Bad News?

I haven’t much time to post, but thank the Lord, I do feel fine, and my life is full of many good things and I am grateful for every new day, even ones like today when rushing too and fro, up and down the hill was too say the least a little tiring. The placard with today’s headlines from a local newspaper was just standing there, minding its own business, outside the little shop. I found it just invited comment

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Bad news?

I am afraid the real high cost of dying, is losing your life.

Good News!

Often overlooked, at this time of year when we are assailed on every side with costly, often unnecessary and unwanted luxury items, is this

ETERNAL life is a free gift.

Thanks be to God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.

And love, peace, goodwill to all who are finding this present, earthly life difficult right now!

Stormy Advent Waters

I had an Irish friend, Aileen, but she answered to Ellen, amongst other things. Ellen, lovely Ellen, was kind, homely, hospitable, and a terror to pastors. Every remembrance of her comes with a smile. Baptised and bought up as a Catholic she had avoided church like a plague for most of her life, she would’ve have loved the thought of these words being posted here, because Ellen believed in telling it, and did tell it like it was. Ellen’s sister in law was a staunch baptist and despite her best efforts, Ellen avoided her baptist church as well, until one day having turned 60 years old, she suddenly felt a tremendous conviction that she must go to church and at that church she heard the Pastor say, “You must be born again,” utterly convicted, Ellen was baptised, and as a born again Christian and staunch baptist, staunchly anti Rome and Catholicism.

In all things Ellen was fervent, she was vivacious, outgoing, and forthright in the way a true Irish woman is, and it wasn’t long, before she found the baptist way a bit too solemn and she discovered the small, Pentecostal hall, almost on her doorstep, from being overlooked, and regarded with a sniff, that little church became Ellen’s heaven. She loved everyone dearly and was dearly loved, but, and but is a big but here, Ellen always knew what the Lord was telling, and wanted the Pastor, the elders and everyone else to do. Problem was no one’s hearing was as sharp as Ellen’s … Consequently she was always sailing on stormy seas, but she never ran aground, Jesus the Captain of her soul, made sure of that. Fiercely determined, stubborn, when she made up her mind; a gentle word from the Lord would cause her to break down and weep.

This is a true story, a paragraph out of my memory book. Something had happened at the little chapel, Ellen didn’t like it, she stamped her foot and swore to the Lord, in her friend’s hearing, “No Lord, I won’t”

Ever done that?
Been so angry and worked up over some trifle, some word, put your foot down and sworn an oath?

The friend, with a reputation for quietness and meekness, held her peace, until some weeks later when Ellen asked her into her home to pray for her “foot” Yes the very same foot that had been stamped, apparently, the Doctor had diagnosed a rheumatoid flare up, on asking the question, the friend was told that the condition had developed the day following her temper.

“Maybe” the friend suggested, she should say “sorry” —-

Ellen, dear daughter of God, burst into tears and did just that. The pain went within the hour.

I don’t know why I should suddenly be thinking of Ellen, she was a good woman, but like most of us the gold in her character was mixed with other metals, mercurial temperament and iron clad stubbornness being two of them, and she was, perhaps not strangely often right when it came to Pastors .. She just couldn’t help ruffling feathers! Something that Old Testament Prophets were quite good at too.

I promised a fellow blogger that I would answer a few question about myself, and if she is reading this, I will do .. But somehow Ellen who sailed stormy waters to be near her Friend Jesus has been in my thoughts.

The picture is a collage of things around me, a picture of stormy Advent Seas, a candlestick, my bible, open at Isaiah ch. 2 verse 5, “let us walk in the light if the Lord” and a purple ribbon given to me last Sunday to remind me that the First Sunday of Advent is the beginning of the Church Year. Our hearts are often storm tossed, even the quietest of us experiences angry, disturbed thoughts from time to time, I know I do, and that I need the Lord to steer my ship, I need to come–about and pitch unwanted cargo overboard, I need the Light of Christ.

Whether you are sailing stormy seas, or peaceful ones, take the Light of Christ with you and you will journey safely

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Boo!
What is it about putting the clocks back that unnerves us so?
It isn’t always us girls that jump.

I received a text from a Ken who had gone up to church, and in the puddle of gloom just inside the porch, saw a shadowy form. It was just a dressmakers mannequin modelling Joseph’s coat of many colours, and behind him, well that was just a dummy, created by Junior Church, originally intended to be the man set about by robbers in the story of the Good Samaritain. It was dusky dark, and Ken hadn’t been in church to see them left there. He just jumped. Out of his boots!

Dusk, gloom, darkness, all three get inside our heads and imagination. Perhaps something left over before street lighting, porch lights (there is one on the outside of that particular door – just needs a hand to reach round and switch the inside one on), perhaps.

Singing practice for Christmas services starts this week. 6pm is a dreadful time for one or two of the ladies, I have promised to be there and open the big gates to make it possible for them to park their vehicles close by the front porch. Because no one likes walking down the narrow path to the back door. The path by the way is illuminated by security lighting, but just happens to run parallel to the churchyard for a little way.

I walk. Everywhere. I shall be walking up the road, in dare I say it, in the dark by myself, to open the gates and doors to let them all in. Maybe using a telescope in the backyard, when younger, has helped, I don’t know. I love dark skies, which we don’t have around here anymore, I love to see the stars blaze out. I like it dark enough to identify the lunar seas, and the Orion’s Sword Handle. Or, perhaps I am very conscious that the darkness and the light are both alike to God.

“if I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light around me. (Psalm 139 v11)

I love this verse, from the Hymn By J Ellerton, we used to sing it as the last hymn of the Evening Service.

Grant us thy peace. lord through the coming night;
Turn thou fir us it’s darkness into light;
From harm and danger keep thy children free,
For dark and light are both alike to thee.”

I wonder how many find time to say a short prayer as the dusk fall?

The photo shows St Philips, the Cathedral Church of Birmingham Diocese, it is I think rather lovely, and newly posted on the Cathedral’s Facebook page.

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Because We Are the Lilies of The Field

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For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

These are the words carved between the angel heads on our simple wooden lytchgate. In times past the bearers (on foot if you were a poor family) would lay their burden on the bench inside and rest awhile before continuing on to bury their loved one.

Now when I am tired, sad or discouraged, I take time and rest awhile, taking in the loveliness of nature, I consider the lilies of the field. I know those words which say we are like the flowers which fall I know the words Jesus spoke concerning the lilies of the field, of how that King Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as well as these humble, short -lived flowers, and I don’t feel sad any more, I recognise that I am a Lily of the field, you might say, here today, gone tomorrow. I say, yes, but “gone where?”

From a child, I have passed by, read those words on the lytchgate, I know who I have believed, the gate that Jesus keeps, is not the gate to the churchyard but to eternal life. Take a careful look at the poppies here. They are not sad, they are in festal gowns.

I wish you joy!

One Poppy to Rule Them All

Over the past couple of weeks children have filled church, filled it with their art, drawing, painting and sculpture and rather wonderfully with themselves.

Two special schools visited Monday morning, among them traumatised children unable to cope with lessons in a normal school environment, the sound of a bell to announce changing lessons some would find terrifying, but come they did to see their work and the work of others, notice they did, that in the first church porch we were getting ready for Remembrance Sunday.

Wednesday morning a gift arrived in church. I have called it One Poppy to Rule Them All. Made in the Art Department at Whiteheath Education Centre, from plaster and hand painted,it measures perhaps 2ft x 2ft. We set it carefully against a choir stall .. Stood back and admired.

So much to admire, isn’t there? The skill of the hands that made and painted it, the patience and gift of the teachers who gave instruction. Most of all, I think the love of children who saw what we were preparing to do, to honour the memory if those fallen in battle in defence of freedom and peace…

Wednesday afternoon, 90 little shrimps, visited from another school. Aged just 5 years or less, they stole my heart, especially when one young lady christened their mascot a teddy, she named him Dan, in the big stone font, with me hanging on to make sure both didn’t fall into it!

Little eyes quickly spotted the big Poppy and I was told enthusiastically that all were going to buy a Poppy to wear at school the next day.

I just praise God for all of our children, and give thanks for the freedom and security they have, for the education they have, for those who teach and inspire them, I pray that all the world’s children might be so blessed. I hear a whisper from long ago,

“Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19 v14)

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Arty Crafty

This week Church is playing host to an Art Exhibition, children and young people who live in Rowley were invited to draw, paint, sculpt anything to do with the people, wildlife, buildings, well anything Rowley the age groups begin with 5. Impressive that is one word heard quite a lot today.

The Dean of Birmingham Cathedral came along to open and judge today, and on the top of our windy hill, the winner from the youngest group was chosen as overall winner. Why? She reckons he was trying to show just how windy it is on the top of this hill.

The Dean’s thoughts in the visitors book are shown in the photo posted with the Gold Rosette winner. The pictures are on display until Friday and we are looking forward to children and parents over the next few days, it is good to make new friends.

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The floral arrangement standing in the entrance porch is Carole’s handiwork, Carole is Secretary to the Church Council and just, a little older but she loves to create lovely things.

“He paints the way side flower, he lights the evening star” these words from the favourite Harvest Hymn say something about God and his children, we love to paint the wayside flower, and if only it were possible, light the evening star too. Human beings reflect the joy of the Creator in their own creativity – my favourite writers on WordPress – are like the one, described in the Psalm, they have the tongue of a ready writer.

Good Morning God

One of my happier tasks is to compile and edit the Church Magazine. I like to encourage every one to contribute something, this prayer was given to me, hand written on a piece of paper carefully laid up in a friends bible, treasured in memory of Mr Alfred Mole a local Methodist preacher of many years. The words are his, the prayer he prayed at the start of each day.

Good Morning God
You are ushering in another day
Untouched and freshly new,
So here I am asking you, God,
If you will please renew me too.
Please forgive the many errors
That I made yesterday
And let me try again, dear God,
To walk closer in thy way…
But Father I am well aware
I can’t make it on my own,
So please, take my hand and hold it tight,
For I can’t walk alone

Nellie, who let me borrow the paper, tells me that right up to the moment when The Lord called him home, Alfred was still gathering folk in his Nursing Home around for a ‘word in prayer’ … and despite, the cynical times in which we live they were happy to do that. Such a faith as this speaks for itself.

Writing this the day after Jim’s funeral attended by 200 folk from every little chapel on our door step, I reflect that, none if us can make it on our own, we all need our Father to take our hand and hold it tight, and whatever failings of yesterday may have been, to look up, welcome him as we would sunshine after rain, and say

Good Morning God.

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