Sunday, September 27, 2009

Because He Loves Me

"Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.

With long life will I satisfy him
and show him my salvation."

God loving me is something that to me is a given. It’s knowledge that is so deeply embedded into my heart and woven into my spirit, that I never doubt it.

The times when the storm clouds gather, the sea begins to churn and my little boat of a life is tossed about and on the brink of being engulfed, it never occurs to me that God has stopped loving me.

I have never posed the question “If God loves me, why do bad things happen to me?” Bad things just happen. It’s a fact of life.

Is me loving God also a given? Is the knowledge of my love so deeply embedded in His heart and woven into His Spirit, that He never doubts it?

“Because he loves me…” isn’t “if he loves me” or “when he loves me” or “for as long as he loves me”. God knows my heart. When Jesus asked Peter if he loved him, it wasn’t some insecure person needing affirmation who was asking. When he asked Peter the question, he already knew the answer. He asked it to give Peter the opportunity to know the answer for himself. In knowing the answer, Peter has a security that armed him for the battle to come.

“Because he loves me” isn’t “because he reads the Bible” or “because he prays” or “because he goes to church every Sunday”. I could do all those things and they might not be an act of love at all. Because I love him, I do all those things because they give me the chance to draw near and spend time with the one I love.

Today, when I read the words “Because he loves me..” I knew they were words spoken to me by God. He knows that I love him.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Talking Hands

“When you help someone out, don't think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively.” (Matthew 6:3 The Message)

This is the bit in Matthew about giving, and not letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing. It’s about being open handed and generous and not keeping accounts, or collecting Brownie points or Blue Peter badges along the way.

I am thinking how hard it is to give quietly and unobtrusively.

My right hand would like to do a bit of boasting to my left hand. My right hand would like to list every good gift given, or deed done, neatly in some leather bound ledger, carefully add up all of the numbers, climb up on a rostrum beneath a million lights and present some kind of medal to itself. Yes, my right hand thinks some kind of reward is in order. My right hand is worried about being taken for granted.

My left hand is trying to remind the right hand that God is more than aware, not just of the gifts given and the deed done, but also the thoughts behind the gifts and the deeds! The state of the heart matters more than the gifts or the deeds.

My right hand doesn’t want to listen to my left hand. My right hand knows my left hand is speaking the truth…but sometimes truth hurts. My right hand wants its five minutes on the soap box! It wants its moment of glory.

My left hand wants all the glory to go to God.

My right hand, deep down, wants the same.

Together, both hands are lifted to the heavens in praise to God. Without Him there would be nothing to give, and no one to share it with!

Monday, September 14, 2009

A single golf ball

Abundance is defined as “an extremely plentiful or over-sufficient quantity or supply”

Take for example golf balls. Just right now we have an extremely plentiful and over-sufficient quantity of them in our house, in a broken brown leather hold-all just beside the backdoor.

A friend of ours works at the city’s recycling centre. My husband mentioned to him in passing that he was on the look-out for a set of golf clubs. Last year sometime, he and a friend at work knocked a few golf balls into a few holes – not a proper round by any means, just a few holes. I don’t think the words “natural talent” came into their conversations, but they enjoyed themselves.

On our next visit to the recycling centre, with the flair of a magician producing a rabbit out of a hat, our friend showed Joe three sets of golf clubs. He chose one set and spent the afternoon, splashing around in the kitchen sink, washing and polishing each club. Only the putter was missing.

Another message to our friend and he turned up in the doorstep with half a dozen putters, the leather hold-all bursting with golf balls and a carrier bag full of multi-coloured tees.

Imagine if Tiger Woods had just the one single golf ball to play his tournament with. Just one little white ball with its two hundred to three hundred little dimples on it. Imagine if his wife told him that if he lost that one ball, his life as a golfer would be over. How would that affect the way he played the game? Would he play any risky shots?

My husband could play a different ball for every hole on the golf course, week in, week out, for the next few years and still have golf balls to spare. He doesn’t need to play safe because he has an abundance of balls in a brown leather hold-all just beside the back door. He can loose balls by the dozen and there are always more balls to play with!

Sometimes we live our Christian lives like we are playing golf with a single ball. We play so safe and take so few risks worrying about loosing the little we think we have. We don’t seem to realize that God has given us access to His abundant resources – like the brown leather hold-all just beside the back door.

We can give, and give and keeping giving to the needy world that we live in and always have more to give away.

Let’s stop playing with a single golf ball!

Mike

Too late, we found each other, you and I
So little time together, then goodbye
We swapped our stories ‘neath a Spanish sun
Comparing scars from battles lost and won

You chose to fight alone, my help refused
Your heart, your spirit often battered, bruised
Our choices made, our paths would rarely meet
I missed you, felt sometimes, not quite complete

One day the door you’d closed was opened wide
Inviting me to come and step inside
Gone was the boy, the brother that was you
The man you were, I never really knew

Too short a time to laugh, to talk and share
To mend the bridges, broken things repair
We are strangers who discover we are friends
And share a sunset as the long day ends

(c) M J Kerr Sept 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Eau de Anchovies

My husband has recently discovered that he likes anchovies. He has taken to asking for extra anchovies on things like pizza. For Christmas I tracked down a tube of anchovy paste, something that looks like a toothpaste tube, and he spreads it on his toast in the morning.

The tube is in the fridge. I wouldn’t say that it is a smelly tube, or that when I open the fridge door, a waft of anchovy smell floods out, but there is some kind of smell exchange going on.

My lunch the other day consisted of a tin of soup, a pot of yoghurt and a pear. The soup was untouched by the smell of anchovy, but the pot of yoghurt, not the yoghurt itself, just the pot, reeked of anchovy, and the pear, which hadn’t been in the fridge, but had nestled up against the yoghurt pot in my lunch bag, also stunk of anchovy!

The fragrance of anchovy was everywhere lunch connected – on the yoghurt pot, on the pear and on my hands! I don’t like anchovies!

One could move on at this point to talking about the woman who broke the alabaster jar and poured perfume over Jesus’ feet. The fragrance filled the room and clung to the fabric of everyone’s clothes. People were marked out, not by anything they said, or did, but by the fragrance that they had been with Jesus.

The fragrance that seems to mark me out these days is sorrow. This week sees the final hurdle, my brother Mike’s memorial service in Rugby. Few of the family were able to travel to Fuengirola for Mike’s funeral and cremation so a memorial service has been organised for family and friends to say their goodbyes. Joe and I still have travel arrangements to make but we will be there.

I would like to think that this memorial will mark the end this year’s difficult time, but I think that would be na├»ve. Sorrow doesn’t seem to be a clean or precise emotion that is attached to a single event, but much like the anchovy paste in the fridge, it has touched all sort of things and permeated them particulalry in my relationships with firends.

It feels like sorrow can be a lonely road. Prolonged sorrow changes a person and the way he or she look at things. I am still on that road and looking for a way out. Is there a short cut I can take? I don’t actually believe in short cuts. As much as I would like the sorrow to end, I believe that there is precious treasure along the path to collect. By finding a quick ay out, I don’t get to claim the treasure.

I might have longed for the company of more people to walk with me and to comfort me along the way…but God has never been absent. His fellowship has been always sweet. His fellowship has been my treasure.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Covering Up

I often imagine that I am on one of those TV morning chat shows – the ones that leaf through the newspapers and pick out interesting stories of the day. As I leaf through my morning paper (a very rare event seeing as we don’t have morning papers delivered!) I mentally select the ones that I would highlight, and rehearse the comments I might make.

The article I came up with was a commentary on the way in which X-Factor selects the auditions that it televises. Some of the acts, without doubt, are not really up to scratch. We have all seen them, cringed at them or laughed at them maybe. There are some things that aught not to be televised.

Why do people do it? They really haven’t got an ounce of talent for singing, dancing, spinning plates or whatever it is that they are doing. Why do they insist on parading their lack of talent in front of 4 million viewers? Do they really think they are good? Have they not asked an objective observer to check them out first before they head for the stage?

I am glad that I am as old as I am, and that in my day they didn’t have these reality shows. I have a feeling I might have strutted my stuff – or my absence of stuff – before an audience of 4 million had I had the chance! Youth has a way of convincing us of things that just aren’t true. Since I am now grown up, I now see the stuff in a mature and sensible light, and know that the 4 million who saw would have cringed, or laughed at me.

Why do other people who should know better allow them to do it? It seems to me that we live in a world where some people take delight in exposing, and laughing at the weaknesses of others. Someone else’s humiliation should not be another person’s entertainment.

Somewhere in the Bible it encourages us to cover one another’s weakness up – not one another’s sins. Way back in the Old Testament, Noah’s sons walked backward into a room, holding a blanket, to cover up the nakedness of Noah who had got drunk and exposed himself.

If only the producers of X-Factor would walk backwards across a stage, holding a blanket, to cover up the lack of talent in some of their contestants and prevent them from exposing themselves!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Need to Connect

Yesterday was not such a good day. I have felt so isolated from people. With my church family it is not so much isolation in terms of yards or miles. It isn’t that I have isolated myself and not talked to anyone about the traumas of the year so far. It is just that it’s not their sister, or their brother that has died. Hugs may reduce the yards or miles to nothing at all, but there is still distance. They may imagine how I feel, but for many imagination is all they have to play with. Their families remain whole and complete, struggling perhaps, but not broken into bits. I have very specific needs that it appears they just can’t meet! They congratulate me for being strong, and they don’t see how perhaps on the inside I am not strong at all.

My own family lives hundreds of miles away. They are close enough to each other to meet up (which they don’t take advantage of), to offer comfort and solace. They feel the empty spaces left behind by Linda and Mike and they can talk to one another.

Last night I just wanted to be down there, with them, gathered together, knowing that they knew how I felt because they felt it too. And I was miles away…isolated.

And then my youngest sister phoned!

Suddenly I felt connected. It was just such a blessing to talk to someone who really knew what I was going through, someone who knew what they could say to me that would really touch my heart and bring comfort and encouragement.

I was smiling by the time I put the phone down at the end of the conversation.

I was reading 2 Corinthians 9:8 - “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” The timing of the call was so spot on – that was God’s “all grace” abounding to me. All the things we spoke about were all the things I needed to hear. I felt less alone.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

How It Makes Me Feel

It would appear that in the Bank Holiday TV ratings, ITV with its lavish production of “Wuthering Heights” lost out to the BBC with its one off drama “Framed”. I just happened to be watching “Framed” and I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The story began with the National Gallery being flooded out due to a leaky roof. They decided to temporarily store the gallery's precious paintings in a disused slate mine in Wales – which is what Churchill did during the war – and I have been to said diused mine! The curator, played by Trevor Eve, had the job of living in a nearby cottage and looking after the artwork and choosing one of the paintings to be sent back to the gallery in London for viewing every month.

The curator saw the paintings in terms of the quality of brush strokes, the clever use of colour, the arrangement of objects on the canvas or unusual perspectives.

Later on in the drama, the butcher from the little nearby town was allowed to see some of the paintings in the mine. A picture by Monet of a boating lake reduced him to tears, and it turned out that his son had died in the village boating pool and he had been responsible for having the place closed on health and safety grounds. Seeing the picture brought back all the memories. The picture made him feel, not the loss of his son, but the loss of something in himself, a kind of gradual shutting down of so many aspects of his life.

I can remember having “Art Appreciation” lessons at school. Yes, in art classes, we got to play with paint and other forms of media, but there were times when we got to look at famous pictures. They were just prints of the pictures – not the real thing. I just remember that I didn’t get it. I couldn’t seem to see the quality of the brush strokes or the clever use of colour! I failed to appreciate the art!

Looking at the butcher, looking at the Monet picture, and looking at the tears flowing – I got it! Art is about how it makes you feel!

A friend and I had a long discussion over a delicious (and expensive) slice of cake the other day. We were talking about religion. He is not religious and went to great lengths to explain why he believed the Bible was outdated, had been changed often to suit the politics of the day and did I know that men had swapped and changed bits of it to keep the poor, or the women, in their place? I have done a theology degree and I know such stuff. The one question that I didn’t ask was “How much of the Bible have you actually read?”

It seems to me that my friend was rather like the art curator. He could talk about textual criticism and translation and the politics of the day. Me? I am like the butcher. I read the Bible and it makes me feel things.

I see aspects of my own life reflected in its words. I see challenges to tackle. I see solutions to the problems I face. I see questions I don’t know the answer to. I see things that make me cry, sometimes with joy, sometimes with sorrow. Sometimes I feel that I will never measure up – and sometimes I realise that I don’t need to. I see God’s grace on every page.