Wednesday, 17 January 2018

A NEW YEAR

‘Cast off everything that hinders,’ says the writer to the Hebrews, talking about running the race of life.
I think most of us have given up making those big bold resolutions that we fail to keep, but maybe there are some little things we need to deal with if this is going to be a prosperous New Year.
Having enjoyed our trip, cream tea included, on the Gwili railway, we were looking across to the car park. The morning of real Welsh rain had at last given way to the sunshine, and we noticed a woman struggling out of her sensible waterproof over- trousers which had protected her from the deluge which had lasted most of that morning.
A few minutes later we saw she was still struggling. Evidently some friends, recognising them, had gathered round to chat. No problem with the trousers, - she had wriggled them as far down as her ankles, even as she was chatting. She would soon be out of them. Oh no, not without one moment, or maybe two, of concentration.
But we had to concentrate on finding our own bus for the journey home. I was left with this picture of this resourceful young woman, still struggling, and of course, still impeded, entangled with her waterproofs even though the sun was shining.
 If only! If only what? Had an emergency arisen she might have fallen on her nose. She had needed to change her point of concentration for a brief  minute to reach down her hand to pull off her unwanted garment, which was no longer of any use to keep her dry but now definitely a hindrance to future progress.
Is there anything which I need to shake off before stepping into this New Year? – something perhaps which at one time was necessary for my journey, but now is an encumbrance?  I think the picture of that young woman at Gwili station is a warning to me that it isn’t so easy to cast off those unwanted entanglements without some help. And help is at hand, but we do have to ask for it.
Any of her friends would have momentarily taken her hand while she stood on one leg to shake off the garment. Or if only she could have stopped chatting,- again, only for a moment, she could have   bent down to free herself.
Do you know how the verse goes on?

‘Cast off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles …….(and) fix your eyes on Jesus.’
He is holding out his hand to help us. We only have to ask – but we do have to ask. 
A prosperous New Year to us all.


Monday, 18 December 2017

IT’S PARTY TIME

It may be December, but it is not Christmas parties that I am writing about. Instead I want to tell you about a very special party that we had this October. We called it a Reformation Party.
Reformation. That sounds rather a dusty cause for a party – surely it is to do with history and theology. True, but it has very much to do with our present experience, and though it began 500 years ago, (hence the celebration) it concerns a reformation that needs to be ongoing.
I remember reading a historical novel about an everyday family who lived in Germany in the times of Martin Luther and how their religious experience changed from one of fear and repression to a joyful relationship with Jesus Christ, even though it cost some their lives.
For a party we need guests, and apart from the ever present workers who gave us our invitations, we all were invited. But guess who else arrived? Yes, Martin Luther himself, still bare foot and tonsured. No sign of his wife, Katherine, so obviously not liberated yet. (It was our Richard in disguise.)
But then we had an interview, and there was Martin again, this time with hammer in hand, from where he had nailed his 95 theses to the door of the great church at Wittenburg, to show where the church had wandered from simple faith in the word and gospel of Jesus Christ. (It might have been our pastor, Tom.)  
It was a party, so we had to have some games. I know we had some coffers so that we could throw in our money in order to purchase indulgences which might buy time off our condemnation to purgatory.
There were other games too but sadly I, who used always to be so competitive, felt I was in the way and maybe I should not have come. (Yes, there is an enemy always ready to whisper in our ears.)
But now it was time for food, - German food of course for this special occasion. I found I was given a seat of honour at a table of young people, for there was to be a quiz for each table, and though my legs may not be much good, they hoped my brain, and memory was in good working order. They did not expect me to queue up for my food and, as always in the family of Grace, I was reminded that I am well loved.
And how well loved we all are by God. In the weeks previous to this special party, while we had been reminded of the story of the Reformation, we have been taught of the wonderful truths which Martin Luther had so wonderfully rediscovered through his study of the bible; that we are not working for our salvation, but that we are saved by Christ alone, that truth comes to us through Scripture alone, and that it is by grace alone and through faith alone. And, of course, it must all be for God’s glory alone.
Another fundamental truth of which we have been reminded is that we are not only looking back to the beginning of reformation, but that we are part of this movement. Martin Luther stepped into the glorious liberty of the children of God, but though so greatly used by translating the Bible for the common man, we know even he was far from perfect.
Maybe we are looking back to our special Reformation Party, but we too must live in the spirit of reformation and go on being reformed.


REFORMATION
It’s Christ alone! To him be all the glory,
who paid the price that sinners might go free.
Forgiveness, joy and peace! Redemption’s story!
Through Christ alone God’s love now reaches me.

By faith alone I dare approach the Father.
No works of mine can buy for me his love.
He sent his Son, to die for my salvation.
This price alone secures my place above.

God’s word alone; that speaks of true salvation;
Saints gave their lives to bring to us this word.
Then let us eat and live and share with others,
that they may know that Christ alone is Lord

By grace alone! No works can buy my ransom.
No deed of man can bring me near to God.
God’s gift alone has purchased my forgiveness.
My sins forgiven, I’m saved through Jesus’ blood

To God alone be worship joy and glory.
It is to him we raise our songs of praise.
While angels bow in wonder at the story
we’ll join heaven’s anthem through eternal days 

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

NO CONDEMNATION

‘Poor Pauline,’ my sister sympathised, ‘you always have something to worry about.’
That was many years ago, when I was struggling through those awful teen age years, but I am  so very  thankful that I have been able to shake off those chains of self-condemnation, though yet able to feel  deep sympathy for those who still carry the weight of such fetters.
You see, I suffered from depression, and whenever I felt this smothering blanket I would search my heart to try to find out what I had done to cause me to feel condemned, or what I was supposed to be worrying about. And being a teenager it wasn’t long before I thought of something I had or hadn’t done.
Well, today I still am afflicted with physical depression, though infrequently I am thankful to say. I have just returned from a Bible Explorer lesson in the school. I was so conscious of God’s help, and have returned home feeling how privileged I am to be able to do something so enjoyable; but of course, exhausted now, the headache and depression has returned. Oh, how thankful I am that I do not have to search my heart to see how I have sinned.
Yes, of course I have sinned. We have all committed sins of omission as well as commission, but thank God I now know that he sent his Son, Jesus, to carry all my sins to the cross and they are now buried in the depth of the sea. As King David wrote in the psalms, ‘There is forgiveness with you that you might be feared.’ And that is how it is that God can use such as I am to take God’s love into the schools and among my neighbours.
‘Jesus the name to sinners dear, the name to sinners given, It scatters all our guilty fear, it turns our hell to heaven.’
It is our very feelings of condemnation that give us the biggest claim on God, and must never ever be allowed to keep us away from him. But I guess we all need a little revision over this matter of forgiveness.
There was an occasion when, far from home, I had a problem of relationship. I was sure I was the one to blame, but a friend replied, ‘When I have a problem I am always convinced it is the other person who is to blame.’
Of course, the blame is never all on one side. We are all sinners, so no one is ever wholly in the right.
I was deeply comforted when I received a letter in which a friend who, realising the problem, gently implied that he understood and did not blame me. Through his words God gave me the assurance that I was not condemned. He spoke to me through Paul’s words in Romans 8:

‘There is no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus …… 
It was not long after that I was dancing around my house, singing out these life affirming words.
It goes on, 'for the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.'

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

DAYS OF HEAVEN UPON EARTH

I  was twenty five when I knew I had been led to take membership in the Apostolic church. But we seemed to be a declining fellowship. My urgent prayer was, Lord, may we be Apostolic not just in name, but in experience.
One day our pastor, a prophet, brought a word that I knew was in answer to this prayer.
‘You will know days of heaven on earth.’ What did this mean, and could this ever come to pass?
Recently visited by a young Ghanaian pastor, I was able to recount a time when I knew this had indeed come to pass.
After some years teaching among the needy children of London’s East End, I had been sent to work with the Apostolic missionaries in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. It was while trekking out to the villages that God had spoken to me through the verse in the Bible, ‘I and the children God has given me,’ and knew my call was to these children too. I became the ‘Little children’s mother.’
And not just there, for in time that door closed, and after three years teaching back in UK, I was sent to Ghana, to be responsible for the Sunday School work. It was here that this amazing word of prophecy was fulfilled.

From small beginnings – delay in my departure for Ghana meant time to attend some training courses. A three month training course in Switzerland with Child Evangelism Fellowship became of great significance, for a Jamaican missionary with CEF had spent six months in Ghana, just prior to my arrival, and because I too had trained with them,  the teachers welcomed me with open arms.
The children of my village loved to visit me and so sprang up my first Sunday School. Thus I was able to teach the teachers, not with examples from UK or even PNG, but from my own experiences with Ghanaian children, and lessons I had not only taught, but learned.
I felt it so important that we should teach the children, not in English, the national language, but in their own mother tongue, their heart language. Also that we did not need to buy expensive flannelgraphs, which might take hours to cut out, but to use whatever visual aids were to hand.
Fast forward to the time we were able to have special Sunday School weekends in the various areas. Friday and Saturday we enjoyed lessons with these wonderfully zealous teachers, but then, on Sunday morning at a set time the teachers, two by two had their own groups of children. They had prepared their own ‘home made’ visual aids and were thrown in the deep end.
I wish you had been there, at the end of the service, to enter into the joy of those teachers.  ‘Oh, Maame Adwoa,’ they told me. ‘I did not think children could understand, but they understood.’
They all had similar testimonies. Oh, how we praised the Lord. I thought I might have been exhausted at the end of a strenuous weekend, but no. I had been renewed in strength as an eagle.
Now, how delighted my Ghanaian friends had been to hear my story, and I to tell it, for that occasion  had been to me the fulfilment of that prophecy, spoken so long ago. But now, through the telling, I am beginning to realise that God had not meant it to be a once only experience.
Those ‘star dust’ assemblies, as I call them, in our local schools, when I know each child is drinking in the word of God; those special times when we feel the Holy Spirit moving in or midst; or when, sharing with someone about the goodness of God, you are aware that He is there, beside us, rejoicing with us, these too are days of heaven on earth.  
Yes, we are not in heaven yet, but we are surely among those of whom it says we are having a foretaste of the powers of the world to come.(Hebrews 6:5)  And God had promised me ‘days,’ not a single day, so I don’t have to look back to past experiences. I may have passed eighty and nearing ninety, but I am not too old to still know days of heaven on earth, and to experience the powers of the world to come.
I know so many of you who patiently read my blog have your own wonderful testimonies, but God is reminding me, and I trust you too, that he has more; yes, even days of heaven upon earth.
P.S. As I pass this word on to be put on my blogspot, I have been questioning, for I  have  not been able to find these words – ‘Days of heaven on earth’ in the Bible. But then I realised; - we are  praying for this every time we repeat the Lord’s Prayer:-
            ‘Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’
This is not just a prayer for a time afar off; it is for the present; for today. Amen

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

MORE LESSONS FROM MY JIGSAWS

It was my beloved Joel who taught me to enjoy jig-saws, and now, even though I no longer have my husband to tackle the harder parts, I usually have a jig-saw on the go. I find them therapeutic, and  often  find God speaks to me through them.
Primarily God reminds me that there is always a big picture. Life is not meaningless, even though it can seem full of incidents that may seem to be all wrong. Now we see the assorted pieces that make up the glorious picture God is making out of the jumble of our lives.
Usually we set out to get the border complete, and yet sometimes, though we can’t get the border right, we do not doubt that there is a complete border; and even so we must trust that God is working all things together for good.
At present I am struggling to complete a jigsaw I have been given, even though I know that all the pieces are there to make this lovely picture.
First of all, the jigsaw was too long to fit onto my board. Not deterred, I completed the first third, then carefully placed those pieces into a bag. Now I was away, with room for the rest of the charming picture of the little houses in their Christmas decking. I was near to completion, but with the tangle of branches and sunset sky, I had struggled for an hour without getting one piece to fit. There was no pleasure in this. Time to call it a day, and pack it up?
But after sleeping on it, I knew I must try again. But first of all, I needed to admit that something was wrong, and try to find the culprit, for I must surely have pushed one piece in the wrong place. Yes, there it was. How had I not noticed that the picture, though of the right colour, did not quite match?
I had to pull out several pieces before eventually I was able to proceed happily. And I hope I will  learn the spiritual lesson the jigsaw is teaching me, and that is, that if we are not making progress, then there is a hindrance, and we need to ask God to show us what it is.
Many years ago I read of these Christian women, living in community, whose outreach was through printing evangelical literature. But sometimes the technology was not working as it should. Then they knew they needed to come together to sort out what was wrong; no, not with the technology, but in their fellowship with each other. Once at one with each other, the work flowed.
And I have been learning, over the years, that when I am frustrated, often through the computer not behaving according to plan, it is then that I need to take time out to check on my relationship with the Lord, and most especially with those near and dear. So I am thanking God that he has been reminding me of this through this special jigsaw.
I trust I will place each piece more carefully in future, and remember that I too must be in the right place; right with God and with others. And when we may feel we are stuck in a rut, or have even fallen into a pit, we have only to cry to God for help and we will soon know God has set us on the right path, where we have a spring in our step and his new song in our mouth.

Friday, 21 July 2017

PUBLISH AND ?

‘Publish and be damned.’ I suppose many of us have heard of this  quotation, famously attributed to the Duke of Wellington, when threatened by blackmail. For the sake of this blog, I am changing it to ‘Publish and be blessed.’
‘I hadn’t thought of being published,’ a friend told me, when sharing some nuggets of truth he had recorded on his smart phone.
Well, neither had I. A friend had her title ready for the day when she might write her memoirs, but I had never thought of going into print. (Not quite true. I had written some short stories, and been encouraged to get them published, but that was long forgotten.) Writing a diary to send to the folk back home was all I had time for while working abroad.
But now, my missionary adventures behind me and settled into the sometimes routine of a pastor’s wife, I knew God was calling me to write. Three times I had heard his voice  through the words, ‘What is that in your hand?’ My only answer had to be, ‘A pen.’ (Yes, I had certainly never thought God would expect me to use a computer. There are always surprises in store once we take the God road.)
After other God-incidences confirming my call, an advert for a writing course  had plopped onto our door mat. It’s title -  Writing for Profit. Not many months later  I received a cheque for £20 from the Christian Herald, in acknowledgement of the short story I had submitted. I was on cloud nine. Somehow I had never expected to be a published author, but here I was, on the road.
Many more successes followed, though many  rejections too; and rejections are always painful.  But now, many books, articles, yes and blogs too later, I know  my calling to write  includes a call to encourage others not only to write, but to have courage to go on to  be published. For in publishing we are putting  our heads above the parapet and likely to be attacked. Hence this blog.
You may be more familiar with the words that ring out in Handel’s triumphant chorus –‘Great was the company of the preachers.’ 
‘Great was the company of those who published it,’ is an alternative translation,  much loved by Bible translators. After all, what good would those long years of labour be, when a language would first of all be reduced to writing, the complexity of grammar, often tone too,  understood,  and now at long last the Bible, or parts of it, ready to be  printed. Even now it is worthless unless there is developed in the people an appetite to read and to hear the voice of God through these pages. Only then  lives are changed. No wonder there is need of prayer for every stage of this great task. ‘Great was the company of those who publish it.’
Joel and I became the means of establishing the South Wales Ready Writers. We meet together once a year and have been inspired and encouraged by various speakers. Our local monthly Ready Writers has dwindled in numbers over the years, but continues to encourage and inspire, helping us to develop the discipline of writing regularly.
We are not all going to be published by recognised publishers. Unless you are already well known, your autobiography is unlikely to be accepted. However, with computer skills ever increasing, self-publishing has become a viable option.  A friend had self- published before being taken on by main line publishers. It was he who published my ‘Wings of the Morning.’
I have a poem  published each month in our local Seaside News. The editor may not be selective, but never the less there are many readers who say my monthly poem is the first thing they look for in this excellent magazine.
So, if you feel a call to write, or even if you are not sure about it being a call, but just love to write, just think about the possibility that God might want it published. When Jesus warned his disciples that they would face persecution, he told them that ‘it would be turned to a testimony.’  We all undergo trials and difficulties, so let’s be ready to share the precious lessons we learn through them. We may not be likely to preach to thousands, but let’s be among the great company of those who publish od’s message.

I thank God for that first writer’s course that plopped onto our mat, and for a wise husband who encouraged me to enrol. It was my tutor who taught me how to approach an editor, how to set out my manuscript, and then, the invaluable skill of turning a novel into a page turner. Some of us may have had a good education in literature and grammar while  at school, but now, with writing inspired by the Holy Spirit, we need to learn how to hone our skills and  craft our words so that they will pierce the defences that men have formed around their hearts so that they will pierce  through that hard top-soil and  reach down into their hearts.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

READING – A MIRACLE?

I’m sure it was a miracle when I began to read. I could chant with the others c-a-t, but how that came to mean ‘cat’ I had no idea. Then suddenly I could read. The page full of words all made sense to me. My elderly next-door neighbours were delighted that I could read to them from the paper, while my sister, two years older than I, was most annoyed that I was reading and enjoying books that were for her age.
When we were evacuated, our class was taken to a library, a new experience for me. The teacher tried to steer me towards books more suitable for an eight year old, but once she found I was enjoying the collection of fairy tales I had chosen she would call on me to tell stories for her to the class.
Once I was teaching, my method was no longer  confined to phonetics, but I still believe there was a measure of the miraculous when the children are able to enjoy books, and that we should have faith in those who appear to be slow learners, trusting for the miracle in their lives too.
Yes, we believe in a God of miracles, and for little Aaron there have been many miracles. His mother  believes it was a gift from God when she first realised her little baby had cataracts forming on both eyes, for it was Christmas Day, and it took a series of miracles from then on; for with no competent surgeon in her own country, they found a surgeon in UK willing to operate, if they could bring him before he was six months old. An on going  series of miracles, for finances, accommodation – every need was met.
Soon she had a happy bespectacled toddler,  wearing glasses, yes, but with an amazing love for books.
Certainly, the ability to read has been a miracle in Aaron’s life, but I believe it needs more than the ability  but also an appetite for us to enjoy reading.  I’m afraid I did not have a healthy appetite, for in my teens I was devouring novels all day long.  I was already in my twenties when God opened my
heart to receive Jesus as my Saviour, and my eyes to find the wonderful stories that were in his book, the Bible.
At that time they had brought out the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. It was my brother John who gave me a copy. What a gift from heaven. In large, clear print, and in somewhat simpler English, not only was it full of wonderful stories, but I found God was speaking to me through his word. To read it  was not just a duty, but a delight. Now I have learned to say with the Patriarch Job, ‘I esteemed the words of your mouth more than my necessary food.’

Eye sight – what a blessing it is! As well as schools, teachers, and books. We should not take such things for granted. But most of all the Bible, God’s book, the Bible, and in our own Mother tongue. What a gift, and all wrapped up in the greatest gift of all, Jesus, God’s only Son.