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.
These ruins are an 11th century building on the foundations of St Hilds original double monastery, which was most likely several much smaller buildings of timber, wattle and straw. St Hild, known nowadays as St Hilda was a great niece of King Edwin of Northumbria and a key player in the history of the Church in England. She hosted the Great Synod of Whitby in 664 AD which meant the adoption of the Tradition of the Church of Rome and a movement away from Celtic Christianity as bought to our shores from Ireland. Hild herself, leaned more to the teaching of St Aidan than St Augustine.. but that is how the Synod went.
Today, when we think of monasteries, Monks and Nuns we possibly have very fixed views about them. But truth is, the lamp for our feet-the message of the Gospel was held carefully and bravely in their hands for many, many centuries they were the Evangelists and Missionaries of those centuries, they guarded the light, kept it burning through dark times, and were themselves on fire for the salvation of men, women and children
So what do I see when I look at the lamp in the photo.
I see in my Spirit, the faithfulness of Christ the Light of the world, the Everlasting Light, Hilds Abbey has long since gone, and the 11th Century Ruins are just that. But the same Sun still rises, still sets, and will go on doing that, long after you and I have folded up our mortal tent. Yet one day, science tells us that the Sun will be gone as well.
But not Christ our Sun and Lamp, He was the same yesterday, inspiring Aidan, Hild, Augustine, Martin Luther, Charles and John Wesley, Billy Graham and before all these, Peter, James, John… He went before Israel in the Wilderness, met with Abraham and Sarah. He is the same today, pouring out His Light and Spirit on me, on you and
He is the same tomorrow, when
“The city has no need for the Sun or the Moon to shine on it, because God’s Sh’khinah gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.
Father who wakens us, calling us
And bringing us safely through darkest night
To fairest, brightest day,
Grant that we may be pure and holy, clean
And clear as crystal-glass letting your glory shine through,
We do not ask that we might be known, simply
That we may be the vessels your light shines through
Sometimes, the Lord surprises us in unexpected ways. We know, that He knows all about us, each word before we even think to utter it. At some time or other, these words from Psalm 139 have rung gloriously true for most Christians
“How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand-
when I awake, I am still with you”
Psalm 139.18 (N.I.V)
During these ‘Coronavirus’ days, I have felt, as you have also, no doubt that the Lord has been very present in many situations, in many ways, great and small.
I chose the picture of Julian of Norwich with the well loved words that all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well, because reading her Revelations of Divine Love we feel we almost ‘know” this homely lady born in 1342. She speaks comfortably, from her heart to our heart. The little cat sits comfortably on the window sill joining in the conversation with the odd purr from time to time. As I read Julian’s writings I feel assured that Julian knew our Lord God very well and that He knew Julian very well. In fact they were very close friends who shared heart to heart thoughts of each other.
Sometimes people who know each other very well surprise each other.
My first thoughts each morning are spontaneously with God. No effort involved. I know that I am awake and with God, that God is with me. Just over a week ago I was surprised as into my head came a fleeting glimpse of the computer work station, as it arrived new with my first home computer in the year 2000.
When my late mother became ill, she just wanted, needed me to be always in her sight, so abandoning the work station and its little den, I switched to a lap top so I could type up Church Minutes and stuff in the room where she was, Mom would look up from time to time, and we would exchange little thoughts… presence is comforting. Well, my Mom died 17 years ago and the work station on wheels, was never given a second thought. The little upstairs room, which I had turned into a den all those years ago, had slowly become a storage room for boxes and boxes of files that Martha has busied herself with down through the years.
Well, seeing the fleeting picture in my head, I knew, just knew that I was being prompted to do something.
Something like finding the tape measure and finding the work station a new corner elsewhere in the house. It, was, as I vaguely recalled, comfortable to work at.
Not for one moment did it occur to me that the room might be cleared of boxes. A couple of days later, tape measure in hand I entered the room. The work station had been pushed into a corner blocked neatly in by a box, or two.
It was so quiet, restful in that room. I ventured over to the window, opened it, and looked out into the back garden, where the little birds were busily having breakfast.
I just knew. This is my new ‘prayer closet’
The Lord and I are going to be comfortable here.
Of course, there are the boxes to sort, and made ready for their new storage home in church, the Martha side of me has already taken first steps in arranging that!
God, of your goodness, give me yourself; you are enough for me, and anything less that I could ask for would not do you full honour. And if I ask anything that is less, I shall always lack something, but in you alone I have everything.”
The prayer above comes from Chapter 5, Revelations of Divine Love
Thank you Lord, that you see all our needs and recognise them when we do not.
Thank You for your many thoughts towards us, your wise provision.
You carry us, dear Lord throughout all our days; teach us to know when we are being carried that all shall indeed be well, and all manner of things shall be well.
Teach us also, to recognise that following You does not always mean a journey of miles, we do not reach your throne by any other means than Jesus who is the way, and though our bodily strength may fail us…. it is always by your Spirit alone that we are empowered.
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
Me and Jesus sitting together
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.
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 stayawhile. Nothing can happen to us, or with us, that you do notknowalready. You hide us in your secret place whilst theworld passes by. Speak to us now, and let us hear, so that in theproper 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.
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
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.
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 withoutorthe enemy within can overcomeyourchildren and You make us more than conquerors through our Lord Jesus Christ.
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… 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.
Everyone knows that ducks have webbed feet, don’t they?
Sitting quietly in my prayer time, I saw a duck, just his head and unmistakable beak peeking out at me from behind a hedge.
And then, I saw his feet, entirely the wrong kind of feet for a duck..
“Lord” I blurt out, “Why have you given that duck those feet”
Just the kind of question, I thought, just as quickly as the question was out and ringing in my ears, that you should not ask the Lord, our Maker. After all we ought not to ask the Lord our Maker why He makes one Pot differ from another.
Also, I could hear the words of Solomon, the Teacher;
‘Watch your step when you go to the house of God” and “Don’t speak impulsively – don’t be in a hurry to give voice to your words before God.”
Oh, so gently but firmly, the Lord replied;
“It is not about My giving Ducks, or my children the wrong feet. But about my Children wrong footing it. And choosing the wrong shoes.”
What are the right shoes for God’s children?
Are we all properly dressed?
In Ephesians Paul writes;
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace.
“I could wish,” said the Lord Jesus, “That all my children took time to make themselves ready, and prepared themselves with the study of the Word of truth before engaging in argument and endless, pointless conflict amongst themselves. How are any to prove effective in publishing the Gospel of Peace to the World if they cannot have peace amongst themselves?”
I am still considering all this, and praying about it, and for my church, your church and every church that names itself for the Lord Jesus Christ. The Teacher tells us “Gonear to listen, rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools.”
You are very welcome to think with me and offer your comments.
Picture: I am unsure of its origin…
Scriptures: Ecclesiastes: 5 and Ephesians 6. 14-15
I found the flowers on my return from Grocery shopping, they didn’t much look like flowers at all, packed in a long flat box and posted through the letter box, they stood slightly, upended against the wall. Carefully I removed the tightly closed buds, placed them in a vase and waited….
All good things, are worth waiting for, so the saying goes.
Watching, as these pretty flowers unpacked themselves from tight buds has been in itself a pleasure; and watching as the promises of God enfold in my life another, better one.
My friend Vera says, every time she takes my hand to offer the peace, “God bless you, Jean.” And then, she adds, very quickly, “Go on. Say it”
I reply, “He does, I let Him!”
She laughs, content, “I love to hear you say that.”
It is true. I love to be still, and feel that I am just like a peach ripening on the wall, warmed in the sunshine of His smile.
Truth is, I am not able to be still as much as I would like to be. But stillness is not always a physical stillness. There is that special stillness of just being stayed, carried on the Lord’s arm in busyness, in the certainty that whatever happens, however things are unfolding, or running He will get us there. He abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey.
While it was still dark, before my birthday dawned I had a word-gifted, from heaven just a single bud. That Word was AIM, I intend to carry it with me this year, together with this words from Paul,
“I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
“To win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.”
Scriptures: Phil. 3. 12-14 (N.I.V.)
Image: My own
I praise God for the gift of years, 71 of them and although like the peach I have known rain as well as sunshine, winter as well as summer, they have been blessed; may yours be also.
A New Year but last year still remains with us in many ways, like the litter of autumn leaves that linger in the garden, if autumn leaves were troubles and problems, it seems we never clear them away neatly for a pristine start for a New Year. Because of the mild weather not all of them have even fluttered down to earth yet. Life like a garden is always going to be, just a little untidy.
Life for an adopted child of God, is also always going to be a little untidy, a little messy: yet always hope-full, like tender plants we are always under the Heavenly Gardeners watchful eye.
Our Father in heaven knows the things that trouble us, and all that we fear.
We can like David say with confidence “You, O Lord are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head.”
We can lie down and sleep and awake for He does indeed sustain us.
Ten thousand troubles, ten thousand problems, ten thousand enemies?
Look to God.
I have always had a tender, longing for the first glimpse of the Snowdrops, beneath all the debris of last year, in spite of heavy clods of earth pressing them down and under and even the tread of heavy feet, faith tells me, that they will break through and throwing off in triumph all winter’s vain efforts to keep them down, they will lift up their heads: God will sustain them as He will sustain all His own who are crying out to Him with a troubled heart.
Always when I have been crying out to the Lord, yes I cry, often. Not just with my voice, but with real tears that leave handkerchiefs wet and eyes redder than the holly berry, God has heard, and blessed me with the gift of sleep and then,
God speaks and His Word lifts up my head
Lord, teach us
Not to be afraid,
Not to despair.
But, teach us to call on You, to cast all our care on the One who cares for us.
Teach us to trust You and so we shall lie down and sleep, for Your knees are the pillows You made for your beloved and what shall disturb us while You are keeping watch. You have taught us not to worry about what tomorrow may bring, and that you know already what we need.
Those who wear the Armour You provide will surely overcome in Your Strength, Your Power in the Name of the Lord, who heaven and earth has made.
Scripture: Psalm 3. 3-8
Prayer: my own
I will call on the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, so shall I be saved from my enemies. (KJB 2 Samuel 22.4)