Saturday, September 23, 2006

"Winging it"

I have often had dreams set in school where I am not prepared for a class. Either it is a group of pupils that I am not familiar with, or teaching a topic that I know nothing about, or I cannot find the classroom. Sometimes I am just late arriving in school and miss the first lesson.

Last night I had another one of those dreams where nothing seemed to be going right – but this time I was supposed to preaching in church! I had a sermon prepared and tucked away in a polly-pocket. I seemed to have a million other polly-pockets, some with song lyrics in them and they were all mixed up and I every so often I found the one with the sermon in it, simply to lose it again.

We were meeting in a hotel and there were lots of people there that have since left the church. The previous church leaders were there – Charlie and Richard Green. Cliff and Michelle, great friends of ours who worship with another church were also present.

We had a short time of very dynamic worship, and then it was time for the sermon. I took out my notes and discovered that all the Bible references that I had printed out were all in the King James version with the most complicated sentence structure that even I could not make head nor tail of.

There were lots of people from the hotel that joined us. I was conscious that they were just ready for harvesting – but my sermon notes kept disappearing , the microphone wouldn’t work and every time I went to speak, there was no volume in my voice! It was frustrating. At one point Charlie or Richard stepped up to tell me that we would just keep on worshipping seeing as I was unable to do my bit! I insisted that as nice as the worship was, it was not going to convict people and bring them to repentance, and they needed to hear my words! But could I say anything – no! I remember singing a very prophetic song and the Holy Spirit was just saying to me “Follow my lead, you don’t need the notes, you don’t need the microphone – just follow me!”

At that point I woke up! I never got to preach the sermon. I was convinced that the sermon was based on something either in Micah or Malachi, so at four o’clock in the morning I was trying to hard to read both books, forcing my eyes to try to focus on the words trying to find out what I had been about to say.

I was prompted to pray. I am not sure quite how lucid my prayers were at four o’clock in the morning but I was praying for the voice of the church. We have something to say that will revolutionise the way that people live their lives and yet too often we are too quiet – there is not volume. Too often we get sidetracked by the music and the performance side of things that people become just an audience and not participators. People never reach a point of decision because they are not challenged to do so. So that was kind of the direction of my prayers.

Then I started by praying about my own inability. It wasn’t just someone else in the dream that was having problems speaking – but me! I like clear cut paths and things to be mapped out and planned. I like to know exactly where I am going and how to get there and what to look for along the way! I prayed that I would be able to drop all of that and just unhesitatingly follow the prompting of the Spirit. That is not to say that I just launch myself out blindly. There is a preparation that comes beforehand – the time spent in the word, in communion with the Spirit and in meditation where I am being equipped. The equipping isn’t so that I can just follow a particular path on a particular map, but that in any situation I come across – off the path so to speak– I will have an answer for.

I am watching the Ryder Cup in snatches between cleaning and stuff. The players know how to play the game. How they play the game is about using the knowledge they have effectively – the wind direction, the slope of the greens, the choice of club and golf stroke. If they only ever played on one golf course, and the holes were never shifted – they would always choose the same club, hit the ball in the same way and would be guaranteed to pot the hole in the same number of strokes. They will have learnt to play with a set pattern. They would get as result!

However, if they never played the same course twice, or the holes were shifted regularly – they would always have to be adapting what they knew to meet the conditions of the course. Their choice of club and choice of stroke would be chosen carefully depending on the wind conditions, the lie of the grass – so many variables to factor in. But who is playing the real golf? The man who has played the one course so many times, he could do it blindfolded? Or the man who is a stranger, who just knows his clubs and his strokes well enough to meet any obstacle?

I guess what I am trying to say that I believe that I have been equipped by the Spirit. I should be confident to “wing it” trusting that I have all the resources that I need for any task. I don’t need a map of where I am going because I have the presence of the one who has scouted out ahead. I just need to be more spontaneous in my approach to the things of the Spirit.

Children of Men

Last night Joe and I went to the cinema to see the film “Children of Men”. It was labelled as sci-fi simply because it was set slightly into the future, but there wasn’t much in the way of science to it. It was quite a depressing view of the future. Apparently women have lost the ability to reproduce, though no explanations are given as to how. Society falls apart and Britain seems to be the only part of the world where there is some kind of structure. Illegal immigrants flooding into the country looking for some kind of hope are herded up, caged and transported to refugee camps.

Into all of this a baby is born. You would think that the birth would be celebrated but because it is not born to a white British couple, but a black refugee, everything has to be done in secret.

There is a high body count, lots of blood and lots of swear words. Not much in the way of humour, not much in the way of kindness and compassion – except from some of the people in the refugee camp. It was a hard film to watch in that every bad character trait that the human race of capable of demonstrating was present! There was no Dunkirk spirit. No sense the “we are in this together and we will triumph!” It seemed like the lack of children brought out the worst in people. Knowing that the human race was dying out – they were not going to go with dignity and nobility, or a stiff upper lip!

So much seems to be just below the surface in life and the film says that it does not take much to strip away the veneer. I suppose the death of the human race and the fact that no babies are born is more that “not much” – but what is on the inside inevitably finds its way to the surface.

I was reading earlier on in the week that what condemns a man isn’t what goes into a man, but what comes out of his heart. The Pharisees were pretty much of the thinking that as long as the outside looked fine, what went on in the inside was of no concern. As long as they kept the traditions – tithed their herbs, washed their hands and turned up on street corners praying – it didn’t matter that inside they were seething with envy, or resentment or unforgiveness.

Maybe that is the problem with a world without children. Jesus says “Unless you become like little children…” – if there are no children, where are your role models? Too quickly we grow up and forget what it is like to be a child. If we don’t have children around us to remind us how we should behave – then we are in trouble.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The things I didn’t eat!

I lost just one measly pound this week! For all my stumbling over fallen logs and wading through bog pits for two hours the other day – just one measly pound! It is just not a fair reflection of all the sacrifices I have made this week!

Can I just tell you about some of things I didn’t eat? With the curry on Thursday, not only did I just eat half the portion they served me, but I didn’t have any nan bread. That to my mind is the best part of any curry! I didn’t have any toffee pavlova for dessert either.

Joe has a large packet of fun-sized Mars selections. It was one of his birthday presents. He did not take it with him when he went to Glasgow. Did I dib in at any point during the week? Well, actually, yes I did – only the fun-sized Malteser packets, but they were carefully accounted for in my points tracker!

Saturday morning is usually a full Scottish breakfast – with all the elements – bacon, sausage, egg, beans, mushrooms and a well fired roll. Two toasted crumpets with peanut butter just don’t measure up. The usual afternoon cake with a cup of tea while watching the big race – even that was sacrificed in the name of dieting!

Sunday was a beautiful day for a picnic at Whin Park. It was warm enough for an ice-cream, but did I indulge? No I didn’t! I went blackberry picking instead!

Normally, I would not give it a second thought. I love food. I love the variety of tastes and textures on my tongue. I actually don’t mind giving these things up if - IF - I can see some rewards in it. One measly pound is not a big enough reward in my mind.

This is exactly why I gave up Weight Watchers the last time – the measly one pound losses after careful counting and saying “No” to treats. Two weeks and I am discouraged. I know that all the one pounds add up over the weeks. I know that it took years of over indulgence to get me to where I am today and the excess pounds are not going to shift it in a few short weeks. I know all that in my head – but my heart fells short changed. This little voice in my head says “I bet you could probably have eaten the nan bread and you would still have lost the measly one pound.” I should never listen to voices in my head – but they are kind of compelling!

Discipline is hard! As someone once quoted Joe, “A sacrifice is not a sacrifice unless it costs.”

Saturday, September 16, 2006

When You touch me

I’m coming to the cross again (When You touch me)

I’m coming to the cross again
The place where all the sin and shame
Of what I do
Was squarely placed on You
The pressure’s more than I can take
I’ve tried to walk in my own strength
I lay it down
Before your thorny crown

I’ve tried so hard to be someone
That You’d be proud to call Your son
To earn the love
I know I don’t deserve
When I think I’m standing tall
The greater height the bigger fall
Now all I see
Is my futility

But when you touch me
I feel the burdens slipping down again
And when you touch me
Can’t stop the tears from falling down like rain

I feel the shame of shallowness
The kind of measured holiness
That seems to fit
The life I want to live
How much of this is wood and straw
I want to work for something more
Than piety
Respectability

When the words cut like a knife
And harsh rejection haunts my life
I tell myself
This was the pain You felt
You walked this road a thousand times
The victim of the cruellest crimes
And left for dead
By every friend You had

When the accusations came
You refused to play their game
No words of hate
To set the record straight
And when they taunted at the cross
If You are God then save yourself
You set Your face
To free this fallen race

(c) Stuart Townsend 1999

I treated myself to a new CD. As I was peeling wallpaper off the bathroom wall I was listening to it. I just felt when I got to this track that God did some peeling off of His own!

It is the kind of poem that I wish I had the sensitivity to God's Spirit to write - the honesty of admistting that I am not where I should be, and that a lot of what i do that I pass off as holiness is just "wood and straw".

And then God touches me. I wept as I thought of God's grace towards me. Even when I think I am standing tall, God knows so well that in reality I have fallen over and still He comes to restore.

Friday, September 15, 2006

"Babe in the Wood "- it's no pantomime!

It is amazing the sense of peace that a stick of wood with a yellow arrow on it can create!

Because of the curry last night I was way over my Weight Watcher’s points, so I decided to try and claw a few back by going for a walk. The plan was for a half hour walk around a pleasant little wood I passed on the road a couple of days ago. About five miles away from there was an herb garden that does teas and coffees – a nice end to a busy week.

That was the plan! The Forestry commission are very good about making the best use of the woods. Usually beside the car park there is a big map of the place with all the various trails marked on it, telling you how long the yellow path is, or the blue one, or the red one and whether it is easily accessible or not. Tomfat Wood doesn’t have one.

I figured I would just walk along a path and after a while, take a left, and then another left, and another left and that by my reckoning would be like a big square and should get me back to the start. Earlier this afternoon I borrowed a book out of the staff library about the differences between men and women. Men have a great sense of direction, dating back from the cavemen times, while women don’t! I should have paid attention. I did the right amount of left turns but did not end back at the start! After about half an hour of walking I was lost. I suppose I could have retraced my steps, but I had come down some steep hills and I did not fancy climbing up them! I met a lady with three dogs and asked her for directions back to the car park.

She was very good telling me to follow the path I was one, past a small quarry, through a very big puddle and up a steep hill. That bit was fine. I wasn’t sure whether she said to turn left or right at the cross roads. I turned left. It looked a perfectly fine path, but after twenty minutes or so turned in a bog of squelching mud. Did I turn around and retrace my steps? Well, it had been mostly downhill and I was almost through the boggy ground. And I could see daylight through the trees. I figured that at worse, if I walked around the edge of the wood, I would find the car park eventually!

Did I ever? I just got more and more lost. There were no paths, no people, no dogs, no car park and the light was fading! I began to be just a little bit anxious. At this point I had been walking for an hour and a half! There was nothing to tell me whether I was walking in the right direction.

I saw a deer poking around in the trees, which I wouldn’t have seen if I had not been lost. I saw a variety of mushrooms and toadstools, and I saw some very small brown frogs hopping along the path earlier – so that was nice!

I felt very much like the lost sheep though, and although I didn’t pray properly I think God must have read my distressed thoughts! Suddenly there was a path and a stick with a yellow arrow on it! A path marker! I was no longer lost, but on a real path. A sense of relief washed over me and I followed the path back to the car park

My half hour stroll along a clear path had turned into a two and a half hour clamber over fallen tree trunks and wading through bog marshes!

I had to restrain myself from kissing the bonnet of my car once I had finally returned to the car park.

I think I fully earned the packet of Maltesers I ate when I got home - fun size, of course – just two points!

Dutch biscuits and rosehip syrup.

It is amazing the kinds of things that trigger memories. I remember years ago going out for a meal with Joe to a local pub. At the end of the meal we had tea and coffee. Balanced on the edge of the saucer was an individually wrapped biscuit. It was a caramel, ginger, finger sized biscuit. Once unwrapped, the smell of it evoked really strong memories of childhood. My father was part Dutch and used to visit Holland a few times a year. He always brought back gifts – headscarves with windmills or tulips printed on them, very small wooden clogs that you hung on a hook on the wall and packets of “speculars” – Dutch biscuits in the shape of windmills that smelt of ginger and caramel. I am not a fan of anything with ginger in it apart from stirfrys, but I adored these biscuits! The memory was so strong – I just sat there with the biscuit held to my nose, and a glazed look over my face.

A couple of days ago I had another memory moment. I had gone out for a long walk. Joe and I had planned to go out for his birthday meal – an Indian restaurant that the just recently opened up in the city. I needed points to play with – since joining Weight Watchers one just cannot eat something without working out how many calories or grams of fat one is dealing with. I intended to go for a walk, pick some blackberries, stop off at the shop to buy some apples and stew them up. Well, there were no blackberries in sight. There were lots of the most wonderfully coloured mushrooms or toadstools!

It was the rosehips that did it! Back in the 1960’s there was a government thing about collecting rosehips. We were encouraged to collect them, send them somewhere, and they got made into rosehip syrup. I think it was something that was good for you, like cod-liver oil but much nicer tasting! I can remember our primary school class going off for many an afternoon with our containers to collect rosehips.

It was a nice memory – being out of school, walking over the fields, knee deep in grass and avoiding the cowpats and the nettles to get to the rosehips. I don’t suppose the government today would want children out in the fields collecting rosehips. They probably wouldn’t know what to do with the rosehips anyway. They have probably decided that rosehip syrup really isn’t that good for children either compared to some other chemical collection masquerading as vitamin supplements.

Memories matter! The Bible has a lot to say about remembering things – listening to the reminders. I was reading this morning in Hebrews about the experiences of the Israelites being written down as a reminder for everyone else to learn from their mistakes. After sending in the spies to look out the land, they got very cold feet and wanted to head back to Egypt. God was not impressed and the only thing that stopped him disposing of the rebellious horde was Moses’ intercession. The people survived that day, but only to die another day on the journey through the wilderness. There fate, written down in detail, reminds me that to not trust God, to complain, to reject his claim on my life or to forget his mighty acts in my life is to court disaster.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

To the next three and a half pounds

I think that very often the first step in making a change in our lives begins with admitting that there is a change that needs to be made!

For too long I have swithered about doing something about my weight. My nieces wedding last year although it provided motivation to loose weight, did not actually get translated into real action – so the weight never got lost. I just went up a dress size so that I would feel comfortable in whatever I wore for the day!

I have become quite lazy in some areas of my life and need to establish a bit of self control. So I joined Weight Watchers last week! A friend of mine joined a few years ago and has lost a tremendous amount of weight. People who have not seen her for quite as while no longer recognise her!

I hate Weight Watchers! I hate paying money to climb onto scales. ( I lost three and a half pounds this week.) I hate the discipline involved. Weighing out portion sizes to see what I ought to be eating has been a real eye opener. To some extent I do eat healthy food – I just eat too much of it! I think what I hate most is having to admit that on my own I can’t do anything that is as effective. On my own I have failed! I don’t have the required will power to say “No” to Indian takeaways! (Incidentally that does not make me a bad person!)

I am going to WW simply because I need to make myself accountable to someone. Left to my own devices, I have good intentions, but I don’t hold a whip over myself to make sure that I do it. The lady at Weight Watcher’s does!

It is not a sign of weakness to enlist the aid of other people to help us to do the things we cannot do for ourselves. It is recognising that we have weaknesses that need to be dealt with and that other people can provide the support we need.

I am sure that this translates into the spiritual realm somewhere.

Confession - Joining WW is like making a confession, openly admitting to thirty or so women in the room with you that, as far as eating is concerned, you are out of control. I don’t think we do enough confession in the church setting. We do not always openly admit that there are areas of life that we are struggling with.

Accountability – By joining WW I am making myself responsible to someone each week and have to report back on my successes and failures. Someone else knows what is going on in my “eating” life. To some extent she only knows what I choose to tell her – but if I don’t tell her, the advice that she gives is not the best advice to help me. I don’t believe for a moment that she is going to share my secrets with the rest of the women, or point the finger and laugh at me. I trust her. In the church setting we need to be accountable – to be more open and more vulnerable.

Support – It is not just what the lady at the front says that makes the difference but the conversations that I have with the other women. They are “normal” like me – with all their wobbly bits still in place. They are not success stories that make me feel I will never get there. Support in the church setting is not the prerogative of the pastor alone. It is all of us working together.

Friday, September 01, 2006

So cool!

This is so exciting! Thinking about the poem and getting an illustrator and a publisher – I took it a step further!

I don’t know any children’s illustrators so I “googled” it and arrived an internet directory of illustrators. They list loads of names and as you follow the links they showcase their work. I just picked a name at random, a name I liked the sound of (that is how I pick out my horses!), and someone living in the UK. I thought that if things came to anything, I would be able to contact the person easily.

I emailed the lady to explain about the poem, the illustrations and the publisher. I confessed that I was winging it and had really no clear idea how to go about it. I thought that if she just turned me down, I had lost nothing really. I was just pushing the door to see if it opened.

It opened! She emailed me back saying that the poem evoked very strong images and carried a deeper message too. She gave some suggestions about the options I might want to consider.

I could send it to a publisher and if they accepted it, I could tell them that I have an illustrator in mind. It might end up in an anthology, in which case the publisher might already have illustrators.

I could commission the illustrations and send the whole package – the poem and the pictures to the publisher. It might make a limited edition book for specifically Christian market.

I could go down the self publishing path, buying the illustrations and negotiating with the printers. I get the book I want, but they don’t manage the sales side of things. Contracts are drawn up between the writer and the artist about royalties and copyright at stuff.

I think that she is certainly interested in being involved!

So, I am well excited! I have great ideas but rarely take steps to make things a reality! It all looks so possible and not just pie-in-the-sky dreaming.

I am going to have a good talk with Joe about it and get his advice and talk with my friend, Mark, who may know how to contact a publisher.

This is so cool!

Absolutely delighted

As you know, I have been a member of Faithwriters.com for a few years. Most weeks I try to participate in the weekly challenge. I probably do get more caught up in winning and loosing than I ought to do – it is the competitive thing in me! Yesterday I was really delighted find my poem had won top spot.

A few of the comments made by the FW family said that I ought to try to get the poem published. As I wrote it, I could envision illustrations, but I am no artist. Maybe that ought to be my next challenge – to find a children’s illustrator and to find a publisher!

What, little tree, will you be?

Little tree, little tree
What will you be
When you grow tall
No longer small?
What, little tree, will you be?

I’ll be a crib
For the Saviour child
The holy babe
So meek and mild
I’ll rock Him gently
Through the night
Beneath the moon
While stars shine bright
That’s what this little tree
Will be!

Little tree, little tree
What will you be
When you grow tall
No longer small?
What, little tree, will you be?

With billowing sails
I’ll be a great ship
On a flurry of waves
I will rise and dip
And the Saviour
Will sleep
As I bear him along
Sturdy and strong
Upon the ocean deep
When winds start to toss
And clouds march across
The blue sky
Will I shake him
And wake him?
Others will, not I
He will raise up his arm
And the storm will calm
At his powerful word
In awe men will quiver
And demons will shiver
At what they have seen and heard
That’s what this little tree
Will be!

Little tree, little tree
What will you be
When you grow tall
No longer small?
What, little tree, will you be?

There’ll come a day
So dark and grey
I’ll lift him up high
As they watch him die
Mankind so cruel
To fashion a tool
Like this cross
As they hammer a nail
Through flesh soft and frail
They feel no loss
No regret and no shame
Not caring, or knowing
His crimson blood flowing
He’s bearing their shame
They witness his cry
“Abandoned am I!
And darkness steals over the sky
God’s face turns away
On that evil day
Then He hears his Son say
“It is finished”
Then falls his Son’s head
The Saviour is dead
And sin, the foul curse, melts away
That’s what this little tree
Will be!

Little tree, little tree
Do not weep or mourn
On the day the Son rises
All creation‘s reborn
Now hold we our breath
And eagerly wait
For His glorious victory
So awesome and great.

(c) Melanie Kerr 2006