Friday, 20 March 2015



What is it that makes us do it? To leave our comfy beds and home comforts; loading the car with sleeping bags, boots, and clothing for all weathers, while our wonderful leaders had been shopping and planning, working out rotas, for the feeding of the five (well, fifty something, if not the five) thousand.

Yes, once again, ‘Grace Community Church Porthcawl’ set out for our annual ‘Away Weekend.’ Using the same venue as last year, Barton Camp in North Somerset, we were better prepared to transform it from a rather Spartan facility to something nearer to home comfort. We had a row of comfy garden chairs at the back of the meeting room for a lounge area, while Ross’s curry this year, instead of ‘dragon’s breath’ was just right, and each team produced excellent meals.

Those of us who did not have to wait for school to close were fortunate enough to have been able to leave early and so avoid the heavy motor way traffic, but we all arrived safely, all the hassle of packing and travelling forgotten in the joy of being together.

You see, we are a family. We see each other most Sundays, but sometimes not in between, and families need to have special times of being together. It was such a joy to see so many young families playing happily together, and an even greater joy that some of our now college students had joined us and had prepared lessons and activities for our children so that the parents would relax, knowing they were well cared for.  

After the journey and unpacking, Friday evening was not the time for teaching ministry. We gathered for worship and then Tom read of Moses’ desire and delight in God’s presence, giving us the theme for the weekend.

After breakfast and a prayer time, for those without commitments, Saturday morning was a very special time  of worship and teaching. After Tom had spoken, first of Moses, and then  of our need to seek God’s glory and know him coming in power among us, as he has done in our nation in years gone by, we were released in worship.

Since my husband died I have had very little voice and usually sing ‘in my boots,’ but I found my voice soaring as I joined in a wonderful choir of praise. We were on the Mount of God, as Moses had been and God was among us, touching afresh, and speaking to us through his gifts. Oh, what a comfort to know that we don’t need a veil (tea-cloth someone said) as Moses did, because the glory must fade.

Some of us set out to explore the lovely country side in the afternoon, returning with an appetite for Ross’s homemade scones for a Somerset cream tea, while other relaxed or played games. There was no ‘Grace has Talent’, since most of our talent, sadly, had been unable to make it this year, but a wonderfully competitive and varied games evening, great fun for young and old alike, ensured most of us had a much better night’s sleep.

Sunday. Again, great praise and fervent prayers in our prayer meeting, and then sadly packing up before we gathered for our last time of ministry. Perhaps I was looking forward to a time of praise and release such as we had had the day before, but God always has fresh bread, and always something more. His challenge that we should be the people of God, his light in a world of darkness led us in humility to his table where we broke the bread and drank the wine together, as a family.

Then we listened to a testimony. It was a story of terrible suffering and there were not many dry eyes, but we were also awed at the wonderful deliverance God had brought about, through the invitation of a young mother to come to an Alpha evening. Though she only went three times, this one who had seemed to be so hopelessly ensnared had met with Jesus. He heard her cry and eventually brought her out of this horrible pit. Her feet set on the Rock, she was now able to bring her children up to love and serve the Lord.

Sunday morning; was this the right time to listen to such a harrowing story? The Communion should be a reminder of an even more harrowing story of how God gave his Son to save us. And yes, this story too brought great glory to God, for through hearing it we realised that here is someone who is now a servant of the church, always available to work, and to reach out to others who may be entrapped by the enemy. How we praise God for counting this ‘Trophy of Grace’ as our sister and friend, she and her family wonderful members of the family of Grace.
A final meal, scrumptious as always, the big Grace photo, and off to our own homes, and yes, our comfy beds.

As with every family gathering, there is great joy in being together – some of us, especially the younger element, wished we could have stayed there – but with the joy is an inevitable sadness when the circle is not complete, for whatever reason. We are so very thankful for this special family time together, but pray that maybe next year we may have less of us left at home, and more with us for this mountain top experience.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Giants in the Land

Selwyn Hughes had a series about bringing down giants. That got me thinking about Jack the Giant Killer. What do you know of him? There is one Jack, of pantomime fame, but I think it was a beanstalk he had to tackle, which, when he had chopped it down, caused the ogre to fall to his death. But Jack the Giant Killer was, I believe, a brave Cornish lad who refused to be intimidated by these great bullies who were robbing the people of their crops and making their lives a misery. Armed only with his club he took them on, one by one, until the people had courage to go on with their daily lives.

The Israelites had to go in and claim the Promised land, even though there were giants there, and if we are standing in the name of Jesus, then we too have battles to fight, and we have armour too that we must never take off. So, what are the giants that come against us?

We may know about Goliath, a huge monster of a man, out to intimidate so that the Israelites did not dare even face him. But we know about David too, who did not need any man-made armour but went against him with just his sling and stones, and his confidence in the Lord his God. Goliath fell to the ground and David cut off his head with the giant’s own sword. But did you know that wasn’t the end of the fight?
Later on in his life we hear of other battles against giants. Maybe they were baby giants when David fought his first battle, but babies grow up. And because we have had past victories over some of our ‘giants’ does not mean we can let down our guard.

So what are our giants? Somebody was sharing his need to guard against ‘pride.’

Well, that is something I don’t have to fight, was my first reaction. What was that if not pride? As one preacher, hopefully tongue in cheek, remarked, ‘You should have heard my sermon on humility.’

But – are we Giant Killers? I doubt it. I know that though I may have had victories in the past, I always have to be on my guard. As a young woman I  struggled with jealousy and a sense of inferiority. I was sorry for myself because, there I was in the middle of the family, not pretty or clever like my older sister, not the baby, who everyone knows is special, and not the eldest and a boy at that.

Wonderfully, Jesus came to my rescue. He showed me that all this jealousy and sense of inferiority was because self was on the throne instead of Him; that God had raised him up, a Prince and Saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins.* All I had to do when these negative thoughts arose was to cry out to Jesus to save me. I still sing that wonderful hymn, ‘Jesus saves me now,’ when the giant of jealousy or depression rears its ugly head.

Once I had cried to God for deliverance, it was as though he took away every cause I could have for jealousy or self pity. But those giants are not dead. I still have to be on my guard. When bereavement strikes, in whatever form, I believe we have to purpose in our hearts to praise and trust our God, believing that he won’t allow anything to happen to us unless it is for our good. As David says in Psalm 59 (GNB) ‘My refuge is God, the God who loves me.’

But remember, if we are doing well at school, we get put into a higher class, and the lessons get harder.

Maybe the giant you are facing now is different from mine, but we are likely to come up against them all at different times.

Selwyn Hughes names a few. The giant of Fear? I still have to speak out God’s word to send him packing. ‘God has not given me the spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind.’ 
Lust? We are true to our partners, not because we do not find others attractive, but because we love our husbands/wives too much to ever think of stealing from them. How much more must we determine not to hurt our Saviour, who loves us so much, by desiring lesser things.

Do we struggle with Shame; the shame of past memories perhaps? Is not this a form of pride? We don’t want others to think we are capable of having stooped so low. But we are all sinners, and whenever we hear of someone committing what we may consider a terrible sin, we need to remind ourselves, ‘There go I, but for the grace of God.’

Then there is Giant Despair. Do you remember how, in Pilgrims Progress, Pilgrim and his companion had wandered into Bypass Meadow and were taken captive by this giant, and locked up in Doubting Castle. In this hopeless situation, Faithful realises that he has a key, the key of faith that will unlock every door. They speak out the word of God and are released from their captivity.

Thank God, however deep our depression, we all have this key, which is also our sword; the Bible, the Word of God. I trust we will all remember to use it so that, like Jack, we can become Giant Killers, or at least Giant chasers.     

*Acts 5:31