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.
   


Tuesday, 24 March 2020

WAR ZONE

‘There are worse things than bombs.’ Having evacuated as a family at the outbreak of war and in cramped conditions, my mother was now very ill and the doctor advised my father to get her home.
So it was that I was in the London area throughout World War two. Our cellar was turned into a dormitory so that there was no panic when the sirens wailed  and it seemed God honoured the faith of my parents in his promises in Psalm 91, for we suffered no more than broken windows though there was tragedy  around us.
Years later the terrible smog enveloped London and I was horrified when I realised how this pollution was lining the lungs of animals too, but when I read, again in Psalm 91,  ‘the terror that wastes by noonday,’ I knew God had spoken to me that I must not fear, and indeed the problem was dealt with.
Now it seems another war has been declared, the dreaded Coronavirus, and once again the battle is against fear.
I had thought my present warfare was against old age, and that if I had plenty of company and stimulation, keeping fit in body and mind I had nothing to fear. But now all fellowship is forbidden and us ‘oldies’ especially confined to splendid isolation.
Once again I realise we are in a war zone, and I believe God has given me these verses, once again based on Psalm 91, to help us overcome fear.

                        CORONAVIRUS
A pestilence is creeping
While darkest clouds are sweeping
Till all around is blinding us with worry and with fear

But on God’s word we’re standing,
Not shifting sands but grounding
On promises. ‘twill not come nigh, so cast away your fear.’

So we’re singing songs of praising,
Though seas around are raging
For on the darkest hours on earth God’s voice is ringing clear

‘Yes, I am here to guide you,
From every plague I’ll hide you
As chicks beneath their mother’s wings find shelter. I am near.’
For many others there are different and more terrible wars still being waged, for they are suffering grievously because they are Christians. Asia Bibi was in solitary confinement for nine years while we prayed for her release. Would we see a woman gaunt and broken? I was amazed to see her in good health, the  beauty of the Lord on her. She had had her bible and she too had been trusting is Psalm 91.
So, whatever our circumstances, let us war a good warfare and take refuge under the shadow of God’s wings. 

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

IRIS


I’m sure we have all delighted in the beautiful iris flowers, whether blooming in our gardens, part of a bouquet or even flowering in some wild marsh land.
But I am writing this blog about a very special lady named Iris. It was at her funeral that we heard of the meaning of the name, and the significance of the different colours. It seems that its primary significance is ‘faith, hope, wisdom, courage and admiration.’ What better name could have been given to our Iris, Iris Hare.
We think of funerals as sad occasions, but when it is of a Christian who has lived a full and fruitful life and has spent her final years, though in need of nursing care, at peace with God and man, we can only be thankful. Iris’s funeral was a testimony of God’s power to save and to keep, and though there is always sadness in parting, we know that it is her God who has come to release her from her body of humiliation in order that she may be clothed with  her new body of glory and beauty.
It was John Wesley who boasted that the early Methodists knew how to die well. I hadn’t been able to visit Iris of later years but I am sure that she who had lived so well, had also died well.
I was so thankful for a friend who enabled me to attend her – I won’t say funeral, though there had to be a grave side, but her thanksgiving service. 
The eldest of three sisters, one of my first memories is of Iris leading a Women’s Rally. A new-comer to the area, I was the speaker, so had a good view of her two sisters sitting in the front row and looking up in admiration at their older sister who was leading.
It was lovely to hear of some who were welcomed into her home as little children and then taken to Sunday School, Iris like the Pied Piper, the trail of children increasing as they walked through the village until, in the little Apostolic Church, Iris faithfully, and unforgettably, taught them from God’s word of the love of Jesus their Saviour.
How many will there be in heaven through Iris’s faithful witness, not only in words but through her shining example?
Although aged fifty, I was courting and then newly married when I first met Iris and she was such a blessing in my life. I wrote these verses for her ninetieth birthday and felt I wanted to add them here as my thanksgiving for the beautiful life of my sister Iris.

Bright little lady,
          Overflowing with praise
So faithful in serving
          In all of your ways
Thank you, Iris, who welcomed me


Loving sister, mother
          Devoted in prayer
I had only to ask and
          God’s answer was there
Thank you, Iris, who prayed for me


God’s faithful handmaid
          Waiting on His word
To speak or to be silent
          Responding to her Lord
Thank you for speaking God’s word to me


Our dear loving Iris
Still writing words of love
Still God’s faithful servant
Your treasure stored above
Thank you, Iris, for your love to me

But there is part of Iris’s story which has impressed me deeply, for though her children  have shared her faith and are walking with Jesus, for many years her husband was an unbeliever and could make life difficult for her. However, God had given Iris a picture, or was it maybe a dream, of  her Max holding her hand and of them walking together to the house of God. Was it possible that he would ever change and this come to pass?

One day a friend, not perhaps known for her prayer life, came to her and they agreed together to pray and fast for the impossible to become possible. And yes, the miracle happened, and we believe that Iris with her Max are now united in heaven.

We thank God for the story of Iris, and most of all, of her wonderful Saviour.

                       


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?