water, began breathing through the tube and looking underwater, I felt part of a scene of amazing beauty and pervasive peace. It was as if the conflicting winds and waves above were not happening at all.

Through it all, through all the storms, through all the traumas, through all the unpleasantness, God’s love continues to wash over us, wave after wave of his love, of his peace, of his power. Yes, we walk through turbulent times, but with focus and determination and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can walk in his peace and power. And the waves of his love have the power to transform any situation.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Buxom Beauty

Be Real!

One of my friends often exclaims, ‘Get real!’ or ‘Be real!’ when she feels something is being glossed over or denied. 

This is a question of identity. To be real is to be true to yourself, and it is so easy to get muddled about who you really are. You may feel like one person with your parents, another with your kids, another with friends or colleagues or spouse. But you aren’t many people. You are one person, a solid identity, and the rest of the forms are just facades or imitations of who you may think you are expected to be.

As a Christian, my identity is in Christ, who made me unique. He is the one I am living to, and the one I am living from. He has given me gifts which only I can exercise in my own inimitable way, but if I am constantly readjusting who I feel I ought to be then I am unlikely to be true to the person he made me to be. 

I’m not much of a psychologist and I get impatient with trying to be too psychoanalytical, so for me, it’s all about prayer. I need to just keep praying that God will break off, or prune, those parts of ‘me’ which are not really ‘me’, and that he will facilitate and encourage the growth of those unique parts of me which he yearns to see flower. Each of us has a unique fragrance to bring into this world, the fragrance of Jesus mingled with the fragrance of who we are in Jesus. 

This is a lifetime’s work for me, anyway. I want to live true to myself and true to who Christ made me to be. I want to exercise gifts which reveal the love of the Lord Jesus who lives in me. 

We had some ferocious winds a couple of weeks ago. They ‘burned’ some of the beautiful roses which were opening and even forced some not to open at all, but to remain tightly closed until they finally grew black and withered. I don’t want to allow the winds of experiences, the winds of fears of what others think, the winds of others' expectations of me, or the winds of doubt to freeze the bud I am and prevent me from opening out into the fragrant rose God made me to be. 

The roses I’m referring to are a strain called ‘Buxom Beauty’ because they are so voluptuously large and intoxicatingly fragrant. I want my spirit to be a full-blown buxom beauty, voluptuously large and intoxicatingly fragrant with the perfume of my Lord and King Jesus. 

Don’t you?

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Resistance makes you Stronger

Just back from the physio, who has given me another stretchy strip to use in restoring full use of this shoulder. I’ve to pull the ring tight and raise my hands over my head, as far as they will go. The resistance in the stretchy strip will strengthen the muscles as I stretch the tendons. Or something like that.

Basically, the thought is that the resistance will strengthen my body. 

There is so much in our world today which we need to resist. So many temptations to self-indulge, to do and view things we shouldn’t, to be self-centred and hard-hearted. It’s as we resist those temptations, in the name of Jesus and with the help of the Holy Spirit, that we become stronger in our faith, stronger in our ability to live out the good news of Jesus and bring light and life into places of darkness and death. And goodness knows those sorts of places are all around.

So today, I’m not going to moan about the things I need to resist. I’m going to ask help from God to change my attitude so that I welcome the tough things because as I resist, I will grow in faith and strength.

I often think of butterflies: if you try to help them break out of the cocoon they will not be able to fly. It’s only as they struggle to break the cocoon that they strengthen their wings to fly. It’s the same with raising kids: we can’t do everything for them or they will never be strong enough to do them on their own.

So, a wee lesson from the physio for me today. Resistance makes you stronger.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Nothing can separate us

The news is dire, augmented by links sent to me by various folk watching the brutality unfold in the Middle East. It would be easy to go downhill and feel like giving up. 

But the news has been dire before. In King Hezekiah’s time he was surrounded by a vicious army from Nineveh and he cried out to God for help. He trusted God to send in help and God did. Hezekiah knew where the real ‘big gun’ was and he went to him.

We Christians need to wake up and get on our knees and cry out to God for this world, for our brothers and sisters, and for the safety of Christianity in our own countries. We are in testing times and yet we often seem to be snoozing through them. 

With God there is always hope. Nothing can separate us from his love, Paul wrote to the Romans. Not even demons. Nothing. 

Paul also counselled his readers to pray constantly. As you drive, as you walk, as you cook. Pray for the peace of this world. Real peace. Christ-like peace. 

Nothing can separate us from God's love. Nothing.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Attitude of Gratitude

I stood in my prayer alcove this morning and admired the blue sky and the sunshine, the green fields and the flowering bushes. Yes, the temps in our Scottish summer have done their usual nosedive and I am attired in three tops of varying thicknesses, but I am still awed by the beauty of a Scottish summer.

Everything is rarely rosy in our lives. There are always niggles that, if allowed to, can undermine our gratitude and turn a smile upside down. 

I’ve just received a lovely ‘thank-you’ note from someone very dear to me, whose memory is beginning to slip a bit. The gifts we’d given for her special birthday were probably muddled in her mind with a collection of other gifts she’d received, but her attitude was one of gratitude for the nearly daily skype calls I make. She may not remember the detail, but she remembers the bigger picture and her heart is grateful.

How often I neglect, or forget, or maybe not even notice the many gracious gifts God lavishes on me every day... but my heart is full of gratitude to him for the incredible gifts of life, love and sacrifice which I hope I never forget. 

The weather of my life may not always be summery, but I have a life, a saved life, which I have done nothing to deserve. It is all grace. And I am full of gratitude.

I guess we’re back to yesterday’s rainbow. Trace the rainbow through the rain. It’s always there, even if you can’t see it.