Sunday, November 29, 2009

Everything Changes

Everything changes
Through this single blow
A nail through a palm
Sufficient to show
In spite of our downfall
From mountain to mire
One comes to rescue
Against sin conspire

Everything changes
Thorns for a crown
Powers and strongholds
That bind are torn down
Blood crimson red
In powerful flow
Here at the cross
Forgiveness to know

Everything changes
“It’s finished” the shout
The sound through the universe
Resonates out
“It’s finished!” the keys
From the enemy torn
Death is defeated
And new life reborn

Everything changes
It starts with a stone
Away from a tomb
It’s picked up and thrown
Angels rejoicing
All heaven’s alight
And God on his throne
Laughs with delight

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Shrapnel of the Soul

It has been a while since I had a splinter in my hand – or indeed, any other part of my anatomy. I can remember one embedded in the palm of my hand many years ago

I would like to think that I have read somewhere that splinters don’t do any harm, and they come out of their own accord if you leave them. I have also probably heard somewhere that if left to their own devices they can do a lot of harm. They are not clean and disinfected little bits of wood or metal.

My splinter was a big one. Despite being big, the tip if it wasn’t really sticking out in any manner of cooperation. I was at school at the time. The secretary at the office decided to have a go at removing it. I think she scraped her long and meticulously painted nail along my palm to try to shift the end out. When that didn’t work, she resorted to digging around with a sterilised needle.

It wasn’t her palm, of course, so she was not feeling the pain that I was. Instructed to stand still in a manner she addressed the pupils was not helping either. I felt sick, maybe not so much from the pain, but from watch someone prodding my palm with a sharp needle. It was like an operation without the anaesthetic.

The splinter surrendered. The secretary refused to give me a plaster to cover up my wound, insisting that the air needed to get to it.

Some splinters are easier to remove than others. Some splinters that get under the skin are just slivers of wood. The wound that they inflict heals.

Words can be like splinters.

I had an unpleasant encounter at work earlier this week. Words were said. Some might have been deserved, but most weren’t. It was simply unpleasant. Rather than just forgetting the conversation, and getting on with the job, it seemed like that ran like a video tape on a loop through my head, and endless circle of rather nasty words.

A lot of what happens to me is expressed in poetry and this was no exception. Apart from the kissing line which is poetic licence, and the reference to s single word – there were many – it’s an account of how I felt.

Shrapnel of the Soul

A single word
Crammed with insult and innuendo
From lips that once kissed
Detonated inside my heart
A shower of spiteful syllables
Ripped through my soul
Shredding my spirit

Your shrapnel
Left me crippled

“You’ve got a splinter in your heart, Mel,” announced God later that night. The old saying about sticks and stones just isn’t true. Words create or destroy. They have power – perhaps only the power that we give them. God created the world with a word.

The splinter was too painful. I didn’t want God digging around with a sterilised needle so I backed off.

The following day I had another encounter at work. This time it was a good one. We are supposed to observe others as they do their job and talk about it later. My colleague had been observing me and there was very little that wasn’t positive. As we talked, I felt so encouraged and it was as if, without being aware of it, my friend had removed the word splinter. God had found another was to get to my splinter.

It was nice to reflect and write a more uplifting poem.

And then there was light

The story of the world begins
When everything is dark
And God commands the light to be
And so ignites a spark
A word from God imbued with power
And miracles abound
Across a void and empty place
From chaos, order found

He speaks another word to me
Into this unlit heart
As light floods through at His command
My darkness has to part
I live my days beneath His gaze
And miracles abound
No longer void and empty now
My Light, my life I’ve found

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Happy Atoms

Despite Joel’s prophecy about sons and daughters prophesying , old men dreaming dreams and young men seeing visions, when it comes to those kind of things happening to me, I confess to being suspicious. I have such an active imagination that I am not sure that the vision or the picture is Holy Spirit generated or Mel inspired.

Last night at a prayer meeting I had such a vision – a snapshot of a picture. We had been praying for a friend who had been to see a doctor about a recurring difficulty in breathing. She was due to go on holiday and was wondering whether she would be fit enough to travel. In the meeting we prayed for her.

As we were praying, I had a picture of two scuba divers. I don’t know how far under water they were, but the air tank of one of the divers stopped working. There was no oxygen getting through and she was in difficulty. The other scuba diver came up close, took a deep breath and then passed the mask over to his friend. The two of them sharing the mask, taking turns at breathing, were able to make it safely back to the surface. My fellow prayer partners found it very encouraging – a picture about air and breathing. God was making up the shortfall of oxygen for our sick friend.

I was in a science lesson once where they were talking about the molecular structure of elements on the periodic table. It had something to do with the number of atoms (?) or protons (?) in outer rings. Where there is an odd number, the element is reactive in the sense that it pinches an atom off another element, or two elements agree to share an atom. They bond. The only ones that really don’t need to pinch or share are the ones with an even number of atoms, preferably eight. Noble gasses on the far right of the periodic table have all eight atoms on their outside ring, so they don’t react – they are happy atoms.

Human beings are not happy atoms. Regardless of our age, race, gender, social or ethnic origin we are always missing that even number. We are always pinching off others, sometimes agreeing to share, because we are missing an atom. We are not complete in and of ourselves.

We are always in need. God made us that way. It is intentional.

When the Psalmist says “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want,” what he is reminding us of is that whatever we are in need of, God will supply. He will meet the shortfall that is in us. My diver could only reach the safety of the water if she remained swimming beside her friend with the working oxygen tank. God’s “oxygen tank” is the only one truly working properly. We “shall not be in want” only according to how close we remain next to God.

Braving the Lions

A while ago I was reading from Proverbs 26:13-14 “The sluggard says, "There is a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets!" As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed.”

What if on one occasion the man got out of bed and left his house to go to work and there really was a lion roaming the streets? The man didn’t live somewhere where lions are in cages in a zoo, or on a TV programme chasing down and eating antelopes. Lions in his world were roaming around the countryside. Perhaps just one morning, it happened. There was a lion. The man was scared. It made perfect sense not to leave the house. Perhaps months or years down the line, he still didn’t leave his house.

We look at things from our viewpoint – we will never encounter a lion roaming the streets, so we assume it will never happen and the proverb is about the ridiculous reasons some people make up to justify not doing something they should be doing. The man should be going to work, but he is too lazy, so he says there’s a lion outside.

The lion, whether real or not real, became the excuse to stay at home, to turn on the bed like the door turns on its hinges. So many things, real or not real, can be the excuse why we choose not to leave our “houses”.

I was thinking about all the things, real or not real, that could excuse me from going to a Streetpastors’ prayer meeting last night. It was cold, very cold, and chances were I would have to defrost the car. Finding a parking space where I wouldn’t have to negotiate my way around a million taxis taking up the road was going to be near impossible. What if from walking out to car park to arriving at the prayer venue I got mugged? I’ve not really been on the ball this week as I haven’t spent time in the word. There are going to be people there who pray a lot better than I do. Their prayers are much more powerful than mine. I won’t be missed.

Above all of that, for me personally, personal circumstances, the last year’s hardships, seemed to excuse me from going. I am not as strong as everyone thinks I am. I am still fragile, easily inclined to burst into tears.

Would I pray just as effectively if I stayed at home? Not at all! Not with Donny Osmond strutting his stuff on “Dancing With the Stars”.

I went.

At this point, I ought to say that we had a tremendous time, pulling down strongholds and setting the enemy to flight. Actually, the smell of toasted sandwiches from the cafĂ© was driving me nuts, my nose was running and I didn’t have a hankie and the room next door was being used by a Scottish traditional music group.

Just because it didn’t feel like I was pulling down strongholds, didn’t mean that in the heavenlies it wasn’t happening. Something unique happens when a community of believers pray that doesn’t happen when an individual prays alone.

I was part of the community last might.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Should I walk away?

“Poetic Asides”, the poetry blog from Writer’s Digest, has just commenced a “Poem a Day” Chapbook challenge. I am not exactly sure what a chapbook is, but I love the challenge of being faced with a topic and coming up with a poem. I am not entirely sure that I would say anything that I have written so far stands out as spectacular, but as with the April challenge, I am finding that my emotions and my feelings are being touched. In April I was dealing with the loss of Linda, and many of my poems were quite dark and morbid. This time it is Mike’s loss that is permeating much of what I write. Linda’s death provoked in me a deep anger. Hers was a needless death, a result of someone else’s incompetence. Not so with Mike. I am just sad - not angry, just sad.

It seems that people want to remind me of my losses where I would like to put them behind me. The memories are painful and I would rather not poke them. I asked God the other night to keep the memories for me until I am ready to look, just to hold on to them until it hurts a little less.

Anyway, here is the latest poem. The prompt was “Should (blank)” where you fill in the blank with whatever comes to mind. I was thinking about Paul in one of his letters, imprisoned for his faith, worried that he might let God down or his circumstances discourage other Christians.

I suppose that many of us when we face difficult times, we are languishing in a prison created by difficult circumstances look for someone to blame – often pointing the finger at God. It is a different thing to worry about letting God down in those circumstances and failing to be the witness that we have the opportunity to be.

Should I walk away?

The road that You have mapped for me
Has passed through much adversity
The path was steep, a rocky climb
With clouds above me all the time
I am not sure my faith survived
Or at the end I have arrived
I fear that You have asked too much
Not longer feel that I’m in touch
I fear this test might sever me
And lost and drifting I will be
Perhaps it’s time to walk away
Before I speak and You betray
But You are woven through my heart
I doubt if we can ever part
Instead I’ll grasp the outstretched hand
I’ll walk the path that You have planned
I’ll sing a song, a melody
As You, dear Father, walk with me.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

No Empty Throne

I have to confess that I am getting fed up of the “poor Mel” looks and comments that some people continue to come out with in the aftermath of the rotten year I have been having. One death in the family is painful. Two deaths? Actually I am also fed up of the whole reminder that I have been having a rotten year. I don’t need to be reminded of it. I don’t want people to look at the rotten year and think that it’s all I am having, as if to have any light spots, or bright spots, or moments of laughter, or beams of sunlight or times of untroubled joy are somehow against the rules. I don’t want people to alter the tone of their voice or the expression on their face to convey to me that they understand what I am going through. They would like to clothe me in sackcloth and ashes and point to the grey cloud that hovers over my life. I don’t want them to define me, or for me to define myself, according to my sorrows.

My year would indeed be entirely rotten if I wasn’t entirely convinced that no matter the scenery I am looking at, that God is on the throne.

My reading this morning was from the opening verses of Isaiah 6. The first verse states “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.”

King Uzziah had reigned for a long time and under his rule there had been peace and prosperity. The man next in line for the throne was green around the edges, untried and without a track record. Israel’s enemies were like sharks circling around in the water, smelling blood and drawing in for the kill. There wasn’t a king on the throne and everything was up for grabs, nothing and no one secure.

Sometimes we look at all that is going on around us and it appears that there is no king on the throne. No one is in control. No one is in charge. If someone was in control, if someone was in charge, the rotten year that I am living through wouldn’t be happening. The economic mess that the country is in, the scapegoat blaming of our problems on asylum seekers, the indecisiveness of our politicians, the threat of terrorists – all these things wouldn’t be happening if someone was on the throne.

God graciously peeled back the curtain of heaven and Isaiah was shown that even if an earthly throne was vacant at that moment, the heavenly throne was not. God was seated on the throne, in all majesty and authority, glory and splendor. There was nothing uncertain about the future if God was on the throne.

It’s a picture that I choose to keep in the forefront of my mind. The throne that matters most is not vacant. God is in charge. God is in control. And that is sufficient for me.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Rhubarb and Reward

My rhubarb plant has lived up to all expectations this year. It sits like a queen in a small patch of soil between the garden shed and the gate that leads to the path and the paying field. Whatever weeds have been allowed to congregate elsewhere in the garden, the area surrounding the rhubarb plant has been conscientiously cleared. I have eaten more stewed rhubarb with my porridge than is probably safe and more rhubarb crumbles than the elastic waist of clothes are comfortable with. I have thought about making jam, but I am not a jam person. Next year, I am confident that I will have an even better rhubarb year.

I have planted too many things over the years that have come to nothing. Sometimes the problem has been that I have forgotten that I planted it and when shoots did break through to the surface, they were wrongly identified as weeds and viciously torn from the soil. Sometimes it has just been mysterious bugs that have chomped away at leaves, or invisible things in the soil gnawing on roots.

I can feel the disappointment that God felt in Isaiah 5 when He took time and effort to plant a vineyard in the fertile field. Everything that was needed to produce wine was provided, no expense spared, no reason to anticipate failure. When the time came to harvest the grapes, all was not good – the grapes in particular.

Isaiah isn’t really talking about bad grapes, but a people of God that was bad. He goes on to list all the faults. Bug and bacteria of the spiritual kind had eaten away at the roots and core of the hearts of God’s people. Greed, addictions, false values, injustice and all other kinds of vices had infected them.

Woe to those who rise early in the morning
To run after their drinks,
Who stay up late at night
Till they are inflamed with wine.
They have harps and lyres at their banquets,
Tambourines and flutes and wine,
But they have no regard for the deeds of the LORD,
No respect for the work of his hands.
( Isaiah 5:11-12)

If that is the kind of attitude that leads to exile and abandonment by God, would an opposite attitude result in a people drawing close to God and becoming more intimate. It can be an interesting exercise to re-write a paragraph in the opposite vein and see if there is any truth to be seen.

Blessed are those who rise early in the morning
To run after God
Who stay up late at night
Till they are ignited by His word
As they feast upon the Lord
Their harps and lyres, tambourines and flutes
Burst into worship, sweet as wine,
For they see and appreciate the deeds of the LORD,
And give honour to the work of his hands.

Wow! I am not sure that expected that! Truth upon truth! That sets the bar high and paints of picture of a life walking with God that is worth aiming for.