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, June 27, 2008

Smile Please!

I once took part in a test to discover my personality type. It wasn't very conclusive, except that 'melancholic' formed a large chunk of me. There are positive aspects to that of course. It's how God made me and I accept 'me!'.

However, it was one of our grandaughter's recent remarks that made think again. I was reading her a bedtime story, when she cocked her head and looked into my eyes. "Grandad," she said casually, "you have a sad face!" OK, they had been studying facial expressions at school, but she is very perceptive for a six-year old.

I've been told I have a nice smile, when I do smile, so I decided to practice it more often. I had a smile day, to see what that would bring about. I smiled at Jim down the road and again in the Post Office, but it was in the supermarket where it really took off. I made sure it was a 'proper' smile and not something that could be mistaken for a leer. More what I would call a 'heart smile!' The result was surprising. Shopping took a lot longer that day. Conversations were initiated as people opened up in the chilled foods and there was even a loving pat on the shoulder at the deli counter. It really brightened up the long wait at the checkout, except for one very old dear, who quickly turned her head, just in case I was up to 'something!'

Not very spiritual, you may ask? As Christians, Jesus lives in us by His Spirit, so let's smile and let Him out and make someone's day. You never know where that may lead!

"A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face," Proverbs 15:13 The Message Bible

"When I smiled at them, they could hardly believe it; their faces lit up, their troubles took wing!" Job 29:24 The Message Bible


Monday, June 23, 2008

Seems Familiar?

I've always thought I was reasonably discerning and perceptive. I certainly find it helps in making decisions and judgements and avoiding all kinds of pitfalls. It's also an indispensable tool for counsellors and there are numerous examples of Jesus himself exercising discernment.

I am aware though, that there is a shadow side to the gift, the other side of the coin. It's called criticism, with the danger of becoming judgemental.

Perhaps I may think that Mary is a little scatty, has her head in the clouds a lot of the time and needs to be more grounded in reality? What about Jim down the road? He's a bit of a wimp, sort of wishy-washy and tends to be a people-pleaser. He needs to be a real man, find out who he really is and stand on his own two feet.

Now how do I know that? Because that's how I have been. I've been the same and it's still a weak area of mine. That means I'm no different to them. We're just the same. That's how I recognise their problem. What a sobering thought!

Why am I being so hard on them? If I'm being hard on them, I'm being hard on myself. If there is something about them that I don't like, then perhaps I don't like and accept the same thing in myself?

Perhaps there's a need to talk with Jesus about this, so I can love my neighbour as myself?

Next time you have thoughts about a Jim or a Mary, go easy on them, it could be you!

"It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbour." Matthew 7:5 The Message Bible


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Resting in God

I wondered what to write today, but nothing came to me. I could always think of a good idea or important topic and try and write some thought-provoking article. But I'm not an intellectual or clever enough for that and I'm not into good ideas either. I could keep on trying for an hour or so, pushing in a muscular way, in an attempt to provide something presentable. But I know when that happens, I won't be resting in God and won't be at peace.

On the other hand, if I feel in tune with Father and there is something on my heart, the words almost fly off the computer keyboard. It may not be perfect, but it will be my offering and it will have life.

I find it's the same with speaking. I have tried preaching and spent hours preparing and perfecting my pearls of wisdom. Then, on the day when I read from my script, it seems to come out flat and lifeless. I look at the sea of blank faces and just wish that I was somewhere else! - an aside: imagine a minister saying to his congregation, that God had not given him or her anything to say, so suggested they should spend the next half hour in silence? That would be a brave person?

Alternatively, if I really have something to say and I know the timing is right before God, I only have to open my mouth and the words just come. Like my writing, it may not be polished or word perfect, but it will have life. And somewhere out there, there may be only one person who engages and identifies and receives the nub of what I have to say and that's what it's all about!

I am learning.

Jesus wasn't performance-driven and under pressure, like I used to be. He only did what He saw His Father doing. He was a Man of poise. If we are at rest in God, then what we do make take effort, but it will be effortless and efficient. We will be in the flow with Him and we will know it.

"God's promise of enjoying his rest still stands. So be careful that none of you fails to receive it." Hebrews 4:1 New International Version


Friday, June 20, 2008

Prepared for Battle

Friends of ours recently spent their honeymoon in Rome and also visited Pompeii. Their visit coincided with a television programme, depicting life in that city. It was explained, that even in the first century, Pompeii was surprisingly civilised. They had every comfort and enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle. In the lead up to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, no one was prepared for the catastrophe. They were too busy in their indulgences and were taken by surprise. The majority perished.

I believe there are similarities today. The Devil holds sway in the world today. There is a tremendous battle gathering impetus, between light and dark, good and bad. The Devil's scheme is to spread fear and strife. His deception is to keep people in the dark about the reality of the saving love of Jesus Christ, so that their eternal hope and security will be placed in materialism, money, people or any other falsehood that will divert them from the truth. The majority are unaware of this spiritual battle.

The battle is intense for Christians. As they belong to Christ, they are on the front line and he has to try and divert them from following God and destroy that relationship at all costs. He will attempt to deceive, pervert and rob, often in most surprising ways; even from within the Church itself. Unfortunately, even some Christians are not aware of the reality and seriousness of this.

Several years ago when we were praying in a group, one member described how they believed God saw the Church. The first was a picture of soldiers wearing shining bright armour, standing erect with arms linked. The second - which probably related to how it was for us - was one where everyone was lolling around, totally disconnected from each other. Some had discarded their armour and were playing games and others were lying on the floor nursing their wounds.

What can our response be to this? May I make the following suggestions:

1. Stay close to God and nurture that intimate relationship, with all means possible.

2. The areas where we are weak can provide 'windows' for the enemy to enter. We need to identify these and ensure that they are dealt with and closed.

3. Many of us cover up emotional pain, often originating from past hurts. We need to allow God to cleanse and heal these wounds, so that we are strong in Him.

4. Be aware and alert and pray at all times.

5. Ensure we are not harbouring bitterness and do all we can to keep unity.

6. Wear the armour of God at all times and use the weapons He gives us.

"Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?" 1Corinthians 14:8 New International Version

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6:10-12 New International Version Version


Monday, June 16, 2008

Thoughts on the Seasons

A few random thoughts on the seasons.

I looked across the valley this morning and just knew that summer had really arrived. The warm sun and the evening showers have brought out a profusion of wild flowers on the hillside opposite. Despite the effects of global warming, God's seasons continue; seasons that are designed to promote life and abundance on the earth.

This made me think of the 'seasons' we grow through. We start as babies and pass through toddler hood, childhood, teen and progress through life's stages to older age and inevitably, death. This process is God-given and involves continual change and provided we cooperate in the transition, each stage can be a blessing. Unfortunately some of us miss out or get stuck somewhere along the line. There are those we know, who say they missed out on childhood and I certainly faltered somewhere in my teens. As we get older, some of us may even try to buck the trend and act as if we were still in the first flush of youth, rather than go with the divine flow. Hence the popularity of some forms of cosmetic surgery.

The problem is that if we miss out on a stage or try to alter the natural course of things, sooner or later we can experience adverse effects, emotionally, mentally. physically or spiritually.

I feel this is where God's seasons for our individual lives come into play. I believe God pre-arranges or allows times in our lives that are to our advantage, to enable us to flourish, blossom and heal. This is understandable when the sun shines and everything seems to be going fine. We feel good and it is easier to give thanks. But what about the dry periods or what we call the 'hard times?' Surely, even these are allowed for a purpose?

If you are like me, you may be tempted to enjoy life when all seems rosy and give less regard to using the time to build your relationship with God. I sometimes need a catalyst to make me move on and grow up with God; so when the dry times come along, I am forced to dig deep to find the life-giving water that flows from Jesus. That's when we discover that the deserts and wildernesses of life can be the most productive. We need those 'rocky' times, some of us more than others.

I believe the key is to accept and embrace each season of our lives and cooperate with God in the rough and the smooth?

I like to play chess, if only I can find a partner. Life can be like a game of chess! If my opponent lets me win every time then there is no game and I just do not learn or grow.

Where are you today?

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:" Ecclesiastes 3:1 New International Version


Friday, June 13, 2008

Vive la Difference!

We’ve just returned home from a delightful week, staying with one of our families and enjoying time with our grandchildren.

They are all so different; each one so unique! The eldest is fearless, loving and so talented and enthusiastic. I can just picture her as an actress on the stage or an Olympic ice skater. Her sister is more of an academic and I can already see the beginnings of a teacher in her, possibly? The little one is so quick to learn and is picking up much by copying her older sisters - the good and not so good! She is already displaying a determination and independence. They get on well together, but occasionally the spectre of jealousy raises its head to spoil the harmony.

We are pleased to see that although their parents are bringing them up with love and discipline, at the same time they are encouraging and nurturing their individuality and special talents. I just pray that as they grow up, their adventurous spirits will not be crushed. Also, I hope they will resist the peer pressures to conform, so that they will dare to become the people that God has made them to be.

Isn’t it like this within the Church? As Christians we all have the same heavenly Father and are treading the same journey of faith. We are all going the same way, but because we are all different, we walk along parallel paths of discovery. Sometimes, other church members may feel threatened by such individuality and there may be a perceived pressure to conform. Some leaders may even feel their positions threatened by this apparent threat to the status quo.

Rather than feeling fearful of such people, we should embrace the difference that makes up the whole. We don't have to copy each other, or even agree, but we do need to love and accept.

Vive la difference!

"We have many parts in the one body, and all these parts have different functions. In the same way, though we are many, we are one body in union with Christ, and we are all joined to each other as different parts of one body." Romans 12:4-5 Good News Bible


Monday, June 09, 2008

Come Apart

When I was a child I enjoyed playing with other boys and got up to all sorts of escapades in the surrounding fields and extensive parkland. However, a lot of the time, partly because of family circumstances, I played quite happily on my own. You could say that I was something of a loner. As I grew older, attended college and found a job, this imbalance was addressed. However, after I became a Christian, for some reason I picked up that this childhood trait of aloneness must be wholly wrong. There is the negative aspect, but it has been only in recent years I have understood the strengths in being a 'loner!'

I enjoy being with people, but I also seek time apart on a regular basis to recharge my batteries and to be quite alone with Father. It's sometimes a struggle to set aside time, but I have found it absolutely essential in order to nurture this life-giving relationship and to understand what my own heart is saying. I can't separate the two, they go together. This is a need within me and I always know if I am neglecting the desire, because sooner or later I am crying out inside for it - for Him!

I always prefer to find places outside to be alone. I find it helps to keep my mind sharp and stop me dozing. I have my special spots - what I call my trysting places - that seem to encourage such intimacy, like a field gate in a secluded field, a ledge on the side of the cliffs or a spot on a deserted stretch of the beach. It's the solitude that's important and that can be quiet or noisy. Silence is precious and powerful, but there are times when I feel free and safe to let rip to God in praise or to express my feelings.

We are all different and need to find our own way with God. But one thing we all have in common, is that God has put that need for Him within us and only He can fill it. That means getting alone with God. If Jesus had to 'come apart' with His Father then surely so do we?

"When Jesus heard the news about John, he left there in a boat and went to a lonely place by himself. Matthew 14:13

"After sending the people away, he went up a hill by himself to pray. When evening came, Jesus was there alone;" Matthew 14:23

"Very early the next morning, long before daylight, Jesus got up and left the house. He went out of town to a lonely place, where he prayed." Mark 1:35

"At daybreak Jesus left the town and went off to a lonely place." Luke 4:42

All quotations from the Good News Bible


Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Choice

Am I sitting on the fence,
Just looking at the view?
Enjoying both sides,
hedging my bets just in case?
Am I sitting by the pool side
watching the bathers have fun?
Perhaps dipping in a toe,
to show I'm taking part,
but waiting for another day
to take the plunge.

They say this habit is destructive,
but what's the harm.
What's wrong with just a peep,
or just a little tantalising taste?
It's not hurting anybody,
we're all human,
we all need a little comfort,
some pleasure in life.
I can take it or leave it - can't I?
I'd like to stop, but not just yet.

I want to be loving, but ask,
am I holding myself back,
standing on the sidelines?
Am I only half-loving,
half-living, half-giving,
less than whole-hearted?
It makes me wonder,
what is the boundary between love and hate?

I am told that everything
in the Kingdom of God is positive.
We are either in or out,
living or spiritually dying,
loving or hating.
There are no shades of grey,
no room for ambivalence.
The choice is always between life or death
and I want to live!

God waits for us to choose.
Then, at our 'yes'
He moves in with all His might.

"Then the LORD told me to say to the people, "Listen! I, the LORD, am giving you a choice between the way that leads to life and the way that leads to death." Jeremiah 21:8 Good News Bible


Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Big Picture

My wife is part of a lovely encouraging art group in our village. Each year they decide upon a painting by a well known artist and produce a sort of large mural, for display at the annual art exhibition.

The person who has the master copy, divides it up into tiny rectangles and gives one to each participating member. They then go away and copy it onto a large piece of pre-measured paper, in whatever painting medium suits them. The picture this year depicts friends around a table, sharing a meal together. Any one portion being worked upon may have only part of a face or a hand or some tableware, so each artist may be in the dark as to how it fits in with the rest of the picture. It's not until several weeks later, when all the pieces are brought back and fitted together, does the final big picture emerge.

I think this can be how it is in life. We may wonder at times where we are heading and be unsure what the future holds for us. Life can even feel like being in a fog. But we cannot go wrong if we stay close to Jesus and obey Him day by day. God sorts out all the pieces of our lives and of others, then brings them all together at the right time. This applies whether it's short term or even for eternity. We can rest in the knowledge that Father has everything in hand.

Only God sees the Big Picture. Only He knows what's around the next bend. We can trust Him with our future.

"He has set the right time for everything. He has given us a desire to know the future, but never gives us the satisfaction of fully understanding what he does." Ecclesiastes 3:11

"I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for." Jeremiah 29:11 - both Good News Bible


Monday, June 02, 2008

Blossoming Through Difficulty

It's now June and I suppose I can now go out without a coat? That is if the old English saying "Ne'er cast a clout 'ere May is out!" is true? I only recently discovered that this has nothing to do with the months of the year, but refers to the May blossom. It was early this year and we had an abundance. The blossoms appeared as usual, on the bare leafless branches of the blackthorn and were a welcome and beautiful sight in spring.

Some while ago, I went through a very difficult period. Medically I wasn't sure what was happening. On top of that, the work I was involved with came to an end and I seemed to have lost any sense of being. For a while I was unable to drive and later on my walking was restricted. With all these 'props' removed, I found it all very depressing and bewildering and experienced what I called a mini-breakdown.

However, as I got used to the blackness and devastation and kept reaching out to God, He blessed me and reassured me of His presence in ways that I could never have dreamt of. Months later, after He had brought me through, I just knew He had done something concrete inside me. I began to experience a closer walk with Father and discovered talents that had remained dormant for a long time. I doubt whether any of this would have happened otherwise.

It seems that sometimes, God allows us to experience being stripped bare, to draw us closer to Him and to experience His promise, that if we put our trust in Him, we will blossom in a new way.

"He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted -- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendour." Isaiah 61:1-3 New International Version


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Knocked Down But Not Out!

Our steep seaside garden abounds in foxgloves. Although there were fewer this year, they promised to be the best ever. Their tall erect spikes looked magnificent with their purple flowers. The blooms at the base were already well formed and as the name implies, you can fit your finger tip into their delicate freckled inner.

However, torrential rain and high winds swept through our garden last weekend, while we were away. We returned home to find the foxgloves bent and flattened down to the ground, with their best blooms blown away. They looked a sorry site. My first instinct was to call it a day, pull them up and throw them on the compost heap. I decided however, to wait to see what might happen. Within a day or so, all the spiky ends of the stems had bent round, reared up, and reached for the sky. In the warmth of the sun, the remaining flower buds are already opening up. The plants don't look the same, but they have a beautiful new gracefulness, as if to say "We are not going to take it lying down, we will show you!"

We may get knocked down, flattened and battered by life's events. Perhaps a calamity, death of a loved one, serious illness or financial loss. Whatever it is, the effect upon us can be overwhelming and devastating. We may feel we'll never get through, we're finished, it is just too hard to go on. But as we look to God in our numbness, as we take the hand of Jesus, already reaching out, hope starts to rise. Slowly, as we express the pain within, we begin to be warmed and strengthened by the Son and flourish again.

Sooner or later we will be able to lift our heads and stand tall. We will not be the same, but in looking back, we will know we have come through and have discovered something new and beautiful.

Someone once remarked to me, that with Jesus, we don't fall down, we fall UP!

"He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted -- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendour." Isaiah 61:1-3 New International Version