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Saturday, 27 June 2015

Moving On

I lie in bed in the old familiar room. I first slept in this room when I was just over a year old. The neighbour hood was quiet then as it transformed from fields of beans to a network of homes and streets. On a hot night like this, we would have had the windows open and the peaceful rhythm of the crickets would have serenaded us to sleep.

Tonight the dominant noise is from the busy freeway which passes a couple of blocks away. It carries traffic up and down the length of California and it never sleeps. Trucks and cars hum and sing and roar their way past like a river in spate. Where on earth is everybody going at 2 am?

We have worked hard for a few days to pack up the essentials for the coming migration. The movers will be here at 9 and they will begin carrying my mother's furniture and essentials over the threshold and out through the door, to be rearranged in a new place, a few miles further down the freeway. A place which she will now call home.

But of course for her, as for me and for her grandchildren, that will never be home. This will remain home in mind and heart though eventually others will hang their hats here. Others will laugh and live and love within these walls and I pray a blessing on them, that there will be as much joy here as there has been for over sixty years.

I lie awake on into the night, and I think of Abraham. He had a comfortable, familiar home in a modern city called Ur. He had friends and family and amenities and then God called him to pack up and begin a nomadic life trekking to somewhere called the promised land.

He didn't have movers to help him, nor had he had a chance to measure the rooms in the new place and calculate the furniture he could take. He could take what he could carry. Like many a refugee today, that may not have been very much.

He didn't have a chance to visit the promised land and decide whether or not it would be a good move. He had an encounter with God and heard his marching orders and obeyed.

The Bible recounts his story of highs and lows along the way. It records that Abraham was a man of great faith, who walked out into the unknown trusting in the God who guided him.

Life is a journey. Sometimes that journey is physical, like the one I am helping my mother make, and sometimes, usually, it is spiritual, mental, emotional, or indeed, all of these things.

As the Celtic blessing says, may the road rise up to meet you, may the wind always be at your back, and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand. As my mother moves on, heartbroken and grieving for times now past, I pray that God will continue to hold her in the palm of his strong and loving hand.

I will lie down again, perhaps to sleep, perchance to dream, probably to continue remembering the years, the lives, the people who have left their mark on this place, which will remain a precious oasis in my mind always.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Rainbow in the Teardrop

Life has a way of raining on all of us at one time or another, and sometimes it seems that we are walking not just through the rain but through a shower of tears. In every teardrop, though, there is a rainbow, and the rainbow is a sign of love and blessing and promise from God.

Jesus promises never to leave nor forsake us, and his presence brings light into everything. Light through water brings a prism of co,our, a rainbow. So, dear Lord, take this great big teardrop through which we are walking and reveal the rainbow in it. Many times we miss the beauty and the blessing of our circumstances because our focus is too much on the circumstances. Sometimes we feel the most alive when we are tested, having to do things we really don't want to do, go places we really don't want to go, but if our faith is strong and our hope is sure, we will see the rainbow through the tears.

May we find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow today. All of us.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015


I grew up in this home, a home whose walls absorbed both laughter and tears. I have been here for periods of time with my husband and children and again, the home echoed with laughter and tears. Memories.

Memories which kind of sanctify a place, making it holy to those who have loved here.

Going through books. Some inscribed on the fly leaf with words of love and encouragement, from my dad, to my dad, from or to my mom. From or to my sister. Suddenly when I see the familiar writing the book becomes special and it would seem a sacrilege to discard it, a turning away from a loved one somehow.

Downsizing is painful. Painful but liberating. As we walk towards the day the movers will come in, I feel almost numb, making decisions of what to keep, what to take, what to drop. I am dropping much along the way but are they really bits of me, of my family, of an irrecoverable past? Or are they impeding progress? Are they giant carbuncles which prevent me from becoming who I was really created to be?

Things hold us back, and yet we seem to be a culture of accumulation, gathering more and more things around us. Associations of loved ones with things then become a hindrance to our stepping forward in freedom.

Living in Jesus is living in freedom. His plans for us don't depend on keeping the right things, of clinging on to memories. They depend on us clinging on to him. In Christ alone our hope is found.

I will allow him today to knock off the carbuncles large and small which may be keeping me from being all I can be in him. It is a painful process, but the sun is up, it's a new day, and this is the day that The Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Surf's up!

I grew up with surfers, catching the waves, hanging ten on the beautiful beaches of Southern California. I was never tempted, being cautious and frightened of the water.

I am in a testing time, helping my mother transition and move into safer accommodation. There is so much to think about and plan while the clock is ticking towards the big move and then the aftermath, settling her in, staying a few days and then going away and leaving her there.

I am reminded of a surfer, and against my personal inclinations I am the one on that board. The wave is rising inexorably beneath me, carrying me higher with the force of it's forward and upward propelling. It's swelling as it carries me towards the shore, which actually looks rather distant and unattainable.

Jesus, my faith and trust in him: this is the fabric of the surfboard on which I balance. And balance is the operative word. As I keep balanced on him, I can ride this wave and sweep into shore with grace and beauty. If I allow myself to check out the size of the wave, to look at it swelling to a crest, to notice the depth of water beneath my board, to lose focus, I will lose my balance and plunge off the board into the churning waves. I will eventually be deposited on the shore, bedraggled and battered and beaten. But if I remain in position, feet making the little adjustments necessary to maintain balance on Jesus, I will reach the beach erect and with poise and his grace.

More than that, though, if I can invite and accept Jesus fully into this whole situation, I can thrill to its unexpected beauties and appreciate the gifts of the moment. The acts of kindness coming our way. The expressions of love from many.

Surf's up and I am going to ride this wave, balanced on and in Jesus my Lord.

Monday, 22 June 2015

A thief in the night

While people are saying 'peace and safety', destruction will come on them suddenly.

That was the situation in the church in Charleston last week. Peaceful,people reading their bibles together, suddenly gunned down by a traitor in their midst, a wolf in sheep' s clothing.

The grown children of one of the victims were interviewed on TV less than 24 hours later and with dry eyes, they proclaimed forgiveness for the gunman and nothing but love in their hearts towards everyone. They declared the truth that love is stronger than hate and that love will prevail. They thanked people for standing with them.

Destruction came on them suddenly. They had said goodbye to their mother that morning not knowing it was the last time. The last time...until

I am back to my thoughts a couple of days ago, that though things appear to be the last time, in reality love takes us through to the until. Their mother's death came as a thief in the night but they were alert and prepared for the shock and even in the first flush of grief they could offer forgiveness. They spoke with faith, firmness and clarity of the power of love over hate. Tearless and in shock,,they were solid in their understanding of the cross. It was poignant and unforgettable.

They may have reflected on the 'last time' but their predominant thought was 'until'. Until they meet her again in Jesus' Kingdom. That until is fuelled by love and will carry them through all the hard days to come. It will strengthen and sustain them as they hang on to the hope we have in Jesus.

Until. A promise of a heavenly party. An invitation to it. Where we will all sit down at the father's table.

Most of us won't face such a brutal end to this day, but we may be facing situations which seem heavy and emotionally leaden, where a situation or circumstance or relationship weighs like a pall on our hopes and dreams.

But this is the day that The Lord has made and if we allow God into the things of life, big and small, he can transform them in his presence and carry us forward in the hope to which he has called us.

Have a great one. Don't be undermined by any thieves in the night.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

The last time...until

Sometimes the last time for being somewhere, doing something or even seeing someone just sneaks up on you. You are blissfully unaware of the possible poignancy of a moment in time and so you sail on through unaware, only in retrospect appreciating its significance.

Other times, though, the final moment, the final time is agonisingly anticipated. It can be paralysing and suck the colour out of life as the moment approaches inexorably. Such is the agony of a deathbed watch. Or of watching a love shrivel and die. Or of a pending separation over huge geographical distances.

Jesus shows us how to live in the moments of greatest poignancy and approaching separation. On the night before he died, he told his friends many things, but perhaps one of the most significant was contained in one little five-letter word. Until.

I will not taste of the vine again until I sit down at the feast in the Kingdom.

He was telling his friends about his approaching death and then tied that horror into the festive meal they were sharing and giving it eternal significance. His friends didn't really get it. They didn't get it until he sent the Holy Spirit a few weeks later to help them understand.

For me, right now, approaching a 'never again' moment as we prepare to move my mom from the home I have known since I was 1 year old, a home immersed in memories of joy and laughter and love, I am holding on to the word until. The home itself signifies times which can never be repeated, and yet they will be repeated in our eternal home, which will be at once familiar, the best place of all our lives, and yet different because it will be even better.

We will not pass this way again until...

What a comfort Jesus must have taken from that ray of light and hope and expectation in the middle of the darkest night.

What comfort I take from the fact that in this, as in everything, Jesus has passed this way before with hope, expectation, faith and grace, and with his help, relying on his love and trusting in his promises, so can I.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Blooming Beautiful

Blooming Beautiful

A broom bush gushes out at the end of our driveway. Its flowers, a neon yellow, proliferate in a glorious glow. 

It’s become a challenge to see up the road without creeping halfway into it, but the bush’s splendour makes us hesitate to prune it. It’s becoming a hazard.

We recently had trees pruned which were growing perilously close to overhead electric wires, threatening to break them in a windstorm. The pruners came late and had to remove many branches from the lilac which should be in full bloom now. Instead we are left with a few stragglers and a bunch of branches with blunt cuts. 

Had we pruned the lilac and the broom earlier, they would have had time to form new buds and might have been lush and beautiful ... and safe.

Someone dear to me needs to move into a sort of sheltered accommodation, and she desperately wants to remain at home instead. But it strikes me that we can go now while she is still able to participate in some activities and bloom in a new situation, or we can wait until the danger is such that we need to prune off the blossom of her spirit, which at her age may not easily return and if it does, it may take some time.

The prophet Isaiah wrote a promise that ‘God will keep in perfect peace the person whose mind is focused on him’. We don’t enjoy seasons of pruning. Most of us resist change. I know I do. We are more content to look back at the blossom of former times than to look forward anticipating the blossom to come. 

Jesus promised to be with us always, to the end of the world, and certainly into a new residential situation. I for one am hanging on to that promise and looking forward to what he is going to do in this new season. I am sure there will be blossom and with it, fruit.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Granite or Glass?

I live in an old house with granite walls. Thick granite walls, which serve to keep the cold in, summer or winter. Today the sun shines bright out of a brindled sky, but sitting at my table, I feel the cold.

A few years ago we built on a glass porch, a small conservatory. It is freezing and unusable in the winter but it doesn’t take much sunshine to heat the room up beautifully. As I sit freezing in the living room, I know that the temperature in the conservatory will be pleasantly toasty.

I want the walls of my heart to be like the glass walls of the conservatory, so that the love, truth, light and warmth of the Son permeates it easily. I find, though, that sometimes I retreat into the granite interior. I can be indifferent rather than compassionate. I can be selfish rather than selfless. I can be greedy rather than generous. I can be judgmental rather than understanding. I can choose to be blind to those things that challenge my comfort zone.

Forgive me, Lord, for making such choices. May the walls of my heart be thin glass, softly permeable to the light of your love. May I never choose hardness over compassion, blindness over sight, self-centredness over selflessness. May I always be willing to go the extra mile, and may I pray without ceasing as I go through each day.

Soften my heart, Lord.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Even the Weeds Flower

Someone kindly noted on Saturday that despite the preponderance of weeds in my flower beds, there are pockets of vibrant colour. 

Yes, I thought later, but actually, even the weeds flower. 

The definition of a weed is a flower growing where you don’t want it. I think some weeds, though, are plants which are pernicious no matter where they grow. I was going to write that sins are like weeds of the latter variety, which they are, but I think there are other things we might not think of as sins which are just as pernicious because they undermine the beauty of our faith.

Fear and anxiety are in that category. God tells us hundreds of times in the Bible (366 times to be precise) not to be afraid. It seems to be our default response in many situations and the problem with being afraid is that it undermines our faith in the God of the impossible. Focusing on the problem instead of on the answer magnifies the problem and shrinks the faith we have in the Answer.

I’m still mulling over my experience at the Great Barrier Reef, and this morning I’ve been thinking about how completely God answered my prayer on the boat trip out to the reef, my prayer that I would not just manage to snorkel ok but that I would actually love the experience and the opportunity to enjoy one of his breathtaking beauty spots. 

My circumstances are different but I am changing tack on my prayers to reflect that experience. I am now praying that God will enable me to face whatever is coming with regards to a family situation not just with stoic determination and stiff resolve but with a divine perspective, so that I can appreciate the full vista of what is happening in relation to life itself and rejoice to see God’s hand in everything, big and small.

With God’s help I am going to wheak out that pernicious weed of fear and replace it with a beautiful dollop of faith, gratefully received from my gracious Master.

Friday, 12 June 2015

What lies beneath?

A few years ago we had the opportunity to snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Not being the best swimmer and never comfortable out of my depth, never mind out of sight of land, I prayed all the way out to the reef for peace not just to do it, but to really love seeing one of God’s great wonders of our world.

God answered that prayer in an amazing way and it remains one of the best experiences of my life.
One significant memory I have is the uncomfortable sensation of having choppy waves splashing in my face, propelled by the winds (which culminated in a hurricane later that night). That contrasted sharply with the utter peace and magical beauty of the underwater world when I put my facemask to the surface of the water and observed. It was breathtakingly beautiful and revealed a completely different reality, one in which life went on in an unhurried, lazy-looking way.

When storms and even hurricanes arise in our lives, it is so easy to focus on the choppy waters, the high winds, and the unknown but vividly imagined devastation to come. I am in such a situation now, but I am challenged, reminded, and calmed by the certainty that if I keep my gaze on Jesus, it is like looking at the peaceful culture of the underwater reef. Praising him for his love, his constancy, his presence, his participation in all that is going on to the benefit of all involved – whether or not I perceive it – encourages me to take a deep breath and renew my efforts to focus on him. 

The hurricane still hit Queensland that January day, fortunately after we had reached shore and disembarked from the boat! Jesus calmed his panicking disciples once when they were being tossed about in a violent storm, reassuring them of God’s care and protection – and then speaking peace to the wind and waves. 

He speaks peace to the storm in my life and yours today. The winds and waves may continue as events unfold, but if we can maintain the peace of Jesus deep within, we will have a significant victory. It may be a sign of Kingdom life which reveals Jesus to others.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Hold on and Bloom

Have you noticed the bright and cheery yellow laburnum blossom hanging heavy from trees in Scotland just now?

As I drove under one today, I noticed how thin the stem seemed which was holding the blooms. Jesus advises us to abide in him. That he is the vine and we are the branches and that as long as we abide in him, we will bear fruit for the kingdom.

I felt him say, as I passed beneath the heavy-laden tree, “Just hang on and bloom.” That’s the kind of place I’m in right now so in the midst of it all I’m going to try to figure out how to just hang on in Jesus, and bloom.