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.



Wednesday, 13 February 2019

THE VALUE OF A DIARY



I had intended to write this blog about my lovely new Five-Year Diary. It is difficult to find a gift that is just right for someone nearing 90, but a special friend hit the spot with a 5 year diary. It was pink, and extra large. Would I manage to fill it?
If God keeps me of a sound mind I will, for it doesn’t take journaling skill for this.  I have been filling these diaries ever since my years abroad, where I needed more than four lines in a diary to record all my adventures. Week after week I would type a letter home, to be shared around. No, it was not ‘Dear Diary’, with whom I shared my deeper emotions, yet I found it a friend. I missed it when I was back with family. It was based on these records that my autobiography, ‘Wings of the Morning’ was written. But then I decided to keep a 5 year diary, at least to record major events.
Especially after Joel and I were retired, we found it useful to remember where we had been ministering or what message had been preached. It enabled us to avoid preaching the same message in the same place twice (at least within two years).
Yes, it is useful to look back and see what we had been doing at the same time the previous year, but  I have learned to touch lightly on experiences which have caused depression, otherwise I found I would be experiencing it all over again. I remember it was almost a relief when the 5 years were up and I had a clean book before me, so that I was not living again the sadness of my husband’s final illness and death, though I did prove God in it all, and He never leaves me or forsakes me.
But especially it is good to have a yearly reminder of so many special blessings. We may not all be able to write of our blessings for others to read, but it is good to look back and see how wonderfully God has opened doors, and led us in his paths.
But primarily I want to write about my experience of journaling. I have tried to do this over the years, and never managed to keep it up but – help was at hand.
No pretty pink! A plain black cover with THECBRJOURNAL embossed on it.  Yes, it is for journaling, first and foremost with the Lord, but the idea is that we share it also with God’s people.
Over the last few months I have loved reading the selected portion for the day and responding by writing. There is space for  prayers of adoration, confession, thanksgiving and then supplication, all based on this passage and then, right at the end of the page, there is room to write a couple of lines which express that nugget of truth which I am making my own, from this time spent in the Word.
So – what is the significance of the C in CBR? I had presumed BR is for Bible Reading, so is C for Christian? No, rather for Community, for there is a special blessing in sharing, and being mutually blessed.
Many of us attending Grace Community Church had already stepped into this pool of blessing, as they have shared by some special App (hope you know what an app is?) and the wonderful skill of texting, strengthening and encouraging each other, while I, unwilling to get entangled with any more technology, continued in my splendid isolation.
But now, like Gomer of old, Hosea’s wayward wife who was excluded, now I am included. All it took was for one to come along side and welcome my email contributions, so that now I am included in a group. I wake early, settle into my easy chair, my cup of ginger and books beside me, to come to drink from the fountain of life and gather fresh manna.
Diary or not, I would recommend CBR journaling, and that, morning by morning you gather, with  others around you, to come to the fountain of life and feed on bread from heaven.


Monday, 28 January 2019

ECLIPSE


It was earlier than usual that I sat in my recliner, my mug of tea beside me, to have a little quiet time with the Lord before I began my day. It wasn’t yet six am, still night outside, but as usual I drew open my curtains, lest I should miss the dawning of the morning.
Photo by Altınay Dinç on Unsplash
I was surprised to see the moon shining, right there in the centre of my window. ‘Oh, a new moon,’ I exclaimed, not out loud. This was just between the Lord and me. ‘Oh, and with the old moon in her arms?’ But no, this was not as it usually is, for the crescent moon was on top, and I watched now in wonder as the dark clouds, as I had thought, gradually slipped away until there was the glory of our full moon, just faintly tinged with red.
In all this specular display from heaven, I had a deep awareness that God was speaking to me, though he had not, as yet, translated it into human language.
It was when I switched on the news that I realised that this had been a long anticipated lunar eclipse, with an accompanying red moon.
I had not seen the actual eclipse, but rather, after the eclipse, the unveiling again of the heavenly body that had been there all the time, created by God, and ordained to run its courses.
I know I am one of millions of people on this earth at this time, one of those who might be regarded as the dust on the scales, and yet one of myriads who is so loved by God that he intended me to be treated to this awesome spectacle.
Now God was telling me to never doubt his mighty acts or wonderful words. As the light of the moon was eclipsed by earth, yet was always there, always shining, so we need never doubt the reality, power or promises of our great Creator God.



Friday, 4 January 2019

A HAPPY NEW YEAR

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What can I share from my many years of experience that might be of encouragement to you as we face this New Year? For yes, there are still giants in the land who might fill us with fear. Maybe not Philistines, or Jebusites, but there might be other sorts of  ‘-Ites’ we have to face.
My memory takes me back to 1957. I was 36 years old, but I had never lived away from home, nor experienced much by way of adventure, but here I found myself in Australia en route to the remote Highlands of New Guinea. My initial courage had forsaken me, and I felt terrified by the vast distances around me, and still to be travelled. It was then that, unexpectantly, God spoke to me.
‘I know that you face vast distances, but I am pledged to come with you.’  God went on to speak the promise that still fills me with hope and joy. It was this:-
‘You will be able to turn, readily and easily to me at all times as to a friend who is alongside.’
Yes, it is in the Bible. You will find it in Hebrews 12: 5,6, but if you will close the door and speak to God you will find that he will answer you and you will know this is a personal promise for you too.
It is more than fifty years since God gave me that promise, but today it is as precious as ever. No more ‘vast distances’ before me, but the threat of failing health and loneliness, or other whispers from our adversary might cause me to fear. But no, for God is with me.
I don’t bother any more with Watch Night services or New Year’s resolutions.  For years I resolved to get up early and have my quiet time and year after year I had failed in the first week, but now I have an inbuilt clock that wakes me soon after six,  a pastoral team that have set us on a course of journaling our encounter with God through the Bible, and always that ‘Friend alongside’ to respond to my cry and fill my cup with blessings and anoint my head with oil.
Days may yet come when I am unable to rise early or even read or write, but our risen Lord will always be there for me, and for you too. Nothing can separate us from his love. May we all experience a blessed New Year.