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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Whose fault?

When Jesus and his friends ran into a man who had been blind since birth, the friends wanted to know whose fault it was. In the thinking of the time, misfortune was the result of sin. Being born blind – did that indicate sin of the parents or was a baby capable of sinning while still in the womb? That was the gist of their question and it was a familiar point of debate at the time.

Jesus turned it on its head. Nobody’s fault, he says in effect. Stop looking for someone to blame and instead see what good you can bring out of the situation. In this case, Jesus was going to use the man’s ailment to illustrate his claim to be the light of the world. He would heal his physical and his spiritual blindness.

We live in a blame culture, where we often seek to shirk responsibility and instead identify something or someone else to blame. By looking back we can get sucked into a mire of recriminations, and as we identify a culprit we usually find that we ourselves rise up a few notches in our own estimation. 

But basically we’re all the same. We all make mistakes and do things wrong. And we live in what we Christians call a fallen world, so that bad stuff happens which has nothing to do with what we or anyone else may have done. It’s just the way it is.

Jesus counsels us to look forward. What can we do in the situation in which we find ourselves? How do we redeem the situation so that good can come out of it?

Vision. Hope for the future. Redemption from the past. That’s what belief in Jesus as Saviour and Lord gives you. A new focus. A new life.

Just beginning to gear up for Christmas here. Starts with Thanksgiving this week. More on that another day.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Autumn Beauty

Mouldering Damp

While we were away, autumn had its final fling and the trees divested themselves of their brilliant colours. The rain came in copious amounts and the result is a carpet of mouldering brown/black vegetation spread thick at the sides of the drive, on the flower beds and in places on the grass.

It looks horrible, but I know that if I get out there with bin bags and a spade, I can scoop up bags full of nutrients and organic matter which will benefit the garden down the line. Even in the immediate future, the filled bags can rest on top of the carrot crop, protecting them from frost until we need them.

I will leave the black cover on the flower beds for a few months as it helps protect plants from sharp drops in the temp, but must remember in early spring to scoop it off then, so that we can enjoy the snowdrops and crocus which will be fighting their way through the smothering cover.

It’s that season. That season where there is benefit in stepping aside from the daily frenzy and taking a look at whatever is covering me. Things that once distinguished me perhaps, like the glorious autumn leaves which bedecked the trees. Life changes. What once worked for me, works no longer. 

But all is not lost. Nothing should be discarded. 

We are encouraged on every side to recycle, reuse, and avoid wastage. Nothing which has been in my life is wasted. Everything has been beautiful in its time, or at least had a purpose in its time, and is beneficial for the season in which I find myself now.

This is the day the Lord has made. I am rejoicing and being glad in it. I loved the spring and summer of my life, but autumn, too, has its beauties.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Pressing on

Life can be heavy. Each step can be a struggle. Things pile on. Anxieties about parents, children, spouses (spice?). Fears about health – your own or a loved one’s. Finance. Pension. Nursery fees. Job security. 

Jesus invites us to come to him and lay all that stuff at his feet, and he will help us carry it. Then it feels light. Then you feel light.

Such a lovely thought. So hard to do. But this morning I read Paul’s words to the Philippians two millennia ago. ‘Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race...’

I reckon I’ve done a bit over two thirds of my race. I’m in my last trimester. Suddenly I feel unburdened. I feel as if I’ve been set free to run that final bit of the race, trusting God to carry the ‘stuff’ which weighs me down, focused on the goal: to live a life which demonstrates Jesus and his love. And the freedom from fear that is ours in him.

The changes that are afoot in terms of people moving away offer opportunities for new relationships. 

Life is a blessing. It is a gift. I am an American and so yes, I am slipping into the season of thankfulness. But actually, it’s the tune I should always hum as I go through my every day, pressing on, forgetting the failures and yes, even the triumphs, so I don’t get bogged down in navel-gazing but keep on moving forward.

God bless your day.

Friday, 21 November 2014


Psalm 63 has been a favourite of mine for nearly thirty years, having become very meaningful to me when my sister died. This morning I read it again as part of my planned reading, and a few verses which I always tend to skim over jumped out at me.

I had been  praying the world, holding a globe in my hands and focusing on the black dots of trouble spots which I’ve marked. Lingering over the Middle East, thinking about the threats and barbaric beheadings being carried out by the members of IS, verses 9 and 10 suddenly carried meaning for me.
‘They who seek my life will be destroyed; they will go down to the depths of the earth. They will be given over to the sword and become food for jackals.’

I have never wished harm on anyone, but seeing the deliberate brutality and hearing about their plans to extend their ‘kingdom’ throughout the world has perhaps altered my thinking a bit. Especially in light of the recent charges brought against men in the UK who had plans to behead a citizen in public here. 

I saw the evil as an octopus, head in the Middle East but with writhing tentacles insinuating themselves into otherwise peace-loving countries, seeking to destroy. And I prayed that those tentacles might be amputated, in effect, beheading the evil organisation.

The difference between my praying those pretty negative words and David praying them thousands of years ago, though, is Jesus. Because of Jesus, I am not praying against individual perpetrators but against the evil spirit behind them. And because of Jesus, I am praying for my enemies as individuals, that they would be set free from the bondage to terror which they first embraced, before it got a hold of them. 

Jesus came to set us free, all of us, and when we let him, we are free indeed.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Sudden Change

Day by day, my wrinkles deepen. My hair whitens (that’s just a guess...) My energy wanes. 

But these changes are gradual. They sneak up and overtake me unawares, and I don’t recognise that I’m even in the midst of the earthquake that is my life.

I like the stealth of change which leaves me blissfully oblivious to its effect. Sudden change – not so keen on that.

Today I heard that a house near me is on the market. They have been good neighbours. Great neighbours even. We’ve grown accustomed to each others’ politics, jokes, and faces. 

I don’t want them to move away. I don’t want to start again with new neighbours. I am comfortable with the people I know. We understand each other. We accept each other’s foibles. We water each other’s plants. We take in each other’s bins.

I don’t want to start again.

I’m going to miss them. Miss the joking, the banter, the conversations in the fields, the waves as we pass on the roads. The shared moans and groans about internet speed – or lack thereof. 

I don’t like change.

But life is all about change. Only God is the same yesterday, today and forever. The rest of us slip and slide through time and space and on into eternity. 

Eternity. Forever. I hope I’ve been a good ambassador for Christ. These neighbours have heard me say things I shouldn’t have said, express opinions I shouldn’t have. Has that made me more real to them – or a hypocrite? 

I need God’s grace every minute, and I need his strength, and I need his courage to face another change. 

How does one face the changes life throws at you, without the steadying, consoling hand of God? I know my boat would have been swamped before now had I not had Jesus aboard with his hand on the tiller, steering me through the rough passages.

Looks like there’s another one on the horizon. Boo.