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Thursday, 28 July 2016

Vermin Infestations

Vermin. Infestation. Not pleasant words nor pleasant thoughts.

Someone I know has had to compromise her high standards and accept that the rats infesting her balcony cannot be eradicated, just locked out. There are reasons, but are they good enough?

In the western world, we are suffering violence of an insidious and unprecedented nature, at least in my experience. Sudden wickedness erupting in sleepy country parishes, shopping centres, joyful national celebrations. Why? Vermin thinking left undealt with. Allowed to flourish. There are reasons, but are they good enough?

Today I am thinking about those who are dreaming death and destruction on minor or major scales. I am remembering a man, Saul of Tarsus, who headed for Damascus two thousand years ago, breathing death and destruction against those who didn’t agree with his brand of religion. And on the way, he met a Man. A resurrected Man who is also God Almighty. And he was changed in a flash. Literally. So I am praying that those who have been subverted by evil will meet Jesus today, tonight, tomorrow, as they move along their dark roads, and the Light will obliterate the darkness. 

More than that, though. Vermin thinking flourishes when fed by injustice. We have to recognise our part in creating this vile food source. We have got to clean up our actions, our attitudes, and our prejudices. We have got to live out the ideals of the Man from Galilee – love the God of peace, love our neighbours, love ourselves, stop judging one another, celebrate diversity, be filled with the Holy Spirit who brings his fruits – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. So today I am praying that those of us who try to live good lives, and those of us who confess Jesus as Lord, will also meet Jesus today, tonight, and tomorrow, so that the Light will obliterate our darkness, too.

Enough of evil infestations. Let there be light.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Burnt Bacon

The bacon was spluttering in the grill as Francey scrolled lazily through his library of pictures of moths, taken earlier in the morning.

Moths. ‘We don’t like moths,’ I stated flatly, thinking of the carpet moths which have denuded a corner of the living room carpet.

Then he zoomed in. ‘This one was on your front door.’

It was breathtakingly beautiful. Lacy. Delicate. Lovely shade of translucent green. (I’m sorry I didn’t get him to email me the picture. Maybe I can capture one myself... a picture, that is!)

The guests, from Dublin, said they’d never seen as many moths as they’ve seen while staying here with us. One was camouflaged well on the stone dyke. Another lay immobile on a leaf. One had the shape of a stealth bomber. The variety was incredible.

How is it that we have been so blind to the beauty all around us, dismissing moths as those voracious white insects laying their larvae in our wools? 

‘I do like butterflies,’ I said lamely. And then was told that the French for butterflies is papillon, while their word for moths is papillon de nuit. Suddenly they sound lovely.

I can see I will become a mothophile. Didn’t God make us a beautiful world in which to live?

(Yes, the bacon would have burnt had Don not been out there to turn it.)

Monday, 25 July 2016

Define love

How do you define love?

The Father/Son/Spirit love of God inspired self-sacrifice to the extent of breaking apart a divine relationship for the benefit of ... us. The Message paraphrases Philippians 2 in a startlingly contemporary way: ‘Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling on to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity ...’

May I always aspire to show such love to the world around me ... especially those closest to me. To love without counting the cost.

Grey or Blue?

The dark grey clouds hung heavy over the conservatory, weeping buxom drops in copious sheets onto the roof. I’d already hung the king-sized sheet and duvet cover out once, brought them in, and re-hung them out, hopes high that the intermittent sunshine would prevail. 

I hovered between leaping up and racing out once more, or sinking back and reading another article. I was encouraged to leave them hanging, confident that dry skies soon would return.

Indeed, the blue skies were visible, nearly overhead, yet the weepy clouds remained tethered over our house and drying lines, an oxymoron in such a climate. It seemed the clear blue skies would remain just out of reach.

Such is life. At times the grey clouds seem to hang interminably overhead. Sometimes the blue skies are tantalisingly close; other times the horizon flat-lines into a grey sameness. 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Torrential rains or blazing suns don’t diminish nor enhance his love for us, his constancy of favour and grace he beams into our hearts if only we can open them and receive. His love has the power to transform attitudes and situations, and to confer his power into our own lives so that we can live the victorious lives to which he calls us. 

This is the day the Lord has made. Grey skies or blue. He is love, and he is real, and he is alive.

Friday, 22 July 2016


We sat round the kitchen table, four hurting young women, the manager of the refuge and my friend and me. I found myself tongue-tied, unable to initiate conversation in case I strayed into forbidden territory. 

They, too, were quiet. Two of them spoke English as a second language. All of them have children. All are trying to navigate the situation in which they find themselves with grace. We sought out needs we might be able to fill. Rugby for kids? Any holiday clubs during these long summer months? Swimming pools? Bikes? Befrienders to give tours of the town to newcomers? Childcare for any who find work?

We are all here to walk one other home. Some paths drop suddenly into gorges and require helpers to abseil down and bring the victims up, one at a time. I’m not so good at heights and have never abseiled, but here I go.

I don’t know where this connection might lead, but having read Jesus’ gentle words to the woman caught in adultery, and the woman at the well, I know that he was sitting round that table this morning with us. God bless them all.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Slimy Slugs

Slugs are gross. Another burning question for God when I get to heaven: Why slugs? That’s right after, why didn’t we get a third set of teeth? (And maybe, explain the reason for midges, please?)

One of the most prolific living things in our garden is slugs. And their cousins the snails. Voracious appetites. Sliming along munching our strawbs and lettuce and spinach – nothing redeeming about them as far as I can tell.

This morning I spied the tell-tale trail of one wandering round the doormat. The very rough doormat at the garden door. A modicum of sympathy for him as I thought of how bad that must feel on an exposed belly. Well, then, but what was he doing inside my house? Should have stayed outside in the pouring rain.

He got into the house, but he was flummoxed by the scratchy doormat. The doormat is there to stop the dirt (and slugs) from entering the house. Great thing to have.

It’s good to have a scratchy doormat on every entry way to one’s mind and spirit. There are an awful lot of slimy ideas in current culture. If we’re not vigilant, they can slide into our thoughts and begin to transform our thinking in ugly ways, ways that intertwine and gradually become entangled with the godly thoughts we previously held. 

That scratchy doormat is the Word of God, in writing and in person, and the Holy Spirit. It is friends who hold us accountable. It is meditative listening for that still small voice. 

Be alert, Jesus ordered. Don’t let any of those gross ideas move in with you.