Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Four Weeks Ago

“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” (Proverbs 6:16-19)

I read through the list. The question in the Bible study I was doing asked “Are you guilty of any of these things in your life?” My blithe reply was a confident “No.”

The “Hmmm,” from God came swiftly. “You have a lying tongue.”

Once upon a time, perhaps, I stretched the truth. I felt the need to jazz up the boring life that I lived. I got caught out, as liars often do. I shipwrecked my integrity and decided not to do it again. Truth, and the telling of it, is stamped through me like the word “Blackpool” in a stick of rock.

I knew what God was talking about though. Its that question that people ask, “How are you doing?” and that answer that trips off the tongue so easily, “I’m fine.” Truth to tell – I’m not fine. Life is a challenge.

Four weeks ago my driving licence was confiscated. There were police cars in a layby. Random drivers were pulled over. There was a test. Could I read a car number plate at twenty metres? The sad, sad truth was revealed. No, I couldn’t. The way the trolls on the Facebook page had it, I was death on the road.

A next-day sight test revealed cataracts and I have since joined a waiting list for an appointment to speak to someone at the hospital. My own optician offered to do the job for a cool £9,000 – no, that is not an extra zero accidentally creeping in at the end. So I wait.

There are no guarantees that once the cataracts are gone my eyesight will be up to the twenty-metre-number-plate-reading-challenge. I know I should be talking confidence and speaking victory – it’s just I’ve taken a knock sideways. There’s no reason why things shouldn’t be sorted. The optician mentioned that for one in a thousand the operation doesn’t go well. My mother, in the early days of laser-eye surgery, was one of those one in a thousand. She lost the sight in one eye and refused to allow them to remove the cataract from the other.  Are odds of one in a thousand hereditary?

God’s take on that day four weeks ago, and on the ripples that I’m dealing with, is as follows-

·         It happened. There’s no point wishing it was just a bad dream.

·         I have done all that I was asked to do. I’ve surrendered the licence – even the paper bit, I’ve had an eye test, I’ve paid the fine. I need to stop picking at scabs and leave it alone.

·         It may, or may not, be temporary. It is what it is.

·         Ask for help! Allow other people the blessing of serving! Funny how we are eager to help, but less eager to ask for help! I preached a sermon on that a long time ago – I should listen to what I preach and put it into practice.

·         Don’t put into people’s mouths words they haven’t said. There have been many people who haven’t expressed an opinion about what happened. The little voice in my head insists that they agree that I was death on the roads.

·         Don’t dismiss the possibility of miracles. That says much about how cynical I can be. I’ve spent too much time in the company of the young poo-pooers who scorn the supernatural.

·         Life doesn’t come to an end just because I can’t drive anywhere now. I just need to find other ways to do things. God makes available everything I need for life and godliness.

·         Find joy in walking and riding the bus. Enjoy this part of the journey of life.

·         I am still loved by God. There is no twenty-metre-number-plate-reading-challenge to pass to get into the throne room and share heart with Him.

Monday, May 27, 2019

All that You are - All that I am

You let me step into Your Image
Cover myself in You like a cloak
You ask that I allow
All that You are to become
All that I am
But all that You are to me is
Mostly mystery
How can I become what I don’t know?
Humbly I move aside and
You step into me
And live Your image there

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Wrestling in Prayer

The word “safe” is defined as “protected from or not exposed to danger or risk; not likely to be harmed or lost.”

The other day, while scrolling through Facebook, someone had posted a prayer. It was short, just a few lines, in a colourful box. Someone was praying for God to look after their friends and family and to keep them safe. I read the word “safe” and something in my spirit tugged. It wasn’t a good tugging. It was a sad tug. As much as anyone else I want my family and friends to be safe, if that is all I want for them, if that is all I pray for them, I am not making effective use of the power of prayer to transform them. “Not exposed to danger or risk” is not God’s plan for any of us. The kind of prayers we pray says so much about the faith we follow.

I read this yesterday:-
“Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.  I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.” Col 4:12-14

His prayer wasn’t about keeping anyone safe. Paul writes that “he is always wrestling in prayer for you.”

The word “wrestle” is defined as “take part in a fight, either as sport or in earnest, that involves grappling with one's opponent and trying to throw or force them to the ground.”

I grew up in a household where Saturday afternoon were spent watching wrestling in television. Men with muscles grunted and gripped one another in choke holds or swung their opponents into the ropes. It surprised me that no competitors exited the building carried out on stretchers to waiting ambulances. I dare say a lot of it was drama and show. It didn’t look comfortable. It makes me wonder how much of my own prayer life is all too comfortable and not rally doing much in the way of damage to my enemy.

Epaphras prayed that the believers in the Colossian church would “stand firm in the will of God, mature and fully assured.” It was in the early days of the Christian faith. Admitting faith in Jesus often carries a death sentence. It wasn’t an easy ask that people stand firm in the will of God. Jesus talked of seeds sown in a field where some seeds did not have deep roots. When the sun came up, the trials, their faith withered.

I read this morning of Paul and Silas in jail. Midnight came and they were singing. It doesn’t say that before midnight they were weeping and wailing and then got their act together. They were singing and an earthquake happened. Walls crumbled, chains fell off. They were exposed to danger, to risk and to harm – they were not safe. And yet in some sense, they were. God is sovereign. What He permits, He permits. Some of the saints get rescued. Some don’t. Everyone who commits themselves to Jesus and His kingdom is ultimately safe, if not in this life, then certainly in the next.

If we play safe we never get to see the whole span of the goodness of God. Faith doesn’t get a chance to grow because we stifle it. We re-write God’s promises and never ask for a mountain to move and so it stays in our path casting its shadow and halting our forward journey.

Paul was able to vouch for Epaphras, that he was “working hard”. Prayer that works hard grapples with the opponent and tries to throw or force them to the ground. And who is the opponent? Whatever stands between me and all that God has promised.

Maybe the problem when it comes to praying risky prayers is that we are not convinced that prayer works. Or maybe the problem that we know that prayer works and it frightens us.

God’s best story involves struggle and
There’s a twist that comes at the end
Victory spits in the face of defeat
God knows the inside of a tomb and
It cannot contain Him
He knows the taste of death but
It cannot sting

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Slow To Dress

I have signed myself up to complete a poetry masterclass with Billy Collins online. He makes writing poetry something fun to do. Always carry a notebook, he says, as he goes on to tell of a time when he had a poem growing in his head and nothing to write with or on.  He popped into a bank, snaffled a few deposit slips and used the pen chained to the desk to write his poem.

To accompany the short clips, there’s a workbook that has the writing exercises.

Go for a walk, he says, and take a notebook. I’m not sure that he knows it’s raining outside and I have a hole in my shoe. Observe the things around you – the trees, the people, the puddles and the clouds scudding across the sky. Then write a poem.

I followed the path around the outside of the estate where I live. I stopped to speak to some poppies growing the other side of a green fence. They are almost ready to pop out their loud, red flowers. I’d like to say that I speak to people, but that doesn’t happen often.

The path follows a stream, or burn. There are plenty of trees, most of them with newly minted leaves. The blossom is almost done with. In the middle of a dozen or so trees two stood out. No leaves, no blossom, just bare bark and branches, all grey. Trees die just like any other life form. I thought about diseases – the bugs and bacteria, so small, which fell the giants. I felt sad.

I stepped closer. I’m a tactile kind of a girl. I thought about Jesus cursing a fig tree and wondered if it worked in reverse. Could I speak a word that would bless a tree? That’s when I noticed the trees were not dead. At the end of each branch was a bud. They were just slow to dress.

I think I am going through a “slow-to-dress” phase. It seems that so many of my friends on their faith journey are buzzing and tripping over to tell me their victory stories. I’m standing amid all that wild spiritual growth and feeling like bare bark and branches. And yet, it I look closely there are tight little buds about to explode into brightness and colour. I just need to be patient – there are some things in life that will not hurry.

They stand out
Two naked old ladies in
A room full of girls
In bright spring dresses
They catch the eye but
Bruise the heart
Lean grey limbs exposed
Nothing concealed

Two dead trees stand
Amid a chorus of wild growth
But look – draw close - see
Tight buds primed to burst
Two trees in a wood
Quietly alive
Just slow to dress
Almost ready to join the party

Thursday, May 02, 2019


I know the sun will shine again
Clouds grey and brooding
Are tugged across the sky
Rain spits on the pavement
Gathers in pewter coloured puddles
Seeps through the hole in my shoe
I shelter in a shop doorway
And wish I had an umbrella

I know the sun will shine again
Gravestones grey and granite are like
Broken teeth sown into a hillside
Sorrow spills from my crushed soul
Gathers in warm salt tears
Seeping out of a hole in my heart
I shelter in a husband’s embrace
And wish I still had a son