Followers

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Leaving

Having been a student of the Bible for forty years or more stories become familiar.  I know what comes next and I’m ready for it.  There are times where one or two words in a paragraph catch my attention. They are usually little words that the eye slips over while reading the big words.

“Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a long sheet of clean linen cloth. He placed it in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance and left. Both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting across from the tomb and watching.” Matthew 27:59-61 (NLT)

Which words? So many to choose from.

The word is “left”. After taking the body, wrapping it in the linen cloth and placing it in the new tomb the story ends with Joseph rolling the stone over the entrance and then leaving.  Other people sit across from the tomb and watch, but Joseph left. He walked away.

And then he left

He had washed the tent wrapping
Soiled by blood and
Carefully folded the frame with
Not a bone broken
And wrapped it in a cloth

He didn’t sit somewhere
To admire the craftsmanship
Of the tomb –
His tomb, newly hewed
Or run a finger along the dry stone

He held no vigil
No candle to burn
The body was
Not there to be watched.

He closed the door

The story might not have ended
There might have been another scene
An encore, perhaps
His part in the drama was done

Trusting that what will happen
Will happen
Without his need to be there

He left

I think we find leaving very hard to do. Some leavings should be hard to do – leaving a child on his or her first day at nursery. It should be hard. There should be tears and a sense of loss. Leaving has to happen. There’s no way a parent follows a child through the school system sitting next them simply because it’s too hard to leave. Leaving is necessary for both parent and child. Leaving allows the teacher to get on with their job.

Joseph couldn’t make the resurrection happen by sitting in the tomb and watching the body. He had done his part. What happened next he had no control over – so he left.

In leaving he wasn’t neglecting his job. There was nothing else for him to do.

It is an act of trust when we leave. We give God the time and the space for His next action without breathing down His neck. There will be a next action and it doesn’t depend on my being there to egg God on.

We put things into His hands…and then we leave. It’s all about trust.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Worth Writing Down

“To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:

These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives. Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.”
Revelation 2:12-17

There are times when I have had enough of Bible notes. Sometimes I fall into a ticky-box mentality that says I’ve done it and the rest of the day gets lived largely without reference to what I’ve rad. On a particular day the message seems as if it has nothing to do with me. The days I don’t do the study plunges me into trying to catch up.

My sister was visiting a week or two ago. She left behind a copy of the current Scripture Union’s Daily Bread. I dipped for the day reading Revelation 2:12-17. I also huntedd down a deeper study from Bible.org - https://bible.org/seriespage/4-pergamum-compromising-church

Some spiritual truths were worth writing down:-

·         I have been given Christ’s words of truth, not just words written on a page. The Spirit of the Living Word dwells in me. His word is absolute and not to be messed with. I will stand beneath that word and allow my hidden heart to be exposed.


·         I am called to be God’s witness in a world where His values are not honoured, where there is opposition and where a faithful testimony leads to persecution and ridicule. If words and my lifestyle should stir no one I must ask why and seek to change. I was born for the furnace and the fire.

·         I have only one King and His name is Jesus. I have only one allegiance and it is to Him alone. I will not bend the knee to anything or anyone else.

·         I have been given precious freedom. I will not allow myself to be enticed into another kind of bondage through teaching that doesn’t measure up to scripture. The world may accept a certain truth as normal but I am led by the Spirit.

·         What satisfies my soul cannot come from the world – but from only Jesus and His word.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Still Breathing

It has always been on God’s to-do list for me to lead a creative writing group. I have managed to avoid the job and let other people do it instead. One gets to a point however when God simply insists. He didn’t listen to Moses at the burning bush as he listed all the things that would disqualify him from leading the people of Israel out of Egypt. Enough of the excuses – just do the job. I restarted our Breathe Writers group which had ceased to exist after our venue closed down and our leader moved to Edinburgh.

Well, I am into three months of leading Breathe Writers. It sounds busier than it is. We have met just the three times.

The venue is the Bike Shed cafĂ© on the other side of the river run by a groups of churches. The time is two hours on a Saturday morning, the third Saturday of the month. The place is open to customers. Some days the place has been very quiet. Other times it’s a little more lively.

I’d been listening to a podcast earlier in the week. The interviewed poet was talking about gleaning ideas for writing from all around for her. Not everything will make it on to the page, Not everything will be out own personal experiences. Writers need to be observers as much as anything. They need to be always taking note of things they see or hear.

With this in mind we took a few minutes to read through newspapers.

I know people that don’t read newspapers. There’s so much negative press that reading about it just makes them miserable. The world, according to the press, is a hostile place. There are very few articles that lift the spirit.

The task was to find an article that resonated.  Mine was a report about recent wild fires. I’m not entirely sure about how wild some of these fires are. There’s a tradition of burning of the bracken.  Sometimes it is just about dry days and hot ground and a discarded cigarette stub tossed from a car window.

Here’s my take on fires:-

A fire covered five square miles of forest. Fire engines from surrounding areas were called into deal with it. Prevention as much as the cure was part of their strategy – pouring water on warm ground that had not yet ignited.

It reminds me of what the book of James says about the tongue and the fire it can start:-

“…the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” James 3:5

One hot spark of criticism, an insult or just something taken the wrong way can start a fire. I know myself to be a woman of words and. At times, a woman of passion. What must I do to dampen down the warm ground in me before it ignites? Saturating myself in the Spirit-directed word is a starting point. I will be judged for the nonsense that spills from my lips. Best not to say too much and think first before I speak.

A further exercise involved mind maps or cluster diagrams. A single word evolved into a spider that just kept growing outwards. Words and phrases, thoughts and connections crawled over the page. I’d chosen the word “fruitfulness”.  My favourite word on the page was “pie”.

Here’s mine take it:-

The world, society, demands that we be fruitful, that we contribute. We don’t to be in a job that fulfils us, something that satisfies our inner man or settles in the spirit as something a person was born to do. The world insists that we should be useful.

The world frowns on those who they see are not playing their part – the barren ones, the ones who contribute nothing, not income tax or making improvements to society.

Sadly we have allowed that kind of thinking to seep into the church. Too many programs and ministries are crested to provide opportunities for members to contribute. “Doing” has replaced “being” and “action” has replaced “waiting”. As a business the church works. As a body of Christ  it fall short of what God intends.

Drawing close to God, seeing the Christian life as an adventure, finding joy far outweighs ticking any boxes.

Over coffee the other day a friend and I reminisced long ago days of form filling in our local church. It was all about working out what gifting you had and how best to make use of it.  It was a good business strategy that should never have been applied to a church setting. It left little room for God to position people where He wanted them to be.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

God's New Thing

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
(Isaiah 43:18-19)

I was reading this yesterday, just before a friend told me she was packing up and heading off to different climes. Her children had all grown up. She has quit her job. All the things that come with the job, all the benefits, the retirement package – just right now she is cutting them loose.

I never quite has the courage to do that. That’s actually not true. I did quit my job for a while. I joined a gospel outreach mission for a year. Was it the best year of my life? No. It was a good year, a year to celebrate an adventure in faith. Other years, that came after were as good. I don’t want to forget the former things – not those good things. I don’t want to be always hankering for the good old days as if today can never measure up.

“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness…” (Malachi 3:3)

I also read these words from Malachi. The people of God had been in exile and returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the temple. They were getting disheartened. They felt that whatever they built would never measure up to the temple that Solomon built. Worship would never reach the lofty heights of a holy smoke filled room, the building shaking and the people falling to their knees in awe. That was all in the past. Things were different now and they simply had to adjust to something “less than” what went before.

I’m not sure that God said then that it would all work out right in the end. He gave them a stern talking to. Their attitude was less than positive and their actions were half hearted at best, down right contemptuous at worse.

These were the people that Isaiah was speaking to, long before they went into exile. He told them they would go, but it wouldn’t be forever because God had a plan. They had lost sight of the plan God had.  The old things held their attention – the good old days that weren’t so good at all.

New things? I admit that I’m not always the adventurous kind. My friend choosing to down tools, to waiver pension payments and all the world says will bring security – her actions have made me thing that the comfortable nest I have built is perhaps falling short of what God intended for me. I have downed tools. I retired and got myself a bus pass. So much time now. So much time to do the things God has set aside for me to do. I’m not supposed to keep on building the nest.

New things?  

"And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins." (Mark 2:22)

An old wineskin doesn’t become a new one – not ever. Old is old. The leather is less malleable. There are cracks. It needs to be replaced. God reminded me that I’m not an old wineskin. I stopped being one when I entered into a covenant with Him. What was old was done with. Tossed away as not needed.

“So,” said God, “you are a new wineskin – except you are not behaving like one. You are a new wineskin that thinks it’s old. You are soft leather. You are flexible. You can expand when the new thing comes. Except you’re not. What you are and what you think you are – you’re not in harmony with yourself. Everything is a battle and it shouldn’t be.”

Wineskins

It’s entirely possible
To be an old wineskin
That thinks itself new
You spread out ready
For the new wine
Except you can’t stretch
Too set in your way
Unable to bend, you break
And the wine is lost

It’s entirely possible
To be a new wineskin
That thinks itself old
You could spread out ready
For the new wine
Except you don’t
Too afraid of the adventure
Able to bend, unlikely to break
But the wine is never shared

It is the truth
You are a new wineskin
Reckon yourself new
Stretch and spread
For the new wine is
Coming now – right now
Embrace the adventure
Bend with the Spirit
Share the wine