Catching a breath and taking regard

So here we are looking down the road to Holy Week and Easter. I am so glad that life is less rushed, less busy, despite my Martha ways, I am really a Mary, delighting in just being at the Masters feet.

How strange it is, that just when we should be slowing down in readiness for Easter Day, that Churches get busier and busier. I am so sure that all the preparations, the Bustle and Hustle, the sacrifice of time and effort, is never so sweet to the Lord Jesus as that precious half hour, when it is just Him and us, and in the stillness we are who we are, no pretence, no fuss, just Him and us.

Somewhere, in the book of books, we read that the Lord regards us from on high, and you know I like that word “regards” – it’s not as though the Lord so much as looks down on us from lofty heights, but that He sees us as we are, takes us we are, and still finds something to love in each one of us. He knows us through and through, (Psalm 139 says it much better than I ever could) God is truly acquainted with all our ways, but still loves us. And that love I know for myself when I am still, when I am quiet, when like Mary I look up and regard my Saviour’s face. When Mary looked up and regarded the face of Jesus on that last visit to their little house, when Martha peeked through the door, what did they see there, weariness, sadness, resolve. I would be happy to hear your thoughts on that, I think He noticed their looking, and was comforted by their regard, yes that word again, I think he read love in their looking, and that in his looking back was Love, regard.

However you prepare for Easter, let the Lord Jesus bless you, just sit still, be yourself and look up. 

This painting, a watercolour, was made by a friend, who died recently. She suffered her illness patiently with true Christian hope, desiring to be re-United with her dear husband Bert. I think it is a Red Kite, regarding the fields below, from on high.



Lord, open our eyes and we shall behold your glory

Lord, open our ears and we shall hear your call

Lord, open our hearts and we shall know your love

Lord, open our lives and we shall reveal your glory

(prayer from The Open Door by David Adam)

With my kindest regards,

Jean

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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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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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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Everything Cries Glory

Tomorrow is Jim’s funeral. Jim was 76 and sadly has suffered with Parkinson’s’ Disease during his last few years. Jim was well liked, renowned for his witty spider poems especially the one about Dirty Harry who reputedly lives in the North Aisle if church, I say reputedly because in the many, solitary hours I’ve spent in church I have never been bothered once by Dirty Harry, who from time to time is credited with many dastardly acts, notably playing really loud notes, uninvited, on the organ, during the really quiet parts of the sermon. I wonder if Jim would have written a poem for our new organist and Music Director who takes up her post in two weeks time. Perhaps he would, Jim was always a gentle man with ladies. I found a copy of an old magazine, and you know what I got mentioned in a poem, as the one who never made a fuss in a crisis, apparently I just sang a little song.

And did I?

Yes. And I still do, but rarely in an audible voice these days, my songs seem to be heart songs unvoiced but always there. What kind of voice have I got? I’m a soprano, once quite happy to sing in choirs but now happy to sing my quiet songs. I have been reflecting on my little songs of yesteryear. It has been an eventful week since Jim died, someone had to oversee the earthy business of finding a space in the churchyard, someone has to sweep up the fallen leaves, someone has to be there for other bereaved families, making sure the church is warm, we have had other funerals to deal with this week, and someone has done these things gladly, singing a little song. I rather think it would amuse Jim to listen in on my little quiet song, but am not sure how he would write about it in a poem.

You see, my little song has a big theme. The words are coloured, red and gold, and I read and hear the music in the carpets of leaves swept up, in the gold embroidered words on the altar frontals, in the children’s smiles as they join in with the sweeping and collecting,

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,
Holy, Holy, Holy, is The Lord,
Who was, and is, and is to come.

Jim wasn’t always a member of this church, he was a lifelong Christian from a small church down the road, in what used to be known as the Village, they sing different hymns there, do things differently, yet, faith is the same, we serve the same Lord, read the same bible we share the same hope and love is the same colour thread wherever you find it woven into the fabric of this life. I am glad to have known Jim, I am sad that he has died, sad for his beloved wife but I am glad that in this life we both learned the words which angels sing; not everyone sings this new song, not everyone will ever want to learn it; but those who know and serve the Risen Saviour look at windy churchyards with different eyes, they see what was, and is, and is to come, they know that there are no little, sad songs in heaven, there

All cry glory!

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Books and Doodles

I don’t seem to be posting much lately, but I am still reading your posts and learning, always learning. My headmistress said, as I was about to leave school which I loved, for the world of work that I would never stop learning. Some people, she told me had a passion for just learning for the love of it, taking delight in accumulating knowledge of all sorts. I suppose that is true of me. The room in which I was born was full of books, come to think of it. In those days, accommodation was hard to find, my parents first home was in my Grandfathers house, and what had once been the Sunday Best Room answered for many purposes.

The books?

Well, they were actually a library of hard backs, classical literature, Astronomy, Philosophy. Psychology. Atlases, Dictionaries, you name it, they were all there, together with the collections of stories about girls at boarding schools much loved by my Mum as a girl. Originally they had belonged to a wealthy local family and passed on to Mum who had lost her mother at the age of eleven.

Books, Mum said were good friends, “Open a book and you never know where you will find yourself”

She was right. And for her those books filled many of otherwise lonely hours.

Regretfully, time for reading is a little restricted these days, but I feel enriched, by those books which have befriended me on my life’s journey and instructed me in so many things, cooking, science. Art, music .. People, right and wrong… You probably have your own list.

My good friends Jane and Vera love to knit, Jane creates lovely garments for orphans all over the world, Vera made lots of small knitted bears for last years Christmas Fayre, because if I began knitting nowadays I would never get around to finishing it I simply don’t begin any. I do sometimes pick up a pencil and have quick doodle, so I thought my five minute doodle of Vera’s knitted bear might amuse you but art critics note I shall take your criticism about as seriously as I took the doodle!

My favourite book?

A copy sits on the sofa, and it’s pages are turned frequently, like a good friend it can be depended on for wisdom and direction in all of life’s seasons, twists and challenges, it is a wise, dependable friend, the Word of God, and I do take it seriously, far more seriously than my artwork.

Whatever you read this weekend enjoy it, but consider opening the Bible, the book that is rightly called, “The Book if Books.”

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Go Write A Letter

Dear readers and writers,

I don’t get much time for reading and reading for me has been a lifetime’s pleasure; yesterday afternoon I made time to finish reading an edition of the “Complete Poems of Wilfred Owen” which also contains his collected letters. Touchingly the last letter is preceded by a page with just the words. “The Last Letter” within a few short days, Susan Owen’s loving son was dead, fallen in the war to end all wars, which sadly didn’t.

None of us can know what tomorrow will bring, if it is important to us we should say it today, better still write it down. If it is true, straight from our heart and our heart is a true heart those words will remain far longer than we will.

iPads, Tablets, mobile phones, hard drives, backups, all these in time will let us down, data will be lost, corrupted, the most powerful words in history the writings that have inspired mankind, have lived on, preserved on clay/ wax tablets, scrolls and humble paper and these words have been the words of the heart.

Bother the cost of postage, don’t put it in an email, write it in a letter use old fashioned paper, write in old fashioned ink, and trust it to the post man. You know in one of his letters, Owen writes that the soldier carrying the post had fallen in a river, but the post was still delivered, having been soaked it was still readable, those letters completed their mission successfully. And so will our words, honest words carry in themselves the power to encourage, to console, to strengthen, they give hope, most importantly they say,

“I love you.”

You can fold a letter up, keep it close.

I need not write any more, so here this letter ends, as all letters should with love and regards,

God Bless
Jean