Saturday, August 31, 2013

My Tychicus


“Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts.” Colossians 4:7-8

I asked God for a Tychius yesterday.  I was badly in need of someone, not to tell me about Paul’s circumstances – I could read that for myself.  I need a Tychius to encourage my heart.

The day before yesterday had not been any kind of red letter day.  It had been more like a black one.  Small things had taken on gigantic proportions. I expressed the notion that I was considering writing a letter of resignation.  Later on in the day the news seeped through the work place that I was leaving.  For some, it seemed to be a cause for victory.  Others were somewhat dismayed.  I’m not leaving – not yet.  Put away the party poppers and the champagne bottles for another day.

Involved in the asking for a Tychicus was being watchful enough to recognise him when he did turn up.  It was never an “if”. Something inside my prayer life has shifted.  I know that if I ask God for anything, He will answer.  If I am praying about something, there will be an answer.  My words don’t go unheard by my Father in heaven.

My Tychicus turned up at about 10.00 am.  The phone rang.  I really need to speak to someone about getting a hearing-aid friendly phone. I have taken to removing my hearing aid to answer the phone.

“Is Billy with you?”

“No, Billy isn’t with me.  He used to be, but someone took him away.”

It appeared that Billy had been signed up to work with someone else, but the someone else he was signed up to work with was working with someone else.  They hadn’t time for Billy.  Poor Billy was left in an empty room with nothing to do.

“Billy wants to come back to you.  He likes RE.  Is that OK?”

That’s pretty much a first – someone who likes RE is a rare being. I chose not to explore why Billy likes RE. A quick glance at pupils surreptitiously sharing sweets and Roy playing with the blinds gave a clue or two.

So Billy came back – because he likes RE. He doesn’t know his middle name is now Tychius.

Not done with Tychicus he showed up again at 4.00 pm.  This time I did the phoning to check it was OK to turn up at the “For The Right Reasons” publishing office.  I had been mildly rebuked for just turning up and putting people under pressure.  It was just my presence that did it, not my words or actions.  They are publishing my poetry book “Wider Than The Corners Of This World”.

It is a very busy place.  Publishing there isn’t something “done” to you. Computers are available for you to do your own formatting, correct your own mistakes or even write the book in the first place. There are rarely more than a few familiar faces.  But I like it there!  It is full of positive energy. 

Kevin, who is the ICT genius, had not been well for a while. It was nice to see him there yesterday looking a little better. 

He placed my book – the third proof – with a cover and a blurb on the back – into my hand.  It is a third proof and not the finished version yet.  We had talked about illustrations for some of the poems and this copy had them in place.

I can remember distinctly sitting outside of a courier office sometime earlier this year, in my car, with a box of books from a printer down in Englandhsire.  The box contained the paperback version of the poetry book that a Welsh publishing company had produced.  There had been no proofs apart from a series of computer generated snapshots.  My computer didn’t really have the right software to see the pages properly.  The book fell very short of my expectations. I remember sitting in the car in the car park outside the courier off ice and crying. Disappointment seems too bland a word to describe how I felt.

The book Kevin gave me yesterday is not there yet.  He will not print anything that I am not 100% happy with, or that he is not 100% happy with.  We have reached about 90% on the happiness scale.

This time, yesterday, I sat in the car, in the car park just around the corner from Kevin and the crew and I wasn’t disappointed.  I actually wanted to grab a passer-by, thrust the copy of the book I had in my hand, my third proof, into their hands and say, “This is a great book! It’s full of really great poetry.  And I wrote it.” This is not a book for hiding in the attic.

We all need a Tychicus to turn up during our days to encourage our hearts.  We need to recognise him when he comes.  We need to thank God for the encouragement that he brings!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Another Review!

"Wider than the Corners of this World" is a nice collection of very in-your-face Christian poetry and there are no excuses here for what the author, Melanie Kerr, believes - there is joy in the Lord.  Whether it is a quiet time for contemplation (Warrior's Return) or an admonishment of modern society's grab for prestige (Tom's House), the joy in strong fatih can be felt throughout this collection. 

The poetry strives for simplicity and clarity of message over complex structure or thickly veiled allegorical references. If you are looking for some heavyweight poetry for academic study then this is probably not a collection for you.  If you are looking for a collection of little gems you can start your day with or share with the kids at bed time, then you can't go wrong with "Wider than the Corners of this World"

Saturday, August 24, 2013

His Breath In Me

There was a time
A time when He
With His breath
Stirred life in me

Held in his hand
He shaped my form
This piece of clay
So smooth and warm

His breath in me
My lungs to fill
Throughout my frame
His life to spill

His breath in me
Life’s span to start
To wake my soul
Ignite my heart

So soft His kiss
His lips on mine
His breath in me
To us entwine

His breath in me
Is righteousness
His tender heart
Mine to express

My firstborn breath
Was His in me
As eyes beheld
His majesty

His face so dear
Drew close to me
His love so clear
Was there to see

His breath in me
Creation’s song
Sang heaven’s truth
That I belong

His image carved
So deep in me
Amazing grace
That is should be

This gift bestowed
His breath in me
Without His breath
I would not be

The One I Made Earlier


Yesterday I was watching Celebrity Masterchef.  In one section of the programme one of the chef presenters made a dish.  It involved lots of sugar, figs and pastry.  There was also a side garnish of cream with orange and rose water, with pieces of praline, and some of the praline crushed to dust to sprinkle over everything.

 The contestants were given a pen and a bit of paper and asked to identify the ingredients that went to make up the dish.  They tasted all the bits and pieces and wrote down their notes. They were then asked to recreate the dish.  There was no list of ingredients or recipe. 

They were given all the ingredients that had been used along with some ingredients that hadn’t been used.  It was up to them to work out what they needed to do from seeing and tasting the end result.

Some of the celebrities got down to rolling out the pastry and baking the pastry case blind.  Some began stewing the figs.  The praline didn’t seem to bother any of them – they knew what to do.  One man just looked at the plate of ingredients and had no idea what to do with any of the stuff.  An hour later they presented their offerings to the presenter to be tasted and commented on. 

Only one of the celebrities had come close to doing the pastry tart properly.  It was an up-side down tart.  The filling went in first, the figs uncooked resting on the boiled sugar stuff and with the pastry placed on top.  Once cooked it was turned upside down.  Cooked that way the pastry didn’t go soggy.  The woman had also added in things that were not in the original recipe.  I think it as cardamom pods.  She was congratulated on the taste of her pie and the presenter said that he would now start adding cardamom pods to his tarts. 

There were perfectly edible tarts all of them.  For the most part the pastry was soggy – but the figs were cooked well.  The wrong piping bag had been used on the cream or the sugar missed out somewhere – but the end result was not bad.  There were variations in the tarts, the cream and praline.

Imagine, if you will, all the accounts of the way Christians did church that are written about in the New Testament, in Paul’s letters.  None of those churches are the finished product – but let’s assume that it is like the presenter’s finished tart with the garnishes. 

Reading about those churches and the relationships between church members – if you could “taste” the tart, what would be the ingredients that could be identified?  For example there might be a healthy sprinkle of generosity.  The book of Acts talks about people selling land and giving to proceeds to the apostles to distribute to the poor.  

Imagine that the next step is recreate the church in all its activities and relationships.  There is no recipe included, just a whole lot of ingredients.  There is a huge selection of ingredients.  You do the best to recreate what you have read and meditated upon.

Imagine that you present your “church” to the presenter.  Sometimes you come close to doing some part of the dish properly.  Sometimes you miss an ingredient out – like the sugar in the cream.  Sometimes you add something that wasn’t there originally – like the cardamom pod – and it actually enhances the taste.  Sometimes you end up with the soggy bottom. 

Sometimes that’s what church is all about.  It’s about tasting what is in the Bible.  It’s about bringing to mind those good church experiences and trying to identify the ingredients that made it good.  Or the not so good ones and trying to work out what went wrong.  It’s about being prepared to risk the cardamom pods in the mixture to see what happens.

If churches were made like that I think they would be interesting places to be.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Dipping Into "Wider Than..."


 My ebook "Wider Than The Corners Of This World" has received its first review:- 

To say that I love this book, "Wider than the Corners of This World," would be a British understatement. I thought at first it was just the abab rhyming poetry of Kerr's that was best, then I read again poems such as "A Mountain Mover". Her use of imagery has a clarity that is refreshing without trying to claw at your heart. She seems to write poetry with no hidden agenda. She tells a story, writes about a challenge or a feeling and while you may in turn have a response that involves an emotion she isn't trying to "make you" feel something. You just do.

While I like poetry, I have to say it is a rare poet that makes me download her work to my kindle; and this I have done for this book. I want to dip into these poems and savor the words daily.

What a delicious treat to have such satisfying poetry all in one book. You cannot speed read through poem after poem. You take time to process what you have read and meditate. "A Glorious Fire" is just one of the poems that stands out, telling a story in a way never, ever heard before. I could go on and on, listing poems that I now use for a daily devotional and read aloud to my prayer group; but it would simply sound like the table of contents and I highly recommend you read them for yourself.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Eyes to the Skies


I’m into the last week of my summer holidays.  I could say that I am eagerly looking forward to going back to work – I could say it – but every year it gets harder particularly as every year I get a little closer to retiring.  I am trying to pack in a last few touristy things in among the last few house cleaning and getting-ready-to-go-back-to-work things I have to do. 

Yesterday I headed out for the hills.  Somewhere on an earlier jaunt I had picked up a tourist leaflet on Tollie’s Red Kites, off the main road towards Ullapool, the second turning off to the right after the roundabout near Maryburgh.  They weren’t kidding when they said it was a farm track – it really was, with numerous potholes to negotiate. 

The feeding time 2.30, but I got there earlier.  Working out how long car journeys take is not my strong point.  My last long journey from Crick to Birmingham airport should have taken 30-45 minutes, but with a combination of road works, diversions and very big lorries, it took me over two hours!  I wasn’t taking any chances this time.  I was there with a good half hour to go. 

The building was empty.  There were a few information boards about the place, a table with paper and coloured pencils for those who felt artistic.  There were also a couple of whiteboards listing all the wildlife that has been spotted recently.  Apparently a hive of bees had taken up residence in one of the bird nesting boxes.  The list of birds spotted at the feeder went on for two columns.  I tried to persuade myself to twitch, buying bird books and a decent set of binoculars, but have made too little progress.  I now know what red kites look like!

At 2.30 a man with a plastic bag of meaty chunks headed off down the path to a table about a hundred yards away.  He spread them out over the table.  I was kind of expecting him to use the stick in his hand to fend off the flock of red kites that I imagined would descend on the table but it didn’t happen like that.  Nothing happened for a while.  Then a flock of seagulls appeared.  Seagulls!  I had travelled all this way to see a flock of seagulls snatching at scraps, a sight I could see most days in Inverness town centre.  I was a tad disappointed.  If I had added my £4 donation to the bucket I would have been digging my fingers in to get it back.

Then, magnificently, majestically, a red kite flew in.  The seagulls didn’t exactly scatter.  They are not scared of red kites, but they are respectful.  They gave the bird a wide berth and did not squabble over the food.

Just for once I had the right equipment on me.  I had my binoculars.  A hundred yards may be nothing for most people, but even my new glasses with their up-to-date prescription lenses it was a challenge.  You could see a flash of colour and an obvious difference in shape – but through the binoculars I got a better look.  I could see the markings and the feather formations.  There were two red kites.  They had a lazy, relaxed way of flying but when they soared, they were just magnificent.  They ran rings around the seagulls in the air.  It was all so very effortless and graceful.  They made the seagulls seem very clumsy.

The day before, on the Sunday, Joe and I had been out to Fort George for their 250th anniversary.  Among all the living history events going on, the highlight of the afternoon was the acrobatics of a lone Spitfire.  I almost ducked as the plane came in so low to make a pass.  Then it climbed high in the sky, turned upside down, righted itself and came in for another low pass.  I thought its wing would catch the outside of one of the buildings it came so close.  It was impressive…

But the aerial acrobatics of the Spitfire were nothing at all compared to the red kites.

Man can create stuff like Spitfires and pilots can fly these things with such skill.  It is all very impressive.  But nothing that people create comes anywhere near as impressive as what God creates.

The double-columned list of the variety of birds spotted on the feeders, and knowing that it was just a tiny section of all the birds that exist – how can I do anything but be amazed at God’s creation?

On the way back to the main road, driving slowly around the potholes down a steep farm track, the two red kites I had seen earlier broke out from a rim of trees by the roadside and flew right across my windscreen.  I got a really close look at them without the binoculars.  Amazing!

We live in a wonderful world.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Slug Trails


This is day two of the slug trail in the back room.  I don’t know if it is the same slug each night or whether they take it in turns.  There is just the one single trail.  I don’t know whether the slug hitched a lift in when I brought the veggie box in the other day, or whether it has found some little hole underneath the door.  

I read a statistic a while ago that at any one time there are only 4% of slugs above ground.  That means there are 94% somewhere else. 

An internet search came up with a number of solutions:-

The most popular answer with 29% of the votes was divorce worked for me”.  I don’t get it!  I am assuming that the slug in this particular instance is the husband.  Witty though it might be, it doesn’t solve my particular slug problem – which isn’t my husband!

There were small gaps in the floor boards near the wall and the floor was carpeted, I then removed all carpets, which I was going to do anyway and filled all around the gaps between the walls and floors and have not had that problem again, now 4 years on.” I am not planning to remove all my carpets – except perhaps a stair carpet and the one in the front bedroom.  This solution seems very labour intensive and I think I lack the essential skills to do a good job.

Get up at 3am on a damp night, go outside with a good torch ( flashlight) and half fill a bucket with very hot water, you can eliminate up to about 200 in a night, the idea being to eliminate them BEFORE they get to your house.”  The damp night gives me plenty of options.  I’d have to buy a good torch.  I’d also have to remember to put the water heater on.  But 3.00 am is a bit of a challenge.  I don’t really want to kill 200 slugs in a night – just the one that leaves trails in the back room.  Killing 200 seems a bit extreme.  If you kill 200 slugs a night, and, according to my statistic, only 4% of slugs are above ground at any one time…that’s a lot so slugs in the vicinity.

 “You can create a trap for the by taking a 2 litre bottle, laying it on its side and cut 2 or 3 rectangular slits ( 1 inch x 1/2 inch) in a row. Pour some beer into the bottle through the slits and leave it there. The slugs will be attracted to the sugar and yeast in the beer, climb up the sides of the bottle and drown in the beer.” I’m just trying to picture this one.  Where exactly do the slits go?  I guess if it says the slugs are climbing then it’s likely to be along the top.  I can think of a much better use of the beer.  This has science experiment written all over it!  Do I have a 2 litre bottle?  Am I willing to share my beer with a slug?  If there is more than one slug involved, I can imagine them working together as a team to roll the bottle over and have the beer spill out.  The trails might be more erratic than before.  The drunken slugs maybe can’t find their way out and I have to deal with not just their trails. Maybe the slugs go on to tell their pals the next night about the free beer!  Maybe I need to find a teetotal slug that’s willing to act as a bouncer and stand, or lie, across the hole I haven’t yet located.  Supposing they bribe my bouncer slug – a back hander in his pocket – and he lets the slugs have free reign in the back room.  Maybe they sent slug messages on slug mobile phones – like a rave for slugs.  Your right – I’m taking it too far.

“Do not use the pellets as someone suggested - - when the birds eat the poisoned slugs what do you think happens to the birds?”  Is this a rhetorical question? I will NOT use slug pellets.  I promise.

“They hate egg shells…” We had eggs for breakfast.  This is a possibility.  How many egg shells are we talking about?

“or banana skins…” I’m letting the imagination run with this one. 

“I put salt across the doorway outside, and I have never seen them since.”  I think we have the solution.  I can do salt.  What about low sodium salt? Putting it outside? What if it rains? Is my salted path no longer a slug killer?

What is it about slugs and salt that is so lethal? Here you go…

slugs and salt simply don’t mix, and when the two come into contact the slug’s life expectancy is rapidly diminished to a few seconds.  The slug contains a lot of water, which is essential for its survival. Sprinkling with salt draws that water out, and the poor creature dies of dehydration.” 

Well, there you go – all you need to know about getting rid of slugs.  I am off to find a bag of salt – and a banana skin…