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"

Friday, November 14, 2008

Taking a Break

I am experiencing a battle with health issues at present, so reluctantly I am having to take time out from blogging, for prayer, treatment and recovery. It is my real hope to come back bristling with inspiration - sooner rather than later.

I don't want to lose touch, so in the meantime you may like to have a look at my WordPress blog, Sitting Under My Fruit Tree, where I have selected or adapted the best from "walking with Father." Further posts will be added each Sunday.


Saturday, November 08, 2008

Flourishing Where We Are Placed

When our grandchildren come to stay, they call it their seaside house. We have been here thirty six years now, almost to the day. A lot has happened during this time, enough to fill a book or two - it’s coming!

When we first moved here, we thought, because it was further south we could grow anything. But the ground is so steep and stony and exposed to the salt-laden winds, most of the precious plants we bought failed in the first year. We had to learn, by trial and error what would flourish. Below our apple tree and in full view of the kitchen window, we have a bank of nasturtiums. It almost seems that the poorer the soil the better they like it. Some years very few leaves appear, but we have a mass of blooms right through from spring to winter. Even after Christmas last year, the yellow flowers were twinkling at me when I raised the blind after my dawn shower.

Having been brought up as far away from the sea as you can get in England, coming here was like a dream fulfilled and I will never take for granted living in this beautiful place. It hasn’t all been a bed of roses though. Yes, we have had some wonderful experiences and times of joy and fulfilment. This was also the place where we found ourselves and Jesus finally caught up with us. But at times the soil has seemed stony and has felt like we had more than our fair share of pain and hardship. We certainly would have not chosen some of the circumstances that we were planted in. But each time Father brought us through and we flourished. Even and especially in the dark periods, we discovered jewels of delight that we would never have known otherwise.

We have no regrets and believe, like the title of the book here and here I am re-reading, that ‘The Best is Yet Ahead.’

“I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” Isaiah 45:3 New International Version


Thursday, November 06, 2008

I'm Losing My Grip!

I’d like to dispel the myth that men have to be strong. It goes along with the other one, “men don’t cry!’ I really believe that if we cannot acknowledge and accept our own weakness and shed a few tears, then we are going to miss out on the fullness of God in our lives. Maybe you don’t have this problem, but I admit it’s still a learning ground for me.

I had to have an examination in hospital recently and unfortunately it caused an infection. So when I woke yesterday morning and began to wonder what was happening I was feeling whoozy, dizzy, light-headed and a bit faint and could even pass out. A phone call to the surgery put me straight. It would take up to 48 hours for the antibiotic to kick in and it should subside. I struggled with this however. It’s not a nice feeling and found myself fighting to stay in control. I wanted to stay strong and in command of my senses. As I saw it, I didn’t want to lose my grip on life. Even as I mulled over those thoughts, it was as if God was saying, “Yes, let go your grip and I will grip you.”

The difference that made! The penny dropped! It was all right, it’s allowed and everyone - even my understanding wife - can manage without me today. And so for the rest of the day I was like a child. I let go into Father’s arms and slowly began to receive the comfort I needed and the promise of returning strength. I couldn’t help feeling He had allowed it - or at least was using it - for this precise purpose. And do you know - and this is not a heresy - that Father God even has mothering qualities.

How many of us, especially us he-men, think we don’t need this?

“As a mother comforts her child, so I'll comfort you.” Isaiah 66:13 The Message Bible


Monday, November 03, 2008

This is a Biggy!

As an engineer I had to adapt my basic engineering skills to various environments, such as power generation, road building, multi-story concrete structures and tunnelling etc.

This was especially so when I was employed in the water industry. In our regional water company there was a full mixture of disciplines, such as chemical, biological, electronic, electrical, mechanical - apart from my own civil and structural - some of which were foreign to me. Quite often I received a phone call in the middle of the night concerning an emergency situation and looking to me to put the matter right.

One one occasion, after driving to a large works wondering what I was going to find, I was met by an enthusiastic technician who liked a challenge. He was rubbing his hands exclaiming, ‘this is a biggy!’ By that he meant that it seemed risky and complicated, we hadn’t experienced it before and if the wrong decision was made the repercussions could be wide-reaching. In these circumstances, a colleague and I used to pray, handing over the whole situation to God. We asked Him for wisdom and to bring into the light whatever was hidden. We wouldn’t tell anyone that it seemed on occasion a whole city’s water supply was dependant upon prayer. Sometimes the project was really big and we had to take it step by step, hour by hour and day by day until we got through. He never ever let us down.

I find that God is continually allowing situations in my life where I haven’t been before. Circumstances that seem bigger and riskier than ever. My only way of dealing with it, once I've got over the intial shock, is to get back to basics and put my whole trust in God. It’s only afterwards that I realise once again, that nothing is too big or too difficult for Him.

As the song goes:

Ah Lord God, Thou hast made the heavens
And the earth by Thy great power
Ah Lord God, Thou hast made the heavens
And the earth by Thine outstretched arm.
Nothing is too difficult for Thee
Nothing is too difficult for Thee

“Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You.” Jeremiah 32:17 NASB


Friday, October 31, 2008

The Apple of His Eye

Our garden is steep and stony. It faces the sea and affords very little shelter against the prevailing salt-laden south westerlies. It can be a hostile environment for all except the right indigenous species. So not the best place for an apple tree, but we have one right outside our kitchen window. The variety is Laxton’s Superb and it’s fruit is crisp, sweet and full of flavour. We feed it and prune it, to keep it healthy and so it doesn’t sprawl too far.

It has surpassed all expectations this year, as the blossom had set well before the strong winds threatened to spoil. Even after the birds, insects and bugs had their fill, there were still plenty for us. We have been harvesting them well into the autumn, until we were left with just one apple, tenaciously clinging on to it’s stem. I decided to leave it until it was ready to drop and each morning as I made my coffee, I regarded it’s delightful rosy globe. It was a real delight to the eye. I came to love that apple, but eventually it’s time was up and yesterday I caught it before it dropped. We had it for lunch. It had reached it’s fruity prime, the best apple we had ever tasted.

If only we would stop what we are doing and give time to stand in Father’s gaze and take in the delight He has in us. When it sinks in deep, that He thinks we are special, when we really see ourselves as he sees us, it is life-changing and sets us up for when the going gets rough.

In other words; to read His Word makes a difference, but to stop and allow God to love us is something else!

“In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye,” Deuteronomy 32:10 New International Version


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I Wanna Be The Leader

I wanna be the leader
I wanna be the leader
Can I be the leader?
Can I? I can?
Promise? Promise?
Yippee I'm the leader
I'm the leader

OK what shall we do?

This brilliant poem, “The Leader” by the English poet Roger Joseph McGough, always makes me smile. Perhaps because I identify with it, as ‘I’ve been there?’

In any group situation I often tended to take the lead and perhaps still do to some extent. It seems to come naturally. On the other hand I became aware of my predilection for being ‘centre stage,’ which was more to do with my inner ‘woundedness’ than any innate leadership quality.

During my secular career I have had various positions of leadership and like to think I did a good job. This was especially so when I became the ‘boss’ for a while, although I occasionally wonder how it would have been without the ‘badge’ of office as I do admit that the position did give me a ‘buzz’ at times. There was a danger of liking the position, but not the responsibility.

Some years ago, we were asked to write a profile for a new minister and we included the following just for starters, apart from any specific requirements:

  • To have a dynamic intimate relationship with Jesus.
  • To be still growing as a Christian and be prepared to be vulnerable and share out of this journey.
  • To have a servant heart.
  • To have a vision for the way forward and be able to show it.
  • To have demonstrated good relationship abilities within family and fellow Christians.

The one thing I have learnt is that leadership in the Church is totally different to how it is in the world. In the Kingdom of God, where Jesus is in control, leadership is low key and comes out of being wholly available to God with a love for others, which in time may be recognised. It will also be seen that he or she knows where they are going and people will want to follow. In other words, ‘God anoints and eventually the people of God appoint.’

I believe most of us are called to show a lead in one way or another, according to our own circumstances and gifting - - and this challenges me.

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10 New International Version


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Will You Go All the Way With Me?

I received a phone call the other day; personal family news that had the potential to send me into anxiety. As I was mulling this over, I felt these words come in a way that I just knew it was from God, “Will you go all the way with me?”

Now my first reaction was to think, “Strange! Why say that at this time? What’s the connection?” But my second reaction was, “Well, yes of course Lord!” I then thought it over. There were implications in this. What am I being asked to do? Does it imply that I am not going all the way and if so, what’s holding me back? I worked all this through, a process that continued for days, until I got the message.

But the real point of this, what I’m getting at, is what came next! Because in my spiritual groping with Father, in desperation I asked, “What should I do Lord? What should my response be?”

Immediately I was arrested. That word “should!” There’s no place in a love relationship for that word. Imagine saying to your loved one, your wife, husband or fiance, whoever, when they ask, “Will you trust me?” and you reply “What should I do?” Jesus is not expecting us to look up a list of rules - “Oh yes, rule 17: I must trust God!” He gives us free will. He doesn’t make us follow Him. Always there is the invitation to go further, deeper and He looks for our love response. He longs for us to respond and say “Yes!” because we really want to trust Him because we love Him.

Peter eventually went ‘all the way’ with Jesus and was led in ways he certainly wouldn’t have chosen, but just look at how God worked through Him and the difference that made to the whole of Christendom! If we go all the way with Jesus, there’s no limit to the miracles that will follow! That stirs my soul!

“The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep.” John 21:17-18


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Eye to Eye

We have five delightful grandchildren. Each one is unique and we love them equally.

One of our granddaughters is a beautiful, spirited and adventurous little girl. She started out in life however, with a slight impairment, in that she had ‘muffled’ hearing. Once this was diagnosed as ‘glue ear’ and treated, a whole new world opened up for her. It did however contribute to a communication difficulty. It wasn’t always apparent, but often she would retreat into a world of her own.

Her caring parents did all they could to help her with this. One of the ways they used, was when they needed to talk with her, they would say ‘eyes!’, meaning ‘look at me, look into my eyes!’ They knew then that they would have her attention and would be able to hold a meaningful conversation.

When we look into Father’s eyes, we are immediately arrested by two things. Firstly: we experience a look of total unconditional love and acceptance. Secondly: we feel that He can see right inside us, our heart is laid bare. We cannot hide and we just want to tell it how it is.

I feel shaky inside Father

Not sure about the future
Don’t about tomorrow

or how I will make out

The only thing I’m certain about

is now, right now

just being with you

I feel safe.

You warm my heart my son

Trust me

I’ll work miracles for you

I’ll move heaven and earth for you.

"- open your eyes and see-- how good GOD is. Blessed are you who run to him." Psalm 34:8The Message Bible


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Give Me a Hug

Touch is important. Even simple fingertip contact can often convey far more than many words. I like to touch, but don't do it enough, perhaps because I don't want to offend or give the wrong impression. A neighbour of ours had recently lost his wife. I could see he was crying inside and I felt like crying with him - perhaps I should have? After a few words, I touched him on the shoulder, didn't know what else to do, but I hope it conveyed what I felt.

I like to be touched, but in the right way. I am a six-footer, but there are several larger people I can think of, who can make me flinch. There's a real beefy he-man who sometimes squeezes the living daylights out of me and a large well-endowed woman who held me so tight, I felt smothered and gasped for breath.

It’s a warming thing to share a brotherly or sisterly embrace, but we need to be sensitive to the other and their needs. Sometimes, it's seems like a ritual and can give people the impression that unless you hug you are not a real Christian.

Some years ago in our little village church, the minister decided to introduce a slot in the service where we could greet one another and share the love of Christ. I welcomed this and remember holding out my hand to the church steward. He froze on the spot, as if to say "Shake hands in church? What next?" To the other extreme, we have been in churches when, at the appropriate time, all mayhem is let loose as people clamber over chairs to anyone and everyone.

We can learn from Father. His touch is always just right. He knows what we need. There have been times, when I've have felt in need and have said "Father just hold me" He has done so with such a light touch. Rather like a child sitting on Father's knee. His arm ever-so-lightly around the shoulders, giving the freedom to linger or go.

Lets be bold and sensitive. Perhaps there is just one person waiting for the right Jesus-touch today?

"Greet one another with a holy embrace." 2 Corinthians 13:12


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Back from Retreat - 5

After attending a successful conference or retreat, we may leave feeling challenged and thoughtful or really stimulated and blessed by God. This time I have left feeling both.

I have discovered from experience, that there are several things to consider when arriving back home:

  • Be careful what you share! There is always the danger that any sharing of your fragile personal pearls will be rubbished by some careless remark or you may just bore the pants of people. If I am doing this to you, then please forgive me. Better say nothing and wait until the 'blessing' has taken root within you.
  • The enemy will be on the prowl to devalue what you have received and will try any way possible to cast doubts and uncertainties. For example, by harsh words with a spouse, friend or colleague. Hold on to what you have received and doubt your doubts.
  • If we have received a blessing, then sooner or later it will be put to use, usually as a blessing to others. Be open and sensitive to God.
  • Spend time with God to assimilate and pray over what you heard and received.
I promise not to harp on about retreats, silence and listening for a while. I have such a need and a longing and I believe I am not that different to others inside. Jesus certainly needed regular space for solitude with His Father.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

On Retreat - 4

We go on retreat for different reasons. Maybe we want to withdraw for a while from the pressures of everyday life, to get things in perspective. Perhaps to find some hideaway, where we can experience peace and quiet, get closer to God and seek new direction. Whatever our reasons, if it is a Christian retreat, then to get the full benefit of course, we need to mean business with God, so in that respect it is serious.

There were certainly important, even pressing and painful issues that surfaced during our retreat. These weren't all solved of course, but I was given fresh purpose and direction, with plenty of stuff to work through with Jesus back home.

We arrived feeling somewhat battered and because I was expectant and eager to push in and get out all I could of the time, I was a little tense. Our retreat guide sensed this and saw my need to relax and just give God the freedom to move. It was even suggested I needed more fun in my life, starting there and then.

I spent an hour or so in the art studio playing with paint. Looking at this piece of work you wouldn't think that I am an accomplished artist. I just let myself go, dipped my fingers in and smudged and smeared and splodged and flicked to my heart's content. It may seem a bit of nonsense, but with hindsight it does make sense. It's all there - pain, tears, joy, laughter and God's creation. I let the child in me come to the fore, allowing myself to break all the rules and walk over the floor with dirty shoes. It was very satisfying and freeing - and God was smiling with me.

Some of you may be thinking that you already have plenty of fun and we need to be more serious. Others may say that as a Christian there's no place for such nonsense, with the world in the state it's in. But I would say that we need to be in touch with this side of us, especially at this time. I'm sure Jesus had His smiley moments!

The sun is out this afternoon and we are going to have some fun.

"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Mark 10:15 New International Version


Monday, October 13, 2008

On Retreat - 3

It was the third day of our retreat and I decided to spend some time in the library. I had the room to myself and chose to sit at a large polished mahogany desk right in the window. I was on a journey this week and didn't want to miss out on what God had for me.

As I gazed at the panoramic view before me, I was totally taken in, from the morning sun highlighting the green-topped cliffs, to the inviting sea, to the sky with all the colours of the rainbow. It was breathtakingly beautiful - heart-stopping. It was like having a ringside seat on heaven. I just gazed, transfixed. It was touching something deep inside and I could have stayed there all morning.

In my observation I became aware of two things. Firstly, there was the separateness. I was in the warmth and comfort of the building, but this heavenly vision was outside. I then felt the closeness of Father, almost like He had His hand upon my shoulder, urging me to consider.

It was as if God was reminding me, that although as Christians we are heavenward bound, heaven is also to be experienced in the here and now. That He doesn't just want us to be observers, but partakers of the abundant life and that all we need is within us.

"The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you." Luke 17:20-21


Sunday, October 12, 2008

On Retreat - 2

It was the first day of my retreat and I decided there would be just enough time for a short walk before lunch. The sun had broken through the gathering storm clouds, so I decided this was my window of opportunity. The path was tree lined and led to a dramatic viewpoint on the clifftop. It was easy level walking, which I took at a slow pace, to give the opportunity for my thoughts to roam.

As often happens before going away on such events, things occur that seem sent to try and unseat me and threaten my peace. The days before we left home, I received two items of news that had the potential to threaten my health and finances. I had already 'processed' these with Father, but as I strolled along, admiring the beauty all around me, these troublesome thoughts started to surface again. I allowed myself to feel the emotions involved, my vulnerability, even anxiety and offered these feelings up to God.

As I was doing this, the sky darkened and the rain came down in sheets. I was nearly at the viewpoint by then and sought refuge in a stone shelter. This was a rugged solid structure built into the hillside with local stone. Not only did it keep me dry, but I reckoned I would be safe from lightening, thunderbolts and even be bomb-proof. I sat on the bench and leaned against the wall. I had a perfect view of the storm outside, but felt totally safe and secure. It was as if God was reminding me, that whatever happens in my life, so long as I put my trust in Him, I am completely protected and secure with Him.

The rain stopped as suddenly as it started and I went outside to look at the sea view. A large rainbow arced over the sea and stopped me in my tracks. Yet another reminder that Jesus is my hope and He will never ever let me down.

By the time I decided to photograph the rainbow - something I have never tried before - it had started to fade, but I think you get the picture.

"Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings" Psalm 17:8 New International Version


Saturday, October 11, 2008

On Retreat - 1

We've been back again to the Christian retreat and conference centre in Devon, England, that has views-to-die-for. This photo is of a collage created by the youth at their summer camp, about two years ago and is their impression of the old house and grounds leading down to the sea.

This time, we had come for a five-day individual retreat.

The time followed a familiar pattern for me. It started with a 'honeymoon' period, revelling in the expectancy of several days solitude, 'just for me and Jesus!' By the next day feelings were already starting to surface and by the third, things seemed quite messy and I wondered how I would get through. Help was at hand however, as each day we each met individually with our retreat guide, who assisted us on our journeys. By the last day the Lord had brought all the threads together, in time to leave with a new sense of direction and freedom.

I felt revitalised. Life-changing stuff!

"Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." Mark 6:31 New International Version


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Why Do I Write This Blog?

My wife and I are due for some refreshment, relaxation and reflection this week, so I thought it would be an appropriate time to ask myself why I write and why I write this blog in particular.

Why do I write?

  • Basically I write because I just have to, there's a compulsion to do so.
  • I write for me, because it has a healing quality.
  • I keep a prayer journal between myself and God.
  • The creative instinct within me is being unlocked, so even though I have had little teaching, I am learning to paint a picture in words or oil paint or photography.
  • When I was a boy I was very shy and had difficulty expressing myself. It's was only in later years, after I became a Christian - especially when I began to get in touch with my inner feelings - that I began to find a new freedom to express what was on my heart, not just my head. I have a need to express.
  • I want to learn and improve my communication skills. I admire those - like the authors of some of the blogs I read - who have the ability to explain themselves so readily and easily.
Why do I write this blog?

  • I have discovered that being a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, is the biggest adventure I could ever imagine. Much bigger and more beautiful than any mountaineering adventure I have had. There have been times when I have either been so scared and devastated or so stimulated, that it seemed I was the only one like it. But that's not so of course, so I have a compulsion - I believe a God-given compulsion - to share out of this experience.
  • Likewise I have a desire to hear from other's experience and learn.

That's enough for starters, straight off the top of my head. I may have other reasons by the end of this time.

Just in case you feel there's not much 'devotional' content in this post, why not have a look at "I Believe In Miracles" in my other blog.


Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Trumpet Call

The news over the past week or so has majored upon the global economic crisis. One of the dramatic newspaper front page headlines read, "Staring into the Abyss" and others referred to 'Armageddon.' Scary stuff that has the potential to cause panic and anxiety.

In reality, many of us could be facing the distinct possibility of a much reduced income, what savings we have may at risk and pension funds are dwindling dramatically. On top of that world food and gas prices are rocketing and with global warming, floods, hurricanes and tsunamis are more and more frequent. I don't think that it's dramatic to say, that for many, life could be getting harder, wherever we live.

So what can be done to put the world to rights? I'm sure that there are scientific, environmental, financial and political answers and they will lead to necessary changes. Now I am not a financial expert or a scientist, or a theologian or any other kind of expert for that matter. The only thing that I am sure of is, that practical changes in themselves, necessary and essential as they may be, will not put the world to rights.

Ultimately, I believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is in control of the world. Perhaps we should regard what is happening all around us, as a wake up call, a trumpet call and He is waiting for a response. We can wait for governments to take action and we can point the finger, but surely what is needed is for repentance, a turning to God on a worldwide scale?

Christians have a solid foundation, so should have no cause to be anxious, but I don't feel there are grounds for complacency. I believe this 'trumpet call' is firstly for the Church, the Body of Christ.

For starters, the sort of questions that come to mind are: are we, in truth, so rooted in the reality of God's love, that our inner security is unshakeable in these coming days? How does my lifestyle match up to that shown in Jesus's teaching? How am I praying, I mean really praying? Is there such a thing as corporate responsibility for what is happening in the world? Am I walking with Jesus in truth and obedience, in the centre of His will today?

"And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other." Matthew 24:31 New International Version


Thursday, October 02, 2008

Getting Connected

I had a list of phone calls to make this morning: car service station, insurance company, power company and the photo processing firm to ask if they had lost my photos, just to mention a few. All in all it took over an hour and wasn't very productive.

One of the calls went something like this: dial and followed instructions - press star key - listen - press 2 - listen - press 1 - "I'm sorry but our advisors are very busy today" - and even later, "we really value your call" and "thank you for your patience"and "why not use the internet?" and finally, after 16 minutes, just as I was about to give up, I got through to a human.

I was so overwhelmed that I struggled to answer her opening question. I tried to put my case, but had difficulty getting answers to my two questions. The operator was very much on the defensive, very efficient in an assertive way. She had all the facts on her screen, but the trouble was that her agenda was different to mine. We were just not compatible, we weren't in tune. She doggedly seemed to refuse to get my point, although did agree to get someone to look into something for me. I chalked it up as half-solved. After all it wasn't all her fault, as I was left with just a niggle, that I could have handled it better?

Now we have a God, whose not a call centre operator, but the CEO who is always on the line, always available and gives us His full attention. He is never too busy and will never hang up on us. We don't have to wait for a connection as we have a hot line straight through. He is just longing to hear what we have to say. In fact He knows what we are going to say before we speak. He looks right into our heart and knows our thoughts and what is going on in there, but He waits for us to express those heart desires in words. The trouble is, he often has to wait a long time, so it's a good thing his patience is endless.

So how do I score? Do I stay connected throughout the day and include Him in everything, or do I trot out my shopping list of prayers and requests and then get on with my life, the way I want to. Do I listen, really listen to my Father? If I really care how my Father feels and thinks, I will give time to connect, heart to Heart. Now there's real powerful connecting!

"From his palace he hears my call; my cry brings me right into his presence -- a private audience!" Psalm 18:6 The Message Bible


Monday, September 29, 2008

From a Brass-bound Stump

Because of her disability, my wife 'brings her garden inside' and is a dab hand with house plants. I never cease to marvel how she can grow beautiful plants from just a piece of leaf. One of her pride and joys is a magnificent maidenhair. With it's feathery green fronds, it has centre stage in our living room.

That is, until we returned home from a few days away, to find that some of it's leaves were turning brown. She realised if it continued like that, it could whither away and die, so drastic action was called for. She had to be cruel to be kind.

The stems were cut down to within an inch of the pot and the whole thing repotted in new soil. It must have been very uncomfortable for that plant to start with, as nothing seemed to be happening. I wondered if it was dead, but my wife knew better. Several weeks later, a tiny green shoot appeared and now we have the makings of a brand new maidenhair, looking fresher, greener and livelier than ever.

When we experience loss, we can be catapulted into a potentially painful scenario. Whether the loss of employment or health, bereavement, an accident, financial difficulty or whatever, it can leave us bewildered, even devastated. We may feel the whole situation is out of our control and that part of us is dying. Initially we may be in disbelief and want to escape from the situation and get back to what was. But as we adjust to the different 'soil' and yield to God and allow the Gardener to gently tend us, we begin to see the opportunities for growth and new life.

We may not be like King Nebuchadnezzar who suffered a period of mental anguish, before God restored him, but we may feel we have been cut back to a 'brass-bound stump.' However, we can be assured that as we look to God, we will come through. Things won't be the same, part of our life may have died, but there will be a new flow of God's life in us.

"Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches. But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field." Daniel 4:14-15 New International Version


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Doctor I'm in Trouble!

"Oh doctor, I'm in trouble - Goodness gracious me,' is a catchy song from an old movie, starring Peter Sellers & Sophia Loren.

Thankfully I've not seen very much of our doctor over the years. When I'm 'in trouble' I usually pray first and give God a chance to work. But when I do go, we are blessed with a good doctor. He listens and tunes in, treating me as a 'person' and not just an 'eye' or a 'lung' or whatever. Not all doctors have such a good patient manner and forget that we may apprehensive to start with.

Either way, we may possibly leave the consulting room with the doctor's words ringing in our ears, thinking, 'goodness gracious me! Could that really happen?' Some words may even sound like some sort of prison sentence, such as, "could be malignant' or 'there maybe serious side effects.' Maybe? Serious? And anxiety and fear start to come scratching at the door of our heart.

If taken in, these words can have a power and may even affect us physically. I find that it's at times like this when I need to listen to Someone who really knows all about me. God the Healer's Word is true and powerful. For example:

"Be still, and know that I am God;" Psalm 46:10

"We are healed by the punishment he suffered, made whole by the blows he received." Isaiah 53:5

"The LORD your God is with you; his power gives you victory -" Zephaniah 3:17

"Don't worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart." Philippians 4:6

"Be patient and wait for the LORD to act; don't be worried -" Psalm 37:7

"- I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him," Isaiah 57:18

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters ... they shall not overwhelm you; - -" Isaiah 43:1-3


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Living Stones - 3

I live in Cornwall, England, where many of the roads, especially the old narrow lanes, are bordered with Cornish hedges. These are not really 'hedges', but double-skinned walls made of Cornish slate and soil. They are built in a centuries-old way by tradesmen who keep this traditional craft alive.

The master craftsman has a large pile of stones of varying size and shape to hand. He picks up a stone, inspects it and with an experienced eye, chooses the best place on the line to lay it. He is so skilled, he knows just the right location where it will fit snugly and form an integral part of the structure. Once the two outside skins of the wall are completed to height, the space between is filled with soil and topped off with a layer of turf.

Because no cement is used, it's a kind of living wall, as the individual stones are free to move ever-so-slightly against each other. This constant contact rubs off the sharp corners and rough edges and as the wall is weathered by the elements, the stone changes colour from nondescript grey into a lovely warm brown. Many varieties of wild flowers soon take root in the joints and provide a home for all kinds of wildlife. These hedges are a beautiful sight, to be enjoyed throughout the year, from primroses in early spring to berries in the late autumn.

Isn't this how it is for us? God knows where we will flourish and bear fruit and also chooses just the right people for us to relate to and grow. I have kicked against this in the past. There was a time when my wife and I felt things were getting too difficult where we lived. We thought we were in the wrong place and thought perhaps we should move to another town. After much seeking and prayer, we eventually realised that our real motive was to escape. We would have taken our problems with us.

One of the things that bothered me, was that God seemed to place me with people, especially loquacious Christians, who had so much to say for themselves and showed absolutely no interest in what I had to say. At least that was my perception. Even when we met in a prayer group, so and so would pray for ages, including everything under the sun and all the problems known to man. What was there left for me to pray? My reaction was often just to keep quiet, although I was far from 'quiet' inside.

This situation motivated me to listen. First, to listen to what my own heart was saying. And secondly, once I had resolved this with God, to feel for others and hear what they were really saying inside and speak up at the right time. In other words I was being changed and learning to listen, pray and speak, in that order. It's a divine combination, which I will get right one day.

I am now at peace where we are. That's not saying it's all strawberries and cream, but we are where God wants us to be - today!

"- you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" 1 Peter 2:5


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Living Stones - 2

We have not long returned from a week's vacation on a hillside farm deep in the countryside. We shared a cottage with friends, a couple we don't get the chance to see too often. Not surprisingly we spent a lot of time catching up on our news.

Living in such close quarters with someone else, no matter how well you get on, can be demanding and calls for a degree of give and take. We have known of some who have gone away together and come back, not friends any more. Not so for us, as we had a really enjoyable time. We value the friendship too much to let little things get in the way. I can't help feeling though, that in part, this success was because our friends must be very special to have tolerated all my little quirks and foibles.

Ok, it was only for a week, but this makes me think about unity in the Christian context. I have seen a number of Christian groups, fellowships and even churches that have floundered or split. This may have been for good reason, but it's sad if it's because of differences over non-essential issues or because the members could not get on with each other.

When our children were small we often stayed at a Christian community centre that had quite an impact upon us. We experienced such a love and peace there, that it had a healing quality. This became widely known as they were always full. We came to learn however, that this peace didn't come cheap! Behind the scenes there was a lot of hard work in forging relationships and facing problems together. At times this was very painful and involved blood sweat and tears.

This does not come easily to me and I particularly find confrontation can be difficult. But I know this is what God wants of us and is what we should be working towards; opening our lives completely and utterly to Jesus and each other. As our lives are reshaped by contact with one other, a wall of 'living stones' is built, a people of love that can be seen and touched, that others will be drawn to.

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." Ephesians 4:2-3

"- you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" 1 Peter 2:5 New International Version


Monday, September 15, 2008

Living Stones - 1

We've just returned home from a delightful time away. After a long hot drive through heavy traffic and heaving all our luggage back up our forty steps, I collapsed into an armchair to watch the late news. At some stage, after the headlines, I must have dozed off. I came to with a start and thought 'this isn't the news!'

A stand-up comedian was giving a solo performance in front of a packed theatre. I always admire the way such artists can ad lib their way and come up with just the right turn of phrase. I see it as a gift. Unfortunately though, nearly every sentence contained an expletive or sexual innuendo. Worse than this, He used God's name inappropriately. It's fair game to poke fun at religion, but to include the 'One I love' is more than hurtful! His mocking attitude fell a tad short of writing off God Himself, but that was academic, as the audience fell about laughing. At least those the camera chose, seemed to enjoy the jokes, or were they in part carried along with the euphoria of the event? What did they really feel in their hearts?

Recent surveys have shown that a large majority believe there is a God, but what do we think of Jesus? Our answer to this question is make or break, there is no middle way. We either accept or reject. So do we follow our hearts or the crowd?

Thankfully, there is a vast growing number who are prepared to stand out from the crowd. The challenge is to allow Jesus to build us into a wall of 'living stones,' that can be seen, touched and heard as love Himself.

"Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone," and, "A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for." 1 Peter 2:7-8 New International Version


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Being an Example

I've never seen myself as a preacher or a teacher, although I have tried both. One thing I discovered, from the limited feedback I received, was that the things listeners often picked up on and remembered, were not what I intended. Or could be something I had slipped in as an afterthought or even totally unrelated..

I also realised that it's not always the words, important as they may be, that make the difference. It's more the spirit in which we speak. If we are talking out of heaviness or bitterness or anger, then that is most likely what is received; not the message we chose. On the other hand if we are so full of joy and love, that's what will come over.

It's the same with children, my wife and I soon discovered that they didn't always do what we said, but what we did! In their early childhood they copied us. They have children of their own now and we are proud of them.

We live in a small village where we are seen everyday and news travels fast. It's a bit like living in a fish bowl. I may have a Christian fish symbol on the car, I may even speak of my God, but it noted whether we live up to what we say we believe. People want to see the fruit on the tree. You don't think anyone is really listening or cares what we believe, but then suddenly one day, you are asked a pressing question, because they know who to come to.

When I decided to write on the verse below I was challenged. It's a very sobering thought that it's our attitude and the way we are, that shows the difference. On the other hand it's also a comfort. God is in the changing business. All we have to do is be ourselves and allow God into every area of our lives to change us. And then He works through us to change others. It's all God.

"- be an example for the believers in your speech, your conduct, your love, faith, and purity." 1 Timothy 4:12 Good News Bible


Saturday, September 06, 2008

Whose in Charge

Our four-year old grandson is a real boy with lots of energy which needs directing and guiding. He needs to be shown what his boundaries are, without dampening his adventurous spirit. He knows I love him and he respects me, but he will often try to see what he can get away with.

His latest tactic, when I ask him to do something is to taunt, "You're not in charge!" I have to deal with that of course, at the same time as trying to keep a straight face. I know that if he gets his own way too much he may get hurt. Like the time he steadfastly refused to wear his sandals and marched out into the garden. He was back within minutes crying, with a bleeding toe. We hugged him, dried his eyes and dressed his 'wound.' He then put his sandals on and went out to play.

Are we like this sometimes? Do we ignore our heavenly Father's instructions and do things our way, perhaps with just a hint of rebellion? Do we then get hurt as a consequence of our actions? God sees this of course and loves us too much to leave us as we are, so we shouldn't be surprised, when He allows circumstances in our lives, that have the potential to correct any destructive traits. It may seem hard, but if we embrace these circumstances and see them as God-opportunities, we grow in the knowledge of God loving us.

"- the Lord disciplines those he loves," Hebrews 12:6 New International Version


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Going for Gold - 2

There was a time when some friends thought I was a bit closed up. They didn't always know what I was feeling and found it difficult to make heart contact with the real me. It used to bug some and once someone tried to break through the shell I had built around myself since childhood. That was probably saying more about their own agenda than my need, as it's not something we should attempt, but leave to the Holy Spirit.

The problem was that my 'head' was not fully connected to my 'heart.' There was however a longing within me that was so great that I wasn't sure I wanted to look at it. I was afraid of the emotions that would pour forth. But God loved me too much to leave me that way and heated up my spirit and increased the desire he had put there. He gave me a promise that He would make me, 'hard in the head,' but 'soft in the heart'. Over the years He gradually softened and melted away the shell. With occasional prayerful help from others, the layers of the 'onion' were removed, to reveal the vulnerable inner core.

I am aware that the longings within are the driving forces in my life, so I don't want these to go cold. I wish to live a surrendered lifestyle, but yielding to God is not wholly passive. It does not mean ignoring those very God-given desires. I am at peace with God, but the longing for more is even stronger. I have a desperate desire - a desire that risks all - for certain things to come about, that I believe God wants too.

Hannah - in the Bible - had a longing for a child. She could have said, 'this is as good as it gets,' but she couldn't ignore the deep longing within. I think she believed it was a God-given desire for her and her prayer became desperate. God answered her heart cry, which then helped change the course of history.

What is on your heart?

"Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard." 1Samuel 1:13 New International Version


Friday, August 29, 2008

Daddy, I'm Scared!

I had the afternoon out with one of our grandaughters. It was to be just the two of us and I was really looking forward to it. As it was hot and sunny we started with large ice creams. She reached up to the counter on tiptoe, and studiously considered each flavour. Next, the play park and a ride on the 'train.' We were the only 'passengers,' so she sat in front and rang the bell. The owner could see the joy on her face, so gave us extra time.

As a special treat, I thought we would visit the "Dome." This is a sort of living museum, vividly illustrating over 400 years of local history. Each scene is faithfully replicated, complete with sounds and smells, leaving nothing to the imagination. It's so realistic, that you feel part of the scene. What I hadn't reckoned on, was it's suitability for a six-year old.

As we started the trail I noticed it was darker than expected and before long I felt a tug at my jacket. Her large brown eyes looked up to me; "Grandad!" I wondered what was coming. "I'm frightened!" My heart went out to her as I took her hand. We returned to reception, where it was suggested we go the opposite way round.

It was brighter the other end. She was fascinated by the exhibits and asked lots of questions. At a mock-up of a prison cell she held my hand tighter, asking, "Why is that man wearing chains round his legs?" Eventually we came to the 'scarier' scenes and she decided that was enough adventure for the day.

I was so proud of her.

Even at my age there have been times when I have felt fearful and have needed extra assurance that God was 'there' for me. Like the time when my wife was rushed to hospital, seemingly near to death. I held Father's hand as tight as I could, in what ever way came to me. Step by step he led me - us - through the following weeks and months, as His loving healing was worked out. Just another opprtunity for me to grow in the knowledge of His love.

Fear is part of our lives, it's how we handle it that counts. I'm sure God doesn't want us to keep it inside to fester, but longs to hear the words, "Daddy I'm scared!" I can imagine His answer, "Are you son. Let's talk about it."

"Do not be afraid, for I am with you;" Isaiah 43:5 New International Version


Monday, August 25, 2008

Going for Gold - 1

After years of painstaking disciplined preparations, involving total commitment, dedication, and expenditure of tens of billions, the 2008 Olympics has finally taken place.

My wife and I watched when we could and have been enthralled as the competitors gave their utmost in the arena. We rejoiced with the winners as they shared their joy in the interviews afterwards. We held our breath as the sailors inched forward at the finish to win gold. It was almost as if we were on board with them. We cheered a local boy when he won through to the diving finals. Our hearts went out to the runner in the relay when he dropped the baton at the crucial moment. And when the athlete front-runner crashed out on the last lap, we really felt his acute devastation, as all his years of sacrificial preparation went down the plughole.

Then I was reminded of the words of Olympic athlete Eric Liddell, as portrayed in the movie "Chariot's of Fire." "You've come to watch a race but - - I want you to take part in it - - Commit yourself to the love of Christ, that's how you run a straight race."

We are invited to be partakers, not just onlookers. We are invited into an eternal love relationship where the prize has been won for us. The medal is waiting and is given freely without cost. The difference is, it's not just a 200 metre dash. We are in it for the long haul and has to be worked out with blood sweat and tears. We are not competing against each other of course, but against our lethargy, empty passions, lusts and addictions, amidst a hail of arrows from the enemy. The difference is, if we mess up and drop the baton we are always given another chance.

The question is, are we going for gold? All the saints in heaven will cheer us on until we stand on the rostrum with Jesus. Imagine the joy!

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever." 1Co 9:24-25 New International Version


Friday, August 22, 2008

Keeping Focused

I've always been a keen photographer, but thought I would have a go at digital photography and bought a simple compact to give it a try. I was amazed at what it could do. The colour rendering was brilliant and the images consistently sharp. There was one problem however, the photos were sharp all over. I wanted more control over the focusing.

For my very special birthday last year, I was given a new digital SLR, to replace my very old and trusty 35mm Olympus. Now I can choose between fully automatic or complete control over everything.

I specialise in portraiture. Some like to include lots of background interest, like mountains or historic buildings. Now the scenery may be beautiful and the architecture astounding, but I like to fill the frame with the person, preferably just head and shoulders. I then focus on the eyes, so that the background is well out of focus. That way our attention is taken straight to the subject, without diversion. It isn't always easy to get to get it right. Photography isn't just about 'pressing the button,' but about looking and looking until you know you've got it.

Jesus is our source of life, love and hope and our relationship with Him sustains us. If we want to live life to the full we must focus on Him and keep Him in our sights. It takes perseverance to maintain this sometimes, because of all our involvements. There may be many good and beautiful things around us, but if these became our prime focus, Jesus may become blurred. We may even be in danger of losing our way and it can be hard to get back into focus.

Keep focused and live.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Song: Helen Howarth Lemmel 1922

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith -" Hebrews 12:2 New International Version


Monday, August 18, 2008

Father and Fathering

I have a great love for my father, even though he died years ago. I have some warm memories of him, especially the times spent watching him at work in his woodshed. It was because of him, that I became competent in practical things, such as carpentry, gardening and photography.

However, as I grew out of boyhood I found him distant. I was unable to bond with him physically or emotionally. Just when I needed him most, he wasn't 'there' for me. There were times I needed a comforting arm around my shoulders, as if to stay, "it's all right, I understand." I wanted to know what he was feeling, so I would know what it was like to be a man, but his emotions were locked away. I sensed he was angry inside and at one time, even thought it could be my fault. It was only many years later, that I discovered his heart had been broken and he had covered over his grief.

My father did his very best for me, at times sacrificially. What more can you ask of a man? However, this left me growing up into maturity, with a disabling emotional 'wound.' I buried the feelings, compensated for the lack - as you do - and got on with my life.

Many years later, when facing the challenges of marriage, relationships and parenthood, the pain began to surface. Eventually, with help at first, I moved from denial into facing the pain and feeling the feelings with Jesus. This was a slow process, in which I discovered that Father God longs to father us in the way we need, no matter what kind of upbringing we have had. And in a way I don't understand, He can even show us motherly qualities.

Now, if you identify with any of this and are aware of such pain, then ask the Holy Spirit to bring it to the surface, so that He can take the pain away and replace it with His love. It could help - and this is just a suggestion - to do something like writing a letter as if it was from your father. Write down the things that you would just have loved to have heard him say to you and then look to Father God for His answer.

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


Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Hidden Life - 2

Of the few photos of my childhood that have survived, one stands out. It's of an angelic three-year old with an impish grin and holding a little stick. I had obviously been up to no good, because my eyes were closed, in the false belief that no one would see me.

I have grown up since of course, but that trait has still lingered on. I'm sure that in my workplace, whilst attending church services or out with friends, there have been some who may have thought, 'what a nice man!' Maybe that's what I wanted them to see? But perhaps that 'nice man' needed to ask himself the questions, "What am I like when there is no one to see? What do I do in secret when I am all alone?"

There is of course One who sees all and sees us as we really are and His name is Jesus. He is always present. He sees the fears and doubts that surface when we are all alone. He sees the unhealthy habits or lingering illicit glances, in the hope of false comfort. He sees the envious desires for another's popularity, achievements or belongings.

It's this hidden life that really counts, not what others may perceive or think of us. It's how we respond that determines our true character. The fact that He sees all is challenging, but if we really believe, it is also a tremendous comfort.

"For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." Colossians 3:3 New International Version


Friday, August 15, 2008

The Hidden Life - 1

I used to be centre stage,
on the front line for all to see.
I felt wanted, stimulated, fulfilled
and even, dare I say - successful.
After all, I had letters of thanks and praise
and a lapel badge displaying my role.
So you'd be right in thinking.
I was just a touch proud.

Then came a long painful transition --

I'm still on the front line of battle.
But now I go mainly unnoticed, unseen and
except for the occasional lingering backward glance,
it doesn't matter anymore,
because He sees all.
He is where we belong.
He is where we find satisfaction.
He is all we need.
That's all that matters.
I'm learning that all we need is Him.
Something inside is dying so that I may live.

"For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." Colossians 3:3 New International Version


Monday, August 11, 2008

Flight or Fight?

I thought of calling this post "The Great Escape," because when the going got tough I used to get going. When I was faced with a conflict situation, where I felt threatened, I often looked for an escape route.

When things became difficult in our church we tried another one, only to find they had problems of their own. Work was always highly pressured, so it was easy to defer a difficult decision until later and still be seen to be working hard. In relationships, I tended to avoid any clash of opinion or disagreement.

The ultimate was the house move. The situation at home was trying, transport for our children was getting difficult and we seemed to have reached stalemate in our community. We decided therefore, to sell up and move to the next town and make a fresh start. But try as we might, we couldn't make it happen. As our arrangements for sale and purchase kept falling through, I became desperate.

I needed to hear from God. Perhaps there was something we weren't seeing? That's when we realised we would take our problems with us. It would be a different location, but once things had settled down, there would still be the same lessons to learn. It was only after we decided to stay put, that we saw things in a new light and slowly, very slowly, our circumstances began to change, difficulties eased and we saw no reason to move.

So what was I running from? I came to see that it wasn't people or things or even events that I was scared of, but the feelings within myself. I was afraid how I would cope with others' anger or even my own and then there was the fear of failure. Over the years, I faced these ogres with Jesus and began to find freedom, as I saw myself from God's perspective.

It is still a weak area for me and I may still procrastinate from time to time, but I am learning that:

We have a choice to run away or stay and fight.
If we run away we don't grow.
When we take the first step in faith to face the fears/situation/problem, God steps in and we have as good as won.

"David thought to himself, “One of these days I’m going to be swept away by the hand of Saul! There is nothing better for me than to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will despair of searching for me through all the territory of Israel and I will escape from his hand.” 1 Samuel 27:1 New English Translation


Saturday, August 09, 2008

Created or Evolved?

I happen to believe that God made the world. That's what we are told in the Bible. I have little interest in the 'how,' although I accept it may have a fascination for some. You may be surprised therefore, to hear that I have recently watched the first in a major prime time television series on evolution.

The biologist presenter was passionate about Charles Darwin's theory and expounded that it gives a complete explanation and reason for man's existence. He seemed to display an intolerance to those who believe in God. It was unfortunate that he had to resort to what could be seen as mocking those who believed what they are told in the Bible.

The questions that the programme has not addressed, so far, are the "why" and the "who." The Bible is fundamentally about a love relationship with God, an affair of the heart that cannot be analysed scientifically. I read in the Bible that God had me in mind, even before He made the world. That is mind-blowing and is not something that can be understood, but entered into. I, like millions of others, entered into this 'affair,' not because I had been taught or indoctrinated, but because He revealed Himself to me in my need and impacted me with His love.

Whatever we may think about evolution; when our spiritual eyes are opened, the Bible, God's Word comes alive. We do not throw reason out of the window, but our eyes are opened to a life-changing love relationship with Jesus. We and the world desperately need this.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. The Word was with God in the beginning. All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created." John 1:1-3

"For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love." Ephesians 1:4

"Certainly you made my mind and heart; you wove me together in my mother’s womb." Psalm 139:13 All quotes from New English Translation


Friday, August 08, 2008

Where is My Treasure?

I've changed over to a brand new computer and have just completed re-installing all my software, documents and files, configuring the email and making sure everything works. I'm no computer-geek, but I have picked up some expertise along the way and consider myself reasonably confident.

They say that changing computers can be as stressful as moving house. I admit that is has taken up a considerable amount of time and energy over the last few days and I did wake up one night puzzling over an installation problem. But, on the whole I feel satisfied - even smug? - that it has gone so smoothly.

Compared with my old machine, the picture is crystal-sharp and I'm amazed at the speed. I can literally zip through the web pages, whereas before, there were times when I had to wait ages for a page to load. It's a bit like changing from shopping at the local store to finding my way round the new out-of-town mega supermarket. I could play with it all day, exploring all the possibilities -- and there's the rub! I have to remind myself that it is only a tool, a means to a creative end, otherwise it can take over. After all, I'm not in love with my computer - am I?

What is the love of our life? The thoughts that fill our mind for most of our waking hours give a clue. What does our mind flip back to, during a pause at our workplace or driving along the freeway? I am conscious that if our time and energy are centred on following Jesus, there is the potential for the world around us to change!

Jesus longs for that central place in our hearts.

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Luke 12:34 New English Translation


Monday, August 04, 2008

Seeing from God's Perspective

Our optician reported that the vision in my left eye was restricted and referred me to a consultant. I was unaware of any problem and couldn't see what the fuss was about, but agreed to an operation to correct the condition. I was a little apprehensive at the prospect of having my eye cut into, but the surgical procedure went well. However, the post operative medication inflamed my eye which was extremely painful. This slowed me right down and catapulted me into a period of restriction and trauma.

I asked a friend to pray with me. Apart for praying for healing, she said that she believed God wanted to "broaden my vision." This wasn't a reference to my physical sight of course, but meant that through the experience, God would reveal me things that I wasn't seeing. In other words God wanted to show me things from His perspective.

I had been a Christian for many years. However, I was so wrapped up in Christian activities, that I was blinkered to what God was really trying to show me. I was blindly following a narrow path of 'ministry' without giving enough time to focus on the 'Minister.' The enforced months of inactivity were like a prolonged 'retreat,' where I had time to refocus. I emerged from this experience, rather like a mole coming out of its hole, blinking in the bright light and wondering, "what on earth is going on around here?"

The process goes on of course, but I offer a few observations coming from this time. Seeing from God's perspective:

1. Means setting aside regular quality time to be alone with Father.

2. Requires being brutally honest and open with God, including taking responsibility for our own feelings and behaviour patterns.

3. Results in seeing ourselves as God sees us.

4. is always in accordance with God's Word in the Bible.

5. is life-changing - we'll never be the same again.

6. gives us the freedom to be ourselves, the person we have been made to be.

7. Means seeing world events in a new light, especially being aware of the conflicting influences of good and evil that abound.

8. and above it enflames the love affair with Him.

You probably could add a lot more --

"One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see." John 9:25 English Standard Version


Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Heart Cry

God always answers the cry that comes from the depths of our being. It's almost as if the actual words are unimportant, as He sees what is on our heart.

Sometimes I have found the answer comes immediately, like the time I crushed my thumb. My knee-jerk reaction was to reach out to Him with my damaged hand. There were no words, but everything inside me called out to the Lord and within the hour my thumb was healed. Or the time I nearly drowned in the sea, when my desperate inner cry for rescue was answered in a miraculous way.

There have been occasions when, after wrestling for ages in a difficult and painful situation, I didn't know how to pray anymore. I just cried out - a desperate son to a loving Father - in a mixture of surrender and expectation, with all the faith I could muster. There was no immediate tangible answer, but a definite deep assurance that He had heard my cry and it was all in hand.

I believe God so identifies with our heart cries, that He always answers us.

"O LORD, my defender, I call to you. Listen to my cry! If you do not answer me, I will be among those who go down to the world of the dead. Hear me when I cry to you for help, when I lift my hands toward your holy Temple. - Give praise to the LORD; he has heard my cry for help. The LORD protects and defends me; I trust in him. He gives me help and makes me glad; I praise him with joyful songs." Psalm 28:1-7 Good News Bible


Friday, August 01, 2008

Absolute Care

I was always something of a worrier, so when I became a Christian it was a revelation to learn of a loving Father God, who cared for me personally. I was particularly gripped by the fact that He knew me inside out and had "every hair on my head counted!"

However, anxiety still remained a weak area in my life. I had difficulty trusting God with some things and thought it best to 'help' God out by worrying!

I feel it's not until we come up against circumstances that are out of our control, when we just don't have the answers anymore, when we cannot 'fix it,' that we become desperate and are given the opportunity to receive a deep heart knowledge of God's care. I'm thinking of situations like financial breakdown or illnesses that have no lasting medical solution for example.

Even then, if you are like me, you may stay in denial and pretend everything is still 'normal.' Perhaps, after clutching at straws, by trying anything that might just give a glimmer of hope, we come to an end of our own efforts. That is when, in all humility, we throw ourselves into Father's arms and give it all to Him. It may feel risky. It may change the direction of our lives for ever, but His care will be absolute.

He will never let us down. We can trust Him.

"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7 New International Version


Monday, July 28, 2008

Without Prejudice

Some years ago, when I was helping out at a conference, a young woman came up to me and made a direct remark concerning my personality. It was a childlike observation and her command of the English language was halting, but I knew it had the ring of truth about it. I was taken by surprise and rather than ask her to explain further, I thanked her and carried on with my business.

However, my thoughts inside went something like this: "How cheeky and anyway, who does she think she is. After all, we haven't spoken before, so how can she possibly know anything about me!" Even now, I shudder at having had such proud and arrogant thoughts. It was well over a year later, when through personal need and looking to God for the way forward, I began to have some understanding of what she had discerned.

Hearing what God is saying to us brings life and freedom. If we really want to hear, then God will use whoever and whatever to get his message over. The question is, will we have the humility to accept His chosen messenger or are we prejudiced? Obviously we take what we believed we have heard and compare it with God's Word. But are we open to hear through someone who we may not like, is from a different background or culture, is much younger than us, appears unintelligent, has no position in a church organisation - need I go on?

"Then the LORD opened the donkey's mouth, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?" Numbers 22:28 New International Version


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Church Without Walls

We may never go to 'church' or we may attend a church service twice on Sunday, plus mid-week. But either way, is that it for the week? There are still over 100 waking hours left for Church.

What about:

The unexpected exchange in the street,
while traffic whizzes by.
A tuning-in, a gelling of minds during
a few minutes when
something happened deep and true.
You parted feeling lighter, even warmed.
Was that not Church?

The lunchtime gathering at the office,
an impromptu meeting of like-minds.
Just being together,
sharing of lives, joys and fears.
That was Church

The knock on the door,
just as you were off out.
Someone in distress,
so you dropped everything
and lent a listening ear
and perhaps some prayer.
This is Church

Husband and wife
intimately share feelings, hopes and fears.
Praying together and
asking God what He has to say.

Are you getting my drift?
In all these God-arranged or inspired
linkings, meetings, exchanges of His people,
outside of any committee, structure or organisation,
He was there.
This is Church

"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:25

"For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:20 All quotes New International Version