Wednesday, 22 July 2020

HE RESTORES MY SOUL


I believe in speaking out the word of God, especially when we are in times of need.
‘This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth,’ was the command given to Joshua, and we too are told to confess with our mouths as well as believing in our hearts that Jesus Christ is Lord.
When I find myself in need of speaking out the promises of God I turn, time and again, to David’s wonderful Shepherd Psalm.
‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.’ We must believe this.
But there are other words I have learned to cling to. It goes on, ‘He restores my soul.’
It was when I was living in Ghana that I came to appreciate this verse as they interpreted it. In the Ashanti language it says, ‘He cools my soul.’
In the oppressive heat and humidity, and especially under the awning for their
great conventions and with crowds of people dancing and rejoicing before the Lord, how often I cried, ‘Oh Lord, you have promised to cool my soul,’ and I knew that the gentle breeze I felt was sent direct from heaven. 
Then I came back to the unpredictable weather of the United Kingdom. I remember we were gathered in a large old Welsh chapel for a Women’s Rally. The cold seemed to be creeping into my bones.
I remembered the promise of restoration. ‘Lord,’ I prayed, ‘if you can cool my soul, can you not warm me?’ I don’t know whether their heating system had kicked in or whether it was my own personal miracle, but I knew God had answered, for I was no longer shivering. 
Just now I feel I am suffering from the deprivation of lockdown. I’ve been trying to practice godliness with contentment, thanking God for all the inspiration he has been giving me in writing, and the ability to get out of my flat every day for a little walk, even in the rain.
But recently I’ve heard of a friend, separated from her family for these long months, able at last to visit for a few days. When she spoke of the joy of a physical embrace, and being brought a cup of tea, the enemy took advantage to stir up self pity. I knew I must fight this attack. Where is my sword of the spirit? What can I speak out of God’s word to put the enemy to flight?
I’m sure we have all been inspired by the testimony of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian who, separated from her husband and children, spent eight years on death row,  in solitary confinement and doubtless under constant pressure to deny her faith. Yet she has emerged to freedom and a new life with no apparent scars of those years of deprivation upon her. She endured, like Moses, ‘as seeing him who is invisible.’
If she had faith to endure, why should I feel hard done by in my comfortable circumstances? Once again I am learning to speak out words from this, our favourite psalm.
‘Lord, you are my shepherd, I shall not want.’ I come to the verse, ‘You restore my
soul.’  Lord, what is it I need for you to restore me? I don’t need cool breezes, I am not in need of warmth.’ But I was in need of comfort, for I was struggling with the tears. Then it came, a wonderful hug, straight from the heart of God.
It was not a physical hug. Not allowed. No, it came as an email,  a message from the heart of God, reassuring me of his unfailing and all-embracing love. I have courage to continue. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 
Whatever our circumstances, may we each know the Lord as the shepherd who restores our soul. 


Monday, 29 June 2020

CONTENTMENT


It is hard to be content in lockdown. Some, like myself, have too much time on their hands, while others have seemed over whelmed with extra responsibilities and the demands of the computer.
My life had been getting increasingly busy, so at first I was delighted to have each morning free for my writing. In the afternoons I have been able to get into our community garden where there is often someone, keeping our distance, to chat to. But after ten weeks or more and nothing else to record I was so longing for the ban to be lifted and to meet up in reality, with lots of hugs.
It was then God reminded me that ‘godliness with contentment is great gain’.
I have always been inspired by the life of Joshua, Moses young assistant, who eventually became leader of the nation.
Setting out to write his story, while still in the grips of Covid 19, the story of the plagues of Egypt seemed to be relevant to our situation. After all, Pharaoh did ask Moses to pray that God would take the plague of frogs away and God did, though I can never understand why Pharaoh asked for it to happen in the morning. Another night with frogs in his bed?
So if he could ask for that plague to go, surely we can pray for an end to lockdown because of Covid 19?
Well, the frogs did go, but that wasn’t an end to the plagues, was it? There were ten in all, but that was because Pharaoh didn’t keep his word.
‘Yes, yes, make the frogs go and I will let the slaves go free,’ but then he decided he could not do without his slave labour to build his treasure cities.
So, what about us? Emancipation of slaves may have been declared long ago, but there is still so much inequality in the world, and while we are not short of food, many are still starving, oppressed and yes, enslaved.
We may not be in a position such as Pharaoh was, but if God were to answer our cry for an end to lockdown would we be willing to pray and act on behalf of injustice and suffering?
Yes, let’s pray, but meanwhile let us also ask God to help us to find contentment in our present situation, for godliness with contentment is great gain.
  
COVID 19
Is a plague come on us as in Egypt’s land
In those days of so long ago?
Pharaoh had only to ask that it soon be gone
If only he’d kept to his ‘No.’

No to oppression, cruelty and pain
As he built his cities so strong
And do we care for the cheated, the poor
And sorting out right from wrong?

Oh yes, we care that we can’t meet our friends
And no holidays, parties or fun,
But what of the poor, imprisoned, afraid?
What of freedom for everyone?

Oh, what did it take that those slaves be set free
And what was the price that was paid?
A lamb for a house, and its blood on the door
As the angel of death did invade

And we know that God gave his Son as our lamb
That we are forgiven and free
So let’s pray for God’s mercy, protection and grace
And contentment for you and for me.



Wednesday, 3 June 2020

EAGLE’S NEST


I was recently asked why I call my top floor apartment my ‘Eagle’s Nest.’
Surely the only birds around are seagulls, -  not our best friends by the sea-side if we are eating fish and ships or a cornet. They are likely to swoop down and snatch it from you, however wonderful they are in flight.
Our last home we had named ‘Hafan Deg,’ Fair Haven. We had a picture of a ship coming into harbour on the panel on the front door. This was to be our forever home.
But I needed to move on before I moved up. Joel had preceded me to heaven and my health was not what it was. I was advised to consider sheltered accommodation.
With God directing my path and with the minimum of hassle, I was soon settled in this delightful sunshiny flat. It was deserving of a name.
Without thinking, I found I was referring to it as my ‘Eagle’s Nest.’

So – why Eagle’s Nest?
As children we would gather round the piano and sing with gusto. One of our favourite choruses was
          ‘They who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength
          They shall mount up with wings as eagles.’ From Isaiah 40:31
Years later I flew from London to ‘the uttermost parts of the earth’. I was given the verse from Psalm 139 about taking the wings of the morning, and I proved God’s word, there in the Highlands of New Guinea and again when I went to Ghana, that ‘even there’ God would be with me, and indeed, he kept his promise.
So when I wrote my life story I gave it the title, ‘Wings of the Morning,’ intending a cover picture of a mission plane flying over the mountains. But God had other plans.
I asked a friend if he had a suitable photo I could use. ‘Why a plane?’ he asked. ‘Planes were significant in our lives,’ I told him, but he was a wild-life artist and generously offered for me to use his painting of an eagle, flying against a backdrop of the snow-clad mountains of Alaska.
I realised that the mission planes had only been part of one chapter in my life, whereas the eagle was still very important to  me. You see, there is a verse in Deuteronomy which speaks of the eagle stirring up its nest so that the baby eaglets would be thrust out and learn to fly. I felt  my lovely cosy nest in our ‘Fair Haven’ had been broken up. When my husband died, it would have been easy to let myself plummet to the ground and join him in heaven, but I had a call to teach the  children. I was booked into the schools and chapels. I had to learn to fly and the Divine Eagle was there, swooping to catch me in  my grief and lift me up to still ‘joy in God’ and know his strength.

That year the ‘Divine Eagle’ was the theme of the ‘Ablaze’ convention, and the ministry so meaningful in my life, and now, definitely in my old age, I continue to claim God’s promises that those who wait on the Lord will renew their  strength and mount up with wings as eagles.
Bas’s inspirational painting of the eagle now is not only on the cover of my book, *’Wings of the Morning’, but has pride of place over the fire-place in my ‘Eagle’s Nest,’ continuing to speak into my life.
My prayer is that we may all, waiting on the Lord,  rise up on wings as eagles, run and not grow weary and walk and not faint.

*’Wings of the Morning’ is available on Kindle or with Amazon.


Monday, 18 May 2020

SHOULD I BE A PACHYDERM?


I had thought the boy was abusing his elephant by calling him a pachyderm, but no. An elephant is a pachyderm. So is a rhino and hippopotamus. It refers to an animal who is thick skinned.
So why should I wonder if I should become a pachyderm? Because I am tender hearted and much too vulnerable. If ever I sense rejection I seem to end up in the Slough of Despond.
But I am a writer. A writer is going to have to face rejection. Someone  implied that it was pride that moved people to send their poems into the Seaside News. Little did they realise how much courage it took, for you are putting your head above the parapet and likely to get shot at.
We writers are a little like parents sending their children to school for the first time. I loved teaching the reception class but sometimes it wasn’t just the children shedding tears. But soon enough tears were forgotten for the joy of new adventures in their lives.
And as authors, yes, there may be disappointments, but encouragements too and if our gift and calling is truly from God, we must press on and share it.
I have never forgotten the joy of my first short story being published, eventually leading on to the first novel. I was confident this too would be accepted, but no. I was wallowing in  a pit of self pity until my husband came along to rescue me, not with more pity but a reprimand. ‘You had better give up writing if you are going to behave  like this.’
So, was I going to write, even if I was never published? Would it be enough that it gave me (and my husband) and God too pleasure? Yes!
A few weeks later this same book became the first of others to be accepted and published. Yet here I am, almost forty years on, to find myself yet again, rejected and  in the Slough of Despond.
And so yet again I need to remind  myself that I will write, if is only for my and God’s pleasure. Indeed, God is keeping me well content in this great ‘lock-down’ as I continue to write, with and for him, and I am reminded that  some of the best sellers received many rejections before they were finally accepted.
So, do I need to become a pachyderm? Should I become more thick skinned? I don’t think so. While I envy those who easily shake off any rejection or hurt, I think God  has given us a special ministry to the sensitive and hurting because we can feel their pain.

We don’t need to be thick-skinned to be protected, for like Christian, in Pilgrim’s Progress, we have been given armour; not just our shield of faith and sword of the spirit, but our helmet of salvation, belt of truth and of course our wonderful gospel shoes. We all need to make sure there are no chinks in my armour, and that we keep out of the Slough of Despair.
 And, whatever our gifts, may we all share God’s pleasure as we follow his individual calling in our lives.



Thursday, 7 May 2020

THE LAST ENEMY


Pilgrim in John Bunyan’s story, after all his adventures and many adversities, comes within sight of the Celestial city, only to find there is no way to reach it except through this terrible river –yes, the river of death. The visualisation made me tremble. ‘Oh, it is scary.’
And yes, death is scary, and in no way can we shrug it off.
I am almost ninety. I have had a good life. Why should I fear the dreaded Coronovirus?’ Yet every day is precious, God’s gift to us, and death is still the last great enemy.
But we have a Saviour who has conquered death, and Jesus Christ was raised from death ‘to deliver those who all their lives are slaves because of their fear of death.’
So, have we been delivered from the fear of death? After all, Jesus promised that if
we believe in him we will not see death, but still we have to cross that scary river, and it will mean separation from our loved ones, even if it is ‘just for a little while?’
I have been challenged to search my own heart by a young Christian mother who had courage to admit to her own fear of death. I recalled how, also a young woman, I had suffered a heart attack. I had thought I was a strong Christian and was bitterly disappointed to find that I had been very much afraid. Well – it had certainly not been my time to die.
When Connie Ten Boom feared the future, her father reminded her of how he did not give her the ticket until they were in the station, and even so God provides grace and strength only as it is needed.
Fast forward several years. I had travelled alone to work on the mission field, first in New Guinea, where there were many scary situations. Believe me, I had needed grace for that, and God was always there. But it was   when I was in Ghana that I was driving alone in my car and suddenly was in a head on collision.
As I recovered consciousness I felt as if the doors of heaven had been closed in my face. No, I  had not experienced any fear of death, but rather a sense of disappointment.
It is as I  have been writing this account that I realise that it was just a few days before this accident that God had, as it were, ‘given me my ticket,’ to enable me to face this dread enemy.
In Ghana, dance is part of our worship. A few days previously one of our young men in the church had been dancing before the Lord, dancing with a joy and abandonment as King David had done so many years before. Although we were all so sad to hear of his death, sudden and inexplicable, we had no doubt in our hearts that he was dancing now in God’s presence.
‘Oh, God,’ I whispered, in all my pain and shock, ‘you took William, but you did not take me.’
Wonderfully, God whispered back to me, ‘It is because of the children.’
He continues to remind me of that call to teach the children, if ever I feel like giving up.
There is another occasion when death came very close, not to take me, but my beloved husband to heaven.
Before I could take him into hospital, the angel of death had come. His head slipped onto my shoulder and he was gone.
The medics were here, trying to resuscitate him. They must have thought I did not love him for I was begging them to let him go. But it was because I loved him so much I did not want him to be dragged back as it were from the doorstep of heaven. As I put on his gravestone, ‘In the presence of Jesus is fullness of joy.’
The pain of bereavement is very great, but I could not doubt for one moment that my Joel was safe with Jesus.  
Yes, death for the Christian is still scary, but he can and will deliver us from the fear of death and trust him to fulfil his purposes for each of us.
‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.’


Monday, 27 April 2020

TO BE A PILGRIM – April 20


    ‘He who would valiant be, ’gainst all disaster,
    Let him in constancy follow the Master.’
Many of us learned this well-loved hymn in our school days, associating it with John Bunyan’s epic  tale of Pilgrim’s Progress.
I don’t remember when I first read this wonderful story, recently dramatized on television. It was written in all the squalor of Bedford Jail where he was imprisoned for many years for preaching the Gospel.
Nor do I remember how old I was when we were taken to the West End to see a dramatized version. I have never forgotten the part when the pilgrims were assaulted in Vanity Fair, not for anything they had done, but for refusing to associate with their decadent life style. When Faithful was put to death, all we saw was the glow of the fire and a beautiful solo voice singing, ‘My heart ever faithful.’
But my strongest memory of the play was of Pilgrim and his friend leaving the path to take a short cut, as they thought, through by-pass meadow. Here they were captured by Giant Despair and shut up in Doubting Castle. It is strongest because it is one I have needed to be reminded of through the long years.
The pilgrims were convinced that was no escape until Hopeful suddenly realises he has a key in his pocket; it is the key of FAITH. Together they begin to proclaim the wonderful promises of God.
‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ and again -
‘What can separate us from the love of God?’
That dark, gloomy dungeon becomes full of light; the prison doors swung open wide. They are free and their feet once more on the King’s high way.
I have had need to remember this story in times of difficulty and darkness, and never more so than now that we are shut up, imprisoned in a sense by the threat of Coronavirus and social distancing, but now, thank God, we are prisoners of Hope, not of Despair..
I remember a young man telling us how he suffered from depression, until God told him that it was his choice. Thank God, like our Pilgrims, he took out the key of faith and chose the path of deliverance.
So now, are we prisoners of despair or prisoners of hope? Are we shut up to depression, or shut up in the purposes of God to discover the new ways God is opening for us to still shine his light and spread his Gospel?


    ‘There’s no discouragement, to make us once relent,
    Our first avowed intent to be a pilgrim.’



Monday, 6 April 2020

RAINBOWS


In the midst of the darkness of this pandemic Coronavirus, rainbows are appearing in many windows bringing light, joy and hope.
After the terrible world-wide flood when Noah and this family, who dared to believe God, had been
shut up in the ark for months on end, they had come out at last into the sunshine and a fresh new world. It was then that God set his bow in the sky, a special sign of his assurance that this would never happen again and that our seasons would be sure.
God’s bow, unlike the bows they used for hunting, is  one of glorious colour; yes, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.
‘Richard of  York gained battles in vain,’ is how we were taught to remember the sequence.
‘Whenever you see a rainbow, remember God is love.’ Do you know this song?  My class were singing it to me. We had been thrilled to have a dull and stormy day brightened with this gift.
‘Our music teacher taught us,’ they told me. I have never forgotten.
Far away in the land of New Guinea rainbows became of special significance. I was in a tiny single engine plane flying in territory said to be the most dangerous in the world when we were battered by a storm. Looking ahead, visibility was almost nil.
My fellow passenger nudged me. ‘Look out of the window.’ I looked, first to one side and then the other. Our little plane was encircled by a rainbow. How could I be afraid?
Another time, I was not afraid for the safety of the huge passenger jet. Sent home early because of ill health, I thought I had failed in my career as a missionary but again God spoke to me through a rainbow.The shadow of our plane was thrown onto a cloud and yes, there we were, within the circle of a rainbow. God was assuring me. I was in his hand. All was well.
There is one more very special memory I have of a rainbow. I have never seen one of so vast a span or so vibrant in colour.
Due for furlough, I had just been told I could not return. But this was my life calling. I had learned the language and the work was opening up. I should have been in the depths of despair, but how could I be? For God was speaking through this magnificent rainbow reaching over the valley.
It did not mean I would return, as I thought, but it did mean I was in God’s hand and he was working out his best in my life.
And now, in this time of isolation, I go into my kitchen to be greeted by rainbows the children have painted for me and my heart is lifted up.
Living in sheltered accommodation, I try to leave something positive on our notice board, so I have written my own mnemonic for the rainbow. I pray you too will be blessed and that God will find his own wonderful way to speak peace and joy to your heart.

RAINBOW
Rain mixed with sunshine speaks out of God’s love
Always – this promise, given after the Flood.
I AM – is God’s name, He will always be there
Never to leave you, so cast on Him your care.
Bow, as for hunting – God still seeking his own, while
On high is a rainbow surrounding his throne.
Wonder! Yes, wonder at the height and depth of God’s love,
            For ‘tis He sent the rainbow to bring hope from above.


There were many of these colours in the sunset that inspired the following meditation, so I share this too.
MEDITATION
28 March 2020, 7pm
I had been watching the glory of the sunset from my Eagle’s Nest, as I call my apartment, but now the glory is fading, dark clouds of night gathering, yet I am resting in the assurance of a new day. And as we experience dark clouds of fear spreading over our world, God is speaking to our hearts that as the natural night brings us rest and refreshing, so he will be working in this time of spiritual darkness and He is saying, I want you to prepare to look for the dawning of a new day.
The glory began to fade until it was as if the blinds of night had been drawn, but even so I waited and wondered, for there seemed to be windows of crimson still lingering in the darkness, and I was reminded  that while the land of Egypt was covered in darkness, for God’s people it was light.
We are children of light.