Thursday, March 31, 2005

Walking on Air

I am rather chuffed! I joined a Christian writer's website last year, Faithwriters.com. I love to enter the challenges that crop up every week. The most recent challenge was set by a fellow member and friend - to write a devotional. My devotional will be published in a newsletter called Cross Times. Here it is:-

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Check Mates

When the teacher who ran the chess club at school retired, I took up the mantle. All the chess sets, boards and books moved into my room. We run a very casual club. Occasionally we take trips to other schools to play in tournaments. The most recent tournament took place on a Saturday in a town at the other end of Loch Ness.

This particular tournament set no age limits. A small seven year old boy might find himself seated opposite a strapping sixteen year old girl. Beginners might find themselves playing against experts. Each player accumulated a score through a number of rounds. Some of the games were over quickly, as the experts strutted their stuff on the chess boards. Between games there were spare chess sets to practise on, and a football to kick around if you preferred.

One of the older girls was often the last to finish each of her games, and her opponent always had a good selection of captured pieces. She went on to win the tournament.

When asked why she took so long to play her matches, she explained that she did not want her opponents to feel that they had been easily beaten and become so discouraged that they eventually stop playing chess altogether. Once she realised that she could beat her opponent, particularly with the beginners, rather than end the match as quickly as possible, she allowed her pieces to get captured. Games that ended too quickly disheartened the looser, so she deliberately allowed them a few small victories. She knew that she would win in the end and could afford to give up some of her pieces.

I was challenged by her attitude. We all have the desire to win but do not often consider feelings of person that loses. Sometimes we are too ruthless in how we live our lives, not allowing ourselves to give up our "pieces" that others might have their victories too.

"A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out." (Isaiah 42:3)

"We are in this together!"

Reading the book of Judges this morning, I came across Jephthah. He made a very rash vow that if God gave him victory in the battle be would sacrifice the first thing that came out of his house on his return. It wasn't the dog that rushed out to greet him, all tail wagging and tongue licking, but his daughter dancing and playing a tambourine. He was gutted, but she was determined that he would fulfil the vow made to God.

I say to myself that I would never make that kind of a vow - I am too cautious, and I play safe! It was a thoroughly painful vow, and not convenient to keep, but he did not lay it aside to take an easier route!

No, I would never make that kind of a vow, but it doesn't stop me saying things that if people take me at my word, can make things inconvenient! On Tuesday night at the church prayer meeting I remember saying "We are in this together!" The mothers had been feeling the pressure of Easter holidays and being at home with the children. They felt they were loosing it - tempers were being frayed, they were saying and acting in very un-Christ-like ways. Not being a mother, but a teacher, I am enjoying a couple of weeks away from the pressure of children. It is easy to feel isolated when you are at home all day with fighting children. When you hear that tone in your voice and know that you are loosing it, it is just so much the worse. Shouting doesn't achieve anything constructive, but you do it anyway.

When I said, at the prayer meeting "We are in this together" I seriously believe that we are. We strive to get our individual life with Jesus spot on, but neglect the corporate nature of our faith. We are called to pray together, the weep together, to fight together. If we need help we should be able to call on one another and know that we have support.

One lady took it on board and phoned me! She was feeling ill with the flu and needed shopping to be done - I had a hair appointment and it was inconvenient, but I managed to scoot a trolley around the supermarket to buy her something to keep her going. It was not convenient. I have a million other things pressing to be done. But like Jephthah - the words I spoke on Tuesday could not be laid aside for convenience sake.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

An "Egg"traordinary Tale

This morning while I was delivering Joe to work, I was listening to a talk radio station complaining about seagulls. Apparently they (?) are campaigning for a law to fine people if they feed seagulls. It encourages the seagulls to hang about the city streets and make nests on the flat roofs of some buildings, when they should be by the beach eating fish.

Thinking about seagulls and nests on flat roofed buildings, it brought to mind something from a few years back. It actually had nothing to do with either seagulls or flat roofed buildings.

As a church we used to meet in a hotel building in the centre of the town. The room that we used had a window that took up the whole side of one wall. The window gave us a good view of the shopping street below. It also gave the shoppers below a good view of us! Watching us as we clapped hands and swayed from side to side, never developed into coming up the stairs to get a better view!

Directly opposite were the windows and the window ledges of a solicitor's office. One morning we had a visiting speaker from Glasgow. I guess in Glasgow they do not worship with their eyes closed! He watched as a pigeon landed on the window ledge of the solicitor's office and laid an egg. There was no nest, just the plain concrete window ledge and the pigeon just laid its egg and flew off. How irresponsible is that?

Yesterday in my walk in the forest I came across two or three smashed eggs. I don't think they were the hen variety. I can just imagine the hard work of the parent birds to make the nest and line it with moss before the eggs were laid. Maybe the nest wasn't secure enough, or some nasty cuckoo elbowed their precious egg out of the way to make way for an impostor egg. At least they had a nest and didn't just lay the egg on an empty branch!

God does not plant the seeds of His dreams and plans into our lives like the pigeon that lays its egg on a window ledge. He builds a nest with His Word and lines it with His promises. Our faith secures the nest and our alertness to the enemy protects the new life He births within us.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A Walk on the "Not So Wild" Side

I went for a walk today. It wasn't one of those brisk power-walking exercises but a slow ramble. The last time I went there, to the woods near Moniak, was sometime last year. The Forestry Commission had closed them off. Well they were open today, complete with proper markers for the route and information boards telling you lots of interesting things about the trees and the plants. It is a scientific preserve because it has a rare species of moss that is found nowhere else on the planet! The forest is also home to the tallest tree in Great Britain. How do they measure these things? I dare say that it is probably not by a wee man climbing up it and dropping a tape measure down!

I met four dogs and three people on my walk, but for the most part I was alone. I like being with people, but I am glad that I was alone. It was very peaceful and quiet. It was nature-quiet, which isn't really quiet at all. The river was very noisy. I wish I knew more about distinguishing bird songs as there was quite a bit of that.

I sat down on every available seat along the route, not because I was worn out, just because I wanted to stop and take it all in.

Everything was turning green. There were no leaves on the trees, but there was a lot of moss and lichen. It was very lime green and draped over branches. All the fallen trees and cut down logs were covered in the stuff. Bits of it had fallen off the tree and lay on the floor like the tree was shedding skin. You could almost feel things growing around you.

There was a very strong smell of wild garlic in one part of the forest.

It is not a natural forest, but planted by someone over a hundred years ago. A man travelled around the world and brought back seedlings of different kinds of trees and plants. He planted them to look like a natural garden. He built a stone bridge and a ruined folly. He created something quite beautiful.

What he saw then and what I see today must be so different. I see the mature trees when he saw just seedlings. I see how everything has grown together and matured. I see how the birds, the insects, the mice and the lichen have all moved in to what he planted and made it home.

It is something that God has planted in the hearts of people - the need to create. So we get cathedrals and great works of art, but I am glad that there are people who create something growing and changing like a forest.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Remembering

For the first few months of last year I regularly wrote to a friend of mine. She was going through a rather tough wilderness time and she never wrote back. I stopped writing for a while because it felt like I was talking to myself. Eventaully she did write and told me that my letters really encouraged her.

Becuase I had typed all the letters on the computer, I had copies of them all. it is nice to re-read the letters and remember the events that happened during that time. If I had not got the letters to look back on I wonder how many of those things would have been forgotten.

The early chapters of the book of Judges highlight that it took just one generation for the Israelites to forget God, to not know what he did in the wilderness for their ancestors. So many things had been put into place to help the people to remember - all the festivals like the Passover, the pile of stones next to the Jordan River - and yet they had forgotten.

I am glad that I kept a copy of my letters on the computer. I can look back over those six months and see the things that God did. I suppose one reason for blogging here is so that I can look back and read it all and remember. If I don't write anything down, I won't have anything to prompt my memory.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Cleopas

I cannot stop the words
That tumble from my lips
I cannot slow my heartbeat
It jumps, it leaps, it skips

To think my homeward journey
Began with heavy tread
To think my heart was aching
With tears I could not shed

I thought my hopes so fragile
My faith so newly found
Lay broken into fragments
And scattered on the ground

The man I chose to follow
Lay cold within his grave
Gone was my Messiah
The One who came to save

A hand upon my shoulder
Awoke me from my thought
My company along the road
Is what the stranger sought

How could I not have known him?
How blind I must have been!
I listened to his words
And a fire burned within

He opened up the scriptures
The things prophets said
About his broken body
And why his blood was shed.

Oh yes, I was a fool
That I had not believed
Could never have imagined
The plan that God conceived

As we neared Emmaus
I asked that he would stay
I suddenly began to fear
That he might go away

Giving thanks and breaking
The bread held in his hand
At last my eyes were opened
To all that God had planned

What joy that He has risen!
The sting of death - no more!
What praise, what adoration
Before his throne I'll pour!

(c) Melanie Kerr 2005

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Waiting for Mr Blair

I was recently challenged to come up with a 500 article on procrastination - here is the result!

Dear Mr Blair,

I would like to make a serious complaint about your procrastination. I know that you are probably very busy right now with gearing up for the next election, picking fights with members of your cabinet, your backbenchers and the opposition party, but, I would like to refresh you memory about something you promised to do when you first came to office.

You remember that catch phrase of yours? "Education! Education! Education!" You probably said lots of other things too as potential Prime Ministers do to persuade people to vote for them! As part of your education shake-up you promised to get rid of bad teachers.

I waited patiently to be found and got rid of! I wasn't quite sure whether you had worked out exactly how I was going to meet my pedagogical end, but I was confident that it would happen. I had mentally spent the redundancy money on financing a book. I had even written the opening chapter - "Teaching - Go Get Your Head Examined." But you didn't come.

I had to find something to do with all the pupils you had left me with, so I wrote new units of work to keep up my writing skills. I discovered how to use a computer and spent hours surfing the net looking for interesting information to hold their interest. I put up interesting displays on the classroom walls. I took them on visits to Museums and Art galleries and even spent a week with them trudging around the countryside on a filed trip on the Isle of Mann looking at Celtic crosses and stone circles in empty fields. It was horrible - the more interesting my lessons became, the more pupils kept opting into them! I developed ways of managing the disruptive pupils, and inspiring the very able at the same time! And all the while I waited, but you didn't come!

With every class room door that opened I expected to see you waiting there with open arms ready to lead me to my new life - BUT YOU DIDN'T COME!

And while I was waiting what do I find you doing? Looking for bad dictators of Middle Eastern countries to chase across deserts; looking for terrorists that threaten our democratic way of life; looking for bad doctors who risk the lives of their patients with careless medical procedures; looking for huntsmen who gallop across the countryside on horses chasing harmless foxes.

In all this "looking for" and "chasing", I have been waiting. I would like to tell you that you can stop looking for me now. While you have been procrastinating in your duty to find bad teachers, this one in grew into being a good teacher. The book has never been written and the opening chapter had been re-titled "Teaching - A Fulfilling Experience".

However, be assured that I can never vote of you. You have shown yourself to be a man who does not keep his word!

Yours sincerely,

Mel K