Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Signatures


My signature
Written in sins that ripped
And tore and crushed
Signed Your death warrant

Your signature
Written in body broken
And blood shed
Signed my release papers

You died
That I might live

Thank you, Jesus

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Excited and Glowing

Thursday and Friday nights had been earmarked as opportunities to see the northern lights. Some kind of unusual activity on the surface of the sun had erupted and sent a wave of energy to Earth. They promised interesting things happening to satellites and also a glimpse of the northern lights. They also promised vast amounts of cloud so the chances of seeing anything were always going to be rare.

It had been a sunny day on Thursday and I didn’t see why the evening should not remain cloudless, but as the hours ticked by, the cloud cover increased. Friday was a cloudy day, but I’d had a bit of a challenging day and thought God might be good to me by blowing away the clouds to make up for it, and I would see them at last. I even trailed out to Culloden Battlefield where the observatory is, thinking I’d join the sky watchers. They didn’t have my faith that God was going to blow the clouds away and stayed at home.

I went and stood, but did not see
The northern lights shine down on me
Too many clouds got in the way
Sadly nothing on display.


I’d done some homework. I read up on anything I could find about the northern lights. One website informed me that red and green lights meant there were oxygen particles up there and that blue and purple lights meant there were nitrogen particles. I also noticed that the pictures used to illustrate pages of UK sightings of the northern lights most often came from Sweden or Norway or Iceland or Canada. We didn’t seem to possess UK pictures!

BBC site had this to say about it all – “The phenomenon is caused by charged gas particles that flow away from the Sun as a "solar wind" interacting with the Earth's magnetic field. The particles "excite" gases in the atmosphere and then make them glow.”

I think it is the use of the word “excite” that captured my imagination. A woman on BBC Breakfast was talking about the northern lights and used the same terminology. She probably wrote the website content. She waved her arms around in circles to demonstrate to “exciting” part – so I am none the wiser about just how these particles are excited.

So often what happens in the natural has a correlating truth in the spiritual. I thought about the activity of the Son, as opposed to the sun. When Jesus is active and making connections with people, there is an excitement that happens and something begins to glow – faith perhaps.

God wants to interact with us. He wants to excite us. He wants to see us glow.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Crucifixion



I saw the blood stained hands caress the wood
The fingers traced the path of knots and grain
He did not move, in quiet solace stood
And braced his tender heart to bear the pain

The path He walked was coming to its end
He would surrender to this ugly death
His battered limbs to wood and nails would bend
And seen by all He’d yield his final breath

Some other son, spoke to his father’s ear
“We have the wood, but have no lamb to give”
God has supplied and all has been made clear
This is the lamb that dies that we might live

The cross that He embraced must be my own
If I would stand as His before His throne

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Final Step

The sky outside has darkened. Through the bars of the cell the pinpricks of the stars grow stronger. The air is warm and moist. The smell of burning wood from the outside brazier seeps down to where I stand. I long to stop my ears and erase the pitiful sound of weeping from another cell, but my heart stirs with compassion.

“Father, who fills the darkness with light, comfort your child and grant peace of heart and courage of spirit.” Without conscious thought, I lift my hand towards the sound, sketching the sign of the cross in the air. Quietness descends.

I stand beneath the window, casting about, uncertain of my next move. Should I spend the night in prayer, knees scuffed on the hard earth? Perhaps like Paul and Silas, in the Holy Scriptures I should rouse my spirit to sing a stirring hymn and witness my chains fall off as the walls of my prison crumble. I could spend the night in confession, but He knows more of my sins than I will ever know of. Should I simply gather my cloak about me and seek solace in slumber?

This is my last night. Death awaits me with the coming dawn. I confess that my heart yearns to be with my blessed Father. Soon I will be enveloped in His warm embrace. In just a little while I will gaze upon the face that gazes upon my own. I will hear Him speak to me. Will we stroll together along the streets of gold in His heavenly kingdom? What joy will fill my heart! Tomorrow, my Master, I will be home with You.

The final step – some say it will be the hardest. What if the blood of the martyrs does not run through my veins? I am not brave, or courageous and fear that in the end I will cry out and bring shame on my Saviour – He who spoke not a word. I hope to speak gentle words of forgiveness, but I fear that bitter words will spill from my mouth.

Suddenly my cell is transformed by a gentle light. The walls melt away and find myself standing in my old church. The familiar frescos on the wall greet me. The sweet smell of incense permeates the air. I see the shadowy figures standing just in front of the altar. A young woman clothed in a simple robe with a garland crowning her head in a halo of white flowers stands next to an awkward, tall young man. I can tell that he is nervous, his fingers twitching constantly, smoothing out his tunic. His eyes stray to the door, but return to the quiet face of the woman he loves. There – standing just in front of them – I am dressed in my bishop’s robe. Which wedding is this one? Julienne and Castor? Or Ariadne and Felix? I have married so many couples, whispering the solemn words of the ceremony, as candles blaze in their sockets during the watches of the night. I have listened to vows quietly spoken, love witnessed in the exchange of a shy kiss.

The vision fades and I return to the prison. Something scuttles in the dark corners of my cell, but in my heart there is a confident light.

“Oh Claudius..” My words echo in the emptiness of my cell. “How foolish you are. When a man has a wife and a family to protect he will fight against any army to defend them. You cannot stop love just as you cannot stop the tide flowing, or the sun rising, or the stars from shining. Do not think by silencing me that you can silence the marriage vows that lovers make. What God brings together, you cannot keep apart.”

A scraping sound by the window interrupts my thoughts. Something is pushed through the bars and falls. A rose lies on the floor, two of its petals torn away. A small scrap of vellum flutters to the floor like a broken moth.

“Courage, dear Valentine – there’s one more wedding for you to attend. Tomorrow angels will flank your right and left hand as you walk towards the altar.”



Valentine was a bishop at Rome and he secretly married couples against the demands of Emperor Claudius II. He was captured, imprisoned and on 14th February in the year 270 beaten to death with clubs and decapitated.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Nothing's Gonna Harm You

A couple of weeks ago I treated myself to a new, reasonably cheap, CD/Radio for the kitchen. We had a double cassette player in there for ages. These were the days before CDs were invented. I had a collection of cassettes to get me through the piled up washing up, and those very rare days when I would actually spring clean cupboards. A little music helped.

I used to make tablet in the old days. I timed the boiling and simmering and stirring to perfection using one side of a cassette tape.

The CD player is a little bit smaller that the old cassette player, so it doesn’t take up much space on the counter. Some of the CDs have been decanted into the kitchen. One of then is Jamie Cullen’s “The Pursuit”. I like his kind of music and not just the music, but the man too.


One of the tracks is called “Nothing’s Gonna Harm You.” The piano arrangement is just wonderful – all those arpeggios (?). In googling the lyrics, I have to confess to a bit of a disappointment – Sweeny Todd? Is he not the barber that kills people and then the baker down stairs makes them into pies? It just seemed that they song was out of place – until I youtubed it and listened to it in context.

Nothing's gonna harm you, not while I'm around.
Nothing's gonna harm you, no sir, not while I'm around.

Demons are prowling everywhere, nowadays,
I'll send 'em howling,
I don't care, I got ways.

No one's gonna hurt you,
No one's gonna dare.
Others can desert you,
Not to worry, whistle, I'll be there.

Demons'll charm you with a smile, for a while,
But in time...
Nothing can harm you
Not while I'm around...


Long before I goggled and youtubed, I listened to Jamie Cullen and his piano arrangement, and I thought about someone singing personally to me that nothing was going to harm me…not while he is around – not Jamie Cullen. I have a habit of reading God into many things and this was an easy read.

Someone can say, or sing the words, like the boy in the film singing to Helena Bonner Carter and no matter how sweetly they sing – they are often powerless to actually do anything to prevent harm from happening. However nice the words, and comforting – they remain just words when most people sing them or say them.

Not so if God were singing those words. When He says “Nothing's gonna harm you, not while I'm around,” we can be sure that He means it and nothing can harm us.

However, God chooses when to sing it, and He doesn’t sing it in every situation that we face. He does not wrap us in cotton wool and protect us from every knock and fall. Harm happens because we like in a broken world – but in every situation He does say, regardless of whether we whistle or not, “I’ll be there.”

Monday, February 07, 2011

For the Sake of Peace





For the sake of peace –
Pilate
In a turbulent town
Under the constant threat of rebellion
Chose not to look too carefully
At the rebel
He washed his hands in water
And his heart in convenience
And
For the sake of peace
He had Jesus put to death





For the sake of peace
Caiaphias
In a glorious temple
Busy with activity but dead at heart
Chose not to look too carefully
At the blasphemer
He held firmly to his precious laws and traditions
His heart asleep to the Spirit
And for the sake of peace
He had Jesus put to death

For the sake of peace
Jesus
In human flesh
The invisible God made plain
Chose to show love unconditional
As the Lamb
He surrendered his body to the lash
His heart submerged in all men’s evils
And for the sake of peace
Reconciled men to God through His death

Such a Man

On Saturday Joe and I saved our local library from being closed down. We were responding to an email that was fired out to everyone encouraging us to visit the library and borrow as many books as we were entitled to. I don’t know whether Saturdays are normally busy days anyway, but there were a lot of people there.

Joe doesn’t possess a library card. He has a history from way back of unreturned books and huge fines. We are not talking about unreturned books from in Inverness library, but from Guilford where he lived in the 1980s. He is convinced that he is blacklisted, although I am quite sure that his crime has been forgotten. I am sure that records don’t go that far back, and since everything went computerised he has nothing to worry about.

It has been a while since I went to the library. I am a book lover – but not a very good book borrower. Yesterday afternoon, a friend of ours was evicting cyber bugs from the laptop for us. He was admiring the bookcase behind him and commenting on the fact that there were a lot of books. Then he remembered a book that I had borrowed from him – a biography of a climber. I am not sure how many years ago I borrowed it. Returning books is not my forte – but people know me well enough to know I will not be offended if they ask for it back. It’s only the library that charges me for retuning books late!

So, we borrowed books. Joe borrowed a non-fiction book about the truth behind movie making. I am trying to wean myself off Dan Brown type religious conspiracy who-dun-its, and off novels with high body counts. I have enough angst in everyday life so true to life emotional train wrecks are also off the menu. I have started to read a thriller “The Dying Light”. It began with a bomb going off near a Columbian restaurant and the death of a government worker. They’ve just attended the funeral – a event that seems to be devoid of sorrow and mourning, however, a friend from his past has erupted with a very emotional eulogy. Whereas everyone else seems to be content to let the deceased person leave this world without due celebration of his life, this man speaks passionately about his friendship. The congregation are swinging between nodding their heads in agreement and cringing out of embarrassment that someone is breaking the rules of keeping it all civil and calm.

The man talks of his friend in such glowing terms and then ends with the line “Such a man makes you think God is possible.”

I have said to many people the words “There is a God”. I have dived into deep conversations persuading people through argument and rhetoric that there is a God. One can say the words but not necessarily live a life that demonstrates that there is a God. God is more than the words spoken. He should inhabit every act.

I am not going to say that it would nice if someone could say that about my life – that I lived in such a way as to make people think God was possible. It’s too passive – I can live that kind of life. And not just that God was possible – but beyond the “maybe” to “God really is.”

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Worship


Let me lift my face
And reflect Your radiant light

Let me raise my hands
And say that I surrender

Let me close my eyes to the visible
And fix my gaze on the unseen

Let me loose my lips
And free my heart to sing

Then will I join with angels
And worship You

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Opposite Truths

I once knew a man who knew a man who used to turn scripture on its head. One truth, for him, always had an opposite truth.

This morning I was reading the opening chapter of Romans. Reading from Romans 1:18-23 is not really encouraging stuff. It may be a sober description of the state of mankind in rebellion against God, and it may be an accurate description of “me” before Christ called me…but it is depressing reading. I thought I would have a go at turning it on its head to find some opposite truth.

“The mercy of God is being released from heaven upon all the godly and righteous people, who demonstrate the truth through virtuous living. What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so they refused to hide behind excuses.

Because they knew God, they glorified him as God and gave thanks to him, and they began to think the way God thinks and their hearts were flooded with light. They abandoned any claim to be wise, becoming fools in the eyes of the world. They refused to surrender the glory of the immortal God and they scorned images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.”


Not bad. I don’t think there is anything there that Paul would complain about!

I was wondering about the invisible qualities of God and whether they can be clearly seen in today’s world. It seems to me that there has been a lot of muddying of the water with all the different “isms” around, and by the denominational nit-picking that goes on in the Christian faith. And of course, there is science adding its own “truth” to the mix.

I guess there were “isms” around when Paul wrote his letter, and the nit-picking in the Christian faith was happening even then.

It is encouraging to know that “What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them”.

What ever the “isms” and nit-picking, what may be known about God is made plain because God makes it plain.