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Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Do it with all your Might

A wonderful day yesterday catching up with friends from long ago, and with some family. But we are tired today, and as something is coming up tomorrow it feels like an in-between time, uninspiring and uninspired.

The writer of Ecclesiastes advises, though, that ‘whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might’. It is easy to feel tired, to feel like slumping and doing very little, and sometimes that is what is required. Sometimes it’s good to slump, to breathe deep and long and slow and think and rest and sleep. Other times it’s good to take a deep breath and get stuck into something with all your might. 

I am off to do something with all my might, as if I’m doing it for the Lord. Hopefully that will dispel this ennui...

Monday, 25 May 2015

You are not alone

You are not alone.

Just back from a short walk along the familiar paths near my home. I didn’t meet anyone. The road was empty, even of cars. The first part of the pathway, though, was lined with neon-golden gorse and broom, branches drooping towards me.

I thought of children’s races and matches which I’ve attended over the years, where I would be standing on the sidelines shouting encouragement to my kids. Sometimes my exuberance may have been very un-Scottish but at least my kids knew I was supporting them. Maybe my words exploded like golden neon into the air.

You are not alone. Walking along that part of the path, with the neon blossom on either side, I felt encouraged, supported. Not alone.

There’s a movie out now called Into the Woods, which is a sort of weird compilation of fairy tales with the same menacing undertones and threats. The denouement includes a chorus the few survivors sing to each other, the main words of which are ‘You are not alone!’ Given the run-ins they’ve all just had with giants and witches and wolves, I’m not sure I would have found such a mantra very encouraging. 

What I heard, though, was a desperate yearning to know that in this big bad universe, we are not alone. Someone must be on our side. This movie’s conclusion suggested we aren’t alone because we are there for each other – as one by one our numbers diminish, those who are left will stand by us.

Not much consolation or hope, if you ask me. I’d prefer to rely on the promises Jesus made to his followers: I will never leave you. I will never forsake you. The writer to the Hebrews also reminded his readers that they are surrounded by a crowd of witnesses who are cheering them on. 

We aren’t alone. That’s true. And the one who is with us, Jesus, is powerful. He is mighty to save. He loves us so much he died for us. He loves us with an everlasting love. He forgives and he sends his Holy Spirit to live in us and remind us who we are, and who Jesus is. 

Jesus is always with us, through the good times and the bad. And we are surrounded by others who love and pray for us, prayers which are efficacious. 

Whatever is facing you today, remember that in the best of ways, you are not alone.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Times of Refreshing

Spent a couple of hours in my overgrown garden tearing back dead daffodil leaves and opening up the roses to the sun and fresh air. All kinds of snails lurking in the shadows but now exposed and vulnerable...

There’s been a lot of rain apparently while I’ve been away, which has encouraged growth spurts mostly amongst the weeds. I’m just back from a drought-area, where lawns are turning brown and even the weeds are dying.

Water. Such a basic resource which we in the cooler and moister climes deride and take for granted. But all around me is verdant, green farmland, bursting with life. Even if some of it is monopods, still ...

Tomorrow is Pentecost. Times of refreshing from our God. Good and plentiful soft rains to foster growth in my spirit. Alert to the possibility of weeds sprouting as well. So grateful that God is the gardener. 

Excited to be heading to the Cherish conference in Leeds this week. Looking forward to the refreshment of losing myself in worship and praise.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015


Sometimes you need to retreat to gain perspective.
Hearing the call to retreat and about to obey. Trusting in God for clarity and vision.

Sunday, 17 May 2015


A wonderful day embracing the coast in another a bientot moment. Something magnetic about the beauty of the western ocean, sun sparkling on the little white horses and white expanses of sandy beach.
Love it as I do though, it isn't the beauty of the coast but the beauty of my two companions today which makes this a magical place for me. What a privilege and joy to spend hours with my 90 year old mother and my daughter, smelling the roses in the Sherman Gardens and sampling gelati in Laguna beach, where we saw the hotel Don and I spent our honeymoon night in. It looks like it could use a lick of paint, a bit dilapidated after thesee 40 years. But then one might say that about Don and me too.
No deep theology in today's observation. Just a heart full of love and huge gratitude to God for the gift of life, the gift of a loving family, the gift of Jesus.
Over and out.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Pressing on

Reading Philippians 3:10 this morning, I wonder just how serious am I about sharing in Christ's suffering? It sounds wonderful to know the power of his resurrection, but sm I really pressing on and in to his suffering and death?
Suddenly I see...sort of...what it means. I want to so thoroughly and completely die to self that I do forget my past and have just one thing in my sights: glorifying Jesus. It is only when I have totally died that I can be resurrected, even in this life in my spirit, so that I can live fearlessly, totally trusting in God and totally at peace with whatever comes my way.
It is encouraging that even the saintly Paul felt he hadn't got there yet. So maybe there is hope for me!
Jesus promises life to the full, and that can only be achieved in faith without fear, and fear dies when love comes in completely.
God is love, and his every inclination is to bless us. I am walking in the truth of that this morning.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Peace! Be still.

Peace, be still.
I read Jesus' words in Mark 4 and linger there, mulling over how to receive them. I read the story again.
Jesus had been with the crowds. Teaching. Healing. Giving of himself. When evening came, he walked away. Probably there were still unmet needs amongst the crowd, but Jesus got in the boat and headed off.
Human instinct is to finish a task. I want to leave the situation here confident that I have tied up all loose ends. That is not the case. As evening of my visit comes, there remain loose ends which disrupt my peace.
But Jesus walked away and got into the boat and slept, trusting his Father to continue to work amongst the crowd.
A furious squall broke out on the Sea of Galilee. Interesting word. Furious. It sounds as if the peace Jesus carried, a peace which passes understanding, really infuriated his supernatural enemies. They attacked. Stirring up the wind and waves and causing fear to rise in the disciples, a fear which swamped faith. The waves threatened to swamp the boat. Fear threatened to swamp faith.
Oh, boy, that sounds familiar. Despite my best efforts, I am still more like the disciples than I am like Jesus.
Jesus, awakened, spoke a powerful word of peace into the elements and they had to obey. Calm ensued. But within the disciples consternation remained. They were with Jesus, in the boat, experiencing his miracles daily, yet still confused, wondering, fearful.
What does it take for the reality of God's love to sink in?
The cross.
Pentecost. The in filling of the disciples by the Holy Spirit.
Peace, the risen Lord told his friends and followers. Receive my Spirit. And he breathed on them, changing them forever.
Breathe on me again, lord Jesus Christ. Fill me again.

Thursday, 14 May 2015


This afternoon I will have the rare pleasure of hitting the 405 and heading towards LA, with a detour to pick up a dear friend. We are headed to Beverly Hills in rush hour traffic in order to see Mhairi in cabaret. A wonderful opportunity and we are excited.
I know where I am going, having driven there many times. Even so, I've checked google maps. I know where to park.
What I don't know is how long the journey time is, due to traffic conditions in is notoriously congested city.
Psalm 48 ends with a promise. 'For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.'
Because of his presence with me and the words of the Bible, I know my destination. At the end of my life, Jesus will be there to take me on home.
But just like the traffic on the 405, the road through life may be congested. It may come to abrupt and unexpected halts. There may be delays which make me miss things which I had been planning for.
But in the end, I know that God is my guide. Whatever today's detours, distractions, or clear roads, I will arrive at the destination hopefully in time for the cabaret and an enjoyable evening.
Whatever the detours, distractions, delays, or clear roads in life, I will end up with Jesus.
Because God will be my guide even to the end.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

A Pincer Movement of Grace

Though I walk through the valley of death...he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
How we long for the safety of the sheep fold with walls around us and a gate secured by a watchman vetting those who want to enter and mingle among us.
The Christian life does offer such respite, sometimes. Peter preached to those on Pentecost, encouraging them to repent and return to The Lord so that they might experience times of refreshing in his presence.
But intrinsic in much of Scripture is the truth that we are to be 'out there' in the world, sometimes even in the valley of the shadow of death, sometimes passing amongst the wolves and robbers, but always confident in our Saviour and Shepherd to protect and guide us through it all.
The sheep need to hear his voice though, and in the cacophony of 21st century life and the distractions of social media particularly, the Shepherd can be sidelined and silenced. We can begin to assume that we are on the right path without checking the GPS of Scripture.
I say we. I mean I. I assume you may be like me, but maybe not. Maybe you are more disciplined, more focused, more aware of that still small voice than I am.
My situation at the moment has me crying out for guidance and to be honest, I am not hearing a very loud voice. What I am doing is praying, committing it to The Lord, and leaving the sheep fold every day, trusting that I need fear no evil, for Jesus is with me, up ahead perhaps and out of sight, but still providing all that is needed in this situation.
Yesterday I saw a pincer movement of God's grace as he provided through two trusted people. Things are not resolved. I am still operating from a position of uncertainty, in my mind. But I am learning every day how to trust him as I navigate this valley, following in his footsteps.
Life is a gift, an adventure, and a challenge. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Three of a Kind?

We were both aiming for three of a kind or a run in a single suit.
That will mean something to those who play cards...in our case, rummy...but to those who don't, it is just meaningless jargon.
So much jargon bandied about in life. Words and phrases which may be redolent with profound or prosaic meaning to those in the know but mean diddly squat to the uninitiated.
One word which has been so debased as to have surrendered nearly all its meaning is the word Love. It can be brought down to the equivalent of 'enjoy' as in 'I love tennis' or 'I love ice cream', or demeaned in relationships by applying to emotions which are physical and shallow.
The real meaning of 'love' stands the test of time. It makes it through the marsh and mud and just grows stronger. It is costly and sacrificial and beautiful.
As Paul wrote in Corinthians 13, 'love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy; it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not deligt in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.'
Love never fails. We drag each other through the bad times, party together in the good. We don't judge or hold each other's foibles against one another. We fall back, regroup, and head out again, together.
Jesus on the cross. The picture of love. Those watching on the day thought it was a picture of the failure of love.
It was just the opposite.
And by the way, they were falling for me last night. Lots of runs and three or more of a kind.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Opportunity Knocks

Every difficult situation is an opportunity to let God do his stuff, visibly and amazingly and in a surprising and unexpected way.
I read that last night and thought it is such an encouraging thought which I can put to the test immediately!
So I did, and already, at 10 am, I have had an answer to prayer. So I am stepping into this day full of expectation. I have taken off the worldly blinkers, which limit my vision to what is humanly possible, and I am walking in faith with a heavenly perspective. Ephesians says that we are already seated in the heavenlies with Jesus so I am consciously choosing to open myself to seeing things from his perspective. It is a whole lot more interesting and exciting.
Whatever situation you encounter today, embrace it with hope and expectation and keep your eyes open for the unexpected.
That is what I am going to do.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

An atmosphere of love creates a matrix of safety

Sitting on the old familiar couch, looking out the old familiar patio windows at the old familiar garden beyond. Memories of childhood, in this same position. The same person I am now...yet so different.
Hearing an electric, or power, tool grinding away next door. A saw? A hedge-trimmer? A lawn mower? Someone is not observing the sabbath, or Mother's Day.
Dimensions of reality. Perceptions of the present and the past. I feel I am operating in a split level universe here, with fuzzy borders everywhere and a real need for patience, kindness and love.
An atmosphere of love creates a matrix of safety. That is what I want to leave behind here when I finally leave. An atmosphere which encourages the sense of a safe haven and a confidence that all is well.
God is love. He is the matrix in which we live and move and have our being. Lord, be in us, around us, through us, over us, underneath us, saturating our every moment, our every thought, our every action, our every expression.
An atmosphere of love creates a matrix of safety.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Thin Places

Our plans this morning include a visit to a location which is for me, a thin place. I understand a thin place to be a geographical spot where heaven and earth overlap in an almost tangible way. I would say the islands of Iona and Lindisfarne are such thin places, spots where the prayers and faith of many, extending back through time, have eroded the separating wall between here and eternity.
I would think the Sea of Galilee is also such a place, as believers think about Jesus and imagine him bobbing on those waters, two millennia ago. I found it so when I visited with my mom a few years ago.
The thin place this morning is not such a universal spot. No doubt many people pass by there completely unaware of its qualities. It is just a gated garden next to a church.
In the soil of that garden, though, lie the cremated remains of my dear sister and her husband. I accompanied them to church services in that church, it seems centuries ago. When they were both full of life and laughter and hopes and dreams.
Now the church is occupied by people of a different nationality, speaking a different language. Everything has changed, except the content of that soil. Nothing magical about it. Nothing more sacred than anywhere else. But for me, and for my family, a touchstone with a loved one who went away before her time, a loved one whose memory lives on but more importantly, whose spirit lives on in a place devoid of pain, sorrow and tears. A place where Jesus can be seen face to face.
I am glad she is there, but still I miss her. She went away at 37; next Wednesday she would have turned 66. I can't imagine her at that age, but I can imagine the laughter and fun we could have still enjoyed had she survived.
There will be tears in that thin place this morning. Tears of loss but tears of hope, too, for I trust in God's promise that he knows the plans he has for us, at all ages, plans for good and to prosper us to give us hope and blessing. The tears, really, are because I miss her still. There is always catharsis and healing when I visit this thin place.

Thursday, 7 May 2015


Moment by moment. Every moment is part of the journey.
Journeys conjure many things. Trials perhaps. Weariness. Uncertainty. Fun. Laughter. New experiences. New vistas. New opportunities. New friends.
Sometimes, though, we just don't feel like making the effort. At 90, for instance, the idea of moving into a new place, out of what has been home for 63 years, can be a step too far. The unknown, rather than being a concept to embrace with hope and expectation, looms like a giant black hole, sucking one inexorably onwards down a vortex of who know what. Who needs a new experience at that age? Why not sink back and enjoy the familiar, the known, the place of memories and haunted by loved ones now gone?
That may be a choice we will make, and indeed it may be the right choice. But in choosing to remain where we are, we are choosing to miss experiences which God may have lined up for us. Leave your native country, The Lord told Abram. He was old, and settled, but he got up and obeyed and eventually found himself in the promised land, patriarch of a nation.
It's not too late to buy the current issue of BRF's Day by Day with God, Bible reading notes for women, and read, amongst other things, my musings on faith as a journey.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015


Peace. Shalom.
Something we all seek but which remains increasingly elusive to many of us.
I feel my stomach has been in the middle of a washing machine cycle now for the last week or two. Churning. Agitating. Stirring up. Exhausting.
The last couple of days have been the spin cycle and I thought that today we would complete the programme and move onto the next phase.
Instead we seem to have opened the door and discovered we need to start over again, but not yet.
Surprisingly, in the midst of this confusion and the vague sense that this decision to draw back is not sensible, I feel that sense of shalom. Of peace.
I asked Jesus this morning to put a stop to our plans if it would be better not to go ahead. That stop has come, so we move on.
More decisions to be made, but not with such immediate and rather overwhelming consequences.
So, peace.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Father God

Another sunny day here. Walking along Seal Beach, I suddenly noticed a dad and his 2 year old boy. The dad was staggering along under the weight of a backpack of provisions, a beach blanket draped over his crooked arm and a thermos flask in that hand. A full load.
He pushed through the sand, blown into small dunes, looking back at his boy and encouraging him to keep pressing forward. The wee boy was making heavy weather of it and struggling to keep up.
I heard the dad ask if he needed carrying. An immediate nod and the dad turned back and scooped him into his free arm. The boy began chattering immediately, happy in the strong arms of his dad.
A perfect picture of Father God. How often we think of the burden of the world's distresses and tragedies which he carries, and yet he always has an eye out for the most vulnerable, the ones whose journey seems onerous or too much. He encourages them to keep going, sometimes through the Bible or prayer and sometimes through friends or family who come alongside. But when the going becomes too much, he pauses and picks up the ones who just can't go on another step.
Reminds me of the footprints poem. Only one set of footprints in the sand doesn't denote that God had abandoned us, but that those were the times he carried us.
Some of us may have our life's journeys characterised by just that one set of footprints.
But that is ok, because Jesus instructed us to abide in him. To trust in him. To lean on him and not on our own understanding.
Independence is not the goal.


Not much time for blogging recently, but my attention was drawn to the spikes on the timeline of how many people check out the blog from one hour to the next.
I made the immediate jump to last Monday as I stood by my Aunt Bev's unconscious body in a hospital in Madison. A beeper recorded every beat of her failing heart and a lot else which I didn't understand.
Spikes. Trends. Measuring a life, a heartbeat. Measuring the number of hits to this blog.
Being measured. I only really feel measured, judged, when doing a test, or competing with someone else.
My aunt's heart was being measured as she fought for life. My blog activity is being measured to try to inspire me to write more, network more, be more clever in the topics I choose or the key words I link to it.
What I don't often think about is how my life is being measured. Is it dipping right now, as I miss opportunities to help someone, to speak a word of encouragement, to offer some money or advice, to go out of my way, to swallow my fear and speak out about the love of Jesus? Or have i said or done something today which initiates a spike?
Inspired by the Word of God, empowered by the Spirit of God, called out by the voice of God, I intend to keep on going without thinking about whether or not I am trending on anything in heaven.
Just want my spiritual heart to keep beating out a rhythm of love which embraces everyone I meet today.
That will do me. God bless you.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Jesus my Rock

Hibiscus flowers added to those from Trader Joe's, lovingly arranged and set out on the table by the dining room window. Where flowers have flourished for years.
Front door open, breeze wafting in on this hot day. Takes me back, more years than I will admit, to those precious growing up years when we often lay in front of the screen door just to cool off on a hot August night. Barbie dolls in the back bedroom. Learning to roller skate on the cement sidewalk while fighting off German measles. Wet Saturday afternoons curled in a chair reading a good novel as the rain pounded down.
More memories pop out at me as I gaze out at the very dry back garden, brown with the drought. Laughter, ping pong, croquet, a couple of dogs, loved ones now moved on.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Thank God he never changes. He is e rock in this maelstrom of life. He is the anchor. Praise him.