Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Poet Who Can't Sing

“And I'll be the poet who sings your glory and live what I sing every day.” Psalm 61:8 The Message.

I am going through one of those dry desert experiences right now.

A number of weeks ago I was meandering around the gallery at Inverness Museum, soaking up a exhibition based on people’s responses to the poetry of Robert Burns. One of the commentaries on one of his poems made the point that Burns used poetry to respond to life. Whatever he noticed in the world, whatever caught his imagination or touched his heart – he would respond with poetry.

I love the concept of responding with poetry to what catches my imagination, or touches my heart. Right now, however, I feel that nothing is really doing that. I suppose part of it is that my attention is focused on my sister and the progression of her illness.

Reading a commentary on Psalm 61, Matthew Henry has this to say - “Weeping must quicken praying, and not deaden it. God's power and promise are a rock that is higher than we are. This rock is Christ. On the Divine mercy, as on a rock, David desired to rest his soul; but he was like a ship-wrecked sailor, exposed to the billows at the bottom of a rock too high for him to climb without help. David found that he could not be fixed on the Rock of salvation, unless the Lord placed him upon it.”

Weeping for me has just been plain weeping. The prayer doesn’t always come. God is speaking His word into the situation and for a while is encourages and strengthens, but I suppose I am like that ship-wrecked sailor, clinging to the bottom of a rock that I am too weak and battered to climb. I don’t need to do the climbing. All I need to do is the calling out. God will do the lifting. He will place me feet upon the rock that is higher than I – the Rock of Christ that is higher than the billowing waves that threaten to engulf me.

As for the poems that sing of God’s glory – they will come in time.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Modern Day Parable

A tale told echoing the style of Jesus’ parables:-

“A certain woman (me) was traveling along Ingilis Street, from Marks and Spencer’s to the Market Brae Steps (having perused the sales rails in Markies, and thought briefly about buying some “Count on Us” desserts) when she fell into the hands of the Healing on the Streets team. (There was a moment when she considered the merits of disappearing down a side street. Talking about the condition of her sister in hospital is not easy! Tears seem to come too easily these days) They talked to her, lay hands on her and prayed for her and her family with words of great faith and power. (Much of what was said confirmed the words that God had spoken during the week! That was very encouraging! From the mouths of two or more witnesses…) They left her to walk on her way, feeling much built up and encouraged.”

“Her husband happened to be waiting patiently for her outside Woolworth’s. (A place they had arranged to meet after having had a very late and leisurely breakfast – after all, I am on holiday now!) When he saw the woman he asked her, “What took you so long? I have been waiting here for hours!” (Not true at all – he had been waiting for five minutes tops – which is a lot less time than I waited for last night when he said he would phone!) She told him about her encounter with the Healing on the Streets team. He was much built up and encouraged too.”

I forget sometimes that God has not called me to a lonely road of burden bearing! Sometimes I am conscious that my view of the glass being half empty needs to be balanced with a more faith-filled perspective.

Thanks, Mark and the team.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


After one of our visits to see my sister in hospital we went for a drink afterwards with my eldest sister and her husband. We bypassed the usual haunts – the Wheatsheaf and the Royal Oak – and opted instead for the Ex-Serviceman Club. I have never been an ex-serviceman, but they didn’t hold that against me.

I can’t remember the last time I was there. It may have been some cabaret night or other, and I think I can remember my youngest sister entertaining everyone with a display of head-banging and air guitar stuff! That was a long time ago!

This time we were there this time to see the tail end of the Scotland v England rugby match and watch the opening few minutes of the Wales v Ireland match.

I was standing beside the bar, minding my own business when I nearly got slapped by someone. The nearly-slapper was a lady that I didn’t know, but who had mistaken me for my sister and was offended that I had not greeted her, and had my back turned towards her. I am not sure whether it was me turning around at the same time as her spotting my sister standing beside me that made her stop mid-slap, but I escaped unscathed and she escaped unembarrassed by perhaps hitting what would have been for her a complete stranger!

This getting mistaken for my eldest sister has been part and parcel of life. When I used to visit more often, before I lived in Scotland, I gave up trying to explain that I wasn’t her. I just nodded politely and agreed with her that my kids were growing up and our garden was looking lovely that year.

I cannot see what everyone else sees. I am taller, slimmer and far prettier than my sister. My hair is not the same colour or style and I wear glasses! What is it that they see? People, when we are together, usually assume we are twins!

Although I definitely don’t have a twin sister, my husband often tells me that living with me is like living with two different women. There is “work Mel” and there is “holiday Mel” and they are very different people. Come the holiday, I seem to shed the “work Mel” persona completely. Do I smile more? Sing louder? Laugh more? Actually do the washing up instead of just saying I will do it? “Holiday Mel” is certainly easier to live with, apparently!

I was thinking about my dual personality. I think there are two more hidden in there – or perhaps the same two but going by different names. There is “Faith Mel” and there is “Doubt Mel”. I have seen a lot of “Doubt Mel” over the last couple of weeks. Despite clear words of encouragement I have tended to focus on the very visible signs of the seriousness of my sister’s illness. I have looked at the monitors and the drips, looked at her pale sleeping head, and bruises on her hands where other drips have been, and on all the tubes, and the ventilator – and wondered if she would really pull through. “Faith Mel” doesn’t think like that. Faith Mel sees it all and then over the top of it all overlays God’s encouraging words and doesn’t think about funerals.

A friend said yesterday that sometimes it is harder to watch someone going through the hard times. If we are the people going through it, we tend to exhibit more faith and more expectation of a positive resolution.

The dictionary defines integrity as “the quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness.” I will aim to be whole and undivided – for there to be just the one Mel – presenting a consistent “Faith Mel” picture no matter what the circumstances are that I face.

Everything Under His Feet

“You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet:” Psalm 8:6.

The phrase “everything under his feet” has been really encouraging of late.

One of my elder sisters has been seriously ill for the last few weeks. I think it was a routine operation that developed complications. She was moved into an intensive care unit and the prognosis wasn’t encouraging. Visiting her was quite upsetting as she was heavily sedated, attached to a dozen different monitors and drips. She didn’t seem to be responding.

The words “everything under his feet” in the psalm leads on to talk about the fish of the sea and the birds of the air. It is reminder that God gave human beings authority over nature.

“Everything” includes everything. I was reminded of those bible heroes like Joshua who asked that the sun wouldn’t move so that he could finish his battle, or Elijah who prophesied a drought or Jesus who calmed a storm. They took a hold of the authority God gave them and their “everything” included the big things – the sun, the rain, the sea. They were big ”everything”s.

As I thought about my sister, I thought about some of the small things that are included in “everything” – the atoms, the molecules, the separate cells, the bacteria and viruses. All of these things are also part of the “everything under his feet”.

There is so much detail and complexity in the human body, it is a surprise that more things don’t go wrong with people every day! I prayed about these small “everything”s in my sister’s body that were causing problems and not functioning the way they should.

The news from home fluctuates. Yesterday she was improving sufficiently to have some of the monitors taken away and some of the drips removed. She was not so heavily sedated, had woken up just for a few minutes and opened her eyes.

Later on in the evening there had been a relapse and monitors and drips restored.

I continue to encourage myself with the knowledge that “everything” is beneath the feet of Christ. I may not always see it in the natural world, but that does not change the truth of it in the heavenlies.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

In The Morning

In Psalm 59 David’s enemies were all too visible. They may have tried to hide behind lamp posts in the dead of night, but he knew where to look and he knew what they were up to. He asked God to keep His eye on them and to scupper any plans that they had for his demise!

I was reading the Psalm this morning. I may have many visible enemies, and they might hide behind lamp posts and plot plans to cause me harm, but this morning I was thinking about the unseen enemies.

I am not talking about things like demons and powers and principalities, but the internal kind. Not the ones that plague the mind, but the ones that plague the body. Sometimes the battle ground is the body.

A couple of weeks ago I had really bad news concerning my sister. She was in hospital. It had been something relatively harmless and treatable, but suddenly became something less harmless. She was shifted into intensive care, nestled under a warren of tubes and some of her internal organs shutting down. She was slipping in and out of consciousness. I hated being so far away and so powerless to act. Such was my distress that I didn’t even seem to be able to pray, but sat mutely in God’s presence. I didn’t know what to do, but, like it says in scripture the Holy Spirit turned all those moans and groans and wordless expressions into a coherent prayer before God!

There was a huge improvement in her condition. I remember God asking me why I should be so surprised at that – didn’t I pray after all? Didn’t He listen? Didn’t He act, just like I had asked him to?

There was another phone call later on this week. Another sharp decline! She had gone into surgery to have cysts on her stomach wall removed. I was back to the throne room, this time, remembering her earlier recovery, not quite so silent, not quite so paralysed with anxiety.

As I was reading through Psalm 59, I wasn’t seeing men standing behind lamp posts, with guns concealed in pockets, but microscopic bugs and bacteria doing damage to healthy tissue and organs. I am glad that her condition isn’t a mystery. Doctors know what is wrong and they know what to do to put things right. She is not untreatable!

I prayed that her body would cooperate with the treatment and not fight against it, and through it all she would encounter God.

I was encouraged by v16 – firstly, encouraged to believe that there would be a morning! This illness is like a night time with all the enemies prowling about. And secondly, encouraged that come the morning there would be something to celebrate! The enemies, the illness, would be no more!

Psalm 59:16 “But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.”

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Once Before

“Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him.”

I am sure that if I asked you to tell me where this bit comes in the gospel accounts, you might rack your brains a wee bit and come up with the wise men, or magi, in the nativity accounts.

It comes in the account of Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion. I have taken a line out of context. In context there is a lot of flogging, and hitting and spitting. There’s a crown of thorns, a purple robe and lots of mockery.

I read through the first twenty or so verses of Mark 15 seeing as I was due to preach/teach/lead discussion this morning in church. Pilate and I have been hanging out for the last week or so with me trying find something to say that hasn’t already been said by someone else saying it so much better than I can anyway!

When I got to that line, it was as if I was seeing the scene and next to it Philippians 2:10 where we are reminded that every knee shall bow.

Those soldiers that had knelt before Jesus and paid homage were going to have to do the whole thing again – not before a humiliated Jesus, but before a King crowned in glory.

It inspired me to write a poem.

Once Before

Once before
Another place
Kneeling I
Beheld Your face

Once before
Another crowd
Cried, “Crucify!”
Defiant, loud

Once before
Another crown
Twisted thorns
Pressing down

Once before
Another King
Purple robe
Homage bring

Mocking laughter
Sneering scorn
Wielding whips
Flesh was torn

I never knew
Kneeling then
That You and I
Would meet again

Kneeling now
Beholding You
Regretting all
I put You through

Radiant crown
Upon your head
Glorious robes
Before me spread

Deserving not
The loving Face
I receive
Amazing grace

© Melanie Kerr 2009