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.   


Tuesday, 16 April 2019

EASTER THROUGH THE KEYHOLE


I had heard about Christmas through the Keyhole, and of the children’s excitement as they had been taken on this dramatic journey. But Easter, with the terrible message of the Cross? How would this come cross to little children?
I was privileged to join a mixed group of little ones as they were taken through the keyhole, and was
wondering what to expect. I had already seen a picture of a boat, evidently washed up on the lawn at the front of our chapel and wondered how it was part of the story.
Yes, there it was, no longer on green grass but with the aid of blue plastic seemingly in a bay on the Sea of Galilea, blue water lapping around it and yes, our children happily clambering aboard. Our narrator was busy explaining how it was a fresh water lake when Peter came  rushing onto the scene,  his clothes dripping from having jumped out of his own boat, telling us of his wonderful encounter with Jesus, yes, Jesus, whom they had seen killed. He was alive. They had had breakfast together. Somehow Peter had even a fish to show them, one it seems that had escaped their breakfast barbeque
Oh! A sigh of relief! We know this story has a happy ending.
Peter somehow drops a copy of Luke’s diary which he had been helping him to write, so our narrator is able to use it as she now takes us inside the church on a wonderful journey.
We didn’t go upstairs, but somehow the children found themselves in the Upper Room to take part in the last supper. The table is set, though with child sized chairs, as in Da Vinci’s well known painting, and they are told the various symbolisms concerning Passover, and the significance of Jesus’ challenge, that one of them would betray him.
On now to another ‘room’, for individual tents have been set up. This one has palm b ranches, some logs strewn, and a picture of olive trees on the door. We are in the garden of Gethsemane, and we are there as Jesus pleads with his Father God until he is willing to go on to die on the cross. We hear the tragic story of how Judas had brought the Jewish leaders with their soldiers and deliberately came up and kissed Jesus so that they would know who it was they had to arrest.
The next ‘room’ looked most attractive, for we could see the glowing coals of a fire and some chickens scratching about, but what a sad place, for it was here, in the court yard of the High Priest where they had taken Jesus to be accused that Peter said that he didn’t even know Jesus. He had promised that he would never ever deny Jesus. He even began to fight with his sword until Jesus stopped him, but now he had denied him. How sad he was.
On from there to Calvary. What a good job Peter has told us that this story has a happy ending, for we see the hill, and the cross; Jesus’ clothes the soldiers had gamble over, the crown of thorns and yes, the sponge with vinegar on it that they used when Jesus said he was thirsty as we are told this sad story.
And from there we see the tomb where Jesus’ body was buried, and the great stone rolled in front. But the stone has been rolled away so that we are able to go through the door to find that the grave is empty. Yes, Jesus is alive.

And so we come out into the sunshine and join in the jubilation, celebrating the Saviour who could not be held by the power of death. The children rejoiced that the stone had been rolled away so that we might know that Jesus had risen from the grave. We all sang a lively song to express our joy.
I was not able to share in their craft activity but I know they went home with songs on their lips, joy in their hearts and something to remind them of the wonderful Easter story of Jesus.


Tuesday, 26 March 2019

ST DAVID’S DAY

‘Your people will be my people, and your God my God.’
Remember those words? Yes, of course, they are the words of Ruth the Moabite, who was willing to renounce her own country and religion because of her love for her mother in law, but more than her love for Naomi, she wanted to put her trust in her God.
I was living in the Western Highlands of New Guinea when Ruth’s words came to me afresh.
‘Lord,’ I prayed. ‘That is how I feel. I want to belong to these people; to live and die here.’
I didn’t, of course. After five years I was dragged, unwillingly back to UK, where the Lord had to remind me that he had asked me to be willing to go anywhere for him, but I think it had meant a lot to the Enga people that I had felt like that.
So why had God sent me so far away, to this previously unreached people? Have you heard the words of the new song we will be singing in heaven?
It says, ‘With your blood you (Jesus) purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.’
Yes, from every tribe, and even every clan, of the many many tribes in Papua New Guinea, as well as all the other tribes and languages all over the world. That is why my friend has laboured for over forty years in the Congo, and why I was willing to learn yet another language as I went to Ghana to help with the children’s work in the Ashanti region.
But now I am in Wales. Born in England, I am glad that I can put British on my passport, for I proudly declare ‘I am Welsh by marriage,’ and very happy that my husband had wanted to retire in Porthcawl, this beautiful seaside town in South Wales. And yes, for me it meant yet another language to learn, for God had spoken to me, before I left Australia, that I should gain a knowledge of the language where I was going. I had wondered why God hadn’t specified the Enga language, the ‘True Talk’ as they called it, but God had known where else I was going.
Together we worked hard with the Welsh, the hardest language yet it seemed, but sadly I haven’t been able to keep it up. But now I was faced with a fresh challenge, and that was to write a poem for St. David’s Day.
Poems seem to trip off my pen easily these days, and I have always enjoyed a ‘Cawl’ evening, and been happy to wear my daffodil, but was I sufficiently Welsh to write a poem for St. David’s Day?
God reminded me of Ruth’s words and of the desire I had had to identify with the Enga people of New Guinea, and then later of my joy in learning Ashanti amongst the Ghanaian people. But now I know it is  God who has planted me here in Wales. So this is what I wrote for our St. David’s Day celebration in Stoneleigh Court.


ST DAVID’S DAY
‘I’m proud to be Welsh by marriage,’ or so I used to say,
But now I have found my identity, on this our St. David’s Day.

For here is a nation of warriors, but above all a people of song,
A people St. David gladly owned, as he taught them right from wrong.

He opened up wells of water, that are still among us today
And fearlessly taught us the word of God and of Christ who is the way.

So gladly we own him our patron saint, while daffodils wear we with joy
Boasting in hymns of revival fame, which our choirs with gusto deploy

So proudly we celebrate St. David’s Day, for from every nation and tongue
The Welsh must be there with harp and with song, to worship God’s holy Son.