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.  


Thursday, 18 February 2021

BLOG - GLIMPSES OF GLORY


I have always loved the sea. As little children we would go on holiday to our grandparents, at Lowestoft with its wonderful beaches. Driving down from London in the Green Line coach, how excited we were when we saw our first glimpse of the sea.

Now I live in Porthcawl, a beautiful seaside town where, once the sun comes out, people flock from  miles around. Driving back from Bridgend I would experience that same thrill at getting a glimpse of the sea, yes, sometimes a shimmer of silver between the gaps in the hills and at others a Mediterranean blue.

As children we were longing to be on that lovely sandy beach and dipping our toes in the waves until at last we were actually dipping and diving through the breakers. On days when the sea was too rough for us to venture in I can remember standing on the steps and enjoying the spray from the breakers crashing below.

Stuart Carey at www.freelyphotos.com

My days of swimming are past and my mobility such that, unless a friend gives me a lift, all I can get is a glimpse of the sea in the distance, but oh, just a glimpse seems to breathe life into me. I can’t walk far these days, and am grateful for my walker, but I can make it to the end of our street and around the corner, and there it is, sometimes just a blob of grey, but at others there it is, glinting in the sunshine. 

But there are other glimpses which give me life and give me determination to live life to its full. These are glimpses of heaven. It may be as I talk with a friend, or even a stranger who becomes a friend because Jesus has drawn near to us.

I can remember being in the Penygroes convention where thousands were gathered,  and it seemed that together we were being bathed in the glorious fountain of God’s love, but others times, when alone, it was as if some verse in the Bible had been lit up in gold. He was speaking to me.

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash
In these days of lock-down, days can seem grey and depressing, yet at the close of the day we may say, as did those two  disciples who were returning to their home in Emmaus, ‘Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he walked with is by the way?’  Yes,
we too have had glimpses of glory.

These days I have to make an effort to have just a glimpse of the sea, and even so we have to make an effort, yes determine to find those glimpses of glory, as we set aside time for prayer or Bible reading or even zoom fellowship.

         

ONLY A GLIMPSE

 

Only a shimmer of silver, but –

Our very first glimpse of the sea

And our hearts beat with joy, three girls and one boy,

Of the fun that was soon to be.

How into the waves we’d be dipping

Though oft from the breakers we’d flee

But it wouldn’t be long we’d be swimming so strong

Water babies, made for the sea.

 

And still sometimes a shimmer of silver

Reminds us of pleasure that’s past,

And though our days in the sea may be over

There are joys that for ever will last.

For God gives us glimpses of glory

That come from a far distant shore

And of joy that will be in eternity

Where sorrow and pain are no more.

 

So watch out for those shimmers of silver

Hear the voice that calls from afar

For One has been sent to show us the way

It is Jesus, the Bright Morning Star.

 

 

   

Monday, 1 February 2021

STRONG MEN NEEDED – besides the women

 Our pastor has been taking us through the story of Joshua, and now was painting a graphic picture. The whole nation had assembled on the banks of the turbulent river Jordan, but before God worked the miracle of causing the river to dry up, the priests had had to take the great risk of carrying the ark right into the water. Then, and only then did the waters cease to flow and they were able to stand right in the middle of the river bed while the whole nation crossed. It must have taken many hours. Now at last they too could cross to safety, - but no.

Joshua had a last command. He called out one man specially chosen from each of the twelve tribes to go back into the river bed and to carry back a boulder, obviously the bigger the better, so that they might build a monument there, on the banks of the river.

Photo by Stephen Walker on Unsplash
For what purpose? It was to be a memorial, so that they might tell the story to their
children and this wonderful story never be forgotten. I love this, for it is always on my heart that we must teach our children. But what arrested me now as we were told this story was the picture of these strong men hefting the boulders onto their shoulders. Joshua had obviously been considering their strength when he had selected them.

I remember  watching  the contest for Britain’s Strongest Man as they too had lifted boulders of ever increasing weight. They had obviously been in training, working out at the gym day after day. So, how would these men Joshua had selected have been training? No gyms in those days. It must have been just the rigor of life in the wilderness that had been used to develop their strength. Maybe it was on those days when everything had seemed to go wrong that their strength had been tested to the hilt. Perhaps a cart had been stuck and they been called to help get it out of the mire or up an incline, or a bull had had to be wrestled into submission. Perhaps they were not too pleased that having proved their strength they were the first to be called in an emergency, but oh, how glad they must have been to have been called on this occasion to represent their tribe to build this lasting memorial.

God was speaking to me through this story, telling me that it is in days when the load seems to be getting heavier, and others seem to look to us to help to bear their burdens, that God is strengthening us and preparing us for future opportunities and privileges of service.

There is a precious promise Jesus gave his first disciples, a promise for us too, that when they had to endure hard experiences that ‘it would be turned to  a testimony.’(Luke 21:13)

Lockdown and Covid seem to be hard and ongoing trials, but let us trust that even this can be used by God as part of his training, and yes, that even this will  turn out to be a testimony.

 

 

Monday, 18 January 2021

19TH January 2021 – A BIG BIRTHDAY

Yes, I know Moses was still leading a nation at ninety, and some have lived even to a hundred and twenty, but still to be living and active and enjoying  life at ninety years is something worth celebrating.

I would have loved to have shared a celebratory meal with you, to give thanks to him who has lead us thus far, but since we are under lockdown, I hope you will enjoy yet another of my poems; - yes,

 

NINETY – AND STILL CLIMBING

 

Once a toddler – tottering, stumbling

Hesitant, yet made for running.

Photo by Patrick Mueller on Unsplash
No more wondering, - now seeking, going

On, in all unknowing

For the mountains you are made

 

Ever stumbling, sometimes falling

Yet still rising and aspiring

Stepping out – yes, made for climbing -

Foothills now, yet ever rising

For the mountains I am made.

 

Now at last the Way I’m finding

Leading onward, ever climbing

Knowing I can not say ‘Nay,’

For my Guide is onward leading.

Will I love him, trust him, heed him?

Dare to follow in his Way?

 

As the path is growing steeper

So his love seems ever deeper.

Reaching upward, I obey.

One more step, and ever onward

Still one next step and onward, forward

To reach eternal hills, eternal day.

 

New day, new hope, new strength, still forward

Till now in the eternal hills we’ll stay.

 No more big O’s but life eternal

Eternal joy! Eternal day!

 

 

 

If you had known me as a child you would not have expected me at this age to be writing about mountains. I was not an adventurer. When an uncle lifted me up to sit on his shoulders it seemed to be an impossible height. I was terrified and screamed to be put down.

Some people see mountains as a challenge to climb them. But others are convinced  they have nothing to do with them.  I was definitely of the latter.

 

A school mate once told me I was a stick in the mud. She was right. No doubt about it. That was, until Jesus came knocking on the door of my heart. How thankful I am that he gave me courage to open to him. I learned the simplicity of following Jesus, choosing him or denying him.

But who would have thought that nervous little Pauline would one day go as a missionary?

 

When I said yes to God’s call, I  presumed that he knew I couldn’t go anywhere where there were mountains -  or log bridges, - also that a husband would be included. But in my early thirties, still single, there I was in the remote Highlands of New Guinea.

 

But it was there that it does not take great courage to climb mountains, just a willingness to take the next step, and to trust in the one who has promised never to leave us.

Today, many years later, I am still climbing mountains; no, not now the physical ones as there, but the  lessons I learned while overcoming  my fear of mountains  has given me courage to continue to climb mountains spiritually.

 

 

Yes, I have made it to ninety. Looking back, I thank God for all the way he has led me. Looking on, I know I do not need to fear death for he has promised me everlasting life. Meanwhile I accept every day God gives me as his very special gift. Ninety and  still climbing.

 

 

 

Photo by Nick Stephenson on Unsplash

 

 

Monday, 4 January 2021

The New Normal

 Preparing for Christmas was so exciting, especially for children. Leading up to the big day there were decorations, parties, carol singing, wrapping up presents, until at last - Christmas day! One long explosion of delight!

As a child I don’t remember much about it being Jesus’ birthday, except that we had to listen to the Bible story being read before we had any presents, but then – oh, the excitement. In the afternoon the aunts and uncles came and mysteriously Uncle Hedley disappeared and then, there was Father Christmas himself ringing the doorbell.

We had been taught that Father Christmas was not true, but even so, we were thrilled. Then fun and games and a wonderful supper, but eventually it was all over.

Boxing Day was all right. Playing with our new toys, and always ‘Thank-you’ letters to write. I enjoyed that. Maybe I was a writer, even then. Hopefully we had been given some books, and some new game to play, but even so, the days seem long and dull after the excitement of Christmas.

Christmas has been very different this year, but even so for me it has been a wonderful time and now - back to normal. Only life is not normal any more, yet God is seeking to teach me, in this new norm, to learn to be content.

It was definitely a new normal for the folk who lived in Bethlehem, once Jesus was born. It was some of them who had driven Joseph and Mary from their doors, but after being wakened by the shepherds, shouting to the house tops of the angelic host coming to announce the joyful tidings, do you think that Baby was left, lying in a manger, the parents still homeless?

I love to picture the children begging their parents to be able to go and see this very special baby, and then of course would come the pleading,

‘Mum, couldn’t we make room for them? Couldn’t we? Please?’

We know that somebody made room and gave them a home, for by the time the wise men arrived the star was over a house and for a few months the family were yes, at home in Bethlehem.

And now, as we all have to return to our new normal, there is someone who stands


at our door and knocks, and to us is given the wonderful privilege of welcoming Jesus, not only to come in as a guest, but to be at home with us.

When visitors come we might need to tidy away some of the magazines or maybe videos, but if someone has come to stay we want to make sure that their choice becomes our choice because we will be doing life together. If Christ is to be at home in our hearts the new normal may not necessarily be easy, but it will be very precious.

          May our new norm in 2021 be to know Christ making his home in our hearts through love, with all the wonderful blessings that this relationship must bring.

                                        NEW YEAR 2021

If we’d known all that loomed in this year that is past

          Would we dared have stepped out of the door?

But now older and wiser for all we’ve been through

          We need God as never before.

 

For He is the one who alone knows the way -

          Who leads and protects through the storm

He’s the Shepherd, who’s promised to care and to guide,

          In pandemic, or in life at its norm.

 

So we’re praying for joy, whate’er lies ahead

          (Just a day at a time is life given)

And peace as we trust in our Father above

          And pray for the Kingdom of Heaven.