Friday, 3 January 2020

THE KISS - A NEW YEAR'S BLOG


‘Would a kiss help?’
The dignified Head Mistress looked down on the small miscreant gazing hopefully up at her. Having told him in no uncertain tones that she was grieved – yes grieved to see him yet again standing outside his classroom door, I can imagine how completely disarmed she must have been by his innocent offer of a kiss.
Poor Thomas. I don’t remember his name so we’ll call him that, though he certainly was not a doubter. After his early years of being pushed from pillar to post in foster care, he was at last secure and treasured in a loving family and taught of one, Jesus, who loved and treasured him too.
Life was so exciting and he did so want to please his teacher, but somehow the more he tried the more he seemed to get things wrong.
I never heard the end of this story, but I do know what my answer would have been, for yes, a kiss (or a hug – a cwtch as we say in Wales) does help.

When my husband died I struggled with the tears. He had always been there, if I felt sad or hurt, to pray for me yes, but his hugs had been the best part. So now I would just tell the Lord, ‘Lord, I need a hug.’ God did not come down from heaven to answer my prayer. One day it was a little girl who, recognising me from my school visit, gave me a lovely hug, right around my knees. Another day it was the lady who worked in the Visitor’s Centre. And then there is my lovely ‘Scrabble’ friend who, seeing the tears threatening to spill from my eyes, called me aside. ‘Come here,’ she said, and wrapped me in a bear hug.
Often I would tell people, ‘Do you know that hugs come from Heaven?’ and would go on to explain, ‘I told God I needed a hug, and he sent it through you.’ I rarely have to ask God these days, but he still sends me hugs, and I love to pass on his hugs to others – all from heaven.
I remember my husband preaching on God’s kiss, and over the years I have come in some small measure, to understand and so, in this my New Year’s blog I would share what he has been showing me.
When God created the world, the planets, the plants and animals, he spoke the word and they came into being. But when he made Adam, he himself took clay and formed the wonders of a human body, - but then. Yes, he gave Adam life by breathing into him. You know what we call that? Yes, God gave mankind the kiss of life.
And when God was made flesh and came and dwelt among us, as a little child God made himself vulnerable and we were able to ‘Worship the Beloved with a kiss,’ as the carol says.
But God did not only send His Son so that we might know what he was like, but so that he could die on the cross in our place, - yes, to cross out all the bad things we have done.

In school, we don’t like to see a cross by our work. It means it is wrong. But the cross of Jesus, if we will accept its message, means forgiveness so that from now on we can see the Xs as kisses, for God sees us now as in Jesus, and we are now the righteousness of Christ.
A kiss does help, doesn’t it? We can run to God, as a little child, when we get it wrong and straight away God gives us his kiss of forgiveness. We can run to him when we are bruised or hurting and he will kiss it better, and when we feel unwanted or unloved, or even full of joy but have no one to share it with, his arms are always open to us and his kiss is for us.
‘In his presence is fullness of joy,’ 

THE KISS


Butterfly gentle caress on the brow of the sleeping child
Father heart strong embrace for the son turned again from the wild

Peace in the place of warfare, Tears kissed from the sorrowful one

Ardent strength of the lover who knows life is only begun
But what of the kiss of our Maker breathing life in the form he had made?
And the worshipful kiss of the maiden in whose arms as a babe he was laid?
The cost of the kiss of our Saviour, crossing out all the wrongs we have done?
And the bliss of the kiss of our Lord for his Church at the marriage feast of the Lamb?


Tuesday, 26 November 2019

JESUS' DILEMMA


We had a big day recently as Christian Writers. Once a year we seek to gather from South Wales for a time of mutual encouragement. We met in Hope Chapel, and after  much inspiration, exhortation and encouragement, now it was our turn to do some writing.
As part of Teresa’s workshop, we had read together the biblical account of how Mary and Joseph, having accompanied the twelve year old Jesus to Jerusalem, made the terrible discovery that he was no longer with them. Now we were asked to write of their thoughts and feelings as they returned to the city to look for him.
Why did I have this strong desire to fast forward to further along in the story? It was not difficult to enter into the heart of Mary as, robbed of a night’s rest, they trailed wearily back to the city, and so I joined the others in writing of the pain and concern of these parents.
But now I have opportunity to write of this strong memory which had been replaying in my heart.
I was the preacher for a small congregation. Among the children gathered in the front I was especially conscious of two lads, knowing they had been persuaded by their single Dad to come with the promise that they would enjoy Auntie Pauline.
I am not sure what lesson I had planned to bring, but I know that it was God who had led us to further on in this story where, in the courts of the Temple, Mary and Joseph had at last found their missing son.
Jesus must have been feeling so fulfilled as he had listened to these learned teachers. He had so many questions he wanted answered, and must have been so sure that this was God’s purpose for him; that now was the time for him to fulfil his calling, beginning as a student here in the Temple. He was twelve years old and so now counted as a man under the law. But suddenly his parents had appeared, distressed after their long search and insisting that he must still remain under their care.
‘Honour your father and your mother.’ These are the words he would have recited since he was a little boy, and now they were challenging him.
The Bible doesn’t describe the turmoil of his heart. We only know that his own Father God gave him grace to accept that this was what he must do. He must honour his father and mother and return with them to their home in Nazareth.
I was able to explain to those two boys how hard it must have been for Jesus to keep this commandment, and that when it is hard for them to listen and be obedient to their Dad that Jesus understands because it was hard for him too.
What a wonderful Saviour we have, who enters into all our experiences, and what a wonderful book is the Bible, so that we are not only able to read these stories as history, but to enter into them, walking with the characters and learning the lessons they themselves had to learn.
And for us who feel God’s call to write, may we always meet with God as we read again his wonderful word, and then be ready to share what God has been speaking or doing in our lives as we seek his path of discipleship.


Monday, 21 October 2019

GOD’S OPERATIONS


For those of us who believe in divine healing, hospital is not on our list of options. Nevertheless we know that God uses medicine and doctors to keep us in health and we thank him who those who dedicate their lives to minister health and healing through these means.
I was in my forties when I was told I needed to have my gall bladder removed. I was shocked, frightened, somehow feeling abandoned by God.
Then God spoke to me through a dream. Alone in the house, I dreamed someone was at the front door. I opened, but still with the chain on, and was frightened by the dark face of the stranger outside, wanting to enter. I slammed the door in his face. The next morning, as I listened to a gospel song, God explained to me the meaning of my dream. It was he who was wanting to come into my life through this experience but I was refusing to let him in.
Now, more than forty years on, having prayed for ten years for healing for my knee, when I was told that I needed a new hip, I knew I must be open to this too and indeed, the Lord has been with me in this my recent  experience of hospital.
First, scripturally, I called for the elders and asked to be anointed with oil for healing. After so much prayer I was filled with peace, confidant that God would either heal supernaturally, or else somehow arrange for a quick place for the necessary operation.
Within a few days I found myself in the theatre, to go under the surgeon’s knife. God had promised never to leave me. I was safe and secure and soon back in the ward.
There are verses in the Bible which speak of operations of God through the spirit, and we know that God does sometimes seem to surgically remove hindrances, to enable us to walk with him.
But even in this operation, performed by a skilful surgeon, God still had new lessons to teach me.
First, I had to trust the surgeon. My life is in God’s hand, and as surely as he had opened the way for me to have the operation, I knew I must trust these doctors and nurses provided by him.
The very next day they had me out of bed, trying to take my first steps. This was my second lesson, to learn to walk. I met some wonderful physiotherapists along this learning curve, as well as being introduced to my zimmer. How thankful I have become for this sturdy support, for I am not as bouncy as I was when, more than eighty years ago  I took my very first stumbling steps.

A ZIMMER
A zimmer for me? I’m as fit as a flea but the years have slipped gently by
First a stick, then a walker are helps on the way ‘till now yes – it’s a zimmer for me
Zimmer – bad leg- good leg- I’m off and maybe it won’t be long
I’ll be fit and busy and healthy again and my life still be filled with song
For he who gives us each new day has promised us strength for each hour
So we’ll fear not the future, but like the eagle abroad, learn to rise up and fly by God’s power.

And with my lessons in walking came a special blessing, for three of us were at the same stage and were able to walk up the corridor as far as the nurses’ station. We arranged to meet there for some fellowship and yes, a cup of tea and found that this was all part of our Father’s plan, to meet fellow pilgrims in the journey of life. That night, unable to sleep, I found words jumbling around in my head and next morning out came another little rhyme. All part of God’s therapy I’m sure.                     

Lord, I can’t sleep, so why not pray for another?
So here’s a prayer for we three who’ve just gathered together
For we met with our hips and our crutches and pain
And in meeting we shared that we had a great gain
For we each have a Friend in Christ Jesus today
And we know it is He who has led us this way
And we thank God for friendship and joys on the road
So Lord, please bless us and strengthen and lighten each load

We had not expected friendships to be forged in a hospital, but these were indeed divine appointments.
And now, back in  my own home, there are still lessons to learn. In need of carers until the necessary six weeks is up, I am overwhelmed by the love and kindness of these wonderful ladies who are dedicated to help us to return to health and strength, yes, so patiently kneeling to wash my feet, as Jesus himself had done to his disciples, and helping me to dress while I am forbidden to bend. But also encouraging me to continue to reach out to do what I can.
‘No pain, no gain!’
This is my latest lesson. Yes, I underwent surgery in order to be free from pain, yet knowing it might be worse before it got better. Maybe it is like that with some of the spiritual surgery we have to undergo. It isn’t easy to give up some of our addictions. Yes, painful at first, and yet how great the reward of being set free.
I am forced to battle the pain to get as far as the front door, as well as the bathroom, but I want my liberty, to be able to walk as far as the lift, to the lounge and eventually to the front door of our complex. Oh, it seems a very long way, so for starters I have to venture beyond my own front door.
I am remembering the lesson God taught me in those days of long ago in New Guinea.  I had to climb two mountains to reach home and thought I was already exhausted. Then God asked me, Can you take one step?
Excuse me. I have to go. God is asking me the same question. Yes, I am going to venture outside my front door and yes, I am able to take one step, and one more. Watch this space, or rather, look out for me in church..


Wednesday, 14 August 2019

A SPECIAL WEDDING


How can I, within a few words, try to capture this memory of a special day? Yet there is one picture, the last for me of that wonderful occasion, demanding to be shared.
What a joy to be at the service, arriving to see a church decorated with flowers, packed with friendly faces, and of course special outfits, feeling so welcomed until, the last vows uttered, the photos and the feasting, the moving, loving speeches for such a special couple. I was ready to accept when a friend offered to take me home, knowing the disco and dancing for the evening guests might not be for me.
It had been a day of glorious, unclouded sunshine, despite weather forecasts, but we stepped out of the crowded hotel to feel a fresh breeze springing up while in the distance towards the sea was an unforgettable sight.
A bevy of beauty would be too poor a description of the gathering of the beautiful bridesmaids, called by the photographer for a special memory, for a mischievous breeze was tossing their flimsy garments around them as if they might be taking flight. We read of a charm of goldfinches, but these were a charm indeed, even perhaps an ecstasy of bridesmaids.
How might a poet describe it should his eyes be opened to see a gathering of angels dancing and delighting in the presence of  the Bridegroom at the marriage feast of the Lamb? Somehow I felt God was reminding me of his joy in this special couple who with single mindedness had waited to consummate the love that had been kindled in their hearts so long ago because such love and such union points us all forward to the love of His Son for his Bride, the Church.
And so I share this picture of, may I say an exultation of bridesmaids – a charm greater than of any birds, who had been willing to dedicate their own beautiful gifts to add to the adoration of the beauty and yes, lovability of our radiant Bride?  


Saturday, 27 July 2019

YET MORE JIGSAWS – JULY 19


I thought this was a well- worn message. Everyone knows that I love my jig saws. I usually have one on the go.
I realised that the new one I had chosen was exceptionally difficult, but I am a veteran. It would not master me. However, the more I struggled, the more I felt God was speaking to me through my struggle.
I have always found jigsaws to be therapeutic; they remind me that however jumbled the pieces may be, we know that there is a big picture and that there is the mind of the artist behind it all. Life is like that, isn’t it? Often things seem to be going wrong, but one day we will see these incidents are part of God’s big picture.
With jigsaws, some people insist that you must always begin with the frame, but sometimes I find it impossible to fit together the border, and if you make a mistake there, you are never going to get the rest of the picture to fit. I always say, begin with something you recognise.
I hope I never forget the lessons I learned from this wonderful gospel jigsaw I was loaned. The outline was of a dove, including the feathers of its wings, but within this border were so many individual pictures telling the Gospel story. There was no way you could begin with the outline.
And in the picture of my life, I have learned to begin with the Cross, and very often, I need to go back to it again.

I came into the Christian life through a movement that taught us so much about the Bible. We thought we had the answer for everything, but I had never been taught that all important truth that Jesus Christ had died for my sins. We had blamed it all on Adam.
Thank God, I eventually came to understand that God loved me so much that, if no one else had needed salvation, He would have been willing to send Jesus to die on the cross for me. I had been the lost sheep, going my own way, but now, trusting in Jesus, I had a new life. I was learning to live the life of an overcomer.
 But now I no longer felt I had all the answers as I had once thought. There was, and still is, so much I do not understand, but I was told, When you can’t understand, just go back to the cross. Look up into the face of the one who hung there for you and know that though you do not understand, you can trust him.
And as I plod on, or even struggle, with my jigsaws, I am reminded that, as in life, I can trust the artist and know that there is a big picture.
So I pressed on with this jigsaw. I found some bright greens and eventually pieced a beautiful lady, and then brown pieces that belonged to her very smart husband. Pieces of red turned out to be an old fashioned open topped car. Now surely I could start on the paving stones. I struggled with this until at last it was almost complete. Almost – but I had an odd piece over, which meant something was in the wrong place.
I had lost my joy in this jig-saw. It was too hard. I would give up. But, why this strange depression?  After all, it was only a hobby.
I turned the board upside down, and started on the sky line. I had  no trouble with the dome of St. Paul’s. I was enjoying it now,until once again I was stuck. Again, I wanted to give up, but I had a nagging feeling that God wanted to speak to me through this.
I remember the words of a friend, who told me emphatically, ‘There is only one thing that can rob us of our joy, and that is sin.’
Well, I had not sinned as far as my jigsaw was concerned, but I must have got some pieces in the wrong place.
Somehow I felt this was a spiritual exercise as I searched for the culprits.  I was praying David’s prayer;
‘Search me, O Lord ….see if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.’
Prayerfully now, I turned back to the pavement. Sure enough, I found that missing piece, lurking in the wrong corner. It had looked a pretty good fit, but was not quite right. I hope I am learning the lesson, that it is easy to convince ourselves that something is right and yet it is not God’s best for us. But what about those gaps in the roof tops? My lovely friend who cleans for me found them under the table. With a little help from my friends, my picture was at last complete.
Spiritual lessons may not be so easy, but we know that one day we will understand how God has been making all things to work together for good in our lives and we will see the picture of our lives as God has planned for it to be seen, to display his glory.
There is a verse that says that we are God’s workmanship, his poem – and for us jigsaw addicts, maybe we could add, his jigsaw.


Thursday, 6 June 2019

GOSSIPING THE GOSPEL


Several years ago I was challenged by an article in the Christian Herald. An evangelist told how, if  he would pray and ask God to give him a meaningful conversation, that God would always answer.
Could God do that for me? Preach? Yes, or tell a story to the children? I could do that, but to evangelise to strangers?
I dared to pray, and the Lord did answer. He opened the door wide for me to speak to my chiropodist, but - I did not take the opportunity.   I came home so sad and discouraged. I prayed as I have done so many times before – ‘Lord, now I have proved that alone, I cannot do it. Please do it through me.’
Amazingly I needed to return to the chiropodist. On my first visit he had been on the phone and, apologising, had explained that he had been making money by buying old properties and having them done up. This time I told him how I had felt God had wanted me to share with him the story Jesus told, of the farmer who was going to build bigger barns, and how God was giving me a second opportunity to tell him. Graciously he received this word and I came home on cloud nine.

I recently shared this story with my home group, for we ladies had been convicted by our study of the thief on the cross who, having assurance of Paradise, was concerned for his fellow convict.
Yes, I shared my story, but not to my advantage, for I had to confess that I had never again prayed that prayer.  But now, after our Fresh Ground study we were all being convicted.
But then I began to make excuses. I don’t get out and about these days as an evangelist might, I reasoned. But I do go to my Keep Fit class on a Friday, where tea and a chat is part of the therapy, and the next week I was off on a five day coach holiday. So yes, I dared to pray, and my house group agreed to pray with me.
Coming home from ‘Dance to Health’ I thought  there had been no special answer to my prayer, until  the Lord reminded me of how I had been greeting my little disabled friend and we were filled with joy as I reminded her that Jesus loved us. And then the leader who was giving me a lift home had suddenly exclaimed, ‘Where did that come from?’ for the sun had burst through the gloom. I was quick to tell her.
No, we had not sat down together over a bible verse, but Jesus had been there, and I had got in the first Gospel point. God is good. He loves you.
I can’t tell you of special opportunities on our trip to the Norfolk Broads, but I know I was very conscious of Jesus speaking through me. I felt like someone who had been  given rose petals to scatter at a wedding.
I don’t remember what it was I had said to the lovely assistant in Debenhams as I paid for my little bag, but I was so thrilled by her response. It was to the effect that she was a believer but somehow she had wandered away from the Lord but now she was back on track. Somehow a door had been opened for Jesus and he had come,  his arms  around us.
In Yarmouth a bitter wind had driven us from the sea to find a coffee  and then wander around the shops. I started to chat to the lady selling clothes. I had not mentioned Jesus, but  he had been there all the same, for something I had said about memories seemed to have touched her heart and I felt that meeting too had been meant.
Oh yes, and then there was the man who had gate crashed our private coach on the steam train. He happily regaled us with all his travels and so he could not refuse to hear our testimonies, one of us with our world-wide travels and the other of a contented wife and mother, married young and never having moved house, but he could not fail to find Jesus in both our stories. 
I trust that I won’t let the years pass before I ask the Lord again for meaningful conversations, because we have a wonderful Saviour God who delights to answer our prayers, and  to use people, even such as us to carry his royal invitations.


Thursday, 16 May 2019

WATERS TO SWIM IN


We have just been away on Grace’s Great Escape! Yes, once again, our leaders have had faith to book the Poplars,this wonderful Christian Retreat Centre in Herefordshire.. Once a fruit farm, it now is dedicated to growing lives. Our young people have a wonderful time, for now it has a purpose built sports hall in addition to its many other facilities. Our little ones seem to provide their own entertainment, so happy to be together.
We ‘Oldies’ were not so keen on exploring the beautiful countryside, for the weather was keeping us indoors. A wild northeaster was blowing so fiercely that when I made my way across the complex to the ‘Pack Room,’ for our services, I needed someone to save me from doing a Mary Poppins and taking to the air, walker and all.
But where did the swimming come in? Do you remember the prophet Ezekiel? God showed him a river which had come from God’s own throne. At first it was ankle, then knee deep until at last there were waters to swim in. This has long been the cry of my heart – ‘Lord, give us waters to swim in.’
There had been much preparation for this very special weekend, not least that of prayer. Our leaders
had arrived the previous day to make sure everything was prepared, but their priority had been prayer. Our guest speaker, an honoured theologian and prolific preacher and writer, had prepared for us a ministry out of his own life of prayer and waiting on God. As he brought this  ministry God had given him concerning the Holy Spirit I felt a deep joy rising up, that the Lord was answering my prayer and giving us ‘Waters to swim in.’
Yes, I did take notes, but I will not bore you with those. I just want to share one story Simon told us, for I’m sure none of us will forget it.
Away on holiday, God had told him that he was going to speak to him in a special way on that certain day, but he had not thought that word would come to him through a fish.
‘Simon, come quickly! There is a fish in trouble!’ He ran in response to his wife’s cry. There, in the spectacular fish pond in the garden where they were holidaying, was one of the special coi carp, gasping for breath. Having grown to a huge size, and the water level having dropped, it had found itself stuck in the mud.
Simon, with the aid of his family, to the rescue! But what was the message God  had promised him? Beware getting too big. In other words, thinking of our own importance. And beware of the shallows. Seek for deep water.
We were privileged to have the Rev.Simon Ponsonby with us through his friendship with Mark and Julie Davies. Sadly they were missing him as they are at present in USA, but we found this erudite gentleman, minister of theology in Oxford over many years, bringing a ministry so simple and plain, yet always deep, teaching us how we can and must always ask, and seek more and receive more from our wonderful God.
We have come home, well fed and every need met through the willing workers – yes, for everyone as always pulls their weight, though I must say I am grateful that I am not put on the duty lists. There was a dining room with a never failing supply, and a wonderful lounge where we had many a meaningful conversation. Maybe not many walks or sitting round the camp fire this year, but we were deeply blessed, and returned home determined to keep out of the shallows and to always seek those waters to swim in.