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Thursday, 30 November 2017

Not so easy to receive

Osteoporosis is crippling her. With five broken bones in her lower back, she bends forward, leaning heavily on her walker. She accepts help, but only when she has to. Otherwise she is fiercely independent.
She was determined to treat Mom to some Christmas decorations from Pier 1. 'I don't really know her,' Mom whispered to me, finding it very hard to accept.
She was determined to buy Mom, and me as the driver, a good lunch. Not a sandwich. It had to be a hot meal. Because we were at a place specialising in cheesecake, she insisted we choose a piece to bring back. She upgraded mom's to a 6" round cake. 'I really hardly know her,' Mom whispered again, reaching for her purse.
It is better to give than to receive, the Bible says. It is certainly harder to receive.
This dear lady talked. She talked a lot, about her life, the losses, the broken relationships. She talked of rejection and loneliness, of having no family left in the world with whom she is in contact. She is outspoken and no doubt responsible for some of the brokenness, but in her loneliness Mom has obviously been a friendly smile, a kind word, a beacon of light.
Jesus came to his own people, but they didn't receive him. It can be hard to receive.
God wants to give to us every day. He may paint a glorious sunrise, but we fail to open our curtains or look up. He may enable a touching picture in the nature around us...an encounter between birds or squirrels, a nuzzle from a friendly dog, but we are busy and rush past. He may reach out to us through the hug of a friend, but we stiffen and pull back awkwardly.
To everyone who receives Jesus, who recognises who he is, God gives the right to be called children of God. To all who receive.
It can be hard to receive. We don't really know God. We don't want to be indebted. We feel we can do it on our own, not wanting to appear weak, to be dependent. We don't have time to think it through. We struggle on like the lady, leaning painfully on her walker, broken bones in her back.
May we all have our senses alert to receive from our loving Father today, all the blessings that he will pour out on each of us. His eyes twinkle with anticipation, excited to see our reaction to his bountiful love. He is the one who gave his heart, his only son who he loved so much, the gift of Christmas. May we all have the grace to receive him with love, and with him, life in all its fullness.
If I need to lean on anything today, may it be on Him.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017


We decorated the graves, putting flowers from the farmers' market on Dad's, where we paused, prayed and wiped away the stray tears, then on my aunt's and uncle's, then on Son's parents' graves, unaccountably close to my family's. Sometimes God is just plain gracious. Always he is.
We exchanged tales. Reminisced. Laughed. Missed them.
Then we went to Redondo Beach pier, a boardwalk hosting restaurants and shops, jutting into the shores of the Pacific. Impressive rollers broke beneath the pier and crashed on the boulders beyond. Bravely, a few surfers rode the waves, despite them not ending in soft sand, but on those hard rocks. They were no doubt skilled at their sport, and knew how not to be concussed at the end of an exhilarating ride.
In life, we never know how big the next wave will be. Years should feed wisdom and enable us to anticipate, so that life continues to be exhilarating right to the end. Whether that end is on soft sand or hard boulders, as long as the Lord is there, it matters little.
Today we have plans to go out with one of Mom's new friends here. This sweet lady has appreciated Mom's friendship and wants to treat her. I am the designated driver, privileged to enable this to happen. May I be given the grace to embrace all the joys and challenges of this day. May you receive grace to embrace whatever the day holds for you, too.
Our strength is limited. His grace has no boundaries.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Turn right

This is the day the Lord has made. Whatever it holds, I'm praising him. We have plans for today, plans which may blossom and create a fragrant memory. Plans which may just work out and be forgotten once the sun sets. Plans which may go flat and even leave a stink.

Whatever the day holds, I am going to walk into it praising the Lord, embracing the good, letting anything else fall away.

Yesterday I took a road less travelled. I turned right instead of left, and discovered a post office, a gas station ... even a cinema ... within a couple of miles. How often I limit myself by sticking to the familiar, never considering going a different route.

Today I will look up, look out, and try a new way.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Good news!

I saw a fantastic good news story today about the cleaning up of the world's oceans. A man has invented a way to suck up the plastic which is polluting so much of our waters, and will take it to land to be recycled.They are starting work in 2018 in a garbage field of plastic three times the size of the U.K., which lies in the Pacific between the west coast and Hawaii, and hope to have all oceans cleaned by 2050.

That is assuming we all stop using plastic and throwing it away.

The Holy Spirit is a bit like the invention. He has the ability and the desire to gather up all the garbage that the world has thrown into our minds, emotions, and psyches, and recycle it into something beautiful. Where it is contaminating our thoughts and clogging our vision, reducing our self images to distortions of the truth that we are all children of God and filling us with shame and regrets, Holy Spirit can sweep these poisons away and confirm God's opinion of each one of us. No matter what the garbage is that is making us less than who we are, God can deal with it through Jesus.

He has good plans for us all. Plans to give us hope and a future. Plans to restore the years that the world has ruined. Plans to confirm our identities as children of the King

Now that is a Good News story.

Sunday, 26 November 2017


Yesterday we retraced a once well-worn path. After walking round the duck pond at El Dorado Park, we decided to walk 'home', past the house I lived in from age 1. No longer ours. A new season.
We rounded the corner of the church and saw that they have reseeded the front lawn, replacing Mom's azaleas and hostas with drought resistant cacti, paving a walkway to the drive, cementing over the planter by the porch. It looked great.
A lady emerged from the front door and went to her car. I approached and introduced myself. She graciously took us inside to meet her daughter in law, expecting their first child, who kindly showed us the house. So familiar, so different. Not many changes, but bigger furniture, new curtains, air con, a room ready to welcome a baby.
We chatted, shared. And then we left.
It was a God-ordained encounter. Mom is comforted to know prayers have been answered, the home that meant so much to her, to us, has a lovely family living there, ready to grow, ready to thrive in that loving place where we thrived.
A new season.
Thank you Lord.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Under the circumstances...

Under the circumstances. That is a defeatist phrase which I try not to use. I don't want to live under the circumstances. I want to live with grace in them, and with God's help, soar above them. It is tempting, easy to complain, and to conclude that our current situation leads us to certain attitudes or actions which we would otherwise not embrace.

I am in a situation demanding patience. Love is patient. Love is kind. Today, trusting in God's faithfulness and help, I am going to let his love expand my patience and deepen my love.

I am not going to live under the circumstances, but soar through them, praising God all the way. Happy Saturday.

Friday, 24 November 2017


Familiar faces and less familiar. Gathering from Colorado, Scotland, and places round Southern California. We were here last year. Things have happened since. Good things and not so good things. Miracles and blessings, for those with eyes to see them. We sport new scars and lines, but where some lines have deepened, others have filled in as if one of these anti ageing potions really did work. Some pains we share; some pains we bear. Joy can't be contained, though. The joy of new life, born since last year. The joy of new experiences shared, of academic success achieved, of professional breakthrough attained, of relationships deepened. Conversation flows, encompassing memories of those no longer here, of places no longer owned.
Thanksgiving. A day to treasure in its simplicity. I am very grateful to be embraced by the wider family, included as one of their own. As Tiny Tim prays, God bless us every one!

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

Four million people headed out of LA for the Thanksgiving weekend break, I am told. Four million. Nearly the whole population of Scotland, on the freeways in the Southland.
It took three hours to go thirty five miles.
It's hard to visualise this. We are about to drive thirty miles to my cousin's son's place to share the Thanksgiving feast, so I guess I am grateful that four million have left town, as google maps reports traffic is light right now on the freeways. Well we will see.
Everybody's busy. Everyone is moving, stressed and anxious. The newspapers announce thousands of Black Friday bargains and more people grab a MacDonalds and head for the shops, forgoing a turkey feast with those they love.
It's a crazy time in which we live. Thanksgiving, of all days, should be a day for enjoying one another, enjoying good food, enjoying sharing our reasons for gratitude, of which there are many for most of us.
I remember how humbled I was years ago when AIDS orphans from Uganda were visiting our church. As we gathered to share prayers of thanks spontaneously and corporately, it was hard to get a chance to pray because these beautiful young people were enthusiastically thanking God for the air they breathe, for the sun in the sky, for the food on the table. These were kids who had nothing.
Gratitude isn't limited by what we do or don't have. It's an attitude.
Happy Thanksgiving. Xxx

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Diamonds are forever

Diamonds, I am told, are formed under pressure. As peat sinks deeper into the earth, pressures harden it into the strongest stone there is.
When a diamond is found in a mine, it is a rock. It is in the cutting and polishing that it begins to sparkle. The facets gouge chasms in the stone which, when polished, attract light and reveal hidden beauties. The intrinsic beauty of the diamond is revealed through the cutting and polishing.
I'm obviously no geologist, but I think each life is a diamond. Every life is beautiful, and as life happens, the good and the bad, the facets cut deep and expose the inner beauty in new ways that sparkle. God is the ultimate diamond polisher, and as he is invited into a life he is able to create and expose a deeper beauty than ever imagined. The bad things in his hands transform into something breath-taking.
May he transform those deepest cuts in you today, polishing away shame and regret, anger and unforgiveness, fear and disappointment. May he replace despair with hope, hatred with his love, shame with confidence.
May he restore to you and me the years that the locust has eaten, and reveal a mine of polished diamonds, individual gems giving glory to him.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

All my bags are packed

All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go...

The Mamas and The Papas crooned this out in 1969 when I was in my first year of university, and it has been a sort of theme song for my life. I do like the song...and understand the sentiment. Belonging in two places at once. Hating to leave someone behind. Anticipating what I’m going to do with other loved ones. Conflicting emotions.

We’re at a time in life where our theme song could be written about de-cluttering. There will come a time when I won’t need to hover over an empty suitcase and debate what sorts of clothes the weather will require. I won’t need to remember my moisturiser and pack my Bible. Whatever I take with me, I’m packing now, deep into my spirit. 

I want to ensure that what’s in there is life-giving, God-exalting, Jesus-loving, Truth. My goal is to memorise more Scripture. Memorise, not moisturise. I know my brain won’t be required in the next life, but I think that as my brain feeds on the Word my spirit will grow. 

Not all my bags are packed yet, and I’m not ready to go. But one day I will be.

Friday, 17 November 2017


The heavy woodpecker clung to a bendy twig on the larch tree. He clung upside down, determined to get something good from the pine cone above his head. It was like watching someone do stomach crunches or sit-ups. Up, down, up, down.

Turns out I wasn’t the only one watching him. When he had eventually loosened the pine cone enough for it to come away in his beak, he flitted to the fence post top, laid it down and started to peck at it once again. But not for long. A bigger bird swooped at him, the cone fell to the ground, and both birds flitted to a neighbouring tree. 

Neither benefited from the breakfast one had worked so hard to get.

Paul wrote that we should each look out not just for ourselves, but for each other, too. We were made to help one another. Then we are all fed. Then we all prosper.

Kindness and generosity of spirit: aiming for those traits today.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017


My swimsuit dripped a puddle as I waited. A young woman came out of the changing rooms, shifting impatiently and looking frequently towards the men’s changing room door. Finally she could wait no longer, knocked a warning and poked her head into the dressing room to check her dad’s progress.
She came back, explaining, ‘They’re all in there just chatting. One of the men says he went to school in Crieff sixty years ago.’

‘That’d be my husband,’ I nodded.

Waiting. Much of my life seems to be waiting. 

‘Wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.’

Living in an instant age, it can be hard to wait. But when we see the undeniable fingerprint of God on answered prayer, the wait is oh so worthwhile.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Exhilarated and expectant

The wind howls out of the north this morning, shaking trees, tearing off the last leaves of autumn, squealing through inadequate window sealant. I grimace – if not outwardly, certainly inwardly. This is not my favourite weather. I don’t like the wind.

And yet, the sun is out, the sky is blue, and God gave us a portion of rainbow an hour ago. As I watched the mayhem amongst the trees outside the prayer window, suddenly a bird of prey – a buzzard or a red kite or a hawk – surfed into view, riding the invisible waves of wind. And then he was gone.

On yesterday’s news, there were stunning pictures of a brave (or crazy) surfer in the seas off Portugal, catching a ride on a towering wave that he thought would either be the most exhilarating and incredible ride of his life, or it might kill him. In fact, he escaped with a broken spine. Interviewed from his hospital bed, he sounded cheerful and wistful that the perfect wave had eluded him, this time.

I thought of Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2, which showed dolphins clearly enjoying a stormy surf for the sheer fun of it. 

Stormy weather. Love it or loathe it. Your choice. You’re going to go through it, whether revelling in the adrenalin rush or gritting your teeth and bearing it.

In this world, Jesus said, you will have trouble. Storms and strife. But take heart, for I, Jesus, have overcome the world.

In the words of Hillsong’s ‘Still’, ‘When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with you above the storm, Father you are king over the flood, I will be still and know you are God.’

Today, I choose to be exhilarated and expectant, inwardly still, knowing He is God. Rainbows. Colour. Life.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Slow Down

A couple of years ago, I bought a machine to wash my windows. I thought it would be more effective than the method I’d been using (basically a bucket and sponge with a scraper). A little disappointing: it does the job, but no easier and with streaks. 

I’d gotten it to clean the dirt and bugs off the windows. Recently I realised that without the attachment, it could be used to suck up condensation after showers, baths, and drying clothes indoors. It seems to be pretty effective at that so far.

The Bible is God’s perfect window-cleaner. It can leave streaks if I cherry-pick verses to support my prejudices, presenting a distortion of the truth. When used prayerfully, though, mindful of the character of God, reliant on his Holy Spirit, it can suck up the condensation of my assumptions and presumptions and transform my thinking.

To read it like that, I need to slow down, take time, and linger expectantly in the presence of the Almighty God. What a privilege and blessing. The Almighty God. Wow.

Note to self: Slow down.