Category: Journal

Tree

“Whosoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple”

Luke 14. 27

It’s just a tree. Gnarled, twisted, battered by the winds… but still standing.

A bit like you and I have often felt….

We all endure our share of storms in one way or another, we all get conflict and some of us at some point in life will know pain and agony in our mortal bodies, some will fall victim of wrong doers, some will be found guilty of a crime they didn’t commit… do you remember the story of Joseph?

Joseph sold into slavery by his brothers out of envy. Joseph falsely accused by his master’s wife and turn, turn again promoted to high office and power by Pharaoh, Joseph who became the rescuer of those same brothers and his fathers whole family. Joseph who being begged for forgiveness by those same brothers, said simply this:-

“You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good”

I have been reflecting on the picture because I see Jesus Body borne on the cross in it…. I think I shall go on reflecting on it for a very long time and praying that when troubled, and when assailed by that oft asked question

“Why me Lord? What have I done to deserve this?”

That I shall remember these words also:-

“All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8.28

Father,

If you would,

Give me Grace, and fortitude

That blown about in the Gales of Conflict,

To just hang on and take it. Courage,

Lord to withstand Howling Storm – bitterest grief

And pain of every kind.

Grant me the sweet, sweet, love and compassion

Of Joseph, and of other Cross Bearers before me

Most of all, grant that I also may be ‘conformed’

To the image of your most dear son,

That most Beautiful of men,

My Saviour

Thy Son,

Jesus Christ

always Jean

Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods,

So is my beloved among the sons.

I sat down in his shade with great delight,

And His fruit was sweet to my taste.

Song of Solomon 2:3

All scriptures are from NKJV

To Wait is to Hope For, To Expect

The Other Side

“Carrying His own cross, He went out to the place of the skull, (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha”

John 19.17

To wait is to hope for, expect Colonel Cook’s handwriting told me… not sure what it was I did hope for in those days, but am sure that I did expect that my prayers would be heard and answered. In fact I was convinced that they would be. There was a solid reality behind those words of Jesus concerning asking, seeking and knocking.

Yet, I asked myself what did Jesus, Himself hope for,expect?

Well, he did not expect that life for him would be easy, comfortable and without its sorrows. He accepted whatever it pleased his Father in heaven to send or give. As a young woman he impressed upon me that I should do the same following Jesus meant accepting a share in difficulties, uncomfortable and sorrowful experiences.

Young people these days do hope for, and expect so much more than I did, in the worldly, material sense; I get the impression that it is common to believe that following Jesus, today is to be able to “have it all” in the worldly sense and still be a “celebrity” in the discipleship game.

We can’t.

First principles still apply.

“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it”

Mark 10. 38 (N.I.V,”

Not the kind of thing which people wish to hear anymore, and even less popular the Bible Teaching on Holiness. The Teaching of the Beatitudes has sadly become simply “beautiful words” to read but not to practice. I think that is a deep sorrow for many Christians who find themselves labelled with all kinds of hurtful and discriminatory words, yes in this modern age of our where all kinds of discrimination are legislated against it is still possible, and highly likely that the faithful, devout, meek, gentle, kind sincere soul will be spoken against, called names and persecuted because they have committed the crime of following Jesus.

Gracious Saviour

You did teach us to expect our share of troubles in the world

You did tell us that in you we would find peace:

Give to us courage, endurance in the waiting and always your gentleness, love and forgiveness in times of opposition and persecution.

For love of us, your tears flowed in Gethsemane’s Garden:

For love of us, you accepted the Cup your Father placed into your hands.

Help us to do the same.

Amen

Always, Jean

Fellowship and Wisdom’s Fruit

Father, may they be one in us. John 17.21 JB

Jesus prayed for all of us

“May they all be one,

Father, may they be one in us,

As you are in me and I am in you,

So that the world may believe it was you who sent me.

John 17.21 JB

I have a long history of worshiping the Lord in Church and of being part of God’s family. It has not always been in the same family home with the same branch of the family; but it has always been in God and He in me. He has carried me along, sheltered and warmed me as we journeyed and I have known only warmth and welcome amongst brothers and sisters … whatever the name on the church sign board.

These recent days, I have been remembering different ones from those fellowships and spending a little time reflecting on their generous sharing of fellowship, time and wisdom.

Col. Cook and his wife had been Missionaries in the days when China did not warmly welcome Missionaries; and I knew somewhere, I still had a precious bookmark carefully tucked away, but where? So began a careful search of bibles, and books, I have many. It took 3 days of searching; in between other tasks but finally I found it.

Wisdom’s Fruit

My fruit is better than fine gold:

What I yield surpasses choice silver

Proverbs 8:19 N.I.V.

I cannot find a version of the Bible which uses the word gifts rather than fruit (other than the NLT. which was not in print in 1970s) – perhaps one of my readers can throw some light on that. Certainly this dear man and his wife blessed me with the fruit of wisdom harvested in their long years of serving the Lord in a difficult place. They never preached down at me, simply gave the gift of friendship and understanding.

Now I have reached their age, and I hope and intend to offer friendship, warmth an open heart and listening ear to any young person seeking to learn and know Jesus better.

Lord, you are the one who nurtures and cares for us

Lord, you are the one who carried us, and carries us

All the days of our life;

Giving us Wisdom’s fruit, ripened through the years,

Now grant us Grace,

That each heart may be

A welcoming place –

For you,

And that we may be truly one.

Always, Jean

I bless the Lord for the Gift of Years.

A Portrait of the Master

Image from Stained Glass Window

All my life, so it seems to me, and I have been talking to the Lord more years than I can recall, I have wished to own a picture of Jesus, the Real Jesus. A picture I could keep safely treasured away, and take out from time to time just to – well – I leave you to finish this sentence. Because chances are if you are taking time to read this article your desire has been my desire.

The Lord reminded me this morning that I have in fact been gazing on His face a very long time with these words,

“Who sees the face but sees in part,

Who reads the Spirit which it hides, sees all,

And needs no more.

Thy life in my life, Lord,

Give thou to me;

And then in truth,

I may forever see

My Master’s face.”

William Hurd Hillyer.

Everyone who loves and prays has an imprint of Christ on their heart it cannot be otherwise for God will never fail to notice and to pour out His Spirit on those who truly seek His Face. True, it is a matter of sitting still and allowing God the artist to work ~ but God has the time and is patient and will persevere with us to make His work within us perfect, complete… while I was musing, the Spirit bought me back in time, “Don’t you remember?”

I was a young woman with a lot to learn, and with little time to sit still and come to the Lord … so the Lord came to me. I looked, as the scripture stories say, and Jesus sat on the chair by my bedside. In my vision Jesus wore a long brown coat, not white and that puzzled me and has been pondered over much down the years. He said nothing, Not a word. His face spoke all… gentle, full of concern, concern and care. Now I know, that concern was for what the future held for me. He sat very upright, dignified… a little sadness I saw, sadness as a Teacher might be sad for all the hardness of the world His students would have to face… do you remember these words from John’s Gospel, chapter 15.18-19

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you

If you were of the world, the world would love its own, yet. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you”

N.K.J.V.

I have pondered, over and over again why the Lord said not a word. But could I have borne words from my Lord then? Would I have known what to do about an instruction? Could I have carried an instruction out? But nevertheless without audible words He was speaking… “who reads the Spirit which it hides, sees all”

To be spiritually minded is life and peace …(Rom, 8:6)

Lord as I sit, still, attentive quiet,

So I look on you and you in me;

Help me, then to be content to gaze on you,

Even as you gaze on me.

Jean

p.s. No, the Jesus I saw in my vision did not have blonde hair. He was in fact, very dark.

Light and Warmth and Covenant of Grace

Anemone De Caen

May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from His glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the Saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1: 11-14 NRSV

October, and the rainy, dark days are here. And if that were not enough to plunge us into gloom this year we have a Pandemic as well.

My older friend sent a message “Been thinking of you she said. Wear something bright with lots of colour… work with some colour… if you have some spare time.”

Many years ago I discovered for myself the therapeutic power of my watercolour paint box and my waterproof coat is bright red. The last of the red roses sing out to me in the garden, and my red breasted friend the Robin is there every morning waiting for his breakfast to appear through the kitchen door.

I chose the red Anemone de Caen which are planted out from September to November in the U.K. to flower around March to April (around Eastertide) for this post simply because when I look at it I think of the Lord who has rescued us from the power of darkness and bought us into the kingdom of light.

Now that makes my heart sing out for joy however dark the day! I hope yours also. Moreover I find that the warmth and light of Adonai are not just on the outside but inside also. The Lord of all grace is not waiting for some future date to transfer His sons and daughters into the kingdom of His beloved Son, it is done now …. the red blood of Jesus has bought for us Eternal Redemption.

Oh dearest Lord,

In the shelter of Your wing,

You cause our heart to sing

Out with joy.

In your light we see light.

And we are warmed in your love;

Wrapped around in Your embrace,

And Your covenant of Grace.

Always Jean

Golden Glory/Autumn Rain

Autumn in the City (Birmingham U.K)

I love Autumn it’s colours, it’s smells, the air. The carpets of leaves under my feet which sometimes crunch as Corn Flakes do, I love Autumn’s Promise, “Look, I am just touching everything with sleep for a little while…. “Get ready for Spring and waking up”

I have always trusted God to keep His promises, especially the one that as long as Earth remains Springtime and Harvest won’t fail to show up on time. But that doesn’t mean to say, that I should be careless and disrespectful to Mother Earth, she is the home that God gave me … full of wonders that I will never see, full of creatures, great and small, bright, beautiful and trees that can count hundreds, some thousands even, of candles on their birthday cakes. No. I cannot be disrespectful to Mother Earth.

I have watched a cheeky little family of dunnocks splashing water over one another in the giant flower pot saucer I fill with clean water every day. I think to myself, “now they’re good baptists” I watch tiny squirrel kittens learning from their parents the art of nut storing and the frantic antics to find them again! I wonder at the smallness and fragility of the little nest I found amongst the Ash Branches, I wonder and I marvel…

This year, I have picked an old habit up again … every Autumn I would plant some new bulbs…. an act of faith, trust in the Lord that come Spring the little bulbs will poke their little heads from under their winter duvet, daffodils will begin work on their Easter Bonnets…

I cannot disrespect Mother Earth nor any of the things, times and seasons which God has ordained even rainy days bring with them news from heaven.


Today has been a day of rain. Not just a little rain. It’s ok for me I can just look out of the window and watch the rain and the people go by, although it is true not many walk nowadays, but some still do especially schooldays; when moms push buggies and prams with older children at their side or dawdling behind, then the pavement is empty again until the great turn around time, and back home walk.

Autumn rain

Look around
Look around, look around
Is there something I'm missing here?
Is there something I should know?

And just listen to the sound
All around there's people living their lives
People passing by
As I catch their eye

It doesn't matter where you're from
'Cause wherever you are from
You got a long walk home
You got a long walk on

And I've walked for many years
And I've never shed a tear
For a place called home
'Cause in this place I roam...

Everyone's the same
When you're walking in the autumn rain
Walking in the autumn rain

When you're walking from your past
You can never walk too fast
Think you got away at last
Think you got away at last

And we all have to live with our mistakes
But what would it take
To make things right
To feel good inside?

It doesn't matter what you've done
'Cause whatever you've done
Life has to go on
Life has to go on, yeah

And my conscience is always clear every time I am here
Because there is no blame
When you're walking
In the autumn rain
In the autumn rain

I don’t know if you know that song?

Do you remember walking to and from school.

I do. All of my life my feet and legs have been my way of getting there from child to adult and my experience of rain is sometimes it’s been a delight and others ~ cold, wet and miserable. Another thought is how we feel when walking in rain is not really governed by the feel of the cold rain on our skin; but how we are feeling on the inside. I can remember walking with others and sometimes yet feeling alone: sometimes walking alone but yet feeling carried along in a crowd.

One day, sooner than they think, the little children, their moms and dads might be asking themselves what it would take to make things right and to feel good inside, as I draw the curtains on rainy, dark evenings I say a prayer that sometime in the walk of life someone will take the time to share with them the trust and faith which we were taught as little children, tell them Jesus is just a prayer away and that our Father is holding out His hand with a longing to make things right and let them feel good on the inside. We don’t remain as children forever; there is nothing so sad, so forlorn as a grown up with a hurting, empty heart which doesn’t know the grace and comfort of the Holy Spirit of God.

Lord, let the Autumn Rain bring your blessing

Let the Autumn Rain fall warm and with tenderness

Fill the heart of young ones, that they may never,

Walk alone in the Autumn Rain,

Nor miss the loveliness of Golden Glory

Amen

Always, Jean

Autumn Rain, lyrics by MATTHEW HARDWIDGE, PHELIM BYRNE [Universal Music Publishing Group

In Praise of God’s Patience

The fragrance of time

It takes time to grow a rose. Time for buds to firm, open. It takes time to take in its fragrance, to enjoy its sweetness. Such a pity to be in such a hurry that we have no time to simply look and notice the subtle shading of its petticoat, to touch and smell.

At the beginning of Lockdown in the U.K. I just simply didn’t realise how tired I was. It wasn’t until two weeks in that I came to a stop with trying to get some important things in order – even that stop came as the result of being blocked as necessary communications with various official offices closed down. Telephone queues became hours long, replies to emails were likewise delayed by several days…. so I came to a stop, found content in my little wilderness garden, and found joy in just being still in one place,

Silence will speak more to you in a day than the world of voices can teach you in a lifetime.

Find silence. Find solitude – and having discovered her riches,

Bind her to your heart

Frances J. Roberts… Come away. My beloved (Barbour Books)

And in the silence.. the sound of the rain, the gentle soft rain of the Holy Spirit that refreshes, restores and brings new growth.

Not, the hard, loud, rain of a deluge that causes panic as the flood waters rise to overwhelm a distressed soul.

Not the cold, persistent rain that chills to the bone.

But the soft, gentle, showers of blessing, that leave rainbow crystal drops on herbs, grass, thirsty flowers: rain to swell the buds, causing them to open.

As I rested, I was aware that the Lord was never going to chide me for sitting, and just sitting, because I was sitting with Him, and this was what He wanted, and what He purposed.

As we sat, so my understanding grew, and grows of many things shown and given, through the long years.

He showed me a box, a golden box, a bejewelled box, which I thought must contain some fortunate ladies precious treasures.

“I gave you the box, many years ago!

I gave you the key,

But you were careless with it;

You put it aside, out of sight:

Too busy, Martha to sit awhile,

This to do …..

That to do ….

You gave me back the key.

And the box?

The box you forgot. Placing it

Conveniently, at the back of memory’s closet.

My sweet girl,

I let you,

Allowed you to do this,

Because, I your loving

Friend and brother, watching jealousy

Wanted the pleasure of sitting with you,

To watch you open your gift and taking

Out every treasure reward me with your

Pleasure.

Me and Jesus sitting together

Yes.

The story is true but praise God for His Grace, the Lord and I sit together, and even when Lockdown is done and tiredness done. We will still be sitting together.

When

The Cloisters, Chester Cathedral

Well, the rain finally arrived, out came a rain coat to venture into my little Wilderness to feed the birds, and just to walk awhile, the birds watching from the shelter of the trees, watching, waiting. When would I disappear into the kitchen and leave them to their dining?

When? Is the big question in the U.K. When will people be able to get back to jobs in offices, restaurants, when will hair dressers be opening up to cut our lockdown hair problems down to size?

My own hair is quite long now but not as long as it was. Yesterday morning, I took hair dressing scissors and matters into my own hands; gathered it up into a ponytail and cut off two inches. This took all of 30 seconds and a lot of courage. Actually, combed out it looks good and it feels good!

“That feels good, Lord,” I murmured ~ and why not our Father knows our thoughts anyway. “I’ve pruned it. It will grow again but without the dead and split ends.”

Our Father, of course made no reply. After all He is the True Gardener and expertly, keeps the branches in the Vine in good trim, removing the old growth so they will produce new, more vigorous growth, more, good fruit.

Stay united with me, as I will with you – for just as the branch can’t put forth fruit by itself apart from the vine – so you can’t bear fruit apart from me.

John 15.4 CJB

Another scripture tells us that Our Father corrects every child of his, and that if He doesn’t then we are none of His. We cannot keep our old, childish habits and grow into mature Christians, growing in Jesus means we must accept correction and that is pruning.

As small children our youngest brother would happily forgo washing, if he could. But keen sighted mom would take firm hold of him and the soap! “No child of mine goes out looking like that”

Oh no. No. Mom not the soap”

We would just smile at each other. He was, a handsome little lad really, when washed and his blonde hair neatly combed.

Everything takes time. It takes time for hair to grow. Time for mucky little lads to grow into smart young men. It takes time for a Vine to produce fruit. Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a season and a right time for every intention under heaven.

For some of the Father’s children, isolation and lockdown are, I am sure proving to be a season of correction and pruning, as in solitude and silence the Father’s heart and our heart have met together. And what a wonderful, beautiful, holy time this can be… as we have clung tightly to the Christ the Vine “stay united with me” He says, “As I will with you

At the time of writing I cannot say when I shall be at liberty to come and go, as I choose again, I can say that I love, more and more, to be with the Gardener and His Son, with freshly opened eyes.

Lord be with us, especially those who are shut in and live alone, you have called us to take off our shoes and be content to stay awhile. Nothing can happen to us, or with us, that you do not know already. You hide us in your secret place whilst the world passes by. Speak to us now, and let us hear, so that in the proper season we may bear much fruit that will be delightful to your taste. This we ask in the Name of Jesus who is one with you in us, shares The Gardener’s pruning with us. Amen

When the world is Coronavirus free, my friend has promised a visit to Chester Cathedral, where I like to walk in the Cloisters, and a cream tea.

Fortunate and blessed

I am fortunate, I am blessed with a large garden~ My own little wilderness

During the past few few days, I have spent much time out in my wilderness, chopping, pruning, digging, planting and just sitting, looking, listening

Just sitting, I have been visited, by small elusive birds, cheekier and noisier larger ones and the butterflies

Orange-Tip
(Anthocharis cardamines)

Birds, looking for food in their eating place, the little ones careful to avoid the bigger, bossier ones and a squabble, and the spring butterflies searching for nectar amongst the flowers. All at peace. All at rest.

Why can’t the world always be so quiet, so calm at rest?

I am distracted by thoughts of Elijah being fed by the ravens and because it is sunny, and hot my butterfly thoughts flitted back to a visit to Italy, Subiaco and Santo Speco where Saint Benedict lived as a hermit, in a rocky wilderness of his own. Saint Benedict also had help from Ravens. A hard, difficult climb to his cave, here was another man of God … on the run: like Moses from Pharaoh, like Elijah, like David from King Saul. Sometimes harsh, wild places are to be preferred to harsh, wild, angry kings and enemies.

Statue of St Bendict
Entrance to the cave where he lived.

I recalled thinking at that time, what a hard and difficult way to live! Sitting in my chair, with my kitchen door and food and clean water a few feet away; it was not easy to picture, to imagine the rigours of life lived in such unfriendly environments of true wilderness. From the beginning the wild places, wilderness and desert have been not only the hiding places but also the birthing places of God’s people. It was in the wilderness that the people of Israel were shaped, where John the Baptist cried out to make straight the way of the Lord, where Jesus was tested by Satan and prevailed.

I have an idea that no one truly chooses to live in the wilderness but that our Father chooses them and then the wilderness to prepare them until ready, equipped, character formed, strengthened and empowered they are ready for the next stage of their life, and Life in Christ is never going to be easy.

Right now, there are millions of God’s children who with no regular public worship, feel kind of lost, in some kind of wilderness of our own. We are not lost. The Shepherd knows where each lamb is. In His time, the Lord will bring us out, a people ready.

Father, through all our wandering be our guide. Teach us that the safest place to be, is that place where You are. You are, and You alone our Rock, our Strength. It is You who provides our Daily Bread and water from Living Fountains. Neither fierce heat by day, frosty cold by night, plague, storm, the enemy without or the enemy within can overcome your children and You make us more than conquerors through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Two Good Friends and The Presence

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing

He makes me lie down in green pastures

He leads me besides quiet waters, He refreshes my soul

He guides me along the right paths for His Names sake,

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, i will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.

Social distancing sheep…keeping an eye on each other

Social distancing… I saw a comment on Twitter that said simply that Religious Communities have practiced this for centuries.

True they have.

We hear, the Lord Jesus, speaking to the disciples said “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6. 31). And so they did, only to find a large crowd waiting for them on the other side of the lake, then we read our Lord had compassion on them, seeing that they were like sheep without a shepherd, so He began teaching them many things.

I do not know how you are coping with the virus, but it certainly is making a difference for some. A little while ago, I got a text message reminding me that I should remain at home now for 12 weeks, I have already done that for a week, not that I have any underlying health problems but because I am over 70, a little less mobile and needed to be at home to deal with the phone calls, texts, emails and queries that arise when a place of worship is going into hibernation.

So, quiet but still busy. It was so good to go out into the back garden for awhile, late yesterday afternoon, I planted out a pretty little Azalea hoping that a late frost won’t kill it…looked ok today, like quiet, rest is good, stillness is good.

I find, quietness and stillness are like two good friends, companionable and there is a third friend Presence. Not just any presence but the Presence of the Lamb of God, Himself.

Quietness and Stillness are the Pause which allows the Presence to speak and to teach if we ‘crowd’ ourselves with two many distractions and tasks we give no opportunity for the Teacher to speak and He is longing to teach us what we should be doing, to show us the right way for today.

As I am about my daily tasks, words from the mouth of Jesus are with me, often reminding me to be ‘anxious for nothing’ to ‘not to worry about tomorrow’ and when prayer doesn’t come with eloquent words, that my Father already knows the thoughts of my heart.

This is true. God is true to Himself and to us. He, can bring good out of all this. He will bring good out of it….

A prayer for these days

Lord we pray for all who work tirelessly to defeat this pandemic. Protect them, they have loved ones, protect them

For all who are ill, restore them to health. For all who are lonely, anxious, despairing, comfort them. For all who are bereaved, in their grief sustain them.

Lead us all, Good Shepherd as You led your people through the wilderness to the still and refreshing waters. To this end, and the purpose for which You have called us, grant us grace to be uncomplaining, without grumbling let us be burden sharers for those whose burdens are heavy.

Always, only in the Name of Jesus. Amen

Scripture from Psalm 23 N.I.V. Image; Twitter