Thursday, 8 July 2021

TEN COMMANDMENTS

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash
For many years I  was  privileged to teach Bible Explorer in our local schools.  No preaching, just telling the wonderful stories of the Bible. I had been wondering how long I could continue because of my gradually decreasing mobility , but I was saved from having to make the decision to retire, for Christians don’t retire, do they? Through Covid I feel God himself has gently closed the door for me into the schools and chapels, while I continue to share his word in other ways.

We have been having wonderful ministry on the Ten Commandments, basing our study on Jen Wilkins' book, ‘Ten Words To Live By’.

I used to enjoy teaching this lesson. I would tell the children that there was a special one for them, and that because Jesus knows it is hard for them to always obey their parents, just as it was for him when he had wanted to stay in the temple in Jerusalem, he has given them a special promise, that if they would respect their parents, that it would be well with them and they would live a long time on the earth.. As a ninety year old I think I am having a share in this promise.

I would also tell them about the commandment that is very special to me, the last one – ‘Do not covet.’ I told them how miserable I was as a little girl because I was jealous of my clever and pretty big sister, until Jesus showed me that jealousy was sin and that he had died that we might be forgiven. What a joy to be able to tell the children that we are each one loved and special and that we don’t ever have to be jealous of anyone.

Photo by Anna Kolosyuk on Unsplash
I have learned so much through teaching the children. I used to tell them that it is hard to learn all the commandments, and we know the Jews added on lots more, but when Jesus was asked which was the most important he simplified it to two. Here I would hold up a heart-shaped card. On one half was ‘Love God,’ and on the other ‘Love your neighbour,’ and so we learn that it is all about love.

But now my work in the schools is finished it is my turn to be taught as one of God’s children. I know I wasn’t the only one to think that some of these commandments  had no application to my life, but I find that the Holy Spirit is doing some searching, convicting and convincing me too of how great is God’s love for his children, longing for us to be in a closer, deeper relationship with our Saviour.

He wants us to learn that every one of his commandments are about love and every one of them need to be applied to each of our lives, that we might always be found rejoicing in that wonderful relationship of love with our God.

I know it is not good enough to blame all our troubles on Adam and Eve, or should I say Eve, who first tasted of the forbidden fruit and then Adam, but we can look back to that sad story and the reason why God has given us these guide lines which are his fence to save us from throwing ourselves over the cliff of destruction.

            PARADISE

Oh the glory of that morning

Walking naked, unashamed

God’s own glory as our covering

Joyful, sharing, unafraid

 

Clothed  in skins of his dear creatures

Shame now excludes us from that bower

Lost our joy in glad communion

Pain and sorrow follow now

 

Lost the glory of that garden

‘Gainst  thorns and briars must we toil

Bringing children forth in labour

Relationships by sin now spoiled.

 

Had we but trusted Him who made us

For his pleasure and his joy

Why did we listen to Satan’s whispers

And taste the fruit that must destroy?

 

Yet Christ is come to vanquish Satan

Joy of Paradise restore

Come now, taste the fruit he offers,

Joy and peace for evermore.

 

Thursday, 20 May 2021

REPAIR OR RENEW

Photo by Clark Young on Unsplash
 For many of us, the Repair Shop is a very favourite programme. These skilled crafts-
men and women are called upon from all over the country to repair  precious possessions that have been held on to for many years, often because they reminded them of loved ones long gone. Not only are these wonderful crafts people highly skilled, but they are also compassionate, full of understanding and love. Tears and hugs are an important part of the show.

As these people receive with such joy these precious possessions, now so beautifully restored, very often someone will affirm that their loved one is looking down, and even very near. Is it that somehow, by having these possessions restored, they are seeking to hold onto their dear ones?

But is this the highest we wish for those we have loved? Are we seeking in some way to repair them and to bring them back to us, or are we willing to let them go to that better life that Jesus has promised to those who trust in him?

The older we get, the more our bodies are in need of repair, and we are grateful to accept our new hips or knees or cataract operations, or even replacement organs. And while we thank God for walking frames and wonderful friends who help to give us a quality of life, still we know that ‘our outward man is perishing – but’

Oh, we thank God for the ‘but’ for it goes on, ‘but our inward man is being renewed day by day.’ Yes, not just repair, but renewal.

‘Do you think they are looking down on us?’ my neighbour had asked me. Her father had died shortly before my husband. I believe God gave me the words with which I answered her.

‘I know that Joel is totally taken up with Jesus.’

Photo by Nick Scheerbart on Unsplash
Yes, it is painful, oh, so painful to lose our loved ones, but we know it is only for a little
while and we, together with all the redeemed, will be totally taken up with Jesus. No more need of repair. New bodies, a new song, no more sorrow or tears – no more death.

There are some old treasures that have been stored away in our attics and have proved to have become of great value in later years, but not many. More often they have turned to dust and crumbled away. Even those that make their way to the Repair Shop are suffering from the moth and rust of which Jesus speaks.

How much better to give away our unwanted items while they are still of some use to others, and do as Jesus asks us, and lay up treasure in heaven.

May the word of this beautiful poem challenge us yet again.


                                                          My heart is there!

Where, on eternal hills, my loved one dwells

Among the lilies and the asphodels;

Clad in the brightness of the Great White Throne,

Glad in the smile of Him who sits thereon,

The glory gilding all His wealth of hair

And making His immortal face more fair –

THERE IS MY TREASURE and my heart is there.

 

                        My heart is there!

With Him who made all earthly life so sweet,

So fit to live, and yet to die so meet;

So mild, so grand, so gentle and so brave,

So ready to forgive, so strong to save.

His fair, pure Spirit makes the heavens more fair,

And thither rises all my longing prayer –

THERE IS MY TREASURE and my heart is there.

 

                                   

 

 

 

Monday, 10 May 2021

TREASURE IN HEAVEN

I am told that moving house is included among some of the most stressful experiences in life. And here was I, once again moving house.

Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash
Once my husband retired we thought we had settled into our ‘forever’ home. ‘My next move will be up,’ I had declared.


Since leaving my parents’ home as a young woman to go abroad as a missionary, I had rarely lived anywhere for more than two years, if that. But now, no more flat pack furniture for us. We were able to buy the best, and we added lots more ‘clutter’  as the years passed.


Even with my husband preceding me to heaven I had had no thought of moving, but with old age creeping on and declining health I was advised to consider sheltered living. God gave me confirmation that this was his best for me and I was preparing to move into my ‘Eagle’s Nest’ as I was to name my penthouse flat in Stoneleigh Court. I had chosen a two bedroom apartment as I needed a room for my writing as well as all my teaching aids, but even so, there would not be room for some of our larger furniture.


‘You are laying up treasure in heaven,’ was whispered into my heart as I arranged for it to go.

Others in this complex have spoken of the pain of parting with their precious possessions, while others, unable to make the sacrifice, struggle with being over loaded. But how blessed are we who know we have a home prepared for us in heaven and especially to know that we are allowed to send up treasure in advance.


I suppose I have been laying up treasure in heaven ever since I first answered God’s call to go as a missionary. Leaving for New Guinea, they told me I would not be able to return to UK for nine years so I knew it was no use hoarding some of my possessions. My lovely Morris Minor, my first ever car, had to go, together with many precious possessions, as well as renouncing my financial security. And from then on I had not stayed in one place for more than two years. Believe me, I learned not to hoard.


Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash
But now, once again, I am having a big clear out. Teaching the Bible in our local schools for many years, I have accumulated so many visual aids. Coming up to my ninetieth birthday, I had been wondering how long I could continue this ministry, but with Covid 19 and the Lockdown which has followed, I feel that God himself has gently closed the door for me and so, - no good hanging on to all
this ‘stuff’. That which was so valuable, because it was of use, is now ‘clutter’. It must go. Once again I have to remind myself that I am laying up treasure in heaven.


Jesus said, ‘Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’   

I am sharing with you now one of my very favourite poems.

 

MY HEART IS THERE


                      My heart is there!

Where, on eternal hills, my loved one dwells

Among the lilies and the asphodels;

Clad in the brightness of the Great White Throne,

Glad in the smile of Him who sits thereon,

The glory gilding all His wealth of hair

And making His immortal face more fair –

THERE IS MY TREASURE and my heart is there.

 

                        My heart is there!

With Him who made all earthly life so sweet,

So fit to live, and yet to die so meet;

So mild, so grand, so gentle and so brave,

So ready to forgive, so strong to save.

His fair, pure Spirit makes the heavens more fair,

And thither rises all my longing prayer –

THERE IS MY TREASURE and my heart is there.

 

                                    ( A favourite poem of Mrs. Charles Cowman  I believe)

 


Friday, 23 April 2021

BLOG - PRINCE PHILIP

Photo by Hello I'm Nik on Unsplash
I was brought up to love and respect our young princesses. I still remember the broadcast of our young Elizabeth when she dedicated her life to serve her country, so it was no surprise when, already writing poetry, I felt impressed to write a poem for her Diamond Jubilee. I treasure the gracious acknowledgement I received.

But to write concerning the Duke of Edinburgh? Surely that was not for me.


I was not best pleased to find that some of my favourite programmes had been cancelled after they had
announced the sad news of his death, but as the day progressed, filled with so many genuine acknowledgements of his greatness and his service to Queen and country I found a picture building up of a noble life, well lived, and that had to be acknowledged.


Yes, we had loved the romance of our beautiful princess and her handsome and adventurous prince, though I had no idea that he too was of equally royal descent. And only now we hear how much he had sacrificed in having to give up his prestigious naval career in order to be consort, always two steps behind the queen, and sadly, too often a target for the press.


- Wikimedia Commons File: Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, 2006.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
It was when they replayed the scene where he knelt to pledge himself as her liege lord that I began to realise what this life of service had meant. But now God was bringing another picture to my mind. It was of Jesus, Prince of the kings of the earth, kneeling to wash his disciples’ feet; he who told us that true greatness is in our willingness to serve. As the tributes continued to pour in we were given to see the greatness and dignity of this man who, though he may have had a struggle at first, had come not only to accept this position, but to fill it with good humour, grace, and skill too.


Yes, funerals are sad times, but there is also a deep joy when we hear of lives lived with faith in the Son of God, who said that those who believe in him will not see death but will have the light of life. We had known that he joined the royal family in church attendance, but it was heart arming to be assured of his deep Christian faith.


It was with joy and assurance that I wrote and now share with you these verses concerning Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and beloved consort of her majesty Queen Elizabeth.

 

 

                    PRINCE PHILIP

 

Prince among men, who so graciously bowed,

Willingly serving our Queen,

Even as Christ washed the feet of his own

To teach us where true greatness is seen.

 

Prince among men, you answered the call

With good humour to meet each demand

Inspiring our youth to rise up with strength

To serve or maybe even command.

 

Yes, Prince as a husband, a father, a friend

With grace reaching out to each one

Serving the One who is Prince o’er all kings

And who now welcomes him home with ‘Well done!’

 


Thursday, 15 April 2021

BLOG - BIRD SONG

It is important to protect our little ones from too much pain, so when teaching them about the death of Jesus, I always begin with his resurrection - the women coming to the grave, crying and so very sad, and how the sun and flowers and birds are all telling them not to be sad but to be happy. I tell them how, when I

Photo by Tom Bradley on Unsplash

was feeling very sad, my blackbird would come and sing to me, telling me ‘Don’t be sad! Be happy!’

I don’t remember being specially aware of the birds as a child, although we had seen flashes of a kingfisher, and the solitary heron fishing, as well as red   squirrels and rabbits with their babies in our beautiful Wanstead Park. Perhaps it was after I received the Lord Jesus into my life that the birds became so special to me. Like the hymn says:-


          ‘Heaven above is softer blue, earth below is sweeter green

Something lives in every hue Christless eyes have never seen’


I remember our pastor’s wife saying that when Pauline prayed she always thanked God for the birds. And somehow the blackbird for me is the sweetest song of all.


It had been a rainy day. No play time so the children were restless, and by the end of the day I stood at the bus stop, exhausted. The rain was still pouring down but we could see the blackbird high up on the church roof and singing his heart out. This is another precious memory that inspires me to sing, whatever the circumstances.


When, having left all the security I knew to travel non-stop around the world, I woke up in Australia to hear a blackbird. He too seems to be singing his heart out.


I rarely heard birds singing once I was settled in Papua New Guinea, for all they have the exotic birds of paradise, and even when settled back in UK we were living in a new build and I was afraid I might be going deaf, for I never heard the birds. But retired to our ‘forever’ home, as I thought, there were mature gardens and birds all around us. We loved the cheeky robin who kept company with Joel when he was gardening, and once I saw a little wren.


But it was after my beloved husband had died so suddenly that our blackbird became such a friend to me.

Photo by Rainhard Wiesinger on Unsplash

As soon as I opened the front door  he would fly over and regale me with his message. ‘Don’t be sad, be happy!’ as I told the children.


We had loved our retirement home. ‘Our next move will be up,’ I had declared, but with Joel having preceded me to heaven, I had to make one more move and now I live in what I have called ‘My Eagle’s Nest.’ On the top  floor of this complex, I rarely hear bird song – only the gentle cooing of the pigeons. Once, and only once did I hear a blackbird when I was in our ‘secret garden’ as I call it. I’ve heard a thrush overriding the roar of the traffic when walking in the street and I know that somewhere on our overburdened planet can be heard the dawn chorus.


As I have been writing this blog I heard the wonderful testimony of Corrie ten Boom. Prisoners in the terrible death camps, they had been summoned out for roll call in the early hours, at the mercy of the cruelty and abuse of their guards. How could they endure it? Then, far out of sight they heard a skylark thrilling. Day after day God sent this little bird to assure his suffering people that he was there, the God who says, ‘In all your affliction I am afflicted, and the angel of my presence saves.’


There is a hymn I love..


‘If the birds as they sing through the woods Send a murmur of song from each tree  - then these lips too a tribute shall bring.’


Let’s listen to the message of the birds and with as much voice as we have,  join them in praising our Maker.


BIRD SONG


I hear the doves sad cooing all day long,

But how I long to hear my blackbird’s song,

Though skylark’s far beyond my eye can see,

Singing and dancing there with ecstasy

 

Wise thrush still pours his joyous tune twice o’er

Though nightingale sings in night time even more.

Glad dawn when all unite, one joyous throng,

But still I need to hear my blackbird’s song -

          ‘Don’t be sad, Be glad! Be glad!

           Don’t be sad! Be glad!

 

‘Twas in my grief you met me with this song

To teach me, e’en in pain, to sing along,

And He who shares our loss does still draw near

 And sends him yet again our hearts to cheer –

          ‘Don’t be sad! Be glad! Be glad!

           Don’t be sad! Be glad!’

 

 


Monday, 29 March 2021

PRAISING OR WEEPING

I was recently asked to write a meditation based on the story of Ezra’s rebuilding of the temple. The Jews had been living in exile for seventy years, as had been prophesied, and then miraculously King Cyrus, had been used by God to help them to return to their own land.

But returning was not easy. It took yet other prophets to inspire them to build up the walls of Jerusalem, and eventually to begin to rebuild their temple, God’s home. The verses I was asked to write about were Ezra 3:10-13


The foundations at last had been laid. It should have been such a joyful occasion, and yet - .Yes, there
was a joyful outpouring of praise, yet, with the shouting and singing there was also weeping.

Photo by Gadiel Lazcano on Unsplash
I felt the Holy Spirit was searching my heart. Where would I have stood in that great company? When you are old it is easy to look back to the good old days.


As a young Christian I was privileged to go to ‘The Mount’ as we used to call Penygroes, - a little Welsh mining village where each year the nations gathered to worship God and receive his ministry to us. It had started out of the Welsh revival, and God was still doing wonderful things.


But even then, there were those who would tell us that things were not as  good as they used to be, but for us they were days of heaven on earth. When working abroad as a missionary, the ‘Penygroes week’ was the time I felt home-sick, longing to be there.  


But years later, now as a Pastor’s wife, I found that I was giving assent to the critics who looked back to the ‘good old days’. That was, until I met this couple who had come for the first time. For them it was days of heaven on earth, just as it had been for us. I was convicted. I realised it was I who had changed, not God. I realised too that if I would come, seeking him, that he would always be found by me. Faithful God, so unchanging!


On a lonely mission station in the Highlands of New Guinea, a colleague  had pinned a banner to the woven grass walls of his office.


          HALLELUJAH ANYWAY


It had been a struggle for me to accept the teaching that we should praise God for everything, or at least in everything, because we can trust him to make all things work together for good. Having eventually accepted it I find I cannot get away from it.

Photo by Elisabeth Wales on Unsplash

Someone said that we have three choices when something seemingly bad happens.

 1) We can refuse to accept this circumstance and fight against it.

 2) We can grit our teeth as something bad that we have to endure, or

 3)We can open our hearts and embrace it as something God has allowed and  trust him to work out his good purpose in our lives.


With David we can say, ‘I will bless the Lord at all times,’ and join with the praisers, not the weepers,
as foundations are still being laid for God’s temple.


Have we courage too, to raise a banner and say

          HALLELUJAH ANYWAY?


Thursday, 11 March 2021

BLOG –PANCAKES and LENT

Whether or not we observe the feast days of the church depends very much on our upbringing. As a child I remember being taken to the local church for Ascension Day, yet now very few even remember this special day.

I was brought up to keep the Jewish Passover as a special day. This was the one day of the year when we celebrated the Lord’s Supper, - Communion.


It came as a surprise to me when I found some friends refused  chocolate, because it was Lent. Yes, we all know about Shrove Tuesday because we always enjoy pancakes, and then there was Ash Wednesday, but I wasn’t sure what that was all about.

Photo by Dazedream on Unsplash

But now I have friends who are very serious about Lent, linking it not only with the days when Our Lord was facing the cross, but also with the forty days and forty nights when Jesus fasted in the wilderness.


You may remember how Jesus, after the long years of waiting, patiently labouring as a carpenter, knew at last that the time had come to begin his ministry. He joined his cousin John the Baptist on the banks of the Jordan where he was preaching and asked him to baptise him too. There God not only spoke to him out of heaven, but he also sent the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, to rest on him. Now at last Jesus must have thought he was ready to begin his ministry.


But no, not yet, it seems. For it says the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness where for forty days he was tempted of the devil. It is these forty days that we are remembering when we keep Lent.


Maybe I should be keeping it too. So, does that mean I have to give up chocolate? I have to be very careful in what I eat, and, like the Queen I believe, enjoy a piece of dark chocolate to finish off my dinner. I did not think God wanted me to give this up. But what about sharing with my sisters in using a special devotional each morning through these forty days? Oh yes! That is proving a special blessing.


One morning recently I found myself struggling with negative feelings, hurts that I had thought long forgiven, stirred up again. It went on all day. I remembered the story of Abraham how, having laid out his sacrifice for God he spent all day driving away the birds that sought to devour it. Even so, I was struggling to deal with these negative and poisonous thoughts.


Suddenly, my struggle was over, for God had reminded me that Jesus had been driven into the wilderness for forty days to be tempted of the Devil. Somehow I had thought these had been wonderful days of prayer and it was only at the end that the Devil had appeared with his three temptations, but no. It seems it had been unremitting.
Photo by Marcelo Novais on Unsplash

So should I be surprised that I too should be attacked by his enemy and ours? I felt greatly comforted, and thankfully, delivered too.

How we love to celebrate the joy of Easter Sunday, and for those who have foregone chocolate for Lent, Easter Eggs too, which tell the story of the empty tomb. But let us be so thankful that we have a Saviour who understands all our struggles, and  who was willing, not only to die, but also to spend those dread days and nights in the wilderness tempted of the Devil for our sake.