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Wednesday, 28 December 2016

All is Calm

All is calm. All is bright.

Random reminders of Christmas scattered round the room: a bag of wrapping paper, cosy slippers and walking boots, a 2-year-old’s waterproof onesie. Empty stockings, a sagging tree, still crazy with lights and baubles and an oversized angel bending down.

An oversized angel bending down. I like the image of an oversized heavenly being bending down, detailed to give us all a helping hand. I love the truth that Jesus can call out his legions of these heavenly beings whenever he wants to. 

It’s been a tricky Christmas for many. A challenging year right round the globe. Tragedy and heartbreak, sorrow and loss.

But in the midst, Jesus has deployed his angels. We are probably rubbing shoulders with them more often than we realise. With every breath, we inhale the fragrance of our Creator God, who loved the world so much, in all of its fallenness, rebellion and pain, that he gave of himself, the most precious Son whom he loves with a love that goes away beyond what we recognise as love. 

Others give of themselves to those they love. New parents with restless babies who are reluctant to settle down. Veteran parents with older children pushing at the boundaries. Those caring for the sick, the injured, the elderly, the dying. 

Rubbing shoulders with the angels. Today and every day. Thank you, Jesus.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Yeast and Potica

Beware the yeast of the Pharisees, Jesus warned.

A tiny bit of yeast can make a substantial loaf of bread. Yesterday I baked the annual Potica we have as a traditional breakfast on Christmas morning. As I always struggle to get it to rise (in our cold house), this year I found the old fashioned dried yeast which you activate in warm water/sugar before adding it to the flour. It seems to have worked as the two sweet loaves were done in record time.

Over the last few years, I’ve used the type of dried yeast which sprinkles directly into the flour. Didn’t work very well.

A suitable matrix for the yeast needs to be found, perhaps. If the yeast of Christ is going to work through my life, I need to be sure he finds a warm place filled with love, a place in my heart. 

As I nurture that space for the yeast of Christ, there will be no welcome for the yeast of the Pharisees.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

We two kings

We two kings ...

The third king has come unstuck. He’s dropped the light, and awaits repair upstairs. He dropped it last Christmas, and has awaited repair all year. But we’ve been too busy, one way and another, to even take time to apply a bit of glue to his upturned arms. A whole year hasn’t been long enough somehow...

It’s easy to drop the light. To become unstuck, too busy with preparations for everything, everyone,  except the King. I just had a wee chat with our postie Paul, who said he is madly laying floors and painting walls before family arrive for the holidays. Today I am pretty focused on getting the traditional Potica to rise – always a challenge in a cold house. Then I want to check the gift situation, do a bit of wrapping, a lot of cleaning, some more baking ... the prep goes on. Busy busy.

And the prep can snuff out the light. We can even drop it as our hands fill up with all sorts of things.
I’ve just come out of the prayer window, and a rendezvous with the King. Time to confess, to be cleansed, to be refilled and relit with the Light of the World. Advent is the season of prep, but we – I – so often replace the important inner, spiritual preparation of a place fit for the King of Kings to live, with outer, relatively unimportant prep.

May your light shine bright throughout the busy preparations. Especially in this world of turmoil and uncertainty, as the darkness nips at our toes, the prep that is really needed is that time in the prayer window, or wherever you call your sacred space. 

Whatever gift you have been given by the King, let him fill your arms with it this Christmas, as you offer it back to him in utter trust and joy.

Monday, 19 December 2016


Walking with Mary this morning. We’d reached the end of the road (literally, not metaphorically...) and turned back when the friendly farmer roared past in his filthy tractor. He stopped, reversed and opened his back window to alert us to the fact that we should be just in front of the herd of cattle he was about to move to another field. 

We should be. 

We didn’t want to risk being overtaken by bulls and cows with calves shouldering each other for space along the narrow road. We wondered just how fast we could leap over the barbed wire and into the fields should we find that in fact, we weren’t quite fast enough to avoid being overtaken by a stampeding herd.

Behind us we heard the farmer’s shouted commands, the dog’s barks, and the alarmed mooing. We picked up the pace.

What motivates my journey through life? Is it fear of being overtaken, or eagerness to arrive? Or is it a pleasant contentment with my pace and where I am at the moment?

Jesus counselled us not to worry about tomorrow. There’s enough stuff going on today. Nothing’s going to overtake us which we can’t manage. 

The threat of an approaching herd of cows never materialised. We never needed to leap the fence. 

But probably we benefited from a faster paced walk.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Crown of Splendour

Grey hair is a crown of splendour; it is attained in the way of righteousness. Better a patient person than a warrior... Proverbs 16:31

I love this picture of my mom. She is sitting patiently, waiting for Mhairi and me to look around the Wayfarers Chapel in Palos Verdes. She has no agenda, no big plans which she is impatient to fulfil. She is sitting on a stoop, facing a panorama of the Pacific Ocean from a position of tranquillity and peace. She is content. 

She’s one of my heroes. At 92, she is settling into a new way of life and embracing new opportunities. There are occasional shadows of nostalgia but usually she savours the memories of other days while seeking out the blessings of today. Her memory may slip a gear or two but even that is generally accepted with grace and humour. 

In these horrific days as Aleppo falls and rumours abound of terrors and atrocities, I echo the writer of Proverbs 16. Better a patient person than a warrior. I thank God for my dear mom, who continues to model faith and love even in the twilight of her days. 

May God bless this world with more people of patience and kindness, and fewer warriors.