A Christian’s heavenly journey with his feet on the ground. Treasures shared that are discovered along the way.
Please note that this blog has now moved to: "Senior Eagle walking with Father"

Monday, December 31, 2007

Pioneering Unknown Territory

Like many boys, I loved to explore and read adventure stories, but in my early teens I decided to have my own adventure. One day in the depths of winter, I packed a small rucksack with map, compass and food and set out on my own to explore the wild Kinder Scout plateau in our High Peak National Park.

Excitement mounted as I wound my way up the Grindsbrook valley and searched for a route up the sheer craggy escarpment. Once on the top I carefully picked my way over the featureless wilderness with just a frisson of fear and marvelled at the strange beauty of the place. All too soon I had to turn back, but felt elated on the descent, having achieved my goal.

Today, you'll find a well-worn eroded path there, where many thousands have trod since. My pioneering spirit remains, but for years it was half buried and covered over and jaded by life's events. It was only after I became a Christian that I eventually realised that the deep longing and desire was for intimacy with God Himself. He had put it there!

I have found that if we refuse to be squeezed into some respectable Christian mould, but seek to follow the desire God has put within us and find out who we really are and what we are made for, we could be in for a bumpy ride. At times it may feel like we are in unknown territory, going where no one has been before and have to deal with loneliness and the misunderstandings of others. As for God, He has already mapped out our journey, but we may think He has made a mistake when things don't go according to our plan and the going gets tough.

Instead we may opt for a seemingly safe way of subduing the desire, such as church activity or position, voluntary work, a project or hobby or anything that may gratify. These may be good things in themselves, but in reality they are only a mere shadow of the real thing. The desire will still be there deep down and we will be restless and not true to our own heart or God's.

We have been given freedom of choice, but if we want to be pioneers and 'go for gold' why not ask God to heat up our spirit and increase the desire, for it is that which keeps us going.

All God waits for is our Yes!

"Jesus said ..... You--follow me." John 21:22 The Message Bible


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Establishing Our Hearts in Love

My father's middle name was Gardener and he lived up to his name. When I was a boy I loved watching him in the garden. I was fascinated by the whole process of growing vegetables and impatient to see results, so inspected daily for signs of growth. He showed me how to grow the biggest and sweetest marrows by threading wool through the stem and leading it into a jar of sugar and water. The plant fed on this syrupy goodness - I think they call it capillary attraction - and the marrow swelled up until it was ripe for picking. I would proudly carry it inside to my mother who stuffed it and baked it the oven.

God's love for us is bottomless, limitless, it can't be any greater, but we need to open ourselves to Him to receive. Not a mental assent to a spiritual truth, but an experience of His love deep within our hearts. As we spend regular time feeding on His love, our heart swells and we become increasingly aware of God's Presence. When the going gets tough we then have a well of heavenly resource that we can draw upon and have the confidence that Father will see us through.

I have found out to my cost that it is imperative to give priority to this abiding rather than leave it until trouble comes.

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:17-19 New International Version


Friday, December 28, 2007

Real Fellowship

I had a long telephone conversation the other evening. What started out as a contact call to a friend, turned into some deep sharing between us. We were being real and 'telling how it is.' Although we are from different backgrounds we are spiritually in tune with one another; there was an understanding and acceptance.

In scriptural terms you could say that we were 'confessing our sins' to each other. The problems and feelings I was sharing involved sin, because I admitted that in one particularly area of my life I was having difficulty living fully as God intends. It's not that we were expecting the other to fix it, only Jesus saves and redeems and heals, but bringing those things into the light resulted in a sense of freedom for both of us.

We all have to be responsible to God for our personal walk with God, but the New Testament particularly refers to the community element of being a Christian. Not a co-dependant people, leaning on one another, propping each other up, but a cohesive body of Christians sold out to God, focussed on Jesus and encouraging one another in the walk of faith. When we are open and real with one another in an atmosphere of love and acceptance, it releases the Holy Spirit to flow in love and healing.

In some Christian circles this may not be experienced - perhaps because faith is seen as a private matter or because any admission of difficulties or negative emotion may be seen as a lack of faith - so we need to choose carefully who we share with. If I am feeling broken inside I would always look for those who themselves have been broken.

"... confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16 New International Version


Monday, December 24, 2007

Anticipation on Christmas Eve

Long ago, when I was a boy, Christmas had a magical quality. I could hardly contain my excitement as the big day drew near. On Christmas Eve we hung the paper chains we had so carefully made and decorated our little artificial tree. As a special treat we were allowed to stay up late and listen to a Disney soundtrack on the wireless, followed by carols from King's College, Cambridge. Once in bed I was ages going off and kept glancing at the pillowcase at the foot of the bed, wondering when Father Christmas was going to fill it with toys. There was something missing though.

I had no sense of Christmas coming this season, until last week, when my wife and I visited a nearby 16th century mansion. It caught us by surprise. As we entered the great hall, we were greeted and handed a song sheet. A large evergreen festive garland was suspended from the rafters and a blazing log fire provided welcome warmth. The place was soon filled to capacity as we sang all the old familiar carols. It was an enjoyable unexpected experience. I could even imagine that we were back in those olden times .... or could I? I was reminded that in 1647 the English Parliament banned Christmas, as Oliver Cromwell said the revelling and making merry was pagan. Thankfully it was reinstated thirteen years later, but I wonder what he would have made of the way Christmas is remembered today? Maybe he thought there was something missing. Perhaps he had a point?

This afternoon we will take our two grandchildren to a crib service in their local church. We can't wait to see their eager faces and catch something of their excitement. We will be ready for surprises though. Like last year when we were with our London granddaughters at a similar service. There was an attempt to make the presentation child-friendly, with two youngsters dressed as a spotted cow - it was a stable! Our youngest wasn't to be put off and in tears asked, "But where is Jesus?" These little ones are our future and we pray and believe they will come to know Jesus personally.

We look forward to being with our family tomorrow and sharing in the festivities. At the same time we will be aware that the day is a celebration of Jesus's birthday. Not a baby in a crib, but alive and 'with us' now in the Spirit - there's nothing missing. However, the anticipation remains, as we look forward to when Jesus comes again as King. Whenever that is, we want to be sure that we are ready.

Christmas Blessings

"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us." Matthew 1:23 New International Version


Saturday, December 22, 2007

More Risky Living

In talking with my wife as we started the day together, we debated whether we were afraid of taking risks. Not that the last few years have been easy, far from it. At times it's been real hard and seemingly risky, like living on the edge. We can look back and see how far we have come, but we don't want to get stuck in a rut.

Each time we have stepped out in faith on something God has put on our hearts, we have been amazed at God's provision. Things that have seemed downright impossible have all worked out. It felt like His angels had gone before and prepared the way and removed all the obstacles as we moved forward.

But that was yesterday. God is always moving on to a new thing and if we want God's best for us we have to move with Him! There's a great deal more that I am longing for, desires that I believe God has planted. But moving out on those could be risky. If you are like me you want to have things planned with God's provision in place before you launch out from your position of comfort. But it doesn't work like that. We have to step out first, then God moves in with his provision. Sometimes it feels like stepping into the unknown, without a full map of where we are going - scary! God does things differently to us and it's difficult to understand some times, so we have to stick close to Him and trust.

But where's the risk, when God will move heaven and earth with all His mighty power to make His will happen for us. Nothing and nobody can stand in His way. Yes, there will be many twists and turns on the journey and it will feel scary at times, but that's the excitement of the adventure.

We know we can trust Him - exercising our faith is life itself - so what are we waiting for?

"I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron." Isaiah 45:2 New International Version


Friday, December 21, 2007

Real Contentment

I think there is no more delightful sight than seeing a contented baby snuggled in his/her mother's arms. Having drank to its heart's content, felt the warmth of its mother's love and seen the love and acceptance in its mother's eyes, it lies back with not a care in the world. The infant is at rest within itself, satisfied and secure.

This is a powerful picture and I now that I am neither too old or macho to learn from it. Rather than keep my mind one what is at hand I still have a tendency to let my thoughts roam on projects I have mind or work out what I may be doing the next day or week, even worry about future problems. All this mind clutter uses energy and has the potential to cause stress and anxiety and can get in the way of my relationship with Father.

When we have stilled ourselves and fed from God's Word and digested it inwardly. When we have offered all our fears and doubts and worries to Father. When we have soaked in His loving Presence. Only then, the cares of this world seem to fade and we experience a deep peace that only comes from God. We are content, knowing we can just be ourselves and walk with Father in simple trust, leaving tomorrow to God.

Some may say "Hey, get real man, I am not a baby and anyway I have a life to live!" No, but the principle remains. What is real is that God has made it possible for us to experience His deep peace, His gift to us. It's up to us to enter in. We long for it and need it; we know that deep inside. It remains for us to do something about it.

"But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me." Psalm 131:2 New International Version


Monday, December 17, 2007

Battle Weary?

Are you battle weary,
battered through trying to cope?
Have you wondered how much more
and listened to the Devil's roar,
swayed by his taunts and lies?
Has your faith faltered
and your hope grown dim?
Have you felt like giving up
or looked for illicit solace?
Do you feel forgotten,
and even angry with God?

Then draw near to Father
and yield to His love.
Know that He understands
and feels your anguish.
Receive His peace and
allow Him to refresh, sustain
and give you courage to go on.
He will sharpen your sword
and heal your pain.

Then listen:
You are precious to me
I am with you
Come and stand with Me
Stand tall and face the battle
Feel my arm around your shoulders
The protection of my cloak
Know that I have won
Share in my victory
Let Me take the strain.
Watch what I will do.
Trust Me.

"He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians 15:57

"You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great." Psalm 18:35

"You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.'" 2 Chronicles 20:17 All quotations from New International Version


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Stop Running

My wife and I had an encounter yesterday that left us feeling very concerned. We were talking with a man who was on the run.

He was accomplished and well qualified, but in recent years had fallen on hard times and was using his initiative to do all he could to provide for his family. He was working over eighty hours a week and putting in tremendous physical effort for a relatively small return. He was trying so hard, but we were convinced things could be so much easier for him if he allowed Jesus into his life.

In trying to converse with him however, it was difficult to communicate. There was no eye contact and no real relating. It seemed to us that he was a man who wasn't in touch with his feelings and didn't know what his heart was saying. He had attended church in the past but had no concept what it meant to be a Christian. He had written booklets that encompassed spirituality, but when asked what he believed, he didn't know. He said that he had never had time to stop and consider.

He kept bringing the subject back to his running. He runs everywhere, has done since he was young and runs miles every day. It seemed to us that he was running from himself, running from what he might hear or feel if he stopped. We just prayed inwardly that when God does stop him it won't be too painful for him.

This is only too familiar to me. I had strong legs and was never happier than when I was walking in the wild. Nothing wrong in that, but it was all part of my escape from issues that God wanted to deal with. Even though I was a Christian, there were areas of my life I was keeping from God and was running away from an inner pain that God wanted to heal. It was only when He gave me the grace to recognise the warning signs and cooperate, that He was able to get to work to strengthen me in my weak areas and ensure my strengths were surrendered to Him.

We may work our fingers to the bone, but that in itself just does not please God. When we are really surrendered and put our whole trust in Him we have His power and provision available to us. When we work His way there's no limit to what God can do through us.

"His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love." Psalm 147:10-11 New International Version


Friday, December 14, 2007

The Sword

I love watching those very old swashbuckling movies, that always end in a sword-flashing duel. The action keeps me on the edge of my seat as the dashing hero and villain chase each other, leaping from balconies, swinging from chandeliers and crashing through windows. You wonder who will win, but always the villain finally gets his come-uppance, ending up on his knees with the hero's sword pointing at his heart. He's given the choice; death or surrender and meet the consequences.

It reminds me how it is with the Sword of the Spirit - the Word of God.

A couple of years ago my wife and I attended a retreat which involved a long tiring journey from home. I was expectant, but after a teaching session on the first morning, I felt very drowsy and snuggled down in my comfy armchair. It had been decided to slip in an extra unplanned talk before lunch.

Hoping I wouldn't be noticed, I half closed my eyes, but kept an ear cocked just in case there was something for me. The talk drifted over me until suddenly I was alert and wide awake. The speaker referred to something from scripture in a way I hadn't heard before. Startled, I asked her to repeat it and explain. Something stirred within. It felt like God's spotlight was on me and was revealing where I was not. A period of painful soul searching and repentance followed, but eventually resulted in healing and freedom and a new moving forward with God. It was exactly what I needed.

Then there have been those countless times when I've found myself in difficult or seemingly impossible circumstances. Each time I reached out to Father in my desperate need and His answer came with a Word dropped into my mind. His Word that brought light into the darkness, fresh understanding and destroyed the doubts and fears knocking at my door.

The Word of God brings truth and life into every situation. Falsehood and evil cannot stand against it. It is God's gift to us, a very powerful and life-giving weapon.

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12 New International Version


Monday, December 10, 2007

Don't Bottle Up Your Anger

Depression appears in many guises and varies from mild to severe or chronic and can have a downright disabling effect upon our lives. No wonder it's called the big 'D' and is reported as one of the main reasons for absenteeism from the workplace.

There seems no simple answer, but I have come to the conclusion that a common cause of depression is repressed and unresolved feelings, especially anger. In our anger we may either verbally hit out to hurt others and spoil relationships or keep it in, bottle it up where it can fester and hurt us, causing emotional and even physical symptoms.

There were things happened to me in childhood that gave me every right to be angry, but I was brought up to be a 'good boy' believing that it was wrong to feel anger. So I grew up to believe the lie, that 'nice men don't get angry!' This impression was even bolstered by what I saw in some churches, as if there was a cardboard cutout image for Christians. But that's just not real, men - and woman too - do get angry. I didn't want to be a 'nice man' I wanted to be a real man, the person God had made me to be, and real men and women do get angry. It's what we do with it that matters.

Over the years I have learned to get in touch with my feelings. To own the anger, take responsibility for it and deal with the root cause with Jesus. There is a tremendous freedom in knowing that it's OK to feel angry and helps us to live with other people's anger. Another thing I found out is that there is a positive side to anger, it can be creative.

Whenever I start to feel down now, I try to look at the 'trigger' to see where it came in and deal with that issue. I don't always get it right and am still learning.

"Anger is a signal, and one worth listening to." Harriet Learner, "The Dance of Anger," 1985

"A vigorous temper is not altogether an evil. Men who are easy as an old shoe are generally of little worth." Charles Spurgeon, British Baptist Preacher

"Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry - but don't use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don't stay angry. Don't go to bed angry." Ephesians 4:26 The Message Bible


Saturday, December 08, 2007

Learning From Our Mistakes

My wife is amazing with plants. She has 'green fingers' and is able to produce growth from just about any little bit of leaf. Her expertise was challenged however, when a friend gave her an orchid. The beauty of the blooms was breathtaking, but when the petals eventually dropped, she had to ask for advice as to what to do next. She cut the growth right back to the base, but unfortunately she removed too much by mistake.

Months went by without any movement, it looked dead, finished. But my wife wasn't going to give up on it. She patiently tended it, spraying the plant with a cooling mist and even whispering encouragement. Another year followed and still no growth, except that more long grey roots appeared at the base. Encouraged, she continued with her loving care until yesterday, after over two years, she noticed two new shoots reaching for the sky. The dormant plant was springing into life with the promise of new blooms.

This experience reminds me that if we make a big mistake or take the wrong decision in something important, we have to live with the consequences. We may feel we have messed up big time or failed beyond recovery, but God is so gracious, He doesn't hold our mistakes against us. He never gives up on us and when the time is right, usually when we have learned from the experience, He gives us another chance. Because we have changed, the promised blessing will be greater.

"If you have made mistakes, even serious ones, there is always another chance for you. What we call failure is not the falling down but the staying down." Mary Pickford

“All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.” Winston Churchill

"I am your God ..... I made you and will care for you; I will give you help and rescue you." Isaiah 46:4 Good News Bible


Friday, December 07, 2007

Praying Without Ceasing

At first sight, to pray without ceasing seems a tall order. If it means we are to be vocally praying all the time, surely nothing else would get done?

I have always seen it essential to start the day with a quality time of prayer, but there have been times when I then got on with my business, thinking that was enough for the day. But imagine how it would be if we spent the day with a loved one and we ignored them; no touching, talking or listening, no eye contact, walking together but separate. If we do the same with Jesus, just think how must He feel.

In the little book "The Practice of the Presence of God," it's the humble monk Brother Lawrence who found delight in washing the dishes with Jesus or even just picking a blade of grass to the Glory of God! He had a constant awareness of God's loving presence and enjoyed a continual 'conversation' with Him. We may not be monks or nuns but the principle is the same; we need a prayerful attitude.

An intimate relationship with Jesus is a very personal thing and it's expression will be different for each of us. However it doesn't come naturally at first and needs working at until it becomes almost second nature, effortless. So no matter how busy we are, as we acknowledge that He is with us in all we do, there will be that inner awareness and readiness to obey His whisper.

What if we are just to tired or exhausted to pray? When I first read about the Jesus prayer, where you recite unceasingly "Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy upon me," in tune with your breathing, I thought that's hard work and a bit far-fetched. However there have been times when I have been extremely fatigued and found myself mouthing similar words as I breathed deeply. Rather than succumb to negative feelings, I breathed out my tiredness and breathed in the comforting, strengthening Holy Spirit.

Jesus is our Lover and longs to be involved in all we do, not just in times of need but 24/7.

“Prayer is as natural an expression of faith as breathing is of life” Jonathan Edwards

"Pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. Don't suppress the Spirit." 1 Thessalonians 5:17-19 The Message Bible


Monday, December 03, 2007

I Am the Lord Who Heals You

I find that healing is often a topic for discussion amongst Christians, with far-ranging views expressed. When however, we or a loved one are in need it becomes more personal, even desperate, a matter for action rather than thinking.

It's when we expose our 'wound' and bring it into God's loving presence that He can get to work. I have experienced emotional healing when traumas in my life have been transformed into a blessing and no longer have a hold over me and I have witnessed others enter into such life-changing freedom. I have also known physical healing.

One day I rather foolishly tried to do two things at once. I was carrying our heavy grandson in one arm, while trying to open and close the spring-loaded tailgate of our car with the other. Somehow my hand got in the way as the tailgate came slamming down on my finger, steel edge against bone. I put the boy down and instinctively held my finger up to Father, reaching out to Him in desperation, from the depths of my being. My wife was also praying. It looked ugly and the pain was excruciating, but after ascertaining nothing was broken, I wrapped it round with a wet cloth and tried to stay focussed on Father.

After an hour or so, the pain had eased considerably and when I uncovered the finger, it appeared completely normal as if nothing had happened. Days later there was no sign of bruising. You can imagine my gratitude.

So after all the prayer, why hasn't He healed me of chronic fatigue syndrome (M.E.) for which there is no medical cure? One thing for certain was that He had my attention as never before as I embarked on a journey where I wanted answers. I found there were steps to take, things to relinquish and ways to change. I can look back and apart from being stronger now, there has been a welcome change emotionally, mentally and spiritually, so I can see the benefits. His healing is ongoing and I am expectant for more. I may still have an illness but the illness does not have me.

I believe what God says in His word and have no doubt that Jesus heals today. Healing - emotional, physical, mental and spiritual - is all part of the salvation package, you can't separate it. Whether it's instant or long delayed, He is committed to healing us through and through in His way and in His time.

"I am the LORD, who heals you." Exodus 15:26 New International Version


Friday, November 30, 2007

The Name of Jesus

Many of the ways of God are outside our understanding, so they remain a mystery, but the essential message of the Gospel is unequivocal. We read in the Bible that everything relating to the Kingdom of God is either positive or negative, good or bad, light or dark, we are either in or out, there is no in between, no middle way.

Often in conversation we can talk about spiritual things or the problems in society, global warming and saving the planet and difficulties with human relationships, but there is rarely an agreement on the solution. We may discuss the things of God like prayer, meditation, fasting, healing, charitable works and love, but when the name of Jesus is mentioned it sharpens things up. It's a powerful name and things turn personal and revealing and that can be too close for comfort for some, so the conversation may be diverted and Jesus becomes the stumbling block.

In church circles we may even talk about church activities and services or committee meetings, but if someone speaks personally of their walk with Jesus it suddenly changes the whole tone of the discussion. It brings a breath of fresh air which can grow into a freeing healing breeze or be stifled and allowed to die.

I love Jesus and cannot live without Him. I constantly let Him down and fail, but He still loves me. I want to talk about Him to people I meet, but I don't want to hurt people's feelings. More to the point, perhaps I don't want my feelings hurt. To be part of an intense intellectual discussion can be intimidating for a simple soul like me. To talk of a relationship with Jesus at such times is running the risk of being rejected or thought a fool. But I am learning to be sensitive to God and to others, so it's OK so long as I am being a 'fool for Christ!'

We know whether or not we have a personal relationship with Jesus and our lives belong to Him and no one else can tell us how it is with us and Jesus us today. This then leaves us with two questions:

Who is Jesus to you? and ..
How is it with Jesus and you today?

".. but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness." 1 Corinthians 1:23 Modern King James Version


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

God the Encourager

My wife was in hospital again and I felt bewildered and in need of encouragement. I made my way to the hospital chapel as I knew it to be a peaceful place where I could be quiet. Choosing a comfortable seat to the side, I reached out to God with everything within me.

After several minutes I was aware of some movement behind me. I tried to ignore what I saw as an interruption. A male nurse, he was wearing a white coat, walked up to the piano. He turned to me as if asking permission and I nodded in agreement. He lifted the lid and without any music he started to play. What came next just took my breath away. Without pausing or faltering he made that instrument sing. The music flowed and ebbed, reverberating around the room. It soared up to heights and down to the soft lows. Nobody could have written that beautiful music, it was as if God, by His Spirit was giving him the notes.

I was transfixed and touched to the very core of my being. I realised this was God's arranging, His man. This was the Father's love song to me. It was as if He was saying "It's going to be all right, I have everything in hand. Just watch what I will do! You are precious to Me and I will not let you down!"

Then just as suddenly as he came in, he closed the lid and without a sideways glance, departed. I eventually left that room walking on air and assured that it was going to be all right.

God always responds to our heart cries, He never disappoints us. Because we are so special to Him, He knows exactly what we need to be encouraged.

"I will speak out to encourage .... So your God will delight in you." Isaiah 62:1-5 Good News Bible


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Passing on the Comfort

There was a time when my life got out of balance. I took on so much that I was soon giving out from empty. My tank was running dry. Especially with counselling, I was relying more and more on procedure that had worked before. Whilst I was listening hour after hour, I was screaming inside, "What about me?"

Fortunately I headed the warning signs and embarked upon a prolonged period of recharging, refreshment and redirection. It was Jesus who brought me through, but there were a few who were a vital help in my time of need. They had one thing in common; they had 'been there' and knew what I was experiencing. Just a few prayerfully chosen words were all that were needed to keep me moving forward.

I had an early appointment in town the other day. Things were completed much sooner than I expected so I took the opportunity to call by a local beauty spot. As I marvelled at the lingering autumn colours, I noticed a man coming towards me. We admired the view together and had a pleasant exchange. I was about take my leave when I realised the encounter was about something else. He was hurting inside and needed to talk.

For once I set aside the temptation to bring in my own agenda, and just listened as he spoke of his painful situation. It wasn't difficult, as I readily identified with his story, I had 'been there!' I had no idea if the few words I said were any help, but I knew God was in it and I left after assuring him of my prayers.

I have found over and over, that when we have experienced a blessing or comforting from God, it is used to bless others. Without us having to look for it, He arranges what I call God-incidences. All we have to do is make sure we are in tune with God and don't mess up. In other words, as He changes us, so He uses us to help change others. He does the changing, our part is effortless and enjoyable.

"He helps us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help others who have all kinds of troubles, using the same help that we ourselves have received from God." 2Corinthians 1:4 Good News Bible


Friday, November 23, 2007

Have You Done The Things I Said?

During my early years as a Christian I longed to do something big for God. I felt unfulfilled in my work and wanted to be on God's front line where the action was. Some churches actually seemed to encourage this attitude, giving the impression that our ambition should be to be a missionary or evangelist, as they were real Christians!

Believing it to be God's will for me, I applied for training as an ordained minister. My wife and family were right behind me in this. The sifting process dragged on for over eighteen months, but eventually, after the final selection conference, I was given the answer, "No, not yet!" I was told to "Go back to the desert" and "Get my nose to the grindstone!" Initially I was devastated and felt hurt by the way I had been dealt with. However, in time I came to realise there was some truth in what had been said and several things became clear:

God's longing to use us is far greater than our longing to be used and He's already chosen the work for us to do. It's God who calls and ordains us into 'ministry,' whether big or little, up front or behind the scenes, at home or abroad. The question for me was, how close was my walk with God and was I really in a place to hear Him and obey His every whisper?

I'm not so sure He's interested in our big exploits or our position in church, but more in the things closer to home. The things He taught about, that help build our character. Have I loved my wife - husband, friend, parent? What about our neighbours or the widow down the road? Have I fed the poor and destitute? How do I apply myself at work?

Forming and sustaining relationships in love and truth, can be the hardest thing we attempt. Marriage relationships especially, can sometimes seem like being on the front line of battle, where we are confronted with our own inadequacies and fears. It's our attitude towards those we see regularly, that really speaks to people, not necessarily the words we use.

I can almost imagine, when we eventually meet Jesus face to face and he asks us, "Have you done the things I said?"

"Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. My Father will love those who love me; I too will love them and reveal myself to them." John 14:21 Good News Bible


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

When All Else Fails

When you have done all you can
and it's still not enough
When you have considered every which way
but you are stuck in a trough
When you have thought and pondered
'til you're sick inside
When you feel the spectre of fear
and despair comes knocking
When you have fought with all your might
and victory's nowhere in sight
When all seems impossible
take a risk ...

Throw yourself into Father's arms
abandon yourself into His love
let it all go to Him
and leave it there
He is the Man who knows
He will not let you down

"I will not fail you .." Joshua 1:5


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Gaining Through Losing

It was our first time in Canada and we visited a church. As the speaker got into his stride, I began to squirm in my seat. God had put His finger on something vital and was speaking directly to me. A longing for more of God in my life was awakened, but also the realisation that something was getting in the way. I felt challenged to surrender my reputation to Him, as I knew that I attached too much importance to what I imagined others thought of me. I made up my mind with God there and then, left it at that and got on with my busy life schedule.

God had not forgotten of course. Several years later, I had to set aside all my Christian work and what went for ministry. Through prolonged illness I lost most of what was fulfilling. It took time for me to come to terms with the situation and work though the feelings with Father. Also the grief I was experiencing wasn't just for the immediate loss, but long-buried grief from years past.

During the time I wrestled with my deprivation, many of the contacts I had made through my Christian involvements began to fall away. I felt forgotten and rejected. I'm sure some thought I had failed or even regarded me - that horrible word - as back-slidden! As one friend put it, I had "fallen off the edge of the table" and was no longer seen as relevant to the Christian activity scene. In truth, I was discovering delicacies at the Lord's banqueting table.

As I accepted the situation and found healing, my vision was renewed and broadened. I began to discover latent gifts and found satisfaction in doing what I was able. More importantly, my knowledge of and intimacy with Jesus was deepening. What I originally saw as a terrible loss, was turning out to be a life-saver. I found that even though I had lost a reputation, I had gained a testimony.

God sees and feels the desires and longings within our hearts, those same desires He put there and is totally committed to enabling us to enter into the 'more' for our lives. The things we may seem as important pale into insignificance to the wonder of walking with Him.

"Not only those things; I reckon everything as complete loss for the sake of what is so much more valuable, the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have thrown everything away; I consider it all as mere garbage, so that I may gain Christ." Philippians 3:8 Good News Bible


Friday, November 16, 2007

Heavenward Bound

Glancing across the office one afternoon, I saw a colleague standing at the window, staring into space and looking very thoughtful. Concerned, I went over to him and enquired if he was all right. He said he wasn't sure, but that he was at a crossroads. I asked the obvious; which way did he want to go? He wasn't sure, so he asked me where I was heading. He knew I was a Christian, so I shared with him, the best way I could, what following Jesus meant to me.

Several days later, he came in with a spring in his step and told me he had made his decision. Just so that I wouldn't get puffed up with pride and think it was my doing, he explained that what finally clinched it for him, was a booklet from a well-known visiting preacher.

Being certain of our destiny makes all the difference and changes our whole perspective on life. Being on the heavenly journey gives us a real hope and strength and a new purpose.

Some days it may feel like I am in a fog and the signpost bears just one word, "God!" However, I know without any doubt He is with me and in control, loving, guiding supporting and that one day I will be with Him, face to face.

"There are many rooms in my Father's house, and I am going to prepare a place for you. I would not tell you this if it were not so." John 14:2 Good News Bible


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Keep Your Distance?

Do others really know us or do we keep people at a distance? Are we on view like a peeled banana or more like a coconut where the soft white flesh is protected by a hard shell.

All sorts of attitudes and ploys are used to stop people getting too close for comfort. Here are just a few examples: Keeping busy so there's no opportunity to get personal ..... hiding behind our expert role or badge of office such as pastor, supervisor, counsellor ..... staying in control and especially steering conversations away from anything too personal ..... avoiding certain types of people .... being the centre of attention. There are a multitude of ways, quite a few of which I admit to having personal experience.

Perhaps some of us do this because deep down we feel unsure of ourselves. Memories from our youth may leave us feeling we haven't quite made it, leaving us open to the lie, 'there's something wrong with me!' For someone to see that vulnerable area could be very threatening.

If we are like this with people, we may also be keeping God at arms length, the two go together. Part of our lives may be a no go area for anyone? This must hurt Him as He longs to have a close relationship with us and heal any hurts with His love.

The answer must be to take the risk and draw closer to Father and allow Him to show us those areas of our lives where we feel vulnerable or even frightened. He will wash us clean, lift off the shame and reveal to us the truth of how He sees us so that we can walk tall.

"We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don't manoeuvre and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don't twist God's Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God."
2 Corinthians 4:2 The Message Bible

"Don't be afraid, for you will not be put to shame! Don't be intimidated, for you will not be humiliated! You will forget about the shame you experienced in your youth; you will no longer remember the disgrace of your abandonment." Isaiah 54:4 New English Translation


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Finding Joy in the Humdrum

I've helped build motorways and nuclear power stations, controlled regional water supplies, climbed mountains and been engaged on Christian projects, but always tried to shoulder my responsibilities in the family and put them first. After retirement and through changed circumstances I became more involved with routine things. Just now and again I admit to entertaining thoughts, "Is this really what I am made for?"

Right now, after a particularly routine-filled week, I'm hanging out the washing. My wife says it's eco friendly, unlike tumble driers and it gives the clothes a blow and 'sweetens' them. I hang them up and she removes them at the end of the day. There are many advantages to this arrangement. It's my first smell of the fresh morning air, the best time of the day, full of promise. My muscles benefit from the gentle exercise and I have time to reflect on the day to come.

I didn't realise there was a skill in this. There's a right and wrong way of pegging out and I never seem to get it quite right. Why some garments are hung upside down and others right way up beats me! However, I excel in matching up the different types and colours of the pegs with the appropriate items of clothing. When all is done I stand back and proudly admire my display as it catches the breeze.

So what am I doing, writing about such a mundane boring activity? I'm discovering something that I should have done years ago. The secret is finding joy in the humdrum. As with all those other little jobs that have to be done each day, I'm pegging out the washing with Jesus.

I have done the big things and still look to Him for more, but it's Jesus Himself who is our peace and satisfaction, not the spiritual highs and thrills. If we don't learn to walk with Him in the routine, we may miss the adventure just around the bend!

"There are times when there is no illumination and no thrill, but just the daily round, the common task. Routine is God’s way of saving us between our times of inspiration. Do not expect God always to give you His thrilling minutes, but learn to live in the domain of drudgery by the power of God." Oswald Chambers

"Only those who try to live near God and have formed the habit of faithfulness to Him in the small things of our daily life, can hope in times of need for that special light which shows us our path. To do as well as we can the job immediately before us, is the way to learn what we ought to do next." Evelyn Underhill

"He walked steadily with God" Genesis 5:22


Friday, November 09, 2007

Forgiving Those Who Hurt Us

There are times when I find it hard to forgive, especially when I consider I'm in the right and they should be the ones to apologise.

I remember an occasion when I was an engineer. I had been up all night in the cold and wet, supervising construction work and I was very tired and hungry. We were about to pack up, when the young design engineer arrived, after a good night's sleep and breakfast. He started to find fault in some of the unimportant touches and said it wouldn't do. I believed he was totally out of order and for me it was the last straw. I lost my temper and told him in no uncertain manner, that he didn't know what he was talking about and he should get back to his drawing board where he belonged.

I felt bad about my behaviour and later that day I called in and apologised, not so much for what I had said, but for my attitude. It took some courage to do that, so I paused, thinking he might reciprocate. Instead he replied "Quite right, so you should apologise!" I left it at that, but I believed the atmosphere between us and in the office, improved afterwards.

I came to realise that any unforgiveness I may carry within my heart needs to be dealt with, even against people who are dead. I asked God to show me who they were and I made a list, starting as far back as I could remember. I made sure I had really forgiven all those who came to mind.

Several names awakened strong feelings within me and I had to look at the situations in depth with Jesus. One was my high school headmaster, who treated me very badly before I left. His cold aggressive attitude may have affected the direction of my career. The most difficult was my mother, who, although she did her very best for me, tended to be possessive and controlling and I was surprised at the feelings of anger that surfaced. Over a period of over a year, I had to keep forgiving her in my heart. I knew when it was dealt with it was dealt with, because my love for her had increased and my attitude had changed.

Failure to forgive can hamper our walk with God, taint relationships and have a negative disabling affect within our work, church or family community. When we exercise our power to forgive, we all benefit and people and situations are released to go forward God's way.

"If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done." Matthew 6:14-15 Good News Bible


Monday, November 05, 2007

Living Beyond Ourselves

"Come!" answered Jesus. So Peter got out of the boat and started walking on the water to Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he was afraid and started to sink down in the water. "Save me, Lord!" he cried. Matthew 14:29-30 Good News Bible

I used to think that this account had no relevance to us today. After all, who walks on water these days? I just put it down to Peter's bravado.

I've always liked messing about in boats. Preferably on inland waters and in a sturdy craft I can stand up in. I need to feel safe and secure. Not so sure about being on a rough sea. I love the thrill of watching crashing waves, but prefer to keep them at a distance.

God must see that hunger in our hearts for adventure and to live life to the full, even if those longings have been long buried or denied. He knows we may not leave the comfort of our boat voluntarily, so allows situations where we feel we can't cope.

Once outside our comfort zone and into unknown territory it can seem frightening. The waves of anxiety and doubt threaten to engulf us and we may fear that we will go under. However, as we take our eyes off the circumstances and put our trust in Jesus and keep looking to Him with everything within us, the fears begin to calm. We soon find that we are moving forward with the circumstances under our feet. We need to be extra careful then, because walking on water can be exhilarating and can divert us from trusting in Jesus. Once more we need to continue looking to Him.

Only God sees the big picture and prepares us for what is round the next bend in our lives. He knows just how much we can stand, whether it's a rippled puddle or a stormy ocean. One way or another He will always bring us through.

If we have given ourselves to the Lord and are His, we will want to follow Him wherever He beckons. Sooner or later we will find ourselves in situations that may seem impossible. He allows that because He wants to see us grow in the knowledge of His mighty love and power and live beyond ourselves and our own limited capabilities. Whatever happens, if we trust in Him, He will never ever let us down. We may even experience a miracle!


Saturday, November 03, 2007

No Other God Like This

We are called to be tolerant, compassionate and respectful of those who think differently to us. This is especially true of those who follow another faith. It does not mean however, that we should compromise our fundamental beliefs as Christians.

Sitting quietly this morning, as the sun was rising, I was taken up with thoughts of such a wonderful God we have. There is no other god like Him.

We don't have to go looking for Him, because He actually comes looking for us, as if we were the only person in the whole world. He pursues us as a lover. There is no other god like that.

Even though we are constantly making a mess of things He still accepts us as we are. He so loves us, that He even made Himself as nothing, so that we can be one of His family for ever and ever.

Although He is so powerful and mighty, He bends right down to our level and listens to our heart whispers. There is no other god like this.

There is so much, very much more ....

How do I know this? The Bible tells me so and I have tasted and He is good! I love Him and He loves me more than I can imagine. There is no other god like that.

What can our response be to such love but to abandon ourselves to Him?

"To whom will you compare me?" says the LORD. "Is there anyone else like me? Isaiah 46:5 Good News Bible


Friday, November 02, 2007

He Really Does Care

We've not long been back from two weeks away. It all went remarkably well, although we nearly didn't go!

It was to be a time for family business, keeping in touch and just enjoying each other. We really felt it was right to go and the timing was right for everyone. It would be a challenge, as my wife is disabled and I am still recovering from chronic fatigue (M.E.), so we always have to lean heavily on God for His provision, what we call 'His enabling.'

However, a few days before we were due to leave, things started to go wrong. My wife was diagnosed with an infection that we were told could be life-threatening. Then we heard that my wife's brother had been taken into hospital. There were other things that I'll not mention.

For a few hours I thought everything was going wrong and our plans, if not our lives, were turning pear-shaped. I began to worry about all the 'what-if's' and I felt under attack. Anxiety still tends to be a bit of a weak area for me, but I decided I would not give into circumstances. During all the phone calls and hospital visits I tried to keep focussed on Jesus and let it all go to Him. He has brought us through enough darkness for me to realise He will not let us down.

Guess what? My wife responded well to the prescribed drugs and although we left a day later than planned it was really, really good! The long car journey went like clockwork, as if the car had wings, even miraculously avoiding all traffic congestion on a busy route. It was one of the best times we have had with the family, with memorable experiences. Everything slotted into place, even to the extent of losing my car keys in a park and having them handed back to me within half an hour. We even arrived just in time to take my wife's brother home from hospital where he had successful treatment. The whole time was a catalogue of what we call 'God-incidences!'

The scripture says it all. Why worry about something in the future that most likely will never happen? Our heavenly Father really does care for every detail of our lives and provided we put our trust in Him, He will look after everything and His unlimited power will be available to us.

"Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7 Good News Bible


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Waiting, Waiting .....

“Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he received the news that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was for two more days.” John 11:5-6 Good News Bible

Jesus was in tune with His Father and would only move when the time was right. But can you imagine what it must have been like for Martha and Mary, waiting back home with Lazarus? Certainly, they both reproached Jesus when He eventually arrived.

I have always found waiting difficult. Why is it, I so often choose the wrong line at the supermarket? The one where there’s a malfunction at the checkout or some other delay. I shouldn’t fume, but use the opportunity to abide and just ‘be’! What about waiting in the longer term, say weeks, months or even years, for something you are longing and believing for?

Several years ago, after an operation, I experienced what some might call a mini-breakdown. I lost all sense of God’s presence. It felt as if God had gone into hiding and I was all alone, the only person in the whole world. It was devastating. I soon realised that somehow, if I put my trust in God, He would take me through to the other side. I spent much time just ‘being’ and centring on Jesus, the best I could. Sure enough, after many painful, and at times, surprisingly blessed months, it all lifted and my senses returned. It was like an infant being lifted into its mother’s arms.

I once saw a note pinned on an old church door in Malta:

Jesus always comes on time
He’s never early
He’s never late
Trust Him.


Monday, October 29, 2007

Spread Your Wings My Love

My wife and I had booked into a country mansion for a weekend and were shown into our comfortable room overlooking spacious gardens. We soon noticed two butterflies resting against the bottom of the window pane. Every now and again they gave a frustrated flutter against the glass. They could see the tantalising beauty of the sunlit gardens outside, but were trapped inside the room. The window was partly open, but they were unable to find the way out. It seemed like they had given up hope and thought the abundant life outside wasn't for them. They were trapped in a prison of their own making.

Perhaps because we identified with the plight of these little creatures, we longed to set them free. We pushed the window open as wide as it would go and watched. Slowly and very tentatively, they opened and closed their beautiful young wings and aired them in the warmth of the sun. Then they took off through the opening into the fresh air and freedom.

This reminded us that God so longs to open the eyes of our hearts, so that we see ourselves as He sees us. As we realise the beauty and magnificence of our inheritance in Christ, we are released from the disabling guilt, shame, sin and misery that holds us back from the freedom of wholeheartedly following Him.

Spread your wings my love.

"you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.... If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free." John 8:32-36 Good News Bible


Saturday, October 27, 2007

An Attitude of Gratitude

I still have a lot to learn in the area of gratefulness and need to have a more thankful heart, especially when things don't seem to be going so well.

The least we can do is thank God for His blessings and for His love for us. It warms His heart and does us good, builds our faith, makes us more aware of His Presence and keeps the enemy away. It's good for us and for God! When we thank God and give Him the glory for a practical blessing, we also receive a spiritual blessing.

I always try to put the day to rest well before going to bed, it's one way to ensure a good night's sleep. This entails remembering the day's events and giving thanks. On a less regular basis, I often make a 'blessings list' in my journal. It includes all the things that have gone so well in the past month and recalling some of the amazing ways God has worked in our lives.

During times when life is difficult and God seems far away, I go back to these lists to remind myself what an awesome God we have. I find it encourages me, lifts my spirits and reminds me that He has my best interests at heart.

The old hymn is still as good today:

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1856-1922

"... be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:18 Good News Bible


Monday, October 22, 2007

No Turning Back

There is a secluded part of our beach that can only be reached near low tide. It's so beautiful, it feels like being on a desert island. I know it like the back of my hand, so it's surprising to say that I once was cut off by the tide.

I was so engrossed in my thoughts, I lost track of time. Driven by a strong on-shore wind, the angry sea had cut off my retreat. I seriously considered swimming around the promontory, but eventually dismissed that as being too dangerous. I could easily have drowned.If I couldn’t return the familiar way, what was the alternative? I didn’t fancy spending the night out there at that time of year.

Suddenly I remembered there used to be a rope that hung down the side of the cliff. It had been put there by sun-worshippers to enable a short cut from the woods above. I soon found it and reached up and gave the ragged end a tentative tug. This was to be my lifeline, but I wondered if it would be secure? It probably hadn’t been used all winter.

I stepped back and considered my options. Well, there weren’t any really, this was the only way forward. But it seemed very risky. Eventually, I looped the rope around my waist and willed myself to go up. It had to take my full weight as I pulled myself up the scree-strewn rocks. Soon there were dubious handholds here and there, until I came to a very narrow goat track ascending into the trees. There was a terrific sense of relief and achievement as I made my way through the cliff-side woods to the road and the way home.

This was at a time when I was being challenged to go forward into an unknown and frightening situation. It taught me a vital real life lesson. God is always doing a new thing and no matter how good or bad the last experience was we have to leave it behind and move forward with God without looking back. He will never let us down.

"But Lot's wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt." Genesis 19:26 Good News Bible

"But the LORD says, "Do not cling to events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago. Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already---you can see it now! I will make a road through the wilderness and give you streams of water there." Isaiah 43:18-19 Good News Bible


Friday, October 19, 2007

Obeying God's Voice

Hearing God's voice, whether a timely 'prompt' or something more important, is a very precious thing. I would urge you, when this happens to you, take it seriously. Be sure what it means and obey without further delay.

There was a time when I only wish I had done so. It would have saved me a lot of strife and heartache. It was at a time when I was seeking the way forward for myself and was praying with a small group. Someone I hadn't met before described a 'picture' for me. I knew instantly that it was for me and felt it was an answer to what I had been seeking. I didn't understand it though and others in the group were not sure. After several weeks of turning it over in my mind I let it go. God didn't let it go though! He was patient and knew what was in my heart.

Two years later He spoke again and gave me the grace to obey and my life returned to harmony with God and His purposes for me. Some I know seem to have a hot line to God and others find hearing from God a rare thing. Of course God speaks to us in a variety of ways. It may be a special verse that seems to leap out from the Bible, it may come through some other Christian or be a faint whisper in the stillness. Whatever the way, when it happens we need to check it out with scripture and make sure we understand. If it is important, ask a trusted friend and keep seeking God until you have the answer.

Obeying God's intsruction always brings rest and peace in our hearts.

"This is what the scripture says: "If you hear God's voice today, do not be stubborn, as your ancestors were when they rebelled against God." Hebrews 3:15 Good News Bible


Monday, October 15, 2007

Heart-Stopping Moments

"When my heart whispered, "Seek God," my whole being replied, "I'm seeking him!" Psalm 27:8 The Message Bible

Yesterday was one of those warm autumn evenings where there wasn't a breath of wind. Everywhere was silent as the sea was calm and the seagulls were elsewhere. As the sun set, the colour of the sky was graded from a pale coeruleum blue to soft salmon pink to deep alizarin crimson.

It felt as if I was looking at the Glory of God and reminded me of similar heart-stopping moments, that seemed as if they were made just for me:

Like one still dark summer's evening, when a man up the hill stood on his balcony and sang an operatic chorus. His deep Welsh voice resonated on and on down our narrow valley. Residents were enthralled and came out to hear. When he finished there was applause all round and I was goose-pimply and touched deep inside.

We visited a country estate nearby at magnolia time. It was like a winter wonderland with the magnificent leafless magnolia trees bearing their white, pale pink and cream blooms. The grass was covered with petals like giant fluffy curled snowflakes. It was such an amazing spectacle that the visitors were captivated and tiptoed around, talking in whispers as if in a cathedral.

When walking along a narrow mountain ridge in the Austrian Alps, I was delighted by the gentians pushing through the lingering snow. On the opposite side of the valley, the snow-covered peaks were reaching into the clear sky. The air was crisp and sparkling like champagne. It was like being on the roof of the world, gently ascending a pathway to heaven. It was exciting and beautiful to the extreme. All too soon, it was time to turn back and I cried.

These are just a few of my heart-stopping moments. Yours may be different, but I really believe that at such times we are in touch with a deep inner longing. A longing that is reaching out to God, because he put it there. It seems that such moments demand a response.

"Lord, I'm coming!"


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Firmly Rooted in God's Love

"I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, so that you, together with all God's people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ's love." Ephesians 3:17-18 Good News Bible

Trees fascinate me. I have been shown some vital spiritual lessons through them.

High up on the hill above our village, a grazing field had been turned into a plantation through a forestry scheme. Hundreds of tiny saplings were planted. At first I thought they must have made a mistake, as the site was exposed to the ravages of the severe salt-laden south-westerlies. However, I assumed they knew what they were doing and had chosen species appropriate to the climate and location. I noticed that each one was staked. Not tightly, but loose enough to allow some movement and close enough to provide some support.

Not long after this, I experienced a prolonged extremely difficult time. I had to give up the work I was involved with and I fell ill. I was nearly paralysed by the winds of fear and doubt, buffeted to the ground by illness and parched by the drought of loneliness and grief. There were times when I felt like giving in, but Jesus knew just how much I could take. Each time when I thought I could take no more He was there with his supporting encouragement.

Several years later I can look back and see that I have come through. Somehow I just know that God has placed something firm and solid deep within me. It's nothing I can boast about, because He did it! There's more work to be done, but the strong winds of misfortune and adversity have made me stronger. My roots have gone down further into God's love.

Recently, I went back up the hill to have a look at the field and was amazed by what I saw. Just about all the saplings had survived and were growing into beautiful small trees. There is more growth to come, but all those fierce winds and extremes of weather caused them to put their roots further down into the soil to make them strong.

"He is like a tree growing near a stream and sending out roots to the water. It is not afraid when hot weather comes, because its leaves stay green; it has no worries when there is no rain; it keeps on bearing fruit." Jeremiah 17:8 Good News Bible


Friday, October 12, 2007

Communication in Marriage

".... A rope made of three cords is hard to break." Ecclesiastes 4:12 Good News Bible

After many years of marriage I would say that we are closer now than ever, although we still have our moments. It has not all been plain sailing though, we've certainly had our trials and difficulties. In fact we would both agree, that following Jesus has kept us together.

We used to attend the occasional marriage conference. I'll never forget the first one. I was quite apprehensive beforehand, as I thought the leaders would 'hit me over the head' with what the Bible says about marriage and declare that I had failed as a husband. I was however, pleasantly surprised and found the weekend most encouraging.

It was at these marriage weekends that we learned how communication is paramount for a marriage, or any other relationship to succeed. We were shown ways of improving communication. One was to write each other a letter. Boy, was that an eye-opener, some men freaked out of that stage. We came away with 'tools' to help us deal with potential confrontational situations, before they developed into a full-blown row.

Most useful is what we call the twenty/twenty, where we give each other twenty minutes. After asking the Lord to help us, I listen to my wife, who has my full attention without interruptions. I then mirror back to her what I believe she is saying and feeling. We had to learn to take responsibility for our own feelings. For example we say "When you do this, I feel ...!" not "You make me feel ...!" I found this difficult in the early days, as I was a bit lacking in the feelings department. We then change places and repeat the process. Finally we may have to negotiate and come to some agreement over the issue. That's how it goes, although we tend to take short cuts these days.

We certainly have not got it all right, but I thought I would share something that we found helpful in our time of need.

"God, the best maker of all marriages, Combine your hearts into one." William Shakespeare

"A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person."
Mignon McLaughlin

"As the scripture says, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and unite with his wife, and the two will become one." Ephesians 5:31 Good News Bible


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Cruel to be Kind

"I am the real vine, and my Father is the gardener. He breaks off every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and he prunes every branch that does bear fruit, so that it will be clean and bear more fruit. John 15:1-2 Good News Bible

We have a large escallonia bush in our front garden, but it grew old and straggly and stopped flowering. We decided it needed pruning, so following advice, I cut out the dead wood. When I had finished there wasn’t much left. As a friend of ours said - “it’s got two chances, it can live or die.” Thankfully it lived. The following year it sprouted new growth. Now it’s a mass of healthy foliage and covered in pink blossom in season. Just goes to prove that you have to be cruel to be kind.

It reminds me of the time when, owing to burn-out, my Christian work had to finish, work that gave me fulfilment and purpose. I lost sense of awareness and perception and God seemed to have hidden. It was devastating at first, I felt all alone and frightened. I could identify with King Nebuchadnezzar, who was reduced to a brass-bound stump.

But slowly, very slowly I got used to the situation and yielded to God in it, putting my trust in Him. As the months went by I came to realise that without doing anything but looking to Him, I was being changed inside. The Gardener was tending and feeding my roots. He was feeling my feelings with me and I experienced His healing touch. I was learning new ways and rediscovering hidden talent and gifts. Fresh shoots were sprouting. Several years later I could look back and realise that new branches had grown.

I can now honestly say that I am thankful this happened. Through it I have come to know more of the real me and have a broader heart knowledge of God. The journey goes on and there will be more pruning. Hopefully not as drastic as before. The Gardener will use His sharp knife to lovingly trim a branch to encourage further healthy growth.

”Proper pruning is as much a skill as it is an art, since badly pruned plants can become diseased or grow in undesirable ways.” quotation


Monday, October 08, 2007

The Father's Love Song

"The LORD your God is with you; his power gives you victory. The LORD will take delight in you, and in his love he will give you new life. He will sing and be joyful over you," Zephaniah 3:17 Good News Bible

We all have a basic fundamental need. Whether old or young, man or woman, we have a need to be loved and to pass love on to others. That's how God made us. His love is life-giving and life-changing. Reading the bible in itself however, may not change us, but being loved by God will.

If we take time to sit with our bible and still ourselves, we can receive His words for us and allow them to sink into the inner depths of our being. As we soak in His presence, we may hear something of the Father's love song to us, words that could go something like this:

I love you, You are precious in my sight

I love to look gaze upon your face my darling

I delight in you, You are the apple of my eye

I will comfort you and extend peace to you like a river

I am with you, Don't be afraid I am your God

I will go before you and give you the treasures of darkness

I will give you victory. You are more than a conqueror

You are mine and I am yours.

(taken from various scriptures)


Saturday, October 06, 2007

Where is my Father?

“My father and mother may abandon me, but the LORD will take care of me.” Psalm 27:10 Good News Bible

My father was over the moon with joy when I was born. He called me his ‘little chippy’ - a chip of the old block! Desiring the best for me, he did all he could, sometimes sacrificially. You can ask no more than that from anyone. But as I grew into boyhood he became more distant. That wasn’t how he wanted it. But because of his buried grief and shutdown feelings, there was no emotional bonding between us. As he said, much later in life, “I’m just not made that way!”

He wasn’t there when I needed him most, when I was hurting inside. I wanted him to put his arms around me and tell me it was all right. I needed to know what he was feeling and thinking and what he was afraid of. That he felt the same as me. As it was, I concluded that it was wrong to have feelings of fear and guilt. My response was to hide them away.

It was much later, in my thirties, that I came to know a God who is all-powerful and mighty, but bends right down to hear our heart whisper. It was only then, after I knew it was safe, that I dared take a risk. I allowed those same feelings to surface and experienced Father melt away the fear and and lift off the guilt and shame.

My earthly father is long gone. I have nothing but love for him and am left with some really good childhood memories.

It still touches me deep inside, when I realise what a loving heavenly Father I have. A God who longs to Father us and be to us what we need.


Friday, October 05, 2007

Man Spoils - God Restores

"So God made them all, and he was pleased with what he saw." Genesis 1:25 Good News Bible

"... O my soul, bless GOD, don't forget a single blessing! He forgives your sins - every one. He heals your diseases - every one. He redeems you from hell - saves your life! He crowns you with love and mercy - a paradise crown. He wraps you in goodness - beauty eternal. He renews your youth - you're always young in his presence. GOD makes everything come out right; he puts victims back on their feet" Psalm 103:1-5 The Message Bible

One morning last winter, we became aware of a loud grinding noise after breakfast. Looking out of the window, we saw a large red tractor with some sort of attachment, like a large mower and flail, cutting down the undergrowth on the steep hillside opposite.

For thirty years we have enjoyed the view from our living room. The natural covering in buddleia, gorse and hawthorn was a delight, besides providing a natural habitat for the abundant wildlife.

Before our eyes, the whole hillside was being scalped, with all the debris just left to rot. A phone call revealed that the new landowner just "wanted to see what he'd bought!" The owner can do what he likes to his land within the law, it's not our responsibility. However his thoughtless and untimely action had caused a spoiling and a desecration of God's beautiful creation.

Over the last nine months, while it has lain fallow and untouched by man, a natural regeneration has been going on. The heavy unseasonable rainfall this summer resulted in rapid new growth. The hillside now appears lush and green. Ferns and gorse are pushing through and flowers we had never seen before are shining across at us. Soon the wildlife will start to return. God's creative restoration process is under way.

Similarly, our lives can be spoiled by the thoughtless actions of others, wrong handling or abuse, or even our own behaviour patterns and addictions. Life's hurts can damage us, but when we turn to God and allow Jesus into our lives, a restoration process begins. When we surrender to God and put our lives into His loving hands and let Him have His way with us, we experience new growth. We realise the benefits and blessings of belonging to God's family.


Thursday, October 04, 2007

Facing the Mountain

"The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, 'Move!' and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn't be able to tackle." Matthew 17:20 The Message Bible

One of my weaknesses is procrastination. If there is something I have to do that could be difficult, unpleasant or involves confrontation or stepping into the unknown, I have a tendency to put it off for another day. The trouble is 'another day' may never come.

When I was working for our regional water company, the water supply strategy was changed for the whole area. This was a major undertaking, involving a new reservoir and miles of pipelines. Once the design and construction engineers had completed their work, it was handed over to us operational guys to make it work. The problem was that no one really wanted to do it. Some even thought that some aspects of the project were ill conceived, as the untreated water discharged into a very old water mains of doubtful condition. It was fraught with difficulties and if anything went wrong, the results could be catastrophic and my job would be on the line. For a while I even thought it best to leave things as they were.

I realised however, that it was up to me to get the ball rolling. The time had come to dismiss the doubts and fears and look at what we'd got. This meant getting together those involved, each with expertise in their own field and have a brainstorming session. All the difficulties, technical details, suggestions etc. were written on a board and someone was delegated to go away and make some sense of it. Each time we met, a plan slowly emerged. Preparations were finalised and the day arrived when we were to start the switch over. One of my colleagues was a Christian and we must have prayed over every inch and nut and bolt of that project. The big day came to start the changeover and each day over the next few weeks, we took one step after another, until it was up and running. There were no insurmountable problems.

I learned an important lesson through that experience. Whenever we step out in faith in something new, there is nearly always a trench of fear and doubt to cross. However, when faced square on, the 'mountain' of fear starts to melt away and the seemingly impossible becomes possible.

Nothing is too difficult for God.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Food for Thought

"But because of our sins he was wounded, beaten because of the evil we did. We are healed by the punishment he suffered, made whole by the blows he received." Isaiah 53:5 Good News Bible

I heard on the television yesterday, that it's been discovered that dark chocolate is helpful for those suffering from fatigue. That's good news for me, as I love chocolate. I take it with a pinch of salt though, along with claims that red wine benefits the heart, spinach enriches the blood and butter is bad for you.

This made me think about food and diet in general. I've lost count of the different diets that have been offered to my wife and I, often with a guarantee of a miracle cure. We've tried several, but I came to the conclusion that rigidly following a strict restrictive diet can get in the way of following Jesus, the real Miracle Worker. We enjoy a balanced diet and I would certainly avoid any food that disagreed with me, but that's as far as I would go along that route.

I believe that healing is part of the Christian salvation package. Jesus ministered and still does, to the whole person. He didn't separate out the spiritual from the emotional and physical. So looking to Him for healing does mean opening all areas of our lives to Him and changing our ways. Often and especially with some stress-related illness, we may even contribute to our own sickness through our behaviour patterns. For example, if I keep banging my head against a brick wall, I will get a headache. Better to stop the habit, than take pain relief. Better still to ask God to show us why we were doing it in the first place.

I think however, that many of us would rather pop pills, follow a diet or even take part in a sponsored walk across the Mongolian Desert, than allow God to show us what is going on inside and heal us. It can be just too scary to let the hurting recesses of our hearts be exposed. The truth is that He is very gentle and we can trust Him.

I know that Christian healing is a controversial subject for some and this is not the gospel according to Wayfarerjon, but it is food for thought!

I will continue to enjoy my chocolate in moderation, especially if it is fairtrade. I'll keep up the vitamin pills, but I will always try to put God first and seek His way. I thank Him for the medics and professionals and the food He provides, but also seek His deep healing peace that reaches the places others cannot.


Sunday, September 30, 2007

Opening our Eyes

“.. having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints ...” (Ephesians 1:18 ESV)

Our living room window was damaged in the severe storms this year. The intense shaking caused the seal between the two sheets of glass to break. This resulted in condensation building up and flowing down like large streaks of tears. It became so bad that it was like trying to see through a fog. It couldn’t be cleaned because all the mess was on the inside. We just had to endure it all winter, until the expert repair firm finally came to replace the whole unit.

It was a difficult job requiring very careful planning. Once the massive new pane was installed however, we were amazed at the view that was opened up. It had been there all the time, except we couldn’t see it. The beauty of the lush green growth on the hill opposite and the panoramic vista of the ocean were a delight to behold.

This reminds me how it can be for us sometimes. We may keep Jesus out of a certain area of our life, either through fear or some other reason. The problem is it keeps us from living to our full potential and blurs our spiritual vision. When we allow Jesus into those hidden areas He wipes away the tears, cleans away the grime and lifts off the shame. The result is our vision is cleared and we see things from God’s perspective. We see Jesus.

It’s life-changing.