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Thursday, 30 July 2015

Distorted perception

Carnivals and fun fairs used to (and maybe still do) always have a hall of mirrors. We used to enjoy walking through and seeing our weird transformations as the wiggly mirrors reflected  distorted images of us, either with short legs or elongated heads or stretched bodies, both horizontal and vertical. We laughed because we knew that wasn’t an accurate reflection of how we looked.

It’s easy to see images of other people which are inaccurate and untrue. Someone does something and we assume we know the reasons why, and we begin to see them in a new light. Someone fails to meet our expectations and we jump to judge them, drawing conclusions from a point of ignorance. 

Paul writes to the Corinthians that now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror – or as the King James version reads, now we see through a glass darkly. We look at Jesus and we jump to conclusions, thinking we see him clearly. We can only see him clearly, though, through ‘Holy Spirit specs’. It takes time, focus, and love. 

Love? Yes, because I think the clearest picture we will have of Jesus is through the eyes of our heart, through the lens of love. Our minds, as transformed and renewed as we hope they will become, may still fail to grasp the length and breadth and height and depth of God’s love for us. But our hearts thrill to its truth.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

The Bully in the Bushes

When I was about 5 or 6, there was a bully down the street who had a pet snake. Day after day he threatened to throw his snake on me. As I approached his house going to and from school, I would fearfully pick up the pace and hope to get past without him seeing me.

The day came when he burst out of his screen door carrying a wood and screen cage, in which lived the dreaded snake. He ran down the sloping grass towards me and I screamed. Then, to my amazement, he turned and fled back towards the house.

He hadn’t reckoned on my big sister. She was bearing down on him, shouting at him to leave her little sister alone. 

And from then on, he did.

I am still thinking about that wonderful phrase describing the purpose of life: ‘we are all walking each other home’. Sometimes our lives are threatened by bullies in the bushes and we cry out for a protector. Of course God is always our protector but there are times when a big sister/brother fighting our corner is what is very welcome indeed. 

Sometimes we are the big sister/brother to others who are walking a dark or fearful path. We are needed to chase off the threats. 

My sister was only 7 or 8, and she did it in person, but as a Christian I believe in the absolute power of prayer, and our ability to stand with others, in encouragement and also in spiritual warfare when there are fiery darts heading their way. That’s what the family of God is all about. A community walking each other home, prayerfully and practically.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Seasonal Surprises

Summer in Scotland is notoriously unpredictable. Usually there are some weeks of warmth interspersed through days of wet and cool, but this year has remained so cool that our electric underblanket is still in use, as is the winter duvet. And the other night I lit a fire. In July. 

It’s not what even those acquainted with the oxymoron ‘Scottish summer’ expect. 

I’m in late summer/autumn of life, a season when I would expect that life would take on a more sedate pace. A time for exploring those postponed passions – reading, writing, travelling – a time for reflection and peace. 

Yet life is hectic and its pace leaves me slumping into bed each night wondering what I’ve been doing to make me so tired. I’m in a sandwich situation with cares for my elderly mother and the first grandchild now on the scene. I’m still trying to carve out time to write; I enjoy the garden and have to keep up the house; there are Bible studies and prayer groups and family gatherings and neighbours. 

It can be challenging to be grateful for the damp days of a Scottish summer, but I’ve also been in the drought days of a southern California summer this year and I know which is more sustainable. 

It can be challenging to be grateful for the demands on my time at this stage of life, but I am. I am so grateful for family and friends and neighbours who we love and who love us and who want to spend time with us. Maybe one of the reasons I’ve not been a very prolific writer over the years is that I veer towards choosing relationships over choosing to sit in a garret writing that great novel which must still be in me (since the others still await publishers). 

When my winter arrives and words are carved on my tombstone, I prefer that they will mention loving relationships than writing masterpieces.

I’ve been thinking today about Proverbs 3:5: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. So I entrust the great muddle of life to the Lord, and give up on understanding it!

Monday, 27 July 2015


I’d just started frying potatoes for dinner. The rainbow trout waited in the fridge for its flash in the pan with some slivered almonds, and the spinach sat washed and ready to lightly boil. Without warning, without so much as a clap of thunder or flash of lightning, the power cut out. 

All the background whirrs and hums that are part of modern life ceased abruptly and we were abandoned into silence and gloom. Stomachs were beginning to grumble and so were voices.

The hydroelectric company confirmed what we knew – we had no power. Neither did about 600 other homes in the area and we wouldn’t have any for at least an hour, maybe longer. 

Suddenly the dinner menu had to be abandoned. The B&B guest had to be phoned and warned about our plunge into a powerless evening. A quick supper had to be sought at a local eatery. 

Without power, dinner had to be re-thought. E-mails in progress were lost as computer screens went blank. I was grateful that skyping was done for the day, that the online application we had worked on an hour earlier had been completed and submitted, and that it was not yet dark.

When we returned from dinner, the power was back on. Whew.
I’ve had a lovely but hectic few days, and time in my prayer alcove has dwindled to non-existent. With no live connection to the Power Source, I’ve been coasting, not always very successfully. Not sure I have always made the right calls. Found myself breaking down in tears once or twice. Felt overwhelmed by the enormity of things. Anxious. Fearful.

Lost my perspective. The perspective we have because we are already seated in the heavenlies in Christ. The perspective we have been given through the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. 

Our electric power outage was not my fault. My spiritual power outage was not God’s fault. I’m the one who missed those times of refreshing when I sit with the King and the power is restored. 

I’ll be back in the window tomorrow. That’s for sure.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

A Corker

Everyone laughed at me when the one souvenir I wanted from Australia five years ago was a cork hat.

Nobody’s laughing now. Even my wee granddaughter was grateful for it a couple of weeks ago.  

I may start an import agency bringing them in because here in a Scottish summer, the moist air and a bit of warmth brings out the midges and flies in droves. Not sure the corks put the midges off, but they certainly enable gardening or walking which would otherwise be impossible.

Paul writes that we should remember to put on the armour of God, including the helmet of salvation. I know he had in mind the helmets worn by a Roman Soldier, but actually I think an Aussie Cork Hat might be a pretty good helmet too.

As I go through my days, I find odd thoughts pinging into my head. Negative thoughts. Doubts. Fears. Now if, instead, I put on a helmet every morning with corks of Scripture bouncing around, I would be well-armed to combat these unhelpful ideas. 

Jesus wasn’t wearing a cork hat when he encountered the devil in the desert (I don’t think...), but he was able to deflect each of the fiery temptations with a word from the Bible. 

Wearing my cork hat, I can garden in relative peace. I need to work on positioning more of those truths and promises on my scriptural cork hat and then my days will be exhilarating as I deflect one incoming bad thought after another.

Monday, 20 July 2015

The Big Issues

Sonorous Ticking

The old Grandfather Clock measures out my days, its sonorous ticking dividing it into thousands of moments. For years it sat silenced, because its proximity to bedrooms was purgatory for insomniacs. 

A year or so ago, a visitor got the clock re-started, though I had reservations about that constant tick-tocking ruling my days. The noise, however, is sonorous and peaceful, sounding out a sort of heartbeat. 

The best thing, though, is that the actual bell which trills out the hours no longer works. He couldn’t figure out why, but actually, I think we have achieved the best of both worlds. We have a gentle marking of the passage of time without the piercing reminders every hour that our days are flying by inexorably.

There is much benefit in living each moment. I understand that is one of the principles of the practice of mindfulness, but it also echoes Biblical teaching about our lives in relationship to God. I’ve been thinking this morning about the benefits of noting the small things in life which often give us pleasure. The fragrance of a rose. The humming of a bee. The swoops and dives of swallows (or even the tiny bats which were out last night). The purr of a cat. The giggle of a child. 

Life is full of Big Issues, issues which can overwhelm our thoughts and peal out incessant, demanding gongs. But more important are the small things which build up our daily lives and mark the minutes as they go gently by. Our characters are built in the small things, revealed in the big. If we can cultivate peace and harmony moment by moment, then when the Big Issues arise we can navigate them secure in God’s love, faithfulness and hope.

‘Who dares despise the day of small things?’ God asks. (Zechariah 4:10). 

Today I am going to celebrate the small things, as I navigate the Big Issues in peace.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

A Nasty Twig

Our cat Amelie has been sick for five days. The first trip to the vet resulted in the misdiagnosis of an ingested grass seed which might have led to a lung infection. She was given anti-inflammatories to snort every morning.

She continued to refuse food and drink, grew increasingly lethargic and although she purred readily, her general condition was deteriorating before our eyes. Back to the vet, a different vet, who listened to our descriptions and then examined her. She lingered round her throat, feeling some inflamed glands and massaging as she felt what might be there.

Suddenly Amelie gagged and coughed out a twig over an inch long. It had obviously been lodged in her throat, preventing swallowing and causing increasing distress to her. 

The vet was surprised that her massage had produced such an immediate result. We had prayed for Amelie – were divine fingers guiding those of the vet? I think so.

First miracle of the day.

The Bible tells us to chew over Scripture, to taste it and suck on it and swallow it so that it becomes an intrinsic part of us. But sometimes we have twigs which we have swallowed which prevent the good ‘food’ of the gospel from going all the way in. We have been so marinated in the world’s ‘wisdom’ that we fail to see its inadequacies when compared to God’s wisdom. 

We might find ourselves offended by God’s teaching. How often should I forgive? Seventy times seven? What should I give away? Everything? How much should I love God? With my whole heart, soul, mind and being? And my neighbour too???

The world preaches a gospel of self: look after number 1; if it feels good, do it; we deserve self-indulgence, at whatever price. These ideas can be like a twig in our spiritual throats.

We need our divine Lord to massage our throats and dislodge those things which prevent his word from entering into us and becoming fully absorbed into our very beings. Or maybe I’m seeing this round the wrong way: if Jesus (the Word) is already living in us, then perhaps those twigs of inferior worldly ideas and wisdom prevent us from allowing his fullness and life to flow out through us to a hurting world. 

Either way, that nasty twig has got to go. Help, Lord!