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?


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.