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Monday, 29 December 2014

Do Not Enter



Chatting to a new acquaintance at a supper party over the holidays, she asked me why I hadn’t pursued some of my writing ambitions. I floundered. I prevaricated. I stammered out that there were so many distractions, so much to do.

Lame.

This morning therefore I took a walk with the Lord, and asked him to identify the blockages. I quickly understood that it isn’t so much the physical distractions which I allow to eat up the time. It’s the mental distractions. The concerns which I meditate on rather than meditating on God. The anxieties for those I love which pop back into my head over and over again until I am ruminating on them. 

At least when a cow ruminates on her cud, it becomes digestible and does her body some good. When I ruminate on worries, they expand and I dig deeper ruts to ensnare my thoughts.

Each concern becomes a cul de sac which leads me back to where I started from and accomplishes nothing. 

God directed my thinking that if I will only take these concerns to God once and leave them with him, trusting that he does have the answer and is actually working in the situations, I can put up a Do Not Enter sign at the opening to the cul de sac of thoughts and then obey that sign.

Hard to do. I found that as I continued my walk my thoughts kept zeroing in on those old familiar cul de sacs, so I had to admit defeat – ‘I can’t do it, Lord. I need your help. Please remind me every time I start to head into a cul de sac that the Do Not Enter sign is still there and relevant. 

Once I’ve asked you to do something, I can just skim over it in prayer – hey, don’t forget about that situation, Lord, lying down that cul de sac in X’s life. 

Then eventually my brain will be freed up to think creatively again, to focus on the writing ambitions I’ve still got. 

I can head down a road less travelled rather than encircling my familiar mental suburbs again and again. 2015, here I come!

Monday, 22 December 2014

Light of the World



Russian friends told us recently that a law in their country requires headlights to be in a permanent ON position, day and night. One of them admitted that frequently he had drained the battery by forgetting to turn them off when he stopped and parked his car.

Years ago, the day that Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, as an 18-year-old I drove to work, heartbroken, and put the headlights on the car as a show of sorrow and respect. I, too, forgot to turn them off, and drained the battery and had to have my dad and grandpa come and jump start me after my shift.

When it is daylight, it is hard to notice the lights shining. When it is night, it would be rare to walk away from a car with the headlights still blazing.

There is a lot of reference to light in the Bible. Jesus is the light of the world. We, too, are the light of the world, as Christians. Not that we are the source of light, but we are conduits of the Light, as long as we remain connected to the Source.

Christmas is a time of celebrating. It is the darkest time of the year – today is the shortest day I believe – and yet it is at times of deep darkness that the light is more apparent.

The light shines in the darkness, John wrote, and the darkness cannot extinguish it. Light drives out the darkness. 

May the light of Christ shine on you, in you, and through you today.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Yeast



Been working on our traditional Christmas morning Potica. I bake a bread product with yeast once a year. Every Christmas finds me trying to make the equivalents from an American packet of yeast to a British one, figure out how to translate an old-fashioned recipe direction for dissolving the yeast first in warm water into using the new fast-acting yeast which just gets mixed in. 

Then there is the temperature in my home. Baltic at the best of times. So on this one day of the year I need to throw caution to the wind, push the ON button on the heat and enjoy the warmth.

Got started a bit late today and so, well into the evening, I am still waiting for the wreath-shaped potica’s to rise the second time, now filled with the yummy ground walnut mixture. I’ve got pans of boiling water in the oven with the two potica’s, hoping they will do the trick. 

I don’t plan to stay up all night waiting, so at some point I will just call time, turn on the oven and go for it, hoping that this will be a good year for it.

Funnily enough, Jesus mentioned yeast a few times as he taught his disciples. He described the Kingdom of heaven as being like yeast, which, when worked into the dough, caused the bread to rise.
He also said that the Kingdom of heaven is within you when Jesus is Lord of your life, so the hope – no, the expectation – is that as you work through the ‘dough’ of your life, that ‘yeast’ will touch every aspect of your life and affect it for the better.

I don’t know how far we can carry this analogy, but today I think that I failed to have the liquid warm enough when I added the yeast to it, and that has slowed down the action (and I wondered for awhile if it would prevent it from working at all). If we don’t keep the flame of love for Jesus fanned and burning brightly in our hearts, the yeast of the Kingdom may not be very effective.

Despite the hectic nature of the season, take time to fan the flame of love for Jesus in your heart, so that as you socialise and worship and celebrate this year, the Kingdom of heaven will affect all those with whom you party.


Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Joy to the world!



Over thirty Christian women (and one man!) gathered round a piano and a violin, singing carols, reading from the Bible, praying for those caught up in terrorism and war, praying for those in need, singing more carols, eating mince pies.

Beside me, a woman from France. Other side of me, two women from Russia. Across the room, a woman from South Africa, a man from Sweden, a woman from Norway. Me, a woman from America. Many women from Scotland. Many others from England, Northern Ireland, Wales. 

All singing in English, carols familiar to some, new to others. Some singing springing forth from hearts full of love for Jesus; some singing – maybe forced – from hearts broken and breaking; some singing because they love singing; some singing for the joy of singing with others; some singing with new understanding and appreciation for the awe and wonder of the story itself. Singing for all sorts of reasons.

Nevertheless, all singing from the same carol sheet today. All singing to the Lord Jesus, praising his name, worshiping him.

Some go to one church in the town; some to another; some to churches in the city; probably some to no church at all.

But week after week throughout the year, we gather in smaller groups, in various homes and one church hall, with one aim in mind. To study the Bible, get to know God better, fall in love with him deeper, support each other on life’s journeys. No doubt many start the journey out of loneliness or out of a desire for fellowship, seeking family in an anonymous and foreign world. No doubt the journey looks different for many – for some, the road leads to fulfilment and faith; for others, it leads to the next staging post on the road to understanding and belief; for some it may even feel like a cul de sac.

Bound together this morning through the harmonies and melodies and descants, the laughter and coffee and pies, the voices tinged with accents from far and wide, thirty women (and one man) wanting to celebrate the reason for the season. Wanting to lift Jesus to his rightful place. Wanting to keep the Prince of Peace in the centre of seasonal celebrations. Wanting to ensure that Christ is in Xmas. Christmas.

Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Prince of Peace. Immanuel. God with us.

Let the tinsel fall where it will. Leave the glitter nails and party frocks and fancy canap├ęs and mulled wine for a few moments during this festive season, and raise your voice to the King of Kings, born a baby in stable humble while his poor parents, perplexed but obedient, experienced the first Christmas in awe and wonder.

Joy to the world. All races, all nations, all classes, all genders, all abilities. He came for us all. Joy to the world.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Rudderless



Someone I know is bobbing around mentally just now. She has lost sense of direction or progression and contradicts her adamant pronouncements within seconds. Every pronouncement she makes, she believes to be a true assessment of the situation, and yet a few moments later she can express certainty that it is just the opposite.

It is as if she has lost her rudder and the ability to steer a course through her days and weeks. The familiar compass points of time and days is muddled and has to be checked by notations on numerous calendars round the house. 

She doesn’t seem anxious or even aware of her frequent self-contradictions. 

Though she has lost her rudder, her anchor is still sunk deep into her faith in the Lord Jesus, and it is that anchor which is holding her. She is safe, bobbing round first facing one way, then another, but still held securely to the rock of ages.

There is an old hymn, ‘Will your anchor hold?’, and I am seeing this demonstrated in this person’s life. Everything else seems to be slipping, but her anchor is holding fast. 

Thank God.