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"

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Are We Too Serious?

Are we in danger sometimes of appearing too serious? Being a Christian is a serious business, but it’s also joyful. If we are not careful though, ‘serious’ can come over as gloomy, depressing or even critical and ‘joyful’ as flippant or insensitive. So how did Jesus come over?

We have only recently watched the “St Matthew” videos where in nearly every scene Bruce Marchiano was smiling or even laughing. I found this challenging and couldn’t help wondering, “Did Jesus really smile all the time?” So far as I know, there is nowhere in the New Testament where it says Jesus smiled or laughed, although there are instances where He displayed emotion. But He was so in tune with His Father and so full of love that I’m sure He couldn’t help but smile.

There was a period some years ago, when I was so intensely aware of God’s presence, that I seemed to break out into smiles at the drop of a hat. So where am I now? I believe I am more in touch with who I am and the joy has probably gone deeper, but do I really let what’s on the inside show on the outside?

I offer these three thoughts on the subject:

Show a smile

I’ve noticed what a difference it makes when I smile at someone. There’s usually an immediate response, often followed by a warm exchange. By a smile I mean a sensitive heart smile, not the sort that could make the checkout girl think you were up to something.

See the humorous side
Even during really trying times, it can help to see the humorous side of things. Like the time when my wife broke her leg and I had to push her around in a wheelchair for several weeks, despite the fact that I was suffering from chronic fatigue. I am sure that it was God who showed me His perspective on this trying experience. I even wrote about it (here) and that in itself was releasing.

Just have a good laugh
I can just imagine Jesus jesting with His disciples and enjoying a good laugh together. I know I need to laugh more. It is tremendously releasing to have a good hearty laugh with friends. It may not seem very spiritual, but I am told that it releases all sorts of goodies into our system to promote wellbeing and good health.

“Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him!” Philippians 4:4

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

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


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How Low Do We Have to Get ..?

We were once very concerned for someone we had met and felt that she could be heading for a breakdown. I mentioned this to a counsellor who said, “Perhaps she needs the breakdown?” I took this to mean that she had to get really low before she would look at what was really happening for her.

I knew someone once, who always felt that he had never really ‘made it’ to be a Christian. He felt he didn’t measure up to other Christians he knew, which was a barrier to him receiving the assurance that God loved him just as he was. In a way he was in denial to what was happening within himself. Then one day he was rushed to hospital in an emergency. When I visited him it seemed that he was failing. I sensed the urgency and tried to talk with him and asked if he would like me to pray. He declined, possibly because he didn’t want to face what could be the truth. I wondered if my words had been stumbling and insensitive, but prayed inwardly nevertheless. Two days later and he passed away.

The Gospels are full of accounts where Jesus met people at their point of need. This is how I became a Christian and I also believe this is how we move forward in our Christian walk. We may be ‘born again’ or ‘saved’ or however we like to describe that heart knowledge of belonging to God, but are we moving on with him? Are we letting Him into those ‘hidden’ areas of our lives? Are we aware of our need for Him, or are we blissfully unaware of our deep ‘wounds’ or the ungodly behaviour patterns that have become second nature.

There is at least one occasion in my life, where I almost hit rock bottom, before God really had my full attention, but I’m sure it didn’t have to be that way. How low do we have to get before we respond to His open arms?

"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” Matthew 5:3 The Message Bible

"Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!” Matthew 5:3 Good News Bible


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Pooh Sticks

One of the favourite places to take our grandchildren is their local wood, especially in autumn when it’s like a wonderland of falling golden leaves. A river runs through the middle. - well, it’s more like a fast-flowing stream at this stage - and is crossed by an old wooden bridge.

Last time we were there, we played Pooh sticks. As we each carefully chose a twig, I watched as our grandson clutched the heaviest stick he could find. Just like a boy! At the count of three we dropped them in the centre of the stream and raced to the other side of the bridge to see whose would emerge first. Then cheered them on as they were carried downstream, bobbing up and down in the ripples. I rejoiced as mine reached the bend first and disappeared into the wide blue yonder. But our grandson cried as his soggy branch lurched into the side and stuck in the reeds. Of course, we played this again, and again!

Are we in the River, God’s River of Blessing as described in Ezekiel 47? If we long to be in the River, we have to let go of all we are holding onto. We need to be empty handed. It’s no good hanging onto the edge of the bridge with our finger nails. We have to let go in complete surrender and abandonment. We may feel we are going to die - and in a way we do! - but we always land in Jesus’s arms and move along in the gentle current of His blessing.

Even if we hit turbulence or the river widens into deep threatening waters, despite our fears, we are still carried along in absolute safety and provision as we cling to Him. If for some reason we become waterlogged and drift into stagnant water, the way back is just the same. We give Him our heavy load and in surrender and trust we are once more back in the flow.

“He said to me, "Mortal man, note all this carefully." Then the man took me back to the riverbank - Wherever the stream flows - it will bring life.” Ezekiel 47:6-9 Good News Bible
I have quoted from these few verses, but really Ezekiel 47 needs to be read in its entirety

The image above is not 'our' bridge but the "Pooh Sticks Bridge, Ashdown Forest” © Copyright David Brooker and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence. Geograph Project, UK. which see.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Stretched Beyond Ourselves

Have you ever gone through a period when you felt you just couldn’t take any more?

My wife has had a chronic illness for a long time and over the years the disabling effect has slowly become more progressive. On top of this I was eventually diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (M.E.). All this changed the direction of our lives. In our stumbling and reaching out to God in the difficulties, there were benefits. We came to know more of a marvellous God and experience His provision, enabling, healing and love in remarkable ways. We began to discover who we really were and in the long term this also brought my wife and I closer together. I’m sure this wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

In recent years I experienced two prolonged periods, where I was stretched far beyond what I felt I could cope with physically, emotionally and mentally. Looking back I can see similarities.

Each time I was tipped outside the boundaries of my comfy little world, into a situation that was totally foreign to me. I was frightened and initially I wanted to escape. However, within me there was a determination to see it through, whatever that meant. I desperately needed His understanding and clung to Jesus as never before.

As the months passed, the emotional and mental pounding was relentless, making me wonder just how much more I could take. Alongside this, even though God seemed distant, He occasionally encouraged me in breath-taking ways. And just when I was sort of getting used to it, God moved in and the desolation lifted as suddenly as it came, with a feeling of tremendous relief and thankfulness.

Afterwards, I saw things from a different perspective. Life still wasn’t a bed of roses, but something had happened within me. I had tapped into resources way beyond myself and also had a realisation, that with Him, we can cope with far more than we realise.

I believe that God longs to raise the level of the game and draw us out of our independent do-it-yourself attitudes, into a total dependence upon Him. This is the Abundant Life.

This is what Oswald Chambers says:

“A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, and He stretches and strains, and every now and again the saint says - ‘I cannot stand any more. God does not heed, He goes on stretching till His purpose is in sight, then He lets fly. Trust yourself in God’s hands. For what have you need of patience just now? Maintain your relationship to Jesus Christ by the patience of faith. - - - The real meaning of eternal life is a life that can face anything it has to face without wavering. If we take this view, life becomes one great romance, a glorious opportunity for seeing marvellous things all the time. God is disciplining us to get us into this central place of power.” Our Utmost for His Highest.

“No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he'll never let you be pushed past your limit; he'll always be there to help you come through it.” 1Corinthians 10:13 The Message Bible


Monday, January 19, 2009

Doom and Gloom

My favourite time of year is spring, when the countryside begins to sparkle with new life. It give me a real lift, so perhaps that’s why my favourite colours are blue and green.

Seems far away at the moment, with the shortest days and the coldest weather for a decade. On top of that, the media is full of reports from war zones, warnings of environmental disasters, global warming, fuel shortages and of course the dire worldwide financial situation. Almost daily we’re bombarded with accounts of major bank collapses, the housing market slump, house repossessions and famous companies going into liquidation. All this can fuel anxieties of losing our jobs, pensions and even housing. Add to this a bout of influenza and you have a recipe for doom and gloom.

If you have a leaning towards Seasonal Affective Disorder (the winter blues) or if like me, your personality type includes more than a touch of the melancholic, it is easy to drop into heaviness at this time.

What can we do about this? Be kind to ourselves, don’t watch TV or read the papers, go for a brisk walk, buy a light therapy lamp, visit friends or family, eat chocolate, read a good book, go and see the latest movie, see your doctor or counsellor, take a trip to a warmer country - ?

Maybe, some of this could be good advice? But before we begin a downward spiral, we could first of all take responsibility for any anxious thoughts, own up to any feelings and talk it through with Jesus. Remind ourselves Who is in charge of our lives, Who is our security, Who is our Provider, Who has our future in His hands, Who will never ever leave us, Who is totally faithful etc. And even, if again like me, you have a voice like a foghorn and are tone deaf, just praise God and make a joyful noise unto the Lord.

I realise there may be other issues involved - or you may really have lost your job - but I suggest you start here because it really works.

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.” Psalm 42:11 New International Version


Friday, January 16, 2009

Honesty Pays

I never cease to be amazed at what our grandchildren come out with. I can’t help feeling that as adults, some of us have lost something on the way and can learn from children.

One morning whilst spending last Christmas with our daughter and family, we visited a local wood. It was a favourite place of ours, ideal for burning off our granddaughters’ excess energy, plus there was also the possibility of finding some holly to supplement the Christmas decorations.

On arrival, our daughter - rather uncharacteristically - told the children they were to pick the holly secretly and not tell anyone.

We looked inside a log cabin that housed wildlife exhibits and made a beeline for a stuffed fox. One of the girls assured me that it was dead and went into a long description how it was done. Not sure I wanted to hear all that! At that moment the ranger came in and immediately the seven-year old asked, “Are we allowed to pick holly?” The ranger replied that it would be OK so long as it was only a little.

It took a little girl to remind us to tell the truth, as honesty always pays!

“Truth is truth, whether it's spoken by the lips of Jesus or Balaam's donkey.” George Macdonald

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body.” Ephesians 4:25 New International Version


Monday, January 12, 2009

Your Move!

When a fellow high school student taught me to play chess, I became really attracted to this 'king of games' with all it's infinite variations. I think I lacked the necessary enduring concentration to be really good, but the fascination continued into adulthood. I even played in a tournament once, where I was soundly thrashed by an eleven year old.

I sometimes think that the Christian life is like a game of chess.

The basic requirement is to have a knowledge of the function of each piece and the unique way it moves. It may seem complicated at first, but it soon becomes second nature. Before each game you need a strategy. You need to know where you are going, but at the same time be flexible and be prepared for surprises.

A good opening game is vital, this is where games can be won or lost. The way has to be opened up for the attacking pieces to have full access to the board, at the same time ensuring that your king is secure and protected. At this stage, your opponent may try to catch you unawares with some early attacking moves. So think very carefully before you make a move and have no fear, his premature moves will usually have no substance, so hold your ground.

Now we come to the middle game. It’s no good just staying on the defensive, doing nothing is not an option, as this is not a passive game. Wait for the appropriate time to go on the attack and seize the opportunity. You may feel vulnerable as you step out and wonder if there is something you have missed, but don't be put off. Be bold and have the conviction of what you know.

I used to have a good opening game, my middle game was - err middling and my end game often not so good. Nowadays I am learning perseverance and patience. You don't win them all - think about it, there would be no ‘game’ if you won every time - but you learn from your mistakes for next time.

“If a king goes out with ten thousand men to fight another king who comes against him with twenty thousand men, he will sit down first and decide if he is strong enough to face that other king.” Luke 14:31 Good News Bible

“Run hard and fast in the faith. Seize the eternal life, the life you were called to, the life you so fervently embraced in the presence of so many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12 The Message Bible


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Up Against a Brick Wall?

Have you ever been in a situation where you have felt you were up against a brick wall and just didn’t know what to do? I’m thinking of things like work relationships, marriage difficulties, financial problems etc..

In my Christian walk there have been many times when I have found myself in an impossible and difficult situation, where there just didn’t seem to be a way forward. What I felt needed to happen seemed right by God, but I was stuck. Whether it was something practical, an inner need or whatever, but it seemed impossible.

On one occasion I shared my problem with a wise and trusted friend and said it felt like being ‘up against a brick wall’ - a phrase that just slipped out as I expressed my anguish. I suppose I thought he would tell me what to do, but I guess he sensed I was being passive in the matter. Instead he asked me, ‘What do you do when faced with a brick wall?’ I went away and wrote down all the possibilities and pondered:

1. Do nothing and let God sort it out in His time, leaving me to get on with life. This may be right for a time, but in can be a sort of denial or pretence. The truth is it doesn’t usually go away and the longer it’s ignored, the less I will be really living. I may be marking time for a while, but I will soon be going backwards.

2. Turn my back on it and walk away. That’s similar to the last and something inside told me it doesn’t work.

3. Try and find a way around it. This was an attractive proposition as it appealed to my do-it-yourself nature and ingenuity. However, all the options were soon exhausted - including myself - and I had to admit there was no way around.

4. Face it with God. Look at the situation fairly and squarely in all openness and honesty before God, including owning up to any feelings and emotions. This obvious solution may be avoided because it often involves going into ‘unknown territory.’ This may mean having to face our fears, involve confrontation or taking steps that we would rather not.

The truth is, that as we take each step God shows us, the ‘mountain’ starts to move or melt away. What seemed impossible becomes possible, because that word ‘impossible’ just isn’t in God’s vocabulary. Where there didn’t seem to be a way, a way opens up as we face the mountain. And when we come through the other side, we feel bigger and stronger in Him.

I have also found that as time goes by, the brick walls get bigger, so I pray that I will be given the grace to face them with Him.

“- for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.” Psalm107:16 “Jesus replied,

"I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done.” Matthew 21:21 New International Version


Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Battle Without

Although I didn’t realise it at the time, the retreat we attended in October was God-arranged, to prepare me for what was to come in the following weeks. This was especially so with the morning walk (here) which became a living picture that helped carry me through a very difficult time. It reminded me that whatever battle I was to experience, provided I put my whole trust in Jesus and abided in Him, then I would come through to a strong place and know His victory.

Within two weeks of the retreat I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer, with the immediate commencement of treatment and exploratory scans. Side effects from the drugs began to kick in, leaving me drained of strength, dizzy and experiencing vertigo. On top of this I picked up an infection from the biopsy examination, which took six weeks of anti-biotic drugs to overcome.

Things were happening at such pace, that for a time I was in shock and vulnerable to all sorts of anxious thoughts. Like burning arrows they came flying my way, such as: “I’m growing old before my time.” and “You are finished - there’s no hope.” or “You’ll end your days in hospital.” and so on! I just rested in my ‘shelter’ the best way I could, wrapped in the folds of Father’s robe, so that these taunts, lies etc just bounced off. I had His Word that He would fight the battle and take me through. I was expectant, of miracles even. On some evenings, if fatigue kicked in, I just sat surrendering to Father, even though I felt and sensed nothing, but refusing to doubt.

The worst part was the waiting between the many appointments. I found some of the doctors definitely lacking in communication skills and I was left in personal doubt about the additional treatment scheduled for the new year. All I could do was leave it to God until, at the last consultation I saw another specialist who reversed the decision. I received this as God’s answer, leaving Him the freedom to act in His way and in His time.

The worst of the storm is now over. There is still a battle, but that has moved on to another phase. So far as the cancer is concerned, I believe God has my healing on course. But fundamentally I don’t really think it’s about that. Yes, the enemy was in this, but God allowed it and is using it. He wanted me to have a closer walk with him - He knew my heart - and that meant strengthening me in my weak areas, such as anxiety. The journey continues. I don’t know how things are going to plan out. I have never ever been so unsure about such things, but I am even more sure that He knows, so I put my trust in Him.

There were certain scriptures that I kept returning to such as Psalms 91 and 17 and John 15 speaking of all the benefits of abiding.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High - will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." - You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. - then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. - “Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation." Psalm 91 New International Version


Friday, January 02, 2009

I'm Back in Town

Following a diagnosis of aggressive prostate cancer last October, I was catapulted into an unfamiliar world of doctors, hospitals, prescribed drugs with unpleasant and debilitating side effects and if that wasn’t enough, unexpected infections. It was an anxious time for my wife and I, but we knew God was with us in it and put our whole trust in Him. I believe Father has now brought me through the worst of the storm.

I was either too fatigued or my mind too fogged to write during this time, but I can now pick up my pen and hopefully the posts will flow.

I wish to say how grateful I am for your prayers and the concerns expressed.