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

Monday, 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