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Surveys November 2016

Whenever I stop to do a survey in the steet I end up disappointed because they always seem to be about double glazing, utilities suppliers or the latest junk food for kids.  Nothing of real significance.  The last one I did gave me bits of chocolate (you can see why I stopped) and was trying to find out whether I preferred the chocolate at room temperature or cold from the fridge.  They did this by "hiding" the fridge (not very well) so that I wouldn't know.  It took me some time and several tastes of "A" and "B" to give my decision I can tell you.

Why can't we have a survey about something important?  Something like this:

1. Has anyone ever told you that God loves you and that He has a great plan for your life?    Yes/No

2. If today were your last day here on earth, do you know for sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt that you would go to Heaven?   Yes/No

3. If you answered, "yes" to question 2, is that because you are a good person and/or because you attend church regularly?  Yes/No

4. Have you ever heard that the Holy Bible reads, "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." And "For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." And "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved?"  Yes/No

5. Did you know that you are a "whosoever"?  Yes/No

Here's a quick prayer for you: Lord, bless each person who reads this with long and healthy lives. Jesus, do a quick work in their heart and make Yourself so real to them. If they have never recived  You as there lord and Saviour, I pray that they will do so right now.

If you would like to receive the gift that God has for you today, say this with your heart and your lips out loud:

Dear Lord Jesus, come into my heart. Forgive me of my sin. Set me free. Jesus, thank You that You died for me. I believe that God raised You from the dead. Fill me with the Holy Spirit, the peace of God, and the joy of the Lord. Give me a passion to reach the lost, a hunger for the things of God, and a holy boldness to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm saved. I'm born-again. I'm forgiven and I'm on my way to Heaven because I have Jesus in my heart. Thank You Jesus!

When you asked Jesus to come into your heart and to forgive you, He heard you and did so. All of your sins are now forgiven. Always remember to run to God and NOT from God because He loves you and has a great plan for your life. That's VERY good news. 

6. Did you say the above prayer?   Yes/No

Now that sort of survey leaves someone with a gift of eternal significance!

This survey exists.  It was produced by the The River at Tampa Bay Church where we have just spent an eye-opening week and where, every single day, ordinary people are having thier lives transformed by the love of God. See www.revival.com for more details. 

"Look, I am making everything new!" October 2016

There are some times when it feels like the fabric of our lives is damaged beyond repair and the bedsheet of our former life now seems only fit for dressing up, or cleaning rags.  When moth and accident and deliberate vandalism have holed the fabric of our lives to a critical state we despair.  Except that we forget something.  Well Someone. The God who’s creative gifts exceed anything we could ever conceive or imagine. The one who restores the old and damaged parts of our lives.  What’s more the amazing thing about God is that He never restores to what it was before – it is always even better!!

 

God is expert at invisible mending.  Watch what he does with your life – you’ll never know those tiny holes were there.   Destroyed by moth you say?  Really? Have you ever seen the beauty of lace cutwork when finished by a craftsman? 

If your life feels like a tattered mess – trust in His expertise. His creativity has no limits.

Give Him the tattered cloth of your life and He will make something beautiful of it.

He is very good at restoration. He always has been.  Naomi's story in the Bible tells of her losing everything and yet even her neighbours noticed that God was at work in her life.  “He will restore your life for you and will support you in your old age” they said to her – and then watched it come true.

 

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The Relief of the Normal September 2016

I've just read Phillipa Gregory's "Three Sisters, Three Queens" about the tumultuous ups and downs between Henry VIII’s wife Katherine of Aragon, and Henry’s two sisters Margaret, Queen of Scotland & Mary, Queen of France. It’s one of her best books and I really enjoyed it ~ though if I'd ever watched the Kardashians I'd have found the twists and turns of life at Tudor court easier to follow I think.  They seem very similar except with less plastic surgery and more executions.

Anyway, at a particularly fraught moment when Margaret is trying to escape her second husband, the power seeking Earl of Arran, we have this paragraph written in the voice of Margaret:

“They all write to me:  Harry, Thomas Wolsey, Katherine, Mary.  They all deplore my divorce.  Harry threatens me with the damnation of adulterers.  Katherine begs me to think of the legitimacy of my daughter, and says that I am throwing her down as baseborn.  Thomas Wolsey tells me that Harry's outraged rant is a true copy of his spoken words, and Mary tells me that gowns are being cut slightly off the shoulder.”

And that made me laugh.  The determination of Mary (at least in Phillipa Gregory’s mind) to carry on as if everything was normal and her reluctance to commit anything to do with the situation to paper reminded me that the default position of some people when faced with an impossible dilemma, is to say and do nothing of any consequence.

And that reminded me of the friends I had when my own storm of emotions was at its height who steadfastly continued on as normal and took me along with them.  Friends at work who discussed lesson plans and teaching styles as if my input was as important as it always had been, friends at home who took me off for a coffee and talked about their niece’s first steps and the merits of the new plans for the city centre, and new friends who had no idea what I was going through, who chatted in a friendly way about the weather and the price of milk.  Each conversation as inconsequential as whether gowns were being cut off the shoulder or not and each conversation giving me a blissful ten minutes, half an hour or whole afternoon free of the intensity that usually ran through my head.  

When every piece of communication you have is with a court official, a counsellor, a solicitor, a family worker, a doctor, a crying relative or an estranged ex-partner, it is just such a relief to have an ordinary conversation with a friend. Notice the emphasis on ordinary. When every conversation is deep and painful or manipulative and threatening it is a huge relief to have a conversation that is quite simply unimportant.  And when every encounter from everyone you know starts with a concerned “How are you?” (that difficult question so impossible to answer) it is such a relief to meet a friend who opens with “Did you see Downton last night?” (For Downton substitute ‘Stenders, Spurs, X-Factor, the racing, Bake-off, Made in Chelsea, the Bourne Conspiracy, darts, cycling or anything else at all, as long as it’s something that’s not going to shake the world.)

Yes, it’s good to talk things through, yes it's necessary to let out what’s on your mind to your friends but every now and then it’s wonderful to have the relief of the normal. 

I hear they’re wearing dresses off one shoulder this winter…

 

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The Girls August 2016

I’ve just spent a wonderful couple of weeks with my two girls and their lovely children.  My youngest is over from Australia with her 5-year-old and 18-month-old (what a journey with little ones - she’s amazing!)  And her sister is beautifully pregnant with her first baby just beginning to show.  All the old baby toys have come down from the loft and it was a joy to us all to recognise old friends and see a new generation of children playing with them.

For me there was a healing too.  Toys that were once associated with sad times, or the even more complicated emotions of the happy times before the sad times, were now being cuddled or joyfully thrown around by little people who were completely oblivious to any previous vibe.  Magical!

And of course between play parks, and trips to Edinburgh, and visits to  castles, and the general feeding of and clearing up around the children there has been plenty of knitting!  It’s been good to catch the kids long enough to take all the current measurements and to speak to the girls and get their orders.  We have bought a lot of wool in the last week or so … watch this space!

 

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Pre-School Children June 2016

Do you know any children about three or four years old?  Suddenly they start getting frustrated with everything you do...

“Come on we’re going shopping”

“Don’t wanna go!”  Sit down. Pout.  Temper tantrum as you drag them along by one arm. 

Suddenly they don’t like any of the toys they’ve always loved.  “Here’s your favourite car darling.”  Bang!  It hits the wall opposite.  “Play nicely with Dolly, sweetheart.”  Squelch!  Her face is in the mud! (Or was that just me?)  And the adored baby brother?  

"Why are you hitting him on the head darling?"  

“I not, I dust blessing him hard!”  

Suddenly it’s all squabbles and pushing fights with their brothers and sisters and friends.  Going to bed? – no chance.  Getting up? – they pull their clothes off as you dress them.  In despair you strap them in to the buggy and go round to Grandma’s and tell her all about it as they amuse themselves chasing the cat round the garden.  “Darling stop that!  I said stop it!  Poor Fluffy!  Well of course she won’t come out of the tree to see you now!”

“Ah!” says Grandma wisely, “I see he’s ready for school then.”

It’s the same with the children of God.  The frustrations with the way things are.  Are you dissatisfied with worship at your church? dissatisfied with wordhip altogether?  Disgusted with yourself for doing so little to “Serve the Lord”?  Frustrated with a meaningless prayer life and wondering what the point of talking to the ceiling is?  Wishing you had the same delight in meeting with God that you did years ago?  Are you squabbling with your brothers and sisters?  Or bored stiff with all the squabbling constantly going on? Are you generally dissatisfied with your whole experience of God? Are you thinking: “There must be more than this!”?

If so, then be very happy and start getting excited, because it sounds to me as though you’re “Ready for school.”  Ready for the next stage that God is going to take you to.  We are changed from glory to glory.  (2 Cor. 3:18).  We sre continually learning and experiencing more and more of God.  This dissatisfaction with where you are means God has something new, something higher or deeper for you. 

It’s time for Nursery, or School, or Big School, or College, or your Ph.D. study.  It’s time to learn the higher things of God.  To advance in a stage of maturity.

Or as Jesus put it

Blessed are the poor in spirit - for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Blessed are they that hunger as thirst after righteousness -  they shall be filled.  (Matthew 5)

 

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