Friday, April 28, 2006

Reclaiming Eden

"I've done what I set out to do
His image in them marred.
They leave this paradise of His
With lives forever scarred"

The glorious snake with glinting scales
Slid sinuously on the ground
A crafty reptile, sleek and sly
He moved without a sound

"I've soiled His love for human kind
I've wrecked His precious plan
Can Eden ever be reclaimed?
Oh No! It never can!"

Then fluttered down a peaceful bird
A pure and gentle dove
"You foolish snake, you cannot see
You're wrong about His love"

"Before this world came into being
He saw this tragic day
And in His mind conceived a plan
To wash this sin away"

"The woman's seed will crush your head.
A promise, firm and true
He will reclaim the lives you stained
Despite all you can do."

"His love bars them from Eden's tree
This tree - the Tree of Life
To eat this fruit their lives would be
Unending, full of strife."

"Some day they will return with joy
And take their rightful place
And gaze on Him with wondrous love
And know His awesome grace"

Monday, April 24, 2006

Mel, why are your hands so soft?

Those of us that are old enough can remember the old Fairy Liquid adverts that include the question, "Mummy, why are your hands so soft?" In this day of political correctness, they don't show them anymore just in case gender roles are stereotyped and Daddy doesn't help with the housework!

My hands are soft right now. For my birthday, Joe bought me a tub of hand cream from Lush. The product is called "Smitten" and contains almond oil. It is a very rich cream. The tub sits on the coffee table in the front room and I suppose that because it is not tucked away on a bathroom shelf it is getting used. I sit down after I have done the washing up, or finished doing something on the cleaning front, and the tub is right there. Sitting down to watch TV, the tub is right there, accessible. Using the stuff often during the day, has gradually built up a softness in my hands that wasn't there before.

This morning as I was rubbing in the usual blob of cream, the Holy Spirit brought to mind something that had been mentioned in church months ago. Shields in Roman times were made of leather and were protected by oil being rubbed into them. Without the oil, the leather dried out and cracks appeared. The protection the shield offered was no longer reliable.

As I was rubbing my hands together, I just imagined the Holy Spirit massaging my inner self. I imagined the Spirit rubbing in His joy, His peace, His kindness - those essential fruits of the Spirit into the very heart of me. I wanted it not to be just a surface wipe over, but a deep kneading - to get below the surface.

My hands are soft because I often dip into my tub of hand cream. A single application does not last forever! I don't think a once only application of the ministrations of the Holy Spirit will do that much lasting good either. His work needs to be repeated over and over again. I have got into a habit of rubbing the cream into my hands - how much more would the Holy Spirit like to get into a habit of rubbing in his oil of joy to prevent my heart drying out and cracks appearing?

Currently I am wading through writing third year reports, with first year reports waiting in the wings. It is a busy time of the school year. I want to make sure that I don't neglect time spent with God. Now is not the time for cracking up!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

With rings on her fingers...

The ring on my little finger is made from Venetian glass. It is not tiny or delicate or conservative, like the kind of jewellry that I would usually opt for, but loud and big and very purple. It began the day on the little finger of my right hand but got in the way of writing, so I moved it to the little finger of my left hand, next to the tiny, delicate and conservative engagement and wedding rings. I don't think it has become comfortable on my hand but I am determined to wear it!

You see, Joe bought it me on his recent trip away to Orkney and Shetland. He likes buying me interesting things that are not run-of-the-mill. I was thinking when he gave it to me, with an enthusiastic flourish of a little orange bag that it came in, and an eager expression on his face, that very often the things he buys me stay safely tucked away in the boxes and the bags in a drawer somewhere and very occasionally see the light of day.

If you are a giver of gifts, when you give someone something and then never see them wear it, or use it, it has got to be quite soul destroying. So I determined to wear the ring. It is purple so that does put a limit on when I can wear it. It is a lovely ring and a wonderfully rich colour. Joe bought it me so I wear it!

I can remember once going through a difficult spell I was just keeping my head above water and seriously feeling like I was coming close to drowning once or twice. During a quiet time with God I had the impression that God was saying that I was making life much more difficult than it needed to be. Imagine if someone had all the resources that you needed to make your way through the day and it was all there just laid on the table for you to freely take and use. At the end of the day - all that stuff is still there, untouched, unused and ignored. You sit there moaning about how difficult life is and yet you never touch the stuff that would not just sustain you through the day, but give you the upper hand. That is what I felt that God was trying to tell me - the He had given me all the resources I needed and yet I was trying to manufacture something in my own strength to help me through the day. The bottom line is that by turning my back on his resources I was insulting God.

Maybe that is why I hi-jacked the prayer meeting the other night - there was too much stuff laid on the table that was in danger of being ignored! God is gracious in giving us all that we need for life and godliness - but are we humble, or desperate, or hungry enough to take hold of it and use it?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

His answer

I stand alone imprisoned here
My thoughts a downward spin
My fears in solitude grow large
And turmoil swirls within

A question asked, an answer sought
I wait as death steals near
I must know I fulfilled my task
My doubts must disappear

He is the chosen man of God
I saw the white dove's flight
And as the man shed water's cloak
On him it did alight

I heard the voice, a thunderous roar
That rent the heavens apart
"This is my son, the one I love"
So God reveals His heart

But was I wrong? Is He the man?
This humble gentle soul?
Can He restore this shattered world?
Make what was broken whole?

His words are wise, and full of power
He speaks and strongholds fall
Men cast aside their fishing nets
To hearken to His call

"The demons run, and blind men see
The crippled stand and walk
The deaf hear praise from lepers cleansed
And silent tongues? They talk"

His answer comes, and peace bursts forth
My task, His herald, done
My mission ends, my task complete
While His has just begun.

Questions and answers

I have just been writing my entry for the FW weekly challenge. I have gone up a level in the competition - up to Level 4 called "Masters". It sounds entirely like a golf or snooker tournament to me.

The topic was "Fulfilment" and I had a number of ideas creeping around my head before I settled on something completely different.

The article was based on John the Baptist's question sent via his disciples to Jesus - "Are you the one who was to come, or should we wait for someone else?" It put me in mind of other great questions in the Bible - and why the answer matters. In no particular order:-

God's question to Adam - "Where are you?" To think that we can hide from God, or to think that there is ever a time when God doesn't know exactly where we are is to make a big mistake! I am sure that Adam didn't really know at all where he was - in the time it took to bite an apple the scenery and landscape changed. Everything familiar faded as fear swept in.

God's question to Cain - "Where is your brother Abel?" It is bad enough working out where we are in life - but God also expects us to know where other people are too! We don't get asked the whereabouts of strangers - but family is a different matter. God expects me to know where they are. He has made me accountable for aspects of their life and their walk with Jesus.

Jesus' question to a blind man - "What do you want me to do for you?" Sometimes you think it is kind of obvious what people want - but people are complicated. Jesus takes his cue from the blind man, knowing perfectly well how much he can transform the man's life in so many ways. Maybe the question would be better phrased - "What will you allow me to do for you?" Hmm...

Jesus' question to Simon Peter - "Do you love me?" Somewhere Jesus talks about a man who says that he did miracles in Jesus name, and that he cast out demons in Jesus name. Jesus went on to call that man a stranger who he did not know. It is not what we do that counts - or what we can't do that counts against us. It is why we do what we do - what motivates us should be our love for Jesus.

Jesus' question to God - "Why have you forsaken me?" Jesus spent his whole knowing the presence of God. There had not been one single moment up until then when Jesus did not experience God's intimacy. Jesus must have experienced something similar to Adam in that the relationship with God that he known all his life was no longer there. We know what it is like not to live our lives in God's presence, and sometimes we allow that intimacy to slip away. Because of Jesus, I can be sure of God's promise that he will never leave me, or abandon me.

King Xerxes to Queen Esther - "What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you." I have been reading the book of Esther over the last week or so. My imagination was captured by the idea of Esther clothed in royal robes, standing in at the entrance to the King's palace. As he extends the sceptre to her, he invites her into his presence. I am reminded that I too am clothed in royal robes, and that I have access into the throne room of my King, to make known the things on my heart.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Love engraved in my life

I was out exploring the other end of the Caledonian Canal, where it leaks out into Loch Ness. The outdoors just called to me yesterday, so I collected a bag full of breadcrumbs and headed off to Dochgarich where there are a couple of locks on the canal and a path to amble along.

The canal runs parallel to the river for quite a while. On my left was the canal, very tranquil and quiet, with the occasional boat motoring up or down it. On my right, a mere few yards away was the river - very noisy, and lively, with swirls and eddies. I was amazed to discover that the canal was flowing in the opposite direction to the river - I checked it out with Pooh-sticks! Which one would I prefer to be out in a canoe on? The canal would probably be the safest, except when motor boats came along. The river, infinitely more challenging I would imagine, and more interesting. Actually, I think I would prefer not to be out in a canoe at all!

There were lots of interesting trees along the side of the canal. I don't know varieties of trees, but some had multiple trunks that wound round each other, very think and very twisted and probably very old. Most of them had been marked in some way, not by the passage of nature, but by the penknife of man! There were weathered dates and initials but one trunk bore the words - "JESUS LOVES YOU, CHRIST DIED FOR SINNERS"

Is vandalism always vandalism no matter what has been written? I remembered a time when I was a young Christian reading the graffiti written on the back of a toilet door. Some of it was witty, but most comprised of who loved who and who "waz ere" and when. I thought about adding my own contribution along the lines of "Jesus loves you", but then vandalism is vandalism, damage to someone else's property is still damage not matter what your intentions are. I put my pen away.

The words on the tree reminded me of something I knew to be true. Being reminded is a good thing. For someone who did not know Jesus - would the words have meant anything? I think people learn about the love of God through the love his people show. Christ would want to engrave each of my words and each of my actions with a message of his love. In each encounter I have with people they need to be able to read the love of God written into my life.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

A last walk with Spike

On Friday we had the sad news that Spikey Boy had passed away. It was very sad. He was not a young dog anyway, but recently he had developed a heart condition that lead to him being put down. I know that he was in a dog's home in Ilfracombe and we just sponsored him, but yesterday I decided to imagine that I was taking him for a last walk along the Caledonian Canal - I was there for real, but Spike was there in my imagination!

It was a lovely morning, and last Sunday one of the things spoken about in my breaking free was about the need to get out and enjoy nature. I don't want people to speak into my life and not put it into practice, but it has rained throughout the week. Yesterday was a bright and dry morning. Because of the wet days beforehand, it was quite muddy, with lots of puddles for Spike to trail through.

There were no other dogs, and very few people. One couple we met were armed with binoculars trained on a huddle of seagulls squatting on an empty pontoon in the marina. Seagulls are just seagulls to me, and I don't differentiate between the varieties - guillemots and such. The other couple were canal workers. It must have been low tide as they were able to wade ankle deep at the edge of the canal picking up rubbish and putting it in black bags. They were chatting as they paddled along.

We saw two swans. The one piece of information that always surfaces about swans comes from watching a film with Drew Barrymore in it. Swans mate for life. They remain faithful to one another throughout their life span. These were very elegant swans. They always remind me of sailing boats with full white sails. Your ducks and things are like the motor boats chugging along, but swans - they sail.

One of the saddest things we saw, on the bank of the canal where the workers had not yet reached, on a stone step leading down to the water, was a single empty syringe. I guess that Inverness has its fair share of drug takers, but it seemed sad to me that the quiet and the beauty of the place was not enough to restore someone's inner peace. The Beauly Firth was stretching our in front, with shifting ripples of water, all against a backdrop of hill and snow capped mountains. If nature was enough to restore peace in people's lives, there would be no need for the cross of Jesus.

It was such a quiet spot. On the road to Beauly, on one side of the firth you could see and hear cars and lorries trundling along. On the other side, the far distant bank of North Kessock, you could catch glimpses of light reflecting off windscreens of cars along the road, but right where Spike and I stood, at the entrance to the canal, everything was still. It just brought back to me that in the hurry and scurry of life, we need a quiet and tranquil place - a quiet place. For me that time is about being with God and allowing him to put back together what the world would tear apart.

A place of peace
Where struggles cease
Where striving ends
And rest descends

To float, to sail
To breathe, inhale
Your Presence sweet
I'm made complete